Geiger counter measures the amount of radioactivity by counting the particles that hit the detector (Geiger Muller tube). This gas-filled type instrument, in turn, generates pulses that represent the number of particles hitting the gas atoms inside the tube.
The Geiger counter’s unit reading is actually CPM (counts per minute) or CPS (counts per second). Some counters also provide a dose rate reading which is µS/hr or mR/hr. The dose rate multiplied by time generates the dose accumulation (Sievert or REM). This accumulated dose is very important to know the safe level of ionizing radiation to our body.
Visiting a nuclear disaster site, collecting antiques, living near a nuclear power plant, mineral mining, preppers, etc can be the reasons you need a Geiger counter as your radiation detector for personal use as well as home use.
There are many Geiger counter brands in the world. Some of them are GQ, Mazur Instruments, Radex, Soeks, Gamma Scout, Radiation Alert, etc. If you are going to buy a Geiger counter to detect this harmful radiation, this post is for you.
Maybe, one of the following 15 Geiger counters and dosimeters that we found on the market can be your choice. We include some dosimeters as it measures ionizing radiation as well. Afterward, you will see our reviews for the top 5. In the conclusion, we taper the selection by showing you the top 3.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning that we haven’t used all of these devices. We gather, rank, and suggest them to you based on the specifications that they provide. Also, we consider people’s reviews to assess the performance of the Counters such as battery life.
Looking for an ionizing radiation dosimeter? Check it here. We post some choices for you, for your personal use.
Top 5 Best Geiger Counter Reviews 2022
1. GQ GMC-600 Plus Geiger Counter [Best Overall]
When searching for the best Geiger counter, we have to focus on its main purpose which is to measure the amount of particles from radioactivity. In this case, the product we are searching must be very sensitive to detect alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray.
Herewith, GQ GMC-600+ (not the GQ GMC-600 model) presents as the best Geiger counter product ever that we found after hours of searches, designed for the public at a relatively low price.
It uses LND-7317 pancake model tube as the sensor. You can look this tube covered with mica, located at the back of the GQ GMC-600+. Its wide diameter allows more space to let the particles come in. This sensor is very well-known for its excellent sensitivity to detect the big 4 radiations (alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray) at the same time, better accuracy compared to LND-712 or SBT-11.
Alpha ray, beta ray, gamma ray, and X-ray have energy. Is your Geiger counter able to detect the low-energy alpha? This is to make sure that your counter scans the entire radiation. The following is the minimum of energy of alpha ray, beta ray, gamma ray, and X-ray that can be detected by GQ GMC-600 PLUS.
- Alpha 2.5 MeV
- Beta 50 keV
- Gamma & X-ray 10 keV
You have to make some research of the energy range of those 4 particles. As our reference said; you can read on the buying guide section, this device picks almost the entire energy except some of the very low energy X-ray. X-ray energy is 100 eV to 100 keV. While the minimum detectable of GQ GMC-600+ is 10 keV, so it only detects some range.
For sensitivity, undoubtfully this is the best amongst its competitors on the market. It’s able to detect very low alpha radiation. You could check the user reviews about they use it on granite.
Not only does it provide great sensitivity, but the display also shows easy-to-read reading. It shows 4 important readouts at the same time: the amount of particles per time interval (CPM), dose rate (µSv/h & mR/h), and warning notification (high/normal/medium).
- Measuring range of the dose rate:
- 0.001 – 4250 µSv/h
- 0.001 – ~425 mRem/h
- Measuring range of the CPM:
The display is also automatic to be vertical or horizontal. It comes with backlight for easy reading in dim environment. Displaying the data in graphic can be done by setting through the menu.
GQ GMC-600+ allows you to enjoy the measured data not only right on the device but also external device (computer). It has a single LED and speaker. The LED will blink and the speaker will sound if the radiation reaches the threshold level.
You could download the data being stored (logged) on the device into your computer using the GQ GMC Data Viewer Software. Realtime monitoring is also possible with this software.
