By: Robert Patterson


All of us are living in a time period that places heavy emphasis on the old adage, "let the buyer beware!" We are living in a society based, unfortunately, at times, on the almighty buck! Methods used by sales and marketing departments are well guarded secrets. We, the consumers, are not privileged to the finer details ultimately used by various manufacturers to gain access to our pocket book! What means will competing manufacturers of a particular product use to get our money?

Competition, I would like to point out, is one reason why our country is as great as it is. In the former Soviet Union all products were manufactured by the state. If the Soviet government wanted a "peoples car", they told the state car division to make a car. The state car division had no competition. The resulting car left a lot to be desired! The Soviet upper echelon did not drive state cars. They drove Lincolns, Mercedes and other such foreign vehicles manufactured under a stiff competitive environment. Competition can be a good thing!

The downside of competition leaves the consumer, when searching for a new "whatever", in a precarious position. Various questions are posed and each of these various questions must be answered. One source commonly used by many consumers are "field test". This brings us back to the title of this article. Can you really trust detector field test!

The Anatomy and Physiology of a Field Test

Field test are not loaners. Field test do not work well standing by themselves. Field test work best when grouped together.

Using one field test to gain information about detectors can be misleading. A singular field test is never complete. Various aspects about a particular detector may or may not be included. Further, some aspects about a detectors performance may be left out entirely!

A field test is written by an individual. This individual has certain physical and personal traits that cause his or hers opinion to be subject to bias. Ideally, a field test writer should analyze the particular product subjectively and ignore their built in personal biases. This ideal is rarely achieved. A detector that is tested by an individual with the physical attributes of an Olympic weight lifter may not include ease of handling in their test. A tester who is technically oriented may shower high praise upon a detector that requires a doctorate in Quantum Physics! The reader of a field test should question the conclusions drawn by each field test. The tester likes the chartreuse color of this detector! Do I like chartreuse? One needs to "read between the lines".

Field tests should be considered as one tool needed to complete the research needed before purchasing a detector. Take note of the word tests in the first sentence. It is plural. Always read as many field tests as you can find. Combine and compare the results one field test writer makes against the other tests information and conclusions. Using this procedure, you'll quickly note that the amount of information of two, three or four tests is far greater than reading just one. After reading these tests, do not arrive at any concrete conclusions.

If I can't make any concrete conclusions reading field tests, then why should I read them. Field test will give you preliminary information before going to the next step in your research. They cannot be relied upon completely. I am searching my memory while writing this, for some recollection of a field test that I have read, that "bad mouthed" a particular detector. I can't recall any such tests! With few exceptions, writers of field tests are not going to last very long as "field tests" writers if they degrade the products supplied to them by the manufacturer! If you can find an independent field test about the detector you wish to chose, read it! Many field test are found in magazines that are supported by well paid advertising from the very detector manufacturers that a particular field test is testing! Check some of these ads more closely. Quite often a link or other referral will be included to a glowing field test written about their particular "Super Duper, Do it All" detector!  Have you ever seen a referral to a field test that "bad mouths" a particular detector?

I'd like to draw an analogy to a scene in a movie to further define field tests. The movie is a comedy. Two individuals are fleeing from a carload of gangsters bent on inflicting grievous harm upon their persons. They arrive at an airport and run out of gas. The two individuals jump into a Cessna airplane and one of them fires the aircraft up. They are taxing down the runway about to take off. The individual flying the plane is asked by the other "I didn't know you knew how to fly a plane". He answers " I read about it"!

Field test, like ground school, prior to learning how to fly is only a preliminary. Ground school is necessary to give a new pilot the necessary understanding of the physics of flight and the aircraft he or she will learn how to fly. Ground school gives the new pilot the ability to understand the instructions given to him or her during actual flight training. Field tests are part of the ground school that allow a detector purchaser the necessary understanding prior to actually operating the detector in question. If the purchase is being made by an experienced detector operator the information will be more easily understood. An experienced detector operator will also have actual "flight experience" with detectors and as a consequence can recognize areas of a particular field test that fall short of complete information.

Field tests are only one tool a consumer should avail themselves of before making a detector purchase.

Enhancing a Field Test

Prior to purchasing a detector, field tests should be read. Field tests should not be the deciding factor in purchasing a detector. Talk to actual detector "pilots". Many of these experienced users can be questioned at various forums on the internet. Don't be shy! The stupid question is the one that is not asked. Quite often, the answers you will receive will fail to answer your question. Ask the question again!

Once you have read the field test and questioned the experienced operators the best final tool to use when arriving at your final decision is to get your hands on the detector in question. Holding and examining the detector will reveal aspects of the detector that the field test and experienced users failed to divulge! Suddenly you might notice that the "super duper battery box" as applauded in the field test is in your opinion, complete garbage!

Good luck and may your detector of choice serve you well!

Robert Patterson  

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