If you’re looking to get into darts, more than anything you need to have a good idea of what you should be looking for in your equipment. Darts are surprisingly complex in their construction, requiring a number of different parts that work together to give you the best possible throw. While each person has different needs in darts, it’s important to understand what you’re looking at in order to find the ones that work best for you.
The weight of a dart is directly related to how well it flies. While this may sound counterintuitive, the less a dart weighs, the more power you have to put into throwing it in order to make a clean shot. This is because the extra weight not only drives the dart more easily into the board, but also keeps it flying straight and prevents mid-air wobbling.
Tournament style darts can weigh anywhere from 12 grams to 50 grams, though it is very rare to find somebody using more than 30 grams for a dart and most are closer to the 20-25 range. The reason why extra weight isn’t always good is because more weight usually means a larger dart, making it harder to group darts together on the board because of a lack of space. Ideally, you should find the balance between a weight you are comfortable with and a profile that won’t crowd the board.
The primary part of the dart is the shaft. This is usually the back half and does the majority of the work in keeping your dart flying right.
Dart shafts can be made of a number of different materials. The cheapest and most common are plastic/nylon shafts. While these are very inexpensive, they also are highly prone to breaking. Many will crack by falling on a hard surface, but most will break over time because of other darts hitting them when they’re stuck in the board. These are good if you just want to have a bunch of throwaway darts around the house for big parties. Otherwise, it’s good to invest in something better.
Aluminum shafts are much better than plastic and can stand up to a lot of play. They tend to slide very easily off the barrel, so it’s a good idea to get rubber o-rings to keep them tight. Another problem is that they will bend over time. That being said, they will genuinely up your game by adding weight without adding to the profile and lasting for several years.
If you want to buy like a pro, though, you want tungsten shafts. These can run anywhere from $25 to $70 for a set of three, but they are the best darts available on the market. Tungsten is strong, reliable, and a very dense metal so you can have very heavy darts that are still thing and streamlined. Very few shafts are pure tungsten and they are rated by the percent of the metal they have in them. 80% or better is generally what you’ll find on the professional circuit.
The barrel is the part of the dart that you will be holding and throwing from. These can be made from a variety of materials including brass, nickel/silver, or nickel/tungsten.
Nickel/tungsten is generally the standard these days, with brass coming in shortly behind as far as popularity goes. Much like with the shafts, you want to add weight without adding to the profile, but there’s less of a difference in materials.
What you’re looking for in the barrel is the grip, also referred to as the “knurling.” Knurling is the texture and grooves cut into the barrel in order to help you better hold the dart before throwing it. Ideally, your barrel should be easy and comfortable to hold but not get hung up on your fingers when you try to throw, which can put your accuracy off.
Barrels also come in three main shapes: cylinder, ton, and torpedo. While cylinder barrels are the smallest and therefore best for grouping, ultimately you need to learn to throw first and ton or torpedo barrels are easier to control. Don’t be afraid to change styles as you improve.
Dart flights are the flags on the back of the shaft which help them spiral through the air and keep them stable. There are several options, but you’ll be good keeping two things in mind.
Shape – The larger the flight, the slower it will move through the air. Slow movement is more stable, but it’s also more likely to bounce and can cause your dart to drop more. Larger flights also weigh down the back of the dart, keeping it more upright while it flies but also contributing to that mid-air drop.
Texture – Flights come in two textures: smooth and dimpled. Smooth flights are faster and dimpled ones are slower. The same applies as above with these distinctions.
So a standard dimpled flight will be the slowest and a slim smooth one will be the fastest.
Flights tend to be cheap and can fall apart easily, so buy a bunch and keep them around.
There are a lot of things to consider with a board, but if you’re looking for something to practice with, what you want is a bristle board (or sisal fiber board) with tightly packed, dyed fibers. It should have a moveable number ring on the outside so that you can rotate your board and spread out damage and it should also have the thinnest wire cage (called a spider) possible to prevent your dart from hitting it and bouncing off.
Finally, if you have steel tipped darts, you should have a sharpener. Repeated use, particularly with bounce outs, can cause the tip to develop burrs with will damage your board and make it harder to land. A good sharpener doesn’t put a point on the end of your dart, but rather creates a sharp, but rounded tip which will penetrate the board without hurting the fibers.