Equipment

All you need to play the game of darts is a dartboard, a set of 3 darts, a throw-line and a scoreboard or sheet of paper to keep score on. All other equipment is optional although it may enhance your game. Serious players, who have established a consistent stroke and have achieved a certain skill level, seek out specialty stores that allow a customer to try the darts before purchase, thus finding a set of darts that suits their particular playing style.

 

Dartboards

Scoring Schematic

The two most popular dartboards used to play the game of darts are the ‘bristle dartboard” for steel tip play and the “electronic dartboard” for soft tip play. Both dartboards are divided into pie shaped sections numbered 1 to 20 with the center most section called the bulls-eye. There are two narrow rings traversing the dartboard in a circular pattern. The outer ring counts the number double score and the inner ring counts the number triple score. There are two sections to the bulls-eye; the outer ring is a single bulls-eye and counts as 25 points with the inner bulls-eye counts as a double bull or 50 points

 
 

Steel Tip

Bristle dartboards are made of millions of fibers glued on their end called sisal, a grass like hemp grown in Africa and China. The main characteristic of a bristle dartboard is the “self healing effect”. This happens when a dart lands next to where the previous dart landed, the sisal is parted and closes the original hole. Because of this construction, a bristle dartboard, depending on use, can last a long time particularly in the home recreation room. The outer number ring on the bristle dartboard is removable. This feature helps to prolong the life of the board by allowing one to rotate the dartboard so wear on the most commonly used numbers is even. When rotating always keep the number 20 at the top and over a black section.

 
 

Soft tip 

Electronic or soft tip dartboards have the same clock layout as a steel tip dartboard and are made up of hundreds of holes in each wedge, which is tapered to accept the plastic pointed dart. The electronic dartboards are convenient in that they keep score automatically for one player and up to as many as eight players. These dartboards have built in programming for a number of different games and can have as many as 24 to 100 games and variations depending on the machine and the level of technology it employs. Like bristle dartboards, one can find electronic dartboards in taverns and home recreation rooms.

 

Darts

Dissecting a dart

Darts are made up of four major parts: a point, a barrel, a shaft and a flight. The barrels are the main body and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Flights and shafts are replaceable and the various sizes and shapes help tailor the dart to an individual’s playing style. When a dart is thrown, air resistance and gravity affect the flight pattern. A properly balanced dart will fly true and track to the board with very little wobble.

 
 

Dart Materials

Darts come in a variety of materials, weights and grips. The most common metals used in the production of darts are brass, nickel silver and tungsten. Brass is inexpensive and is perfect for the home recreational player and the occasional pub game. Nickel Silver has the same attributes of brass but is tarnish resistant. Tungsten is extremely dense, three times denser than brass & nickel silver, and is popular because of its weight to size ratio resulting in a heavier weight in a smaller mass. If two barrels, one made of brass and one made of tungsten, the same weight were compared you would see that the tungsten barrel is 3 times smaller than the brass barrel. These important features make tungsten the material of choice for the more serious dart shooter.

 
 

Dart Weights

Steel tip darts are measured by weighing the point and barrel without the flight and shaft. Although darts are available in a wide range of weights (from 18 – 40 grams), the majority of players play with darts weighing 18 – 23 grams when using brass and 23 – 26 grams when using tungsten darts. The legal weight limit of your major overseeing organizations is 50 grams.

Soft tip darts are measured by weighing the entire dart including the barrel, flight and shaft. The weights being used to play soft tip darts are most commonly 16, 18 and 20 grams and are much lighter than their steel tip counterparts. Originally, soft tip darts needed to be light in weight because the electronic matrix in the vending machine was delicate and couldn't’t withstand the impact of a heavy dart. The technology has been greatly improved over the years and the dart weights have increased steadily from the original 12 grams to the current top weight of 20 grams.

 

Dart Barrel Shapes

There are a number of barrel shapes that can affect your grip and flight pattern. The maximum length accepted, by the major overseeing organizations, of a dart for competition is 12 inches. Most darts don’t approach this length (most fall between 5 – 7 inches including flight & shaft) because if a dart were too long there would be excessive wobble making the dart difficult to control. When being manufactured, darts that weigh 25 grams or greater maintain a maximum length and increase in circumference instead of continuing to elongate when produced.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Dart Barrel Grips

Darts come in a variety of shapes and grips and is another way that darts can be customized to the individual. Knurling provides the most grip options with placement on the front of the barrel, the rear of the barrel, the entire barrel and innovative combinations of knurling and grooves like the Harrows Graflite. The various grip types allow the player confident finger placement that is both consistent and tactile.

