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By John Lobota (Shadow21) March 2003
WARNING: The Shadow X3 is NOT A TOY!
Simple enough for anyone to use,
yet potent enough for the most seasoned coin or relic hunter,
with a sensitivity to gold that matches many gold prospecting detectors.


Relic Hunting a Seminole Indian War site along Florida's Caloosahatchee River with the Shadow X3.


Let me say, I did not know the name of Troy Custom Detectors until last year. I first heard about the coming of the Shadow X5 & X3 long before they were available, but after the X2. I began following the forum posts and bits of information regarding these new detectors. The power in this new, small package sounded almost unbelievable. But, if it were true, I could finally have a detector that had the features and performance I wanted. After hearing Troy Galloway's interview regarding his research and design of the X5 on the Bugler's Shack radio show, I was convinced of his honest dedication and commitment to bring to market a metal detector that has superior abilities. That was enough for me. I placed an order for a Shadow X5, sight unseen, months before it was available. That is how I came to have Serial No. X5-000021, one of the first detectors off the assembly line and how I chose the forum handle Shadow21.Now I own one of the first Shadow X3 detectors (Serial No. X3-000005) and I would like to share my observations, having used a Troy Shadow Detector for several months already. The Shadow line of metal detectors are engineered by Troy Custom Detectors. The X5 is their full-featured model, designed for the harshest of ground conditions and taylored for users who want full control. The X3, however, has nearly all the power of the X5, but in an even greater user-friendly, turn-on-and-go, lower cost, "ATD" (All Terrain Detector) package.
The most Notable Shadow X3 features are:
  • Lightweight - only 2.2 lbs including battery
  • True turn-on-and-go Operation
  • Length 42" to 50" adjustable - Making its use comfortable for large men, petite women and even most children
  • Silent Search - stable quiet operation
  • VLF fast response discrimination - means more good finds
  • Fixed Ground Balance compensates for most soil or beach conditions
  • Weatherproof - Rain & humidity won't stop you
  • 19 kHz Operating Frequency for extreme sensitivity to gold and lower conductive targets like relics
  • 7" Coil - Great for general detecting, trashy locations and super easy pinpointing
  • Single 9 Volt Battery w/ a typical battery life of 25 hours for Alkaline and 50 hours for Lithium.
  • Frequency Shifter to help eliminate chatter from nearby detectors in the field or competition hunting
  • Target Check toggle helps determine "Possible Target ID"
  • Extreme Depth - Finds those older, deeper coins and relics. Even those others have missed.
  • Superior Quality - Limited Lifetime Warranty

My first impression is that Shadow detectors are strictly for discriminating users that want the highest quality, performance packed detector available on the market. One aspect that I appreciate every time I handle the X3 is the excellence in engineering design and manufacture. It is built solidly to stand up to rugged use over a lifetime. This is a no-apologies-necessary detector!


Support is top-notch and usually handled by Troy Galloway himself via phone or e-mail. His personalized, friendly help is available seven days a week. This kind of one-on-one support is quite uncommon and welcome in this day and age. The Shadow X3 is assembled and serviced by Fisher Research Lab for Troy Custom Detectors. Fisher Research Lab has been manufacturing metal detectors since 1933 and its experience shows in every Troy Shadow detector that leaves the factory.

My son Jonathan, showing off the X3's lightweight design
by effortlessly holding it out on one finger!
At 10 yrs. old, 4' 4" tall and 71 lbs even he finds the X3 easy to use.

The Shadow X3 comes standard with a Waterproof 7" Round Open-Center Concentric coil. However, the Waterproof 9" Round Concentric Spider coil is interchangeable between the X3 and X5, as will be all future TCD accessory searchcoils.

The simplicity of the X3 is an important feature to note. There are only 2 knobs, 2 toggle switches and a VCO Pinpoint button.

1 - The Disc knob turned clockwise, adjusts the amount of trash discrimination and turned counter-clockwise it doubles as a battery test.

2 - The Sens knob adjusts the sensitivity level of the detector, which can affect depth, coil surface area pickup and smooth or erratic operation.

3 - The Freq toggle on Normal is set for approx 19 kHz and can be switched to Hi (approx.19.2 kHz) or Low (approx.18.8 kHz). This allows the elimination of interference from a nearby Shadow detector and is especially useful for competition hunting.

4 - The second toggle is the Target Check which can be used to help identify the conductivity range of a target. I will discuss the use of this further on in this article.

5 - The VCO Pinpoint button aids in determining the approximate depth of a target, shape of a target and to pinpoint the location of a target before retrieval.


