Friday, June 8, 2012

Underwater Gold Sniping: a Low-Cost Approach to Getting the Gold (Part 2)

(Fissureman "Wide-Eye" underwater "snipe" scope.)

(PEEK-AU underwater "snipe" scope. I own two of these minus the fancier handles pictured here.)

Two Main Approaches

Essentially, there are two main approaches to underwater gold sniping. The first involves working shallow water areas using a viewing glass or tube, most often referred to as a "snipe" scope. The second method requires a bit more financial outlay and you'll need to be able to swim and dive a bit as well.

So let's discuss the first approach in this post since it's not only the easiest but also the cheapest. The use of  a viewing glass to see underwater has been around a very long time, but it's only been over the last 30-40 years that this technique has been used extensively to locate placer gold in running streams.

Viewing What?

Essentially it works like this: the dappled surface of running water (especially in bright sunlight) makes it extremely difficult to see objects under the water's surface. Water also refracts or "bends" the light enough to make objects appear larger underwater and not in the exact location we first think they're in.

Gold Prospecting Books
Gold Concentrators

How can we get around this annoying bit of physics? By making or purchasing a "snipe" scope, a simple but elegant little solution for viewing what's underneath the surface of the water. Viewing what, you ask? Well placer gold, of course...especially in locations where shallow overburden and bedrock coexist in a gold-bearing stream.

A "snipe" tube is little more than a length of PVC tubing with a "lens" of glass or plexiglass at the lower end, an open viewing area at the top, and a handle or set of handles to hold the "snipe" tube in position. I've also seen some placer miners use glass or heavy, clear plastic dishes or bowls as stand-ins for "snipe" tubes but I don't recommend using glass items or glass lenses in and rocks and water just don't seem to get along very well (and this includes glass vials for holding your gold).

 (View looking underwater through the PEEK-AU "snipe" tube.)

Fellow placer gold miner "HurtHawk" (Rick Shelby) has graciously allowed me to use a couple of his videos on this topic. In the first Rick will show you how to build a simple underwater viewer or "snipe" tube and in the second Rick will show what you can do to improvise out in the field as he uses a clear, plastic pie pan top to I.D. and recover some bedrock gold.

I have to tell you, I got one hell of a kick out of Rick's second video. I've been at this mining thing for nearly 33 years and thought I'd seen it all!

Still, the principle is the same, no matter the type of viewer or "snipe" tube:

Video 1

Video 2

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Claim Your Own Land: Don't Deal with Frauds"

(c)  Jim Rocha

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Here in Idaho I have not found anywhere there is bedrock like what is shown in vidio #2. I'm not sure how much use I would have for one of these. I always wonder though when I get done digging my hole and running it through the sluice, what's in the bottom that I can't see and might have slipped off my shovel? This would help there, might need to be a bit longer though.

  2. That's the one prerequisite for underwater sniping...ya gotta have available bedrock to work. I have sniped and found gold with a scope behind larger obstructions without shallow bedrock, but that's a rare occurrence for the most part. Thanks for commenting Gary. J.R.