"Enough Lead To Start Our Own War"

The title is from a comment on The Treasure Depot relic hunting forum about our finds.

I try to get down to Virginia once a year for some civil war relic hunting. Two years have passed since I was last down there, but this April (2007) I made the trip once again. Plans were made and I was to meet my relic hunting partner Jeff Herke at my uncle's property. If you have read my previous stories about relic hunting on this property, you know that it is prime civil war bullet hunting.

I arrived in Virginia a day early, mainly to check out my White's XLT Spectrum. I wanted to try out some new settings to see how the detector would handle the mineralization and depth of detection. Virginia is notorious for having bad ground and my uncle's property was no exception.

If you use a White's XLT, then read this paragraph. If not, skip down a couple of paragraphs. There are certain measures you can take to get more depth out of your XLT while relic hunting. There is one particular setting that will allow many more inches of depth. TURN OFF Audio Disc. This will allow you to hear all targets. I will cite a field experience concerning Audio Disc. We were out hunting a hillside that was extremely hot...worse ground I have ever personally encountered. I was using my custom relic mode with Audio Disc off. I ground balanced the detector and started hunting. I soon received a signal that I believed was a bullet at 6 inches. I then turned Audio Disc on and swept the detector back over the target. NOTHING! Not even a broken signal. I turned Audio Disc back off, centered the target and dug up a civil war bullet at the indicated 6 inches. Another tip is to watch your PreAmp Gain. Some users want to turn it up thinking they will get more depth. True in some areas, but in hot or mineralized ground it has an opposite effect causing the detector to become unstable. Default setting is 2. In the scenario above I ran it at 2. Cranking it up to 3 caused false signals.

There are two other settings that I modify for deeper penetration into the ground. The first is AC Sensitivity. 64 is default for the relic mode. I cranked mine up to 70. This affects the detector in motion or discriminate mode. DC Sensitivity is the last major setting that I change. 34 is default and I crank mine up to 40. This affects the circuit for non-motion mode, when you pull the trigger in for pinpointing. AC Sens, DC Sens, and PreAmp Gain will have to be changed from site to site if ground conditions change. Soil conditions in your area may allow you to run higher or lower settings. It is just something that you will have to change and try.

What I have found with the XLT is that if you run the default Relic Mode, you would not know that the ground conditions are so hot that you are losing depth. The detector will sound normal with a nice steady hum. The problem is that you have no depth penetration. Turning off the Audio Disc will let you know immediately if you need to make adjustments to get more depth of detection. My experiences at my uncle's property is that with Audio Disc on I could detect bullets down to 8 inches. With Audio Disc off, I could detect bullets 12 to 14 inches. Again, it depends on soil condition. Right next door to my uncle's property, approximately 250 feet away, the max depth I saw was 7.5 inches with the Audio Disc off. With it on, 4.5 inches. At no time did I run PreAmp Gain more than 3. Ground conditions would not allow it.

I also use the Signa-Graph on the XLT. What I saw is that a bullet at 12 inches may not show up at all on the Signa-Graph. I used this method consistently to find deeper bullets. A mark (or marks) on the negative side (left of zero) would indicate iron. Sometimes I would get one mark on the extreme right and left of the scale. These I would dig and sometimes they would be a bullet. In extremely hot ground some bullet targets would be broken up, but when switching to the pinpoint mode the signal would be solid...of these, deep targets were dug and shallow targets were left in place. The bottom line is that more depth can be achieved when the Audio Disc is turned off.

After catching up on the latest news with my aunt and uncle I got the detector out and got down to business. I set up the detector with Audio Disc off, AC Sens at 70, DC Sens at 40 and PreAmp Gain at 3. Previously I had hunted the property with the PreAmp Gain no lower than 4. Because of this, there were parts of the property that gave me serious problems with stability. I should have lowered all three settings to gain back the stability. I decided to hunt a section that Jeff and I had previously hunted two years ago. The bullets were deep...over 10 inches and were dropped three ringers. I found my first bullet at around 10 inches so slowed down and listened for those small ticks of a signal. Soon I was digging up bullets at 12 inches. I dug a total of 10 bullets, all three ringers (.58 caliber) at a foot or more deeper. My new settings were working fine. I had stability and depth with the PreAmp Gain at 3. I was very impressed with my XLT.

