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Bounty Hunter Detector Models

Page updated December, 2010

A Brief Bounty Hunter History

Pacific Northwest Instruments (PNI) in Klamath Falls, Oregon originated the Bounty Hunter brand of metal detectors sometime in the late 1960's or early 1970's. Click here for an August, 1971 ad in True Treasure magazine, featuring their trio of BFO machines. These were likely the first models offered by PNI and all three probably shared pretty much the same parts and circuitry. Just the addition of a few controls or a larger meter and case created the differences between them. Inside was a basic Beat Frequency Oscillator circuit that was no doubt very similar to what any of the competition was offering at the time. Anyone who could handle a soldering iron and read a simple schematic could design and build one.

In those days it was a wide-open field, literally. Dozens of small companies sprang up and began to compete. Most any new design was instantly seized upon by all the makers and copied as best they could, hopefully avoiding patent infringement lawsuits as they went. Detectorists also enjoyed wide-open fields that had never been hunted by anything but the eye or a magnet and shovel. Detecting was allowed most anywhere you chose to search.

By the mid-70's, PNI Bounty Hunter had survived and grown. The tried-and-true BFO was still featured in their lineup, and had added several TR, IB and combination designs. Click here to see a 1976 catalog. Ground compensation and trash discrimination were just beginning to be addressed.

Bounty Hunter had some real firsts in the industry. Their Red Baron detectors added phase discrimination and ground balance to a VLF design. Patented by George Payne for PNI in Tempe, AZ, in 1978, these machines are still popular today.

In this same era, Teknetics entered the fray, a young company created by some former technicians from White's. They acquired from PNI the Bounty Hunter name and several key patents. Using the revolutionary tone and visual ID circuits of George Payne, their Mark 1 detector put Teknetics on the map.

There was a shakeout in the industry in the later 80's to early 90's and unfortunately, Teknetics was one of the victims. The company's property eventually became the object of a badly-handled bankruptcy and was thus acquired by First Texas, which was already in the business of producing metal detectors under their own brand, sold mostly through mass-marketing chains such as Fingerhut and others. (I bought my first detector, a First Texas Search Master DX-8500 from Fingerhut in 1981. I still have it and will make a page for it here someday.)

So it was that Bounty Hunter/Tek made the trek to First Texas in the 1990's and it was soon evident First Texas had the funding and marketing to finally do something with the collection of innovative designs and patents. We owe visual target ID to George's unique concepts. The Big Bud series of detectors, built by George Payne, combined many of the features that almost all of today's machines continue to use, and are probably the most significant models to come from Bounty Hunter in this time frame. I believe this happened around the time First Texas acquired BH.

I'm writing all this from memory with only a few supporting documents, so if I've gotten the timeline incorrect in regards to when George Payne worked where for whom, please forgive me. Then, please send me an email with corrections, and I'll update the page.

From the early Outlaws and Red Barons, progressing through the Big Bud and Mark 1 concepts devised by George Payne and others, came the familiar machines we all know and love: Tracker, Quickdraw, Sharpshooter and all the rest. Meanwhile, George had moved on to work for Compass and other manufacturers. First Texas continued to improve upon the BH lineup by releasing several upgrades and new models. The Time Ranger and Land Ranger epitomized this era at Bounty Hunter.

Entering the new millenium, things were still pretty much the same. Around 2002-2003 things started waking up at First Texas when Dave Johnson entered the picture. Dave is a well-known detector designer since 1981, with many successful designs under his belt. Among them the Fisher 1260-X, the Gold Bug I and other designs for Fisher, Tesoro, Troy and White's. Almost immediately we began to see new designs from Bounty Hunter, such as the Discovery 1100, 2200 and 3300 made for Radio Shack. The Time Ranger and perhaps a few other models got a quiet upgrade or two during this period.

Around 2005, the Teknetics name burst back into the field with the introduction of the cutting-edge T2 detector primarily designed and programmed by Dave Johnson and John Gardiner. To say it made huge waves felt throughout the industry would be an understatement! Though many of us knew better, as we were aware of Bounty Hunter's important contributions to detecting, there was a public perception that BH machines were cheap junk not worth owning. This ill-informed perception was largely disbursed by the introduction of the T2 and its wide acceptance as a state-of-the-art metal detector.

A couple years later when Fisher began to founder, it , too was rescued by First Texas, vastly broadening the scope of products they could release.

We haven't reached the end of this story by any means, but this is about as far as my own involvement with First Texas' many products has taken me to date and it brings us close to the present. I am more interested in preserving on these pages the info that's becoming harder to find. The current state of the detecting art is already out there in wide array for anyone with questions. It makes no sense for me to try to cover it all in any detail here. I enjoy the new as much as the next guy, but I really appreciate the old. If you've read this far, you must enjoy it, too. Happy searching with (or for) whatever detector suits your fancy!

-Ed, January,1st, 2010

Bounty Hunter I, II & II BFO

PNI Bounty Hunter IB 200 Induction Balance

Bounty Hunter 8400 VLF/TR

Bounty Hunter Red Baron Series

We also have text-based manuals for the following vintage Bounty Hunter Detectors:

Click Here for the Master List

Click Here for a 1976 Bounty Hunter Catalog


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