The Viper Trident All-Purpose Detector
By Andy Sabisch
Searching for valuables lost in the water has been a passion of mine for more than 30 years and it is truly one of the last forms of treasure hunting where valuable targets are continually being replenished in areas that are searched on a regular basis. After all, if a Civil War campsite or old picnic grove is hunted by experienced detectorists, the number of finds will continue to drop until there is really nothing left to find. On the other hand, a popular beach will have a new “crop” of coins and jewelry deposited after every warm weekend, providing water hunters with more “keepers” to search for and recover.
Searching for valuables lost in the water has been a passion of mine for more than 30 years and it is truly one of the last forms of treasure hunting where valuable targets are continually being replenished in areas that are searched on a regular basis. After all, if a Civil War campsite or old picnic grove is hunted by experienced detectorists, the number of finds will continue to drop until there is really nothing left to find. On the other hand, a popular beach will have a new “crop” of coins and jewelry deposited after every warm weekend, providing water hunters with more “keepers” to search for and recover. So, with my avid interest in water hunting, ranging from shallow-water wading to deep diving, I was extremely interested in seeing how a new low-cost addition to the list of detectors capable of searching in the water performed in the field.
The Viper Trident, distributed by Kellyco, was designed to be an all purpose metal detector unaffected by adverse weather conditions or even being submerged underwater at depths exceeding 100 feet. It is a “turn-on-and-go” VLF detector that operates at 12.5 kHz with a full range discrimination circuit. The Viper uses the conventional S-handle shaft design which keeps the controls accessible and balances the weight which comes in at 4.2 pounds.
For any detector that will spend at least part of its life in the water, the obvious “Achilles Heel” is how well the electronics are sealed to ensure no water reaches them. The Viper addresses this by using double O-rings on both the control knobs and the battery compartment door, s well as with hardwired connections for the search coil and headphone cables. As a result, the Viper is rated for full submergence at depths of 130+ feet. Having used underwater detectors since their inception decades ago, I’m used to the heavy, robust headphones used for that application. The Viper’s headphones at first glance appear to be similar in construction to most standard land models; however, the specs assure that they are waterproof to the same depth rating as the unit itself, which both cuts down on the weight of the detector and improves the comfort when used for long periods of time (which finding a gold ring or two will tend to make you want to do!)
Simplicity in operation was one of the key design requirements and, with only two controls on the faceplate, the Viper couldn’t be easier to set up and use. Both knobs actually serve a dual function. The knob on the left side turns the Viper on and off and is used to adjust the sensitivity level. The other knob is used to select the search mode—All Metal or Discriminate - and, when in the Discriminate mode, the level of discrimination desired. In the center of the face of the control housing is a target light that illuminates when a target is detected in addition to producing an audible response heard through the waterproof head phones. This is a useful feature when diving (in case you miss a signal due to bubbles from the regulator) or searching a beach in the evening after the crowds have left (if you opt to not use the headphones for personnel safety reasons).
The Viper is powered by a single 9V battery that provides ~25 hours of operation. When the battery voltage drops below the point at which the detector can operate effectively, a continuous tone will be heard through the headphones alerting the user that replacement is needed. Rechargeable batteries can be used with no loss of performance and you can pick up a pair of NiMH batteries and a charger for under $20, making it quite economical to operate.
While one of the main reasons people will look at the Viper is for its ability to be used in the water, I find it advantageous to first test a water machine on land in order to familiarize myself with the settings, target response and pinpointing “quirks.”
A quick bench testing session let me get used to the response received from various targets as well as the points where they were rejected as the discrimination control was increased from the fully counter-clockwise position (All Metal) to the fully clockwise position (High Zone). It should be noted that even at MAX, the Viper will not reject silver jewelry or clad and silver coins. The faceplate has preset marks on both the Sensitivity and Discrimination controls selected to provide users with 1) stable operation, and 2) assurance that nickels and gold jewelry are not inadvertently rejected. Coins and jewelry test items all produced clear, easily discernible signals at depths commensurate with the performance one would expect from a detector in this price range.
Ready to give it a try in the field, I packed up and went to a local park with a large sandy playground and several benches mounted in beds of woodchips. Setting the controls at PRESET, I started out across the first sandy section. It was quickly apparent that this site had not been hunted in a few months, as targets were fairly plentiful. With the Discrimination set at the PRESET mark, pull-tabs were still detected and, after recovering more than 20 in quick succession, I increased the control until they dropped out. I realized that nickels and small gold items would also be rejected, but based on the slim likelihood of finding a gold ring at this location, the time saved not recovering trash was worth the trade-off. Despite not having a non-motion pinpoint mode, pinpointing targets was fairly straightforward. Since only a small amount of coil movement is needed to produce a signal, I found that by “X-ing” the area of the target and then wiggling the coil slightly, zeroing in on targets with a fair degree of accuracy was possible after a little practice.
The next site I took the Viper to was an informal swimming spot on the lake near my house. The bottom drops off quickly, so I focused on the 15 foot-wide section that paralleled the shore that I could reach up to chest deep. Hoping to find a piece of jewelry, I dropped the discrimination control to just below the PRESET mark and, since I knew it had been hunted previously, I bumped the sensitivity towards its upper range. Suiting up into my wetsuit, I grabbed a long-handled scoop and waded out into the 54F water – sort of wish these water machine field tests would be timed better! While not a virgin site, signals were detected on a regular basis. Using the same technique I had in the playground, pinpointing and recovering targets was quite simple. Criss-crossing the area, the approximately location was quickly found. Then, placing my left foot against the right-hand edge of the coil, I would remove the coil and place the scoop against the outer edge of my foot….a quick swipe and the target was usually in the bucket of the scoop. An hour netted me a few dollars in change, two Avon-style rings and a gold-plated charm torn from a necklace.
Unfortunately, with the water temperature in the low-50’s, and having just gotten over the flu, I was somewhat reluctant to spend hours diving in one of the lakes in the area, but to test the Viper I felt obligated to at least give it a quick test. Grabbing a friend with a boat, I loaded up the Viper and my dive gear and we headed out to a spot where I found some relics from the 1800’s in the past – remnants of what the land had been used for before the dam was built in the early 1900’s, creating the lake. Sliding over the side, I slid down the anchor rope to the bottom about 30 feet below. Visibility was its typical “near-zero” so after shooting a compass bearing, I turned the viper on and started searching. I found a few targets over the next 30 minutes, including a pair of horseshoes, wagon parts and some mystery objects that will need some cleaning to ID. There were two comments I had after surfacing. First, the Viper does not collapse far enough to make it the right size for diving; however, cutting down a spare lower rod would solve that point. Secondly, the volume was a tad low to be heard over regulator bubbles, which required skip-breathing to ensure signals were not missed.
The Viper Trident was designed to be a lightweight, easy-to-operate, affordable option for treasure hunters looking to try their hand at beach and shallow water hunting, or simply looking for a detector that is not affected by the weather and, in these regards, it meets that goal. The Viper was not intended to replace or even compete with the high-end underwater metal detectors on the market, but for those that may not be sure water hunting is for them, or only get to a beach occasionally on vacation, this might just be what you’ve been looking for. Chattering will be experienced when searching salt-water beaches, especially those containing black sand; however, with the exception of more expensive multi-frequency VLF or pulse detectors, most other VLF-based detectors are also challenged under these conditions. On the other hand, the Viper will handle the majority of fresh water sites or land locations with no complicated adjustments and, just as importantly, without breaking the family budget!