The next day I talked to my uncle's neighbor and acquired permission to hunt his property. I had hunted it some 25 years ago when it was a corn field. Now it was a nice lawn. I did not hunt this new property yet. I was waiting for Jeff to show up to hunt it together.

Jeff arrived around 4:30pm and after a few minutes of catching up we decided to hunt the same area I had just dug the deep bullets from. Jeff uses a Minelab SE. I did miss a couple of bullets and Jeff got them with the Minelab. We hunted until dusk and then had a nice dinner with my aunt and uncle.

The next morning we meandered around the property looking for a hot spot. Not finding much we decided to start on the neighbors property. We were hunting the backside of the property and found no bullets. We did find junk as there is a small creek running across both properties that floods and brings the junk in.

After lunch we decided to hunt up near the home on the property. Since the ground was so hot, I was using the default relic mode. What I did not realize is that I could not detect bullets past 4.5 inches. We immediately started finding bullets...lots of them. I thought there should be bullets deeper than what we were finding. Leaving the trigger in the on position (all metal) I received a few signals around 7.5 inches but when switching back to the relic mode I could not detect them. I dug two signals in the all metals mode and both were deep bullets. After this I tuned the detector to operate in this hot ground. First thing was to set the PreAmp Gain to a setting of 2. Next I turned off Audio Disc and left AC Sens and DC Sens at there default settings. This allowed me to hunt to a depth of 7.5 inches. I do remember a few readings of 8 inches, but the majority of the bullets detected were right at 7.5 inches. I don't remember the exact number of bullets we found that day, but together we found over 50!

We spent the remainder of Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday morning hunting this "bullet heaven". In the end we found approximately 140 bullets total. There were quite a few .54 caliber Merrill carbines found (37) and quite a few Sharps .52 caliber. Also a few pistol bullets, round balls, .58 caliber three ringers one bullet carved into a chess piece. Jeff also found one half of a belt buckle. Total bullet count was 157.

Sunday afternoon we had the privilege of hunting some private property near the Brandy Station battlefield. I managed to pull up a Double Gilt unmarked flat button, a few Sharps and three .44 caliber Colt Dragoon pistol bullets. Jeff pulled a few bullets and a nice piece of shell fragment. You can still see the threads where the fuse screwed in at the top of the shell. We had a really good time hunting this property. Thanks Ronnie!

Click pictures to enlarge.

12" deep civil war bullet.
12" deep bullet.
J.R. Hoff civil war bullets.
J.R.'s bullets.
Jeff Herke civil war bullets.
Jeff's bullets.
.54 caliber Merrill's carbine civil war bullets.
.54 caliber Merrill carbine.
Civil war double gilt unmarked button.
Double Gilt button.
Civil war bullets recovered near Brandy Station.
Bullets recovered near Brandy Station battlefield.
Fired .44 caliber Colt Dragoon civil war bullets.
.44 caliber Colt Dragoon
.50 caliber Smith carbine civil war bullets.
.50 caliber Smith carbine
.44 and .36 caliber Colt pistol civil war bullets.
Pistol bullets.
.50 Smith carbine civil war bullets that use a paper cartridge.
Smith carbine TT73.
.52 caliber Sharps civil war bullets.
Sharps Carbine.
.69 caliber civil war bullets.
.69 caliber round balls.
.58 caliber rifled musket civil war bullets.
.58 caliber rifle musket.
.51 caliber unknown civil war bullet.
.51 caliber unknown.
Civil war bullet carved into a chess piece.
Carved chess piece.
Civil war brass items recovered during the relic hunt.
Brass items.