The standard mini-USB port is visible on the side. Through this port, you can connect the Geiger counter to a computer for data transfer and charging. This port also allows connection to an external power connection.
The Li-ion 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery is employed to charge power to the device. You can also use the non-rechargeable one but you have to make some adjustment on the settings.
All in all, GQ GMC-600+ has great sensitivity, an informative screen, data logging for further data processing, realtime data on computer, and most importantly affordable. For all the things this American-made GQ GMC-600+ digital Geiger counter can give, its price is really cheap. However, according to its manual, a completely charged battery can only last less than 5 hours of use. However, this drawback can be dealt with external power source. Perhaps, you want to monitor the radiation in your house or office, or school, the external power source can be used.
Read the manual here: https://www.gqelectronicsllc.com/GMC-600UserGuide.pdf
- Highly sensitive Geiger tube LND 7317
- Measures alpha (even the low alpha), beta, gamma, and some X-ray.
- Real-time graphical visualization mode is available to select
- Highly functional: easy to read, large screen, backlight, Wifi, data logging, rechargeable.
- Computer connection
- No way to indicate what radiation you are measuring, you measure all ionizing radiation
- Not IP rated, don’t let it wet, store in dry place.
- The software is for Windows only
- Short battery use (less than 5 hours)
2. Gamma-Scout German Made Geiger Counter (Last 10 Years)
The amazing this about the Gamma-Scout geiger counter is its battery power. It can last up to 10 years. If you search on Youtube, type in Gamma-scout, you will find people who review this measuring instrument from 8-10 years ago. Gamma-scout is insanely legend.
If you buy a Geiger counter for preparation, then this one might be no doubt to buy due to its battery life. Even it comes with completely no switch-off button. This device will keep counting anything (particles) in front of the sensor.
Geiger Muller Tube LND-712: Sensitivity & Durability
Gamma-scout makes use of the shaped-tube LND-712 Geiger Muller tube. This tube is able to detect Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and X-ray.
- Alpha: 4 MeV minimum
- Beta: 0.2 MeV (200 keV) minimum
- Gamma & X-ray: 30 keV minimum
If you think that the lowest alpha energy is
3 MeV 4 MeV, then this German-made Gamma-scout will detect alpha radiation in the entire range. But its spec for X-ray and beta is not really satisfying. It only covers down to 30 keV while low-energy X-ray can reach down to 100 eV (0.1 keV). Low energy beta can have 100 keV while the low detectable beta is only 200 keV.
Talking about sensitivity, this tube is not as sensitive as LND-7317 but it’s more durable. In some situations where durability is more important; if it’s broken and impossible to replace or fix, Gamma-scout is the winner.
Switchable Radiation Measurement
This is another great advantage of Gamma-scout. Unlike other Geiger counters that are not able to distinguish which radiation they are counting, this Gamma-Scout gives you a switchable ray measurement. It’s through its ray selection switch that you can see on the upper part of the instrument. Herewith, you know what radiation you are measuring.
- Left. Turning it left will make the counter tube window covered by aluminum foil (0.1 mm). As a result, it enables gamma and beta measurement only. Meanwhile, the alpha particles are not able to pass through.
- Center. Keeping it at the center will make the counter tube window covered by an aluminum plate (3 mm, thicker) and lead (50mm). In turn, it only enables gamma rays to pass through. While the alpha and beta are not able to enter.
- Right. Lastly, turning it right will let all the particles come in. In this case, you can measure all the particles (alpha, beta, and gamma). If you are going to measure alpha and beta, make sure to put the device close to the source.
There is no fancy display but it fulfills its main function for displaying some important information. It displays the particle rate (CPS), dose rate (µS/h or ), accumulated dose (µS or R). The accumulated dose is an important function to know how many radiations the device gets.
The measurement readings are automatically stored in the internal memory. These readings can be downloaded and analyzed on your PC through its GAMMA-SCOUT® TOOLBOX software. This software is installable both in Windows and Mac-based.