How many detectors do you own? What if you could have one detector that really did what it was supposed to? What would that be worth to you? Well, now you can with the Shadow X3. You see, there is more to a detector than just it's price tag. Value is a very important factor to consider when making a purchase. The Suggested Retail for the Shadow X3 is $899, a price that some say is overpriced for a simple, turn-on-and-go detector. To which I say, hogwash! The Shadow X3 is a Rolls Royce of detectors, built to perform, out-perform and last a lifetime of use with a Limited Lifetime Warranty to back it up. It is an old cliche, but "You get what you pay for" rings quite true for the Shadow line of metal detectors. The X3 is an investment that will pay for itself many times over. I believe your savings can be counted in more productive hunts, older, more valuable and deeper finds, greater enjoyment, less frustration and an overwhelming satisfaction at owning a metal detector that can handle almost any detecting situation. I know, because I have been detecting for more than 20 years with many different detectors, but my hands have found rest upon the grips of the Shadow X3 and X5. I no longer need to own two, three or more different detectors to help me make my finds. I call that a "Real Value".


Immediately after assembling the X3 I had to do a quick bench test, just to see what it could do right out of the box. I pulled out my plastic 15" ruler and found an open area of the living room with no nearby metal to interfere and turned on the detector. With headphones on, I set the Disc to 3.5 and the Sens to 9 (which is above the Preset, it was stable and quiet) and began waving a nickel across the search coil. I started close and worked my way out, seven inches, eight inches, nine inches, ten inches, eleven inches… finally at just over fourteen inches the signal became broken. Wow! I was impressed. Next I had to see it work in the field.


The Target Check, I think, is the neatest feature on the Shadow series of detectors. It gives the operator the ability to quickly and easily, by sound, determine the possible conductivity of a given target. It is like having Target ID without the meter. To use this feature, it is recommended that the operator adjust the Disc to Preset, which accepts all targets above iron. The Target Check toggle has three positions, Norm, which is the default center position, Zinc, toggle up and Nickel, toggle down. This toggle changes the discrimination level to an internal preset.

Toggling to Zinc Disc's out Zinc Pennies and below. Toggling to Nickel Disc's out Nickels and below. By using this system one can determine if the target lies in one of three conductivity ranges, 1 - Foil and Nickel, 2 - Pulltab, Screwcap & Zinc Penny, 3 - Copper Penny thru Silver Dollar.

The Target Check feature is utilized with the Disc set at the Preset of 3.5.

1 - The Normal position will correspond to the Discrimination on your Disc knob. Preset will eliminate most iron.

2 - When a target is encountered, Toggle down, if there is NO clear target response, the target is in the foil/nickel range because it is being Disc'd out.

3 - If there IS a response, then further check by Toggling Up to Zinc.

4 - a) If there is NO response when toggling up, then the target is in the Pulltab and Screwcap/Zinc range, because that range and below is being Disc'd out.

b) If there is a clear response when toggling up, then the target is in the high coin range.

The Target Check is like having Target ID without the meter.

Using Target Check w/Discrimination at Preset

When a target is encountered...

Step 1 Disc @ 3.5
Step 2
Step 3
These Items
Toggle Normal (preset)
Toggle Nickel (down)
Toggle Zinc (up)
Always Accepted
Disc Range Eliminates
Most Small Iron, Nails
& Iron Bottlecaps
Disc Range Eliminates
Foil & Nickels
Disc Range Eliminates
Zinc Pennies, Screwcaps,
Sq. Tabs & Pulltabs
Copper Pennies
Thru Silver Dollars
There will be No Clear Target Response
For Range Noted Above
While Toggling Nickel if you get No Clear Target Response then you have a target in the Foil/Nickel Conductivity Range noted above.
While Toggling Zinc if you get No Clear Target Response then you have a target in the Zinc Conductivity Range noted above.


If you get a Clear Target Response Then
Go To Step 2
If you get a Clear Target Response Then
Go To Step 3
If you get a Clear Target Response Then You Have >


With the X3, targets can be successfully detected at any sweep speed according to your detecting style or choice - slow, moderate or fast. Recovery speed is also quick, which is helpful while detecting trashy locations. I did find, that slowing down a little made the detector even more effective at picking through the trash, however, in open, less trashy areas, a moderate to fast sweep speed worked better and helped me to cover more ground in less time. The target response on the X3 can be described as a clear, sharp tone while passing the coil over a good target with the effective detecting being wider than most detectors. Yet this 7" coil has exceptional ability in trashy locations and is extremely easy to pinpoint with. On deeper targets, the response becomes softer, but still easy to discern. Discriminated (bad) targets are either quiet or a few may respond with a click or pop. For the most part, discriminated targets were silent.


