Other than the proverbial "How high do I hang my dartboard?" question, the ones that come in tied for second are "What dart should I buy?" and "What is the difference between dart 'A' and dart 'B'?" Considering I'm still getting question number one and I've had that information posted at this site for a very long time, I know this will not eliminate the second question altogether, but should cut down on the amount of them. I was going to split this page up into two parts, soft & steel, until this little light went off and I realized the only difference between the two are the points and weights. So one page it is and it has been divided into the following sections:
Send me an email and let me know what you think.
With the exception of wooden darts, both soft and steel-tip darts are made of the same materials. The major differences that will be discussed between them are weight and cost.
You don't see these around very often but they are a lot of fun to throw with. They are made of lightweight wood shaft with turkey feather flights (no parts to replace). I have four sets I ordered from Al's American Darts for use with their wooden dartboard. They weigh around 12 grams so they really aren't that much lighter than electronic darts. They work just fine with any bristle board.
Brass is the lightest of the three metallic darts listed here. It is a soft alloy (copper & zinc) which makes it easy to for manufacturers to shape and work with.
Nickel-silver is yet another light dart that is an alloy consisting of nickel, copper and zinc. Like brass, it is easy for manufacturers to shape and work with.
Tungsten, unlike brass and nickel-silver, is a very heavy and dense metal. It is usually mixed with nickel so you will see on a package something like 80-20 (80% tungsten/20% nickel). It is harder to work with but will last longer than the other two (especially the knurling). On average, a 20 gram tungsten dart will be ½ the size of a 20 gram brass dart which will allow for tighter groupings on the board. This is the reason most of the really good throwers use tungsten darts but if you're just starting out, you won't be throwing tight groupings anyway, regardless of the dart you're using.
First let's look at the legal weights for darts.
Steel-tip darts can weigh up to 50 grams, though you will have a very difficult time locating very many varieties above 30 grams. Most people throw darts that weigh between 20-25 grams.
Soft-tip darts are a different story, you will need to check with your local leagues for the weight requirements. At the time of this posting, 16 grams darts seem to be a safe bet no matter where you are throwing. You can get a heavier soft-tip dart, but some leagues and tournaments may ban them due to the construction or restraints of the machines that are being used. An opponent can challenge the weight of your dart if they feel it is too heavy.
Recommendation: If you're throwing soft-tip darts, go to the 14-16 gram varieties to play it safe. If you're just starting in steel-tip darts and do not have the ability to try out different weights to see what you like, I would start off with a 21-22 gram dart.
Steel-tip: You have two options, fixed-point or moveable-point.
Recommendation: When I first started throwing back in the mid to late 80s, the boards were made differently. They had big round wires and lots of staples, especially those big ugly ones holding in the double-bull. Moveable-point darts were definitely the way to go. Now, things have changed a lot, board manufacturers have redesigned the boards themselves. Now you have staple-less boards (including staple-less bulls), diamond shaped wires, and even boards whose wires are completely embedded (can you say " The Bandit Board?"). If you are always throwing on real hard boards, or older type boards that don't have all the nice features, moveable points may be for you. If, like me, you're lucky enough to only throw on the higher quality dartboards, then they may not be worth the extra money. They do have one main advantage over fixed point darts and that's the ease of replacing the points when they are worn or damaged. Well, there's my two cents worth! :-)
Soft-tip: Now, unlike steel-tip, the difference is in the width of the opening of the barrel, not the action of the point. Your two choices here are ¼" and 2ba.
Recommendation: Unless you just love the set of darts you are using that has ¼" points and you can not find a set that uses 2ba points, I would just stick with the 2ba darts. They are much more common which makes finding someone with a spare point or two in the middle of a match easier should you run out. Note, if you like hammerhead steel-tip points, they will normally screw into most soft-tip 2ba darts.
One of the biggest misconceptions amongst new throwers is that if the dart costs a lot, they are more accurate. This isn't like a car, the more bang for the buck! You can pick up a set of 18 gram brass darts for around $10 and throw them as well, if not better, than a set of $140 tungsten darts. Prices are based on a number of items like: the material the dart is made of; any extras like moveable-points; special paint jobs; etc. Also, you will notice that the same set of darts in some catalogues may have two different prices attached to them depending on the case you want them sent in.
If you have been throwing for awhile, you've already know what you like. If you are new to the sport and are trying to figure out what to buy, I would recommend you do one of the following:
Below are some pictures of different dart barrels. These are only a few of the thousands of different styles you can find out there.
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