Darting Equipment

Darts: Considering these are the most important aspect of the game and what you're most likely to buy first, we'll start with them.

If you're planning on buying your first set of darts there are a couple of things you should know. First and foremost is DO NOT spend alot of money on your first set of darts. There are alot of very expensive fancy darts, some with technological gizmos that are supposed to help your game. Some are worth it, BUT, none are needed. Another important point about your first set of darts is that your throw will change as your ability develops. There is no point in buying a $100 set of darts when you'll probably replace them in a year or so anyway. A $15-$30 set will be just fine, in fact most players of any level (pros included) throw with darts in this price range.

Don't buy darts mail order. The only way to choose a set of darts is to throw them first. Until you've been playing a few years and have developed a completely consistant throw, you will need to try many different styles, weights, lengths, grips, etc. before you find the dart that's right for you. While you may save a few bucks by ordering by mail, any decent dart store will allow you to throw every dart in the place until you find the one that suits you the best.

Grip: Perhaps the most important factor about a dart is what the grip is like. Most people will probably tell you it's the weight, but if the dart is slipping out of your hand while throwing, the weight is only going to affect how loud the "thunk" is when it hits the floor. Feel several different kinds of grips and find the one that slips the least in your hands. How much you sweat, how oily your skin is, how calloused your fingers are, where you like to grip the dart and how tightly you grip it will affect what kind of grip is right for you. I've found that with most people, several types of grips work fine and maybe only one or two is not right for them.

Weighting: There are two factors that make up how a dart is weighted: how much and where. First let's talk about how much. Darts come in many different weights from 12 grams (and sometimes less) to a maximum of 50 grams. Weights heavier than 30 grams are very rare but 50 is the maximum allowed by ADO rules. When you're buying your first set of darts, I recommend starting with 18-21 grams. Most people play well with this range of weights and it is also the cheapest range. As darts get heavier, they contain more tungsten to keep their size small. The more tungsten, the heavier the dart, the more expensive the price. How hard you throw the dart will determine how heavy the darts should be for you to use them accurately. The heavier the dart, the harder the throw must be to get it from the line to the board without falling too low. There are also special darts made that have screw-on weights called "add-a-gram". These darts have the ability to add or take off weight depending on how you're throwing that particular night. While these may seem to be the answer for someone who hasn't developed a consistant throw, you never will if your darts are changing every time you play.

Where the dart is weighted is another important factor. Some darts are weighted toward the front, some towards the middle and some evenly across the lenght of the shaft. Which type of weighting depends on the type of throw you have, an arc or lob, or a straight throw. Front weighted darts are more suited to someone who lobs the darts while center weighted or evenly weighted darts are for people with a straight throw.

Shafts: Shafts are the short "stick" that connects the body of the dart with the "flights" or "feathers". The come in MANY lenghts and even more styles. A longer shaft is better for a player with a weak throw or a player with a straight throw as they add more stability to the dart. What the shaft is made of may slightly affect the weight of the dart but more importantly, it determines what happens when there is a mishap: a fallout, striking one dart with another or a dart being stepped on. A metal shaft will not break, however they may bend slightly. While they will last longer, you might be playing with a set of darts with each one bent just a little differently than the others which could greatly affect your game. Metal shafts also tend to be more expensive than plastic or nylon shafts.

Plastic or nylon shafts come in an incredible array of compositions from soft and flexible to hard and brittle. In the future, I will include alot more detail about types of plasitc shafts. For now, I'll just say to try a few over the space of a few months to see which you like. Plastic shafts tend to break when there is a mishap as opposed to bending. The up side is that you can be sure your shafts are straight, the down side is that they need to be replaced fairly often.

Flights: Flights or feathers are the "wings" at the back of the dart that guide it and keep it flying straight. The amount of surface area the flights have is in direct proportion to how much stability they add. There are many different shapes that flights come in, suffice it to say: the bigger the flight the more stable the flight and the more drag. Generally beginners should start with a large standard flight and experiment with different shapes and sizes after their throw has developed. Advanced to professional players tend towards the smaller flights because their throws are very accurate and do not need the extra stability a large flight offers. Also, the large flights can get very much in the way if you're good enough to group darts right next to each other. Try placing three darts in the triple-20 and you'll see there isn't much room for the flights!

Like shafts, flights can be made of many different things. I will expand on this topic also in the future. None of the compositions of flights greatly affect how the dart flies, they simply affect how the flight looks and how long it lasts.

The Board: Most of us, at some point in our childhood had a typical "toy" dartboard made of tightly rolled paper. These boards are about 3/4" thick and did not last very long. Holes were always visible where the darts landed, and after a few months of heavy use, the paper would pop-out in the center and start to unwind. Obiviously, if you're going to take up the game semi-seriously, these are not the right kind of board to buy.

On the extreme other end are wooden boards. These are the original roots of dart boards. They are made of several different kinds of woods, but all of them have a few common factors. First they are expensive, typically $60 and up. Second, they must be soaked in water overnight EVERY night and therefore are not very suitable for use in the home. Not too many people like the idea of having water from a wet piece of wood running down there walls! These boards are best left for old-fashioned English pubs.

What we have left is the bristle board. Bristle boards are what you'll find in just about every modern bar. They are made from tightly packed nylon bristles and can last many years if they are rotated often. Bristle boards can be purchased for around $25 and up, which also makes them very affordable.

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