The common grip styles include:

 
 
 
 
 
 

Retractable Point Darts

Moveable or retractable point dart sets have the added advantage of dramatically reducing bounce-outs and are available only in steel tip darts. These darts are specially made with the front end of the dart drilled out to except a collar and point with enough room for the point to act like a piston (moving in and out). This major innovation revolutionized the dart barrel and the industry when it was introduced over 30 years ago. The advantage happens when a dart hits a wire the point retracts and lifts slightly and the energy from the darts forward thrust forces the point past the wire into the board resulting in a scoring dart. Depending on the point design some darts, like the “Power Point”, will rotate on the point allowing for fewer deflections and tighter groups much like that of the “Top Spin” shaft.

 

Flights and Shafts

Dart Shafts

Shafts come in six lengths and coupled with various flight shapes allow you to fine-tune your dart set. Darts, when thrown, are affected by air resistance and the natural pull of gravity. In order to attain the trajectory and flight pattern best suited to your individual throwing style, one should experiment with the various shaft lengths and flight shapes to modify your dart. By doing this, you are modifying the dart to match your throwing style rather than changing your throwing style to accommodate the dart set. Typically, when your dart has excessive wobble, this can be corrected by shortening the shaft length.

Although there are many different shaft lengths the most common lengths used are the medium, short and extra short. These shaft lengths are the standards in the industry and are the lengths that will usually be found in any stores that carry dart supplies. There are in between sizes allowing for more customizing options and can be found in stores that carry a broad selection and cater to the serious enthusiasts.

Spinning shafts

Dart shafts are primarily made of aluminum or nylon and are available with a number of features: replaceable tops, adjustable lengths, extra-thin, EZ loading and rotating tops and by far the most popular added feature is the spinning shaft. The innovative spinning shaft top came as a major change in darts equipment 15 or more years ago with a needle shaft and a proprietary flight. In 1994 the “Top Spin” shaft took this concept one step farther by having the top of the shaft spin, rather than the special spinning flight, broadening its appeal by allowing any conventional flight to be used. The spinning top, while holding the flight, will rotate the flight out of the way when hit by an oncoming dart reducing deflections allowing for a tighter group resulting in higher scores. For example: if a dart is in the triple 20 when the next dart approaches and contacts the flight the flight revolves and the second dart slides in beside the first.

 
 

Flights

Similar to the various shaft lengths, the different shaped flights will have an affect on the aerodynamics of the trajectory of the dart. Flights are like the rudders on airplanes and boats and they help steer the dart to the board. There are 12 or more different shapes of flights and they all will affect your trajectory slightly or dramatically. A good starting place in choosing a flight is with the two most common shapes: “Standard” for steel tip darts and “Slim” for soft tip darts. A generalization is - the heavier steel tip dart needs a broader surface area to provide enough lift so the heavier dart tracks to the board and lands either horizontal to the floor or with a slightly upward angle. The lighter soft tip dart requires less lift and drag to make sure that when tracking to the board it lands horizontal to the floor and can find its way into the tapered hole. The steel tip player can put a severe arc on the dart trajectory to the board and the dart will still penetrate the sisal. A moderate arc on the trajectory of a soft tip dart thrown at an electronic dartboard would bounce out because of the angle of the surface holes on the board require the dart to be thrown on flat trajectory. The advantage of most electronic dartboards is that the machine will record the score even with the dart bouncing out.

Dart flights are made of plastic but there are various types, thickness and laminations that are esthetically pleasing. Most players enjoy choosing different designs, from the broad selection available.

 
 

Shafts and Flights breaking

Steel tip

The more proficient a player becomes, the more your flights and shafts will break. This happens because during the course of a game a player is throwing multiple darts at the same small target (bulls-eye or triple twenty). The goal to getting better at this game is to develop a repeatable throw that will produce a compact grouping of three darts at any given target. The skill of a player is demonstrated by the tightness of their group of three thrown darts thus the event of piggybacking or robin hooding of darts (when one dart follows an earlier dart and follows the flight and sticks into the shaft of the earlier dart). Don’t despair if you start breaking your dart parts, as this is a sign that your skill level is improving.

Soft tip

Because the point is plastic and the darts weigh less, fewer incidences of piggybacking occur. However, the plastic points on soft tip darts break with regularity. Plastic dart points are inexpensive and you can buy these at most sporting goods stores by the 100’s.

 
Information provided here Courtesy of Dart World Inc.