PROS / It's light, comfortable and sturdy enough for hours of continued use, with a level of fine-tuned control other beginner detectors lack.
CONS / Learning the ins and outs of this old-fashioned machine can be feel a bit daunting for newcomers to the hobby.
VERDICT / You'll need to spend more time getting used to the Pioneer 505, but if you can, you'll have a lot more long-term control over your detecting experience.
The Bounty Hunter brand has been home to quality metal detectors for decades. Owned by 1st Texas, the same company behind the Teknetics and Fisher brands, Bounty Hunter releases detectors with a classic, proven look, a comfortable feel and a sturdy construction. The Pioneer line of general-purpose detectors is geared towards beginners, but the Pioneer 505 has enough professional features to keep beginners on their toes.
In terms of overall design, the 505 boasts a simple comfort that reflects Bounty Hunter's pedigree. Its control box is mounted on a stable, curved-S frame, and its adjustable shaft locks snugly into place, so you won't get any noticeable wobble or shift as you're scanning.
While there's nothing particularly exciting about the look of its padded grip – it's just a tube of rigid foam, after all – it's positioned perfectly on the lower bend of the S (where your thumb and forefinger support much of the detector's weight). It’s also soft enough to be comfortable but sturdy enough to take punishment. The only real downside to the Pioneer 505's design is its non-adjustable armrest, but the default position should suit the vast majority of users.
When it comes to feature set, the 505 stands above the pack and is comparable to some of the best metal detectors we reviewed. Its four audio tones are easily distinguished from one another, while its nine-segment graphic target ID identifies everything from iron nails and foil wrappers to silver dollar coins with an arrow-based indicator. The real gems, however, are its free-twisting sensitivity and discrimination knobs, which offer far more fine-tuned control over the detector's search field than the competition can dish up. Add in custom notching and manual ground balance, and you have a set of advanced features that'll be the envy of your metal detecting club.
Unfortunately, those features can be as much of a curse for beginners as they are a blessing for veterans. Figuring out the optimal sensitivity settings for your region can take a lot of practice, and it's compounded when you have to reset the detector's sensitivity knob every time you turn the machine off. You can't leave the knob in your region's sweet spot, and since its hash marks aren't numbered, there's no easy reference to help you remember your favorite setting.
There are other usability issues, too, like the extremely small size of the target ID display on the control box – something that makes it tough to glance down and take the reading of a target you just rolled over. Also consider that while its depth gauge goes all the way up to 10 inches, the detector only reliably finds coins and trash up to 8 inches away from its coil.
Still, these are small issues when compared against the detector's strengths. If you're looking to get serious with the treasure-hunting hobby, the Pioneer 505 offers a level of control far beyond most detectors. It might seem intimidating at first, but if you can give yourself time to acclimate, you'll be delighted with the results.