A very important consideration when making a detector purchase is how well it works at the beach, particularly in the wet sand. Many TH'ers, even those living far from any saltwater beaches, will eventually have the opportunity to detect at one, usually during a vacation or while traveling. Additionally, for those who live near the ocean or detect regularly at the beach, knowing details of a detector's beach performance is paramount before making a purchase. As I noted previously, the purchase of a quality metal detector is an investment and I believe that it is imperative to be as educated as possible ahead of time, as this will make for quicker success and greater enjoyment while learning to use your new metal detector.

There are two beaches at which I have tested the Shadow X3, Jupiter and Lake Worth, Florida. These beaches are typical for the coast of Florida and should give an excellent indication of what to expect in this locale. If there is concern for the X3's operation elsewhere, then attempt to contact others who have used this detector at or near the beaches you intend to visit. Beach hunting can vary greatly from North to South and East to West. Changes in mineral content or black sand content can be dramatic from state to state. Having said this, the Shadow X3 is designed to be utilized in wet salt sand conditions and should give very good success at most beaches throughout North America and beyond. After some investigation, I have learned that our beaches have a high content of black sand, making it very difficult for many detectors to work well in the wet sand. So if the X3 could handle our beaches, then it is quite an amazing detector indeed.

I began by carrying several coins, including a nickel and some tinfoil (about the size of a gum wrapper) to the surf area of the beach for the initial setup and testing.

QUICK & SIMPLE BEACH ADJUSTMENT - I started with the Sensitivity at Preset (8) and Disc at Preset (3.5). I turned up the Disc just slightly and passed the coil across the wet sand, then repeated this procedure, increasing the Disc untill the detector ran smoothly (no indication of falsing from the wet salt sand). This was approximately 4 on the Disc knob. At this point, the detector accepted nickels and above. Adjusted like this, the X3 detector is ready for searching and has the ability to detect most gold jewelry, however some additional fine tuning is available to find even smaller gold jewelry.

ADDITIONAL FINE TUNING - Once the detector was operating smoothly in the wet sand, I further adjusted the Disc ever-so-slightly down to signal on the test foil (approximately the size of a gum wrapper), yet not false in the wet sand. It took several tries, but it worked. By using this system, I was able, by adjusting only the Disc to eliminate falsing from the wet sand and still pick up items in the (foil) small gold range too. This was quite a feat with the X3, considering the black sand content of the beach. Most detectors I have used fail this test.

These beaches are sometimes devoid of any wet sand targets, so I brought my own for testing, just in case. I initially used a nickel and a zinc penny and found that I was easily able to get clear target responses at several inches depth in the wet sand. I duplicated this test right in the wash and had no problem getting a solid target response. After this initial success, I proceeded to detect the surf area for about a half mile. There was a slight falsing that occured here and there as the coil crossed certain bands of black sand, but that was seldom and did not affect the ability to detect a good target. I did find that by using a steady, slow to medium sweep speed, it gave the detector time to respond and compensate for the black sand. A faster sweep speed engendered some falsing and easily missed targets when tested. I didn't find any jewelry on this trip, but I did recover a recenly lost nickel, it screamed loud and clear.


The 19 kHz frequency makes the X3 extremely sensitive to the smallest gold jewelry. Finding gold jewelry like thin ankle bracelets, tiny charms or post earings is no problem. I call this beach prospecting. Another feature of the X3 that makes it suitable for beach hunting is it's light weight and fast response, which means I can hunt at a moderate to fast sweep speed to cover a lot of beach in a short period of time without tiring out. Here in South Florida I can run the Sensitivity at 8.5 to 9, so the depth that it provides in the dry sand and sensitivity to gold or coins also means that I find what other detectors miss. Many other detectors I have used over the years just did not have the versatility or sensitivity to gold to be really useful there. The Shadow is the only detector I use for the beach now.


Another outing with the X3 was a club Competition Silver hunt at the beach. The night before, I gave my ten-year-old son Jonathan a quick overview on the operation of the X3 so he would be ready the next morning. He would be using the X3 and I would be using the X5. During the hunt, we both had a chance to try out the Frequency toggle in order to eliminate chatter from detecting too close to one another and it worked as it is supposed to. After the hunt I checked with Jonathan to see how he did using the X3. He said it was easy to use and he did not get tired using it. He has used other detectors and attended two previous competition hunts, but the X3 is the first detector that he really enjoyed using. Because, as he stated, that it was easier to pinpoint and recover targets than with the other detectors he's used. Having difficulty recovering targets can be the most frustrating and discouraging task for him. By the way, he found 11 silver dimes and one silver dollar, for which he is very proud.


The second outing was to a local playground swing set. I only had an hour but wanted to make the time productive and yet challenging for the X3, which is why I chose this location.. This particular swing set has quite a bit of old iron trash buried deep below the playground sand. In addition, I had hunted this area thoroughly with two other top-of-the-line detectors. That means digging every target over iron and carefully overlapping my coil sweeps. I now did the same using the X3. I was surprised... rather shocked at the number of long buried coins I recovered using the X3 along with more trash. I found nothing really old, but in total I dug four quarters, one dime, three nickels and five pennies. Only two of the coins were fresh drops. That means (swallow my pride here) I missed all of these coins previously and a few of them were retrieved from 5" to 10" deep. The X3 with it's 7" concentric coil really made a difference.