- Measuring range of dose rate:
- 0.01- 5,000 µSv/h
All in all, Gamma-Scout is incredible for long-term use. For radiation detection, this model is highly reliable. Its battery lasts for years. The system only consumes very little power. Imagine that the device will be always on for 10 years nonstop serving you with radiation information of surroundings. In our perspective, Gamma-Scout is appropriate for preppers due to its ability to last for years.
Even, when the battery power is low, you can recharge it. Among the 4 models you can pick, this one is rechargeable. You don’t need to desolder to replace the battery.
Moreover, you can download the data and analyze it both in Windows and Mac. In contrast, GQ GMC-600+ above provides for Windows only.
The ability to measure cumulative dose (becomes dose meter) makes it another reason to buy. GQ GMC-600+ has no this function. So, if you put this Gamma-scout in a specific site, let it measure all the time, you can estimate how many doses you will get if you stay at the same site as the device lies on.
The drawback is Gamma-scout doesn’t cover completely alpha and beta radiation measurement. Its sensor is not as sensitive as the GQ GMC600+ sensor. While it’s highly reliable for detection, it’s not for better accuracy measurement.
- Lasts for up to 10 years under normal use, plus rechargeable
- Able to distinguish what particles being measured
- Data logging
- Dose accumulation measurement is available
- Computer connection
- The software for data analysis can be installed both in Windows and Mac
- Doesn’t cover the entire alpha and beta particles’ energy energy
3. Mazur Instruments PRM-9000 Geiger Counter
Instead of using a fancy display like the GQ GM600+ that requires more power to run, perhaps you need something that is simple, more accurate but lasts longer. These specifications are needed if you want to use it in a place that power consumption really matters (some places out there). Mazur PRM-9000 is a combination of high sensitivity LND-7317 sensor and longer battery use up to 3 years that will fulfill your need.
Mazur PRM-9000 Geiger counter uses pancake model LND-7317 Geiger muller tube as the sensor. As we know, this sensor measures alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray; the four big radiation. For low energy alpha particle detection, the spec is fully capable as well as for beta and gamma particles. However, according to spec, this sensor is weak to detect very low X-ray radiation. It is only able to detect X-ray radiation that has energy from 10 keV – 100 keV.
- Alpha: minimum 2.0 MeV;
- Beta: minimum 0.16 MeV (160 KeV)
- Gamma & X rays: min 10 keV
Battery and External Power
Both battery and AC power can be the power source of this instrument.
For battery, the 9V alkaline battery is the default. Nicely, the 9V Lithium battery can be another battery option for you. Alkaline leaking may be your reason. The lithium one can provide 60,000 hours which is equal to 6.8 years of battery life.
Though having a good low power consumption to last longer, you could make use of external power source. There are two ports on the side of this instrument. You could connect an A/C adapter to the bottom port to use external power.
Elapsed time in second minute hour day. Current reading, average reading, maximum reading, minimum reading, total count, the day when the maximum reading detected, and time. The reading can be in particle rate (CPM or CPS) and dose rate (µR/hr, mR/hr, or µSv/hr). No dose exposure reading.
- 0.001 – 125 mR/hr or 0.01 – 1.250 µSv/hr
- 0 – 300,000 CPM or 0 – 3,000 CPS
This instrument’s logged readings are also downloadable from the internal memory. You can connect this device to the computer through the upper port and turn the logged readings in CSV format. For realtime monitoring purpose on computer, the pulses will turn into graphics through this port. Working silently is also possible. This port can be connected to earphone.
All in all, Mazur PRM-9000 is indeed more expensive than GQ GMC-600+ but Mazur is possible to carry along to some place out there (perhaps near a nuclear power plant, rock mining, etc) and use it for longer time. Both of them use the same sensor. On the other hand, compared to Gamma-scout, PRM-9000 is the winner in terms of better sensitivity for radiation detection.
The only drawback that we discover is its display. It looks outdated and small. But it should be okay if luxury display is not your priority.
