Can Metal Detectors Detect Brass? The Ultimate Guide

Can Metal Detectors Detect Brass

When it comes to the fascinating world of metal detecting, every detectorist knows that understanding the different types of metals and their detectability is crucial for a successful and rewarding treasure hunting experience. Among the metals that often capture the attention of hobbyists is brass, an alloy that has been used for various purposes since prehistory.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the properties of brass, explore how metal detectors can detect it, provide tips on identifying brass objects, and even recommend a suitable metal detector to maximize your chances of finding valuable brass items.

Understanding Brass and Its Detectability

Brass, an alloy composed mainly of zinc and copper, falls under the category of non-ferrous metals, meaning it does not exhibit magnetic properties. This non-magnetic nature makes brass an ideal target for metal detectors. When a metal detector emits an electromagnetic field, any brass object in its proximity will react by triggering an electric current, allowing the detectorist to precisely locate it.

The Rich History of Brass

Brass’s history spans centuries, and it has been used for various purposes throughout human civilization. From musical instruments like harmonicas, flutes, and saxhorns to sculptured statues in ancient Roman and African civilizations, brass has held both artistic and functional value. For modern-day detectorists, this historical significance makes brass a sought-after target during metal detecting expeditions.

Identifying Brass Objects

As a detectorist, having the ability to identify different metals, including brass, is a crucial skill. Here are some useful tips to recognize brass objects:

  1. Patina: Over time, brass tends to develop a characteristic green patina due to oxidation. The color may vary depending on the acidity of the ground.
  2. Magnetic Test: Use a magnet to determine if the object is brass. Brass will not be attracted to a magnet, so if the object is magnetic, it is likely made of a different metal or is only plated with brass.
  3. Color and Composition: After cleaning the object, brass should appear yellowish. A grayish hue may indicate higher zinc concentrations.
  4. Sound Test: Gently hit the object with another metal or drop it on a solid surface. If you hear a dull, muted sound, it is probably not brass.
  5. Scratch Test: If you have a suspected brass item and another made of bronze, you can try scratching the objects. Brass will be more easily scratched than bronze.
  6. Melting Test: If you have access to a controlled environment, you can try melting the object. Brass melts faster than bronze, allowing you to differentiate between the two metals.

Optimizing Metal Detection for Brass

While standard metal detectors can detect some types of brass, optimizing the detection process requires considering specific approaches:

  1. Use Multi-Frequency Metal Detectors: Multi-frequency metal detectors offer the advantage of adaptability, allowing users to adjust the frequency based on the target’s characteristics.
  2. Choose Detectors with Discrimination Features: Some metal detectors have discrimination settings that allow users to exclude certain metals from detection. Fine-tuning the discrimination can help focus on specific alloys like brass.
  3. Target Identification and Display: Investing in metal detectors with advanced target identification and display capabilities can provide more insight

Cleaning Brass Finds

Cleaning your brass finds is essential for preserving their beauty and value. Here are some effective cleaning techniques:

  1. Soap and Water: Soak the find in warm soapy water for half an hour, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush or cloth to clean it further.
  2. White Vinegar: Create a cleaning paste by mixing white vinegar with salt and flour. Rub the find with the paste to remove tarnish.
  3. Lemon Juice: After cleaning the brass object, use lemon juice to add shine and luster.

The Best Metal Detector for Brass

While there isn’t a metal detector dedicated solely to detecting brass, some devices are well-suited to the task due to their discrimination capabilities. Discrimination is crucial when searching for valuable brass targets amidst various types of trash.

One popular choice is the Garrett AT Pro, a versatile metal detector known for its excellent performance in detecting coins, jewelry, and valuable targets made from copper, bronze, and brass. The AT Pro’s discrimination feature saves time and energy by distinguishing between valuable finds and unwanted metallic debris.

Can Metal Detectors Detect Brass Knuckles?

As a relic from the past, brass knuckles hold historical significance and can be intriguing finds for detectorists. Detecting brass knuckles, which were used in the US Civil War and WW1, can be a thrilling experience. Their brass composition makes them easily detectable by metal detectors, provided you search in the right locations.

Debunking the “Magnetized Brass” Myth

Contrary to popular belief, brass itself cannot be magnetized due to its non-ferrous nature. If you encounter a brass object that appears to be magnetic, it is likely either plated with brass or made from a copper, zinc, and iron alloy—a material that shouldn’t be referred to as brass.


Q: Can all metal detectors detect brass?

A: While most standard metal detectors can detect some types of brass, the ability to detect brass accurately may vary depending on the specific alloy and its conductivity.

Q: Can a metal detector differentiate between brass and other metals?

A: Metal detectors equipped with discrimination features can help distinguish between different metals, including brass, by adjusting the discrimination settings.

Q: How deep can a metal detector detect brass?

A: The detection depth of brass depends on various factors, including the detector’s frequency, the object’s size, and its conductivity. In optimal conditions, brass can be detected at varying depths.

Q: Are there specialized metal detectors for brass detection?

A: Some metal detectors are designed with specific settings for targeting particular metals like gold or relics, but specialized brass detectors are less common.

Q: Can metal detectors detect brass underwater?

A: Yes, metal detectors can detect brass underwater. However, water conditions and interference from other metals can affect detection accuracy.

Q: What are the alternative methods for detecting brass?

A: Aside from metal detectors, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers can also identify and analyze brass and other metals based on their chemical composition.


In conclusion, understanding the detectability of different metals is a vital aspect of successful metal detecting. Brass, being a non-ferrous metal with good electrical conductivity, can be accurately located by metal detectors. The rich history and potential value of brass objects make them enticing targets for detectorists worldwide.

Armed with the knowledge provided in this guide, you are now well-equipped to embark on your metal detecting journey and discover the wonders that brass and other metals hold beneath the ground.