There are many variations of relic hunting, but all with the goal of finding relics of some sort. Civil War, old homesteads, cellar holes, battlefields and others. In addition there can be many variations of conditions while detecting for relics. There can be tough ground conditions, small, deeply buried, low conductive, hard to find relics, large tracts of land to search, an abundance of buried iron trash, thick woods or brush to push through and damp or rainy weather. When shopping for a relic detector, these are some of the factors you should consider. The X3 is designed to handle all of these conditions.

The first location we went to is an old homestead and cattle ranch dating back to the the early part of the 1900's in the area of Basinger, Florida. This homestead is on an existing cattle ranch and has been relatively untouched since it's abandonment in the 1960's. The owner, an old timer, was very accomodating as he had a personal interest in the history of this area and enjoyed our enthusiasm for digging up the past. After a taking us on a tour of his property, we were invited to search wherever and whenever we liked. (By the way, always ask permission. If you don't have permission to access a property, do not tresspass, period.)

I turned on the X3 and left all the settings on Preset. I used the Target Check for a little while, but eventually began digging everything over iron anyway. Good targets were loud and clear, in fact, some of these low conductive relic targets would hit stronger than coins, so I had to turn my headphones volume down to compensate.

The area was very sandy as you may be able to see in the accompanying photos. Sandy soil, along with a heavy annual rainfall and continually growing foliage, pushes relics unusually deep into the soil very quickly. I was recovering targets anywhere from the near the surface to as much as 20" deep. For example, I dug a pocket knife with brass ends at 16" depth (shown in photo). The signal was faint, but definitely discernable as a good target. I found that in trashy areas, the Preset Sensitivity worked well, but as I ventured into areas that had less trash, I could increase the Sensitivity to 9 for even greater depth without affecting the stability of the detector. I discovered that the Sensitivity could be raised beyond 9, increasing depth, but also adding some distracting chatter, however, detecting this way was still possible.

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The X3 performed extremely well in the iron trash, including nails. There were only a couple of iron targets that fooled the detector, like large iron pipes, sheet metal, large chunks of iron, coiled up barbed wire, etc. Then, even most of these could be further discriminated by their shape and size using the VCO PP. The few pieces I actually dug included a large iron bolt and a couple chunks of cast iron pipe. So, in my estimation, searching amongst iron trash was no problem for the X3.

Again, to alleviate any concerns... In all the time I have used my Shadows including the X3, I have not had any difficulty detecting in iron or nail infested areas. Digging nails is a thing of the past.


On our next relic hunting trip, it was my son's turn to use the Shadow X3. This time it would be for a short while at a known Seminole Indian War Fort Site that has been searched by other hunters. This proved to be a little harder for my son Jonathan than coin hunting, but he was still successful. The targets were much smaller and deeper than he is accustomed to. However, with a little coaching on the first couple of signals, he thereafter was able to recover over a dozen buckshot and percussion caps on his own. Buck and caps in this area are found at several inches depth and missed by other detectors. So, I think both he and the Shadow X3 performed very well. He wanted to find a button or a musket ball... I told him that he did very well and to remain persistant. Maybe next time it will happen. The X3 certainly has the ability, whereas many detectors can miss those small, low conductive relics, but not this detector!


It was during a beach outing with the Shadow X3 that I attached and used the 9" spider coil. Shadow X3 is readily able to accept accessory Shadow coils for improved performance and detecting options. Upon my first swing with the larger coil I felt like I was using the X5. The additional weight was negligable and forgotten after a few moments of use. The next thing I evidenced was a marked increase in ground coverage making it perfect for the beach or any location where there is a lot of ground to cover. This spider coil also made it near impossible to miss the deepest and smallest targets, even with only slight overlapping of my sweeps. Another major benefit was it's increased depth detection. As with the stock 7" concentric coil, the 9" worked flawlessly in the wet sand, too. Pinpointing took a little more effort and practice, but once accomplished, could be easily repeated. With all the other X3's features remaining the same, the addition of the 9" spider coil takes this detector to a whole new performance level.


My experience using the Shadow X3 was overwhelmingly positive. Without hype, the X3 lives up to its role as a super-lightweight, turn-on-and-go detector that anyone can use, with superior performance for coinshooting, relic hunting or beach hunting. Apples to apples, the X3 could be considered a benchmark by which other similar detectors are measured. There are no flaws or surprises... it's one heck of a detector, period!
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