- LND 7317 two-inch pancake GM Tube
- Sensitive to alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray
- Pretty long battery life (up to 4 years)
- Dose exposure measurement
- A little bit heavier than other Geiger counters: 13.0 ounces
- Less infomational display
4. GCA-06W Professional Geiger Counter with Probe
Looking for the Geiger counter with an LND-712 sensor but more cost-friendly than Gamma-scout? GCA-06W is the answer. The sensor is built in the probe so you can make sure the device doesn’t contact to the object you suspect radioactive.
The separated probe unables you to cover it with a specific material such as paper, aluminum foil, and lead to indicate what radiation you are intending to block.
According to the company description of the detector/sensor sensitivity:
- Alpha above 3.0 MeV
- Beta above 50 KeV
- Gamma & X-ray above 7 KeV
This coverage sounds great. However, as we know, the sensitivity of LND-712 is medium level. It’s not as sensitive as LND-7317 but better durability.
The toggle switches may look old-school style but they are made straightforward and clear to instruct. The functions are on/off device, on/off sound, on/off backlight, particle counting toggle (CPS/CPM/Average CPS), and dose rate toggle (mSv/hr, mR/hr). Pulse indicator blinking LED, low battery LED, Headphone, data output, and external power ports are also available. The data output port allows you to enjoy a wider view of the radiation readings on computer.
- 1.0 µR/hr – 1000 mR/hr
- 0.01 µSv/hr – 10 mSv/hr
If you need a Geiger counter instrument that is calibration documented, then this is the option you can pick. In this case, an additional cost charges you.
Buy from the official site: https://www.imagesco.com/geiger/digital-geiger-counter-gca-06w.html
- It comes with a probe; the device doesn’t contact the radioactive object
- Easy to use
- LND-712 GM tube but affordable
- Computer connectable using the data output port
- An external power port is available
- The toggles are not suitable to bring in a tight bag
- Requires decent electronics knowledge to connect the device to a computer
5. Soeks 112 Compact Geiger Counter for Travel
If you travel a lot, you need something that is compact. Soeks 112 can be your personal radiation warning that you can put in your pocket and carry along. You can easily instantly assess the dose rate of your travel with it.
It uses SBM20-1 Geiger muller tube. Thus, we are impressed with its size. Many DIY Geiger counters with this sensor don’t have this tubular size. Though small, as consequence, it’s not able to measure alpha radiation, only for beta and gamma radiation. If you think you don’t really close (few centimeters) to alpha radiation source, you are sure that you don’t inhale it nor eat it, this is a great pick.
The reading is µS/h. The measuring range is 0.01-999 uSv/h. It produces a click sound along with a red flash whenever exposed to the environment having a radiation level above the normal range. Also, you can easily configure the threshold for background radiation and a level to get notified (alarm) when reached. The CPM/CPS reading is none which is a drawback.
Its power comes from the small 2 × LR44 batteries. This battery should last more than 100 hours. In case you expect to use it longer, you can buy the backup.
Soeks 112 is great to use as a detector. Whenever you visit a certain site you concern about there is radioactivity, this small-sized compact Geiger counter will fit in your pocket. Ready to go anywhere. Its price is also friendly.
- Pocket size, ready to carry in the pocket
- SBM20-1 Geiger muller tube: beta and gamma
- Adjustable warning level
- No CPM/CPS reading
- Small LCS screen display
- Not measure alpha radiation
Things to Consider Buying A Geiger Counter
1. Capability to Measure the 4 Radiations
The best Geiger counter should be able to detect and measure the 4 radiations: alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray. Some counters are only able to detect beta, gamma, and X-ray. This limitation is commonly the factor of the sensor/Geiger Muller tube. Different GM (Geiger Muller) tube models will have different capabilities.
If you are purchasing a Geiger counter mainly for body protection, your device should cover the detection of Beta, Gamma, and X-rays. The penetration power of these three radiations can directly danger your body.
