Underwater Gold Sniping: a Low-Cost Approach to Getting the Gold (Part 6)

 Get good at it and much better gold than this pan of mine can be found using a "snipe" scope.

I have a sneaking suspicion that one question you may have about underwater gold sniping is this: "Just how effective is a 'snipe' tube or underwater viewer in getting at the gold?" To answer this query fully a number of variables first need to be addressed:

1) Your level of knowledge and experience: Success as an underwater gold sniper (or gold miner in general) is largely dependent on how much you know and how much you've done. A very good understanding of stream hydraulics and gold deposition physics is mandatory...pretty much par for the course with any placer mining endeavors. Additionally, prior experience working bedrock (especially underwater) is a great asset. Otherwise, you newcomers out there will be learning OJT.

Mining Equipment
Gold Concentrates
Gold Concentrators  

2) The type of placers you're able to work: Once again, gold placers containing substantial overburden rock and gravel with little visible or accessible bedrock to work are simply not going to work very well for you. Conversely, those of you out there who can "snipe" streams with accessible bedrock can kick butt and take names...providing you're patient and your skill level is up to the challenge. (TIP: If you do end up taking a stab at underwater gold sniping in areas where little bedrock is available, focus the use of your "snipe" tube around and downstream of large boulders or similar obstructions. Even better, move those puppies out of the way with a "come along" and search the gravels beneath them.)

3) The amount of time, effort, and pain you're willing to invest:  Underwater gold sniping is a mining or sampling technique. Like all things mining, it takes time, lots of hard work, and yes...pain...to recover decent gold values. Piddle around and just do the minimum and your results will be the same. Become adept with a "snipe" tube and hit it hard, and guess what? You'll take home amounts of gold you didn't think possible. I'm not exaggerating either.

"Mr. Max"

Want an example of what I'm talking about? Let me tell you about an underwater gold sniper I'll call "Mr. Max."

 (Good gold can be found at this spot...a "false" bedrock clay layer sits not far under the closest rocks.)

I was introduced to Mr. Max around 1982 or so when he was probably pushing 50 years of age. If he's still alive (I've not had any contact with him for a while now), Mr. Max lives and "snipes" in California's Motherlode region at various locations he's come to know like the back of his hand.

Sizable Collection of Placer Gold

Mr. Max doesn't "do" rivers or larger streams, but since the early 1970s has focused his underwater sniping activities along smaller, gold-bearing "feeder" streams or creeks that many other small-scale miners in the area have written off as "worked out." He works strictly in very shallow water underlain by accessible bedrock and still uses (or did the last time I saw him) the same beat-up old "snipe" tube he made as a do-it-yourself project.

This old timer was as good as they get with finding and recovering gold using as "snipe" tube and a few basic hand tools as anyone I've ever known or come across, bar none. Back in the '80s he showed me a sizable collection of placer gold he'd recovered (including enough small and medium-sized nuggets to make your mouth water).

A True Character

Gold was probably around $600-$800 at that time and the gold that Mr.Max showed me was probably well into the five figures money wise. Sorry, but don't ask me where he lives (and I truly hope he's still out there stooping over a creek with his battered "snipe" tube) because Mr. Max was as close to a recluse as anyone can be.

By the way, he NEVER sold much of his gold either...just let it accumulate and periodically cashed some in to pay for his modest (if not frugal) lifestyle. He was a true character...one of a number I've been blessed to meet in my 34 years of small-scale placer mining.

So, you better grab your "snipe" scope and get to hustling. There's still good gold to be found out there.

Good luck to one and all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Underwater Gold Sniping: a Low-Cost Approach to Getting the Gold"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. Thanks J.R. nice story. Live in Placerville with a number of smaller streams. Just started sniping (made my own tube)and got my first "real" picker. Appreciate all of your hard work sir.

  2. You're in a good area for sniping Scott. Thanks for the good words and I wish you the best. Check in with me later via e-mail...maybe we do a post or two on your efforts. J.R.


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