2. Detector Sensitivity
Even though it’s able to cover the 4 radiations, the sensitivity may be different.
A Geiger counter will be called sensitive if it can count more particles compared to the other counters. For example, higher sensitive Geiger counter A counts 1000 particles while the B counts only 500 particles even though they measure the same object for 1 hour.
When talking about detector sensitivity, we are talking about the tube as well. There are 4 common tube models on the market: LND-7317 (American made), LND-712 (American made), SBT-11 (Russian), and SBM20-1 (Russian).
The LND-7317 pancake-shaped is the highest sensitive but easy to break. LND-712 short-tube-shaped measures alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray but is less sensitive than LND-7317. The SBM20 long tube-shaped detects
alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray. The lack of alpha detection makes this sensor not suitable for most uses. Compared to LND-712, the SBM20 is less sensitive and more fragile.
It’s also important to know the specification of the sensor. Alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray particles come with a certain energy. The summarize of each radiation energy can be expressed in a range and the unit is eV.
- Alpha: 4 – 12 MeV; alpha particles from Nd-144, Hf-174, Te-108 are less than 4 MeV (Table of isotopes)
- Beta: 100 – 800 keV; beta particles from C-12 and Tritium are less than 100 keV (radioactivity.eu.com)
- Gamma: more than 100 keV (Arpansa.gov.au)
- X-ray: 100 eV to 100 keV (Arpansa.gov.au)
By knowing their energy range, we know the GM tube spec that we require.
3. Purpose of Buying
The people who want to check the radiation from a nuclear plant (because they live near it) should buy a Geiger counter for continuous monitoring. In this case, you don’t the one able to pick alpha.
But for people who want to detect and measure radioactivity of rocks, antique watch, antique ceramic, etc, an accurate Geiger counter that covers the 4 radiations are required.
4. Battery / Power
Measuring radioactivity somewhere far out there requires 4 radiation coverage and lots of power consumption. Preppers would take this factor as big consideration.
While measuring in the house, office, school, or lab you can make use of AC power. In this case, an external power port and an additional AC adapter are necessary.
5. Data Transfer
If the instrument can store the measurement readings in its internal memory, it’s good. Especially if it’s downloadable too. That means you can move it from the internal memory to your computer for further processing. It can turn into graphics, spreadsheets, etc. In this case, a special data output port is necessary. It’s not weird if you have to install a particular software on your computer to process the data. Even you can connect the two devices to see the measurements in real-time mode.
Safe Level of Ionizing Radiation Exposure
If you are just exposed to ionizing radiation, it doesn’t mean you will be dying immediately. There are some factors such as time exposure, amount of radiation, etc. In this section, we will cover the safe level radiation for human either per year and per a lifetime, the safe limit if you accidently digest it,
1. Safe Level per Year for Humans
As recommended by the United State of America Federal Agency, the maximum safe limit of ionizing radiation exposure by natural sources (that are mostly by cosmic radiation and radon) is limited to 300 millirems per year.
The 300 millirem limit of radiation exposure is for those people living on the sea level area. People living in areas that are considerably higher than sea level have a limit of about 400 millirems of exposure per year.
This safe limit is also effect by the weight of the person. For any diagnostic tracer, one microcurie of calcium 45 (a radioactive material given orally) is given to a person weighing about 100 ponds then the dose of 3.7 is recommended and for a 200-pound person, it reduces to 1.85 millirems.
2. Safe Limit in the Gestation Period
If in any case when a pregnant woman has to be exposed to ionizing radiation, then as per federal regulation of the United State of America the dose of radiation cannot exceed the value of 500 millirems during the complete gestation period. There is also a monthly limit of 50 millirems.
3. Safe Limit for Lifetime Exposure
To set a safe limit of ionizing radiation exposure for the entire life span of a human, the federal regulation of the United State of America limited ionizing radiation exposure to 1000 millirem multiple of the year of its age.
This means if a human live for 60 years then the lifetime exposure to ionizing radiation cannot exceed 60,000 millirems. This includes occupational radiation exposure (radiation exposure during work), natural radiation exposure due to cosmic radiation, and radiation exposure during any medical procedure.
4. Safe Level of Exposure for Adults
According to USA federal occupation agency, ionizing radiation exposure for any age of people should be kept as low as possible. For an adult, the maximum ionizing radiation exposure done per year should not exceed 5000 millirems.
This 5000 millirem is the exposure limit for workers handling radiation-related processes and does is of radiation emitted by natural sources like radioactive material or medical work equipment. This 5000 millirem dose is above the standard 300 millirem dose that anyone can get from a natural radiation source or a medical procedure.
5. Safe Level of Exposure for Minors
Any person with age under 18 years and working on a site or job that handles radioactive material or ionizing radiation has a maximum exposure limit of 500 millirems.
This 500 millirem is directly extracted from one-tenth of the maximum recommended exposure limit for adults. This 500 millirem dose is above the standard 300 millirem dose that anyone can get from a natural radiation source or a medical procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is radiation?
A: There are 2 types of radiation in general: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation can be detected and measured by instruments such as the Geiger counter, ion chambers, scintillators, dosimeters, etc. On the other hand, non-ionizing radiation can be measured with an EMF meter, Gauss meter, RF Meter, etc. Ionizing radiation is more dangerous than non-ionizing one since it can cause cancer.
Q: How to make my own Geiger counter?
A: You can do it. The sensor you can buy is either SBM-20 or LND-712 or LND-7317.
Q: Can I measure Radon with a Geiger counter?
A: Geiger counter is not designed to measure Radon but it can give a sign of the existence of Radon. Radon gives off alpha particles. Therefore, your Geiger counter must be able to measure Alpha radiation.
Geiger counter is the budget option of instrument or device that you could trust to detect and measure the ionizing radiation. Besides, its size is considered compact, therefore, it’s easier to carry, making it the best model for personal use. Although it’s not the most accurate instrument for ionizing radiation measurement, this is the best possible choice for everyone’s need since it covers at least gamma and beta detection.
The above products are our finding of best Geiger counters on the market. They come from several brands such as GQ, Radex, Radiation Alert, IMI International Medcom, and many others.
All in all, GQ GMC-600 Plus is the best Geiger counter so far that we can conclude for you. This choice is suitable for either home use or personal use to carry outdoor. Its detector is an LND-7317 pancake tube that allows you to detect 4 types of ionizing radiation: alpha, beta, gamma, and X radiation. The reading of dose rate (µSv/h) is also available.
For durability, Gamma-Scout is the best choice. It can last for 10 years. Although the LND-712 detector is not as superior as the LND-7317, it’s better than the rest choices because it can detect the 4 radiations as well. The switch lets you detect radiation specifically. For home use, this choice is good to pick. Maybe, you are collecting antiques and want to check the activity of each type of radiation. It measures in CPS and µSv/h.
The third model that we like to share with you is IMI Inspector Alert V2. Surely, it is able to detect alpha, beta, gamma, and X-radiation. For personal use, it nicely comes with a turning-on-and-off audio alert but seems no vibration alert feature. The size is also compact which is 5.9″ x 3.2″ x 1.2″ with an overall weight of 11.4 oz (323 grams) including the single 9-V alkaline battery.
|GQ GMC-600+||Gamma-Scout||IMI Inspector |
If you are looking for an ionizing radiation dosimeter, we have several picks for you, for your personal use. Check it here.
Other related pages:
- Best Geiger Counter Reviews
- How Geiger Counter Works
- How to Calibrate the Geiger Counter with A Known Radiation Source
- How to Read & Use Geiger Counter
- How Accurate is Geiger Counter to Measure Ionizing Radiation?
- What is the Safe Level of Ionizing Radiation for Humans?
- Best Dosimeter Reviews
- List of Instruments to Measure Ionizing Radiation