While purchasing your first darts set may seem pretty simple, there is a world of intricacies that should be considered before settling for a design that will work for you.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of stores that sell high quality darts for you to test out. So most people buy darts online because there’s a larger selection. But how do you know which darts will work best for you? Do you emulate your favorite PDC champ? Or simply buy one that looks “cool?”
There’s more to choosing darts than just buying the first set you can find.
The weight, type of stem, barrel grip all the way to the flight’s design and weight will affect your aim considerably so its advisable to learn all you can about them before purchase. There is also a cost consideration to take into account because darts vary in material composition, which impacts their cost.
But don’t worry, I’m here to help you through the process.
I’ll break down how a dart’s composition affects your game, and how to choose the dart that will work for and with you.
How to choose the perfect barrel type, weight, balance, and grip
The barrel is the part of a dart that a player holds when throwing a shot. It can be argued that it is the most important part of a dart as it holds the weight of your dart and provides the grip.
The constitution of a dart barrel has gone through a lot of material improvement since the days of the Jim Pike thick brass barrel, split cane shaft darts. Brass is a soft alloy of copper and zinc and is easy to shape and work into a dart barrel.
It is inexpensive and perfect for recreational dart games. For most beginners or players on a budget, brass barrel darts are a perfect choice.
Another inexpensive alloy is Nickel-Silver, consisting of copper, zinc, and nickel. It is also perfect for barrels because it is easier to shape and has an advantage of brass; it is tarnish resistant.
Pros of brass barrels
- Great for players who prefer larger barrel darts
- Since cheap, a beginner can purchase different weights to test at home
Cons of brass barrels
- Hard to group them together because of their weight to score higher points
- Not as durable as Tungsten
By the 70’s, tungsten took over in popularity, as tungsten is three times denser than brass enabled the production of a weighty but slimmer and smaller barrel. This makes it easier to get three darts in one treble.
Tungsten is usually mixed with nickel in various percentages. While harder to shape, it is more durable and for example, a 20-gram tungsten will be half the size of a 20-gram dart.
The higher the tungsten percentage, the narrow a barrel can be, exponentially increasing your scoring potential. This really makes tighter groupings easy on the board, making it a more popular choice for barrels amongst most professional shooters, who are good at throwing tight groupings.
Pros of Tungsten barrels
- Very thin and allows tight groupings on dartboard
- More durable
- Makes heavy but narrow barrels
Cons of Tungsten barrels
- Expensive for beginner darts
How to choose the right barrel weight
If you’ve been shopping around for darts, you’ve probably noticed they come in a variety of weights. But what gram should you use for the perfect shot?
Dart’s weights range from 12 to 50 grams and the right weight for you is determined by your personal taste, your speed of throw and the overall feel of the dart in your hand. Here are a few pointers to help you pick the best weight for you.
- Beginners should start out with the mid weights, between 24-26g. This will help you get a sense of which end of the weight spectrum is better for you. The middleweight darts also offer a variety of choices.
- Determine your speed of throw. You will throw light darts harder than heavier ones. Heavy darts are easier to throw offering a more relaxed throw.
- If you sense that your dart is going higher than you aimed at your throw, a slightly heavier weight could correct your anomaly. If you can’t get the dart up to your desired aim, then do the reverse, get a lighter weight of dart.
How to choose the right barrel weight location
A dart’s weight location determines its center of gravity, therefore balance. The basic rule of thumb is that beginners will easily demonstrate their preference, by how they pick up a dart the very first time.
- If the grip is close to the front of the dart, that implies that a front weighted barrel is better too.
- In case you hold the barrel more towards the back, then a rear weighted barrel would do best.
- If you hold yours in the middle, fear not you are in good company. Old Stoneface John Lowe (one of the greatest professional darts players of all time) also likes his perfectly balanced in the middle too.
How to choose the right barrel grip
Just like dart weights, there are a variety of grips available beginning from smooth to some with heavy knurling. Darts have a grip rating of 1 to 5, 1 being low in grip, 5 being high.
The basic rule of thumb is that the heavier the knurling, the easier the grip. While it might seem like it makes more sense to get the most knurling possible, keep in mind that extreme knurling though cause your fingers to stick on the dart messing up your accuracy.
Tips for choosing dart knurling
- If your hands are naturally dry, men especially, light knurling is perfect to give a ‘ghost grip’ on the barrel.
- If the hands are extremely dry, knurled barrels are good while for large hands, a larger barrel diameter is perfect.
- Well moisturized hands (women mostly) can do well with just a few grooves on a smooth barrel
How to choose the perfect dart shaft
The shaft is the part above the barrel, and its job is to hold the flight and give good distance between the barrel and the flight.They come in six lengths but the most common are medium, short and extra short and combined with flights, they can help you fine-tune your dart set.
There are inbetween sizes found in stores that cater for serious enthusiasts. The length of a shaft matters depending on your throw style.
- If yours is a light but strong throw, a longer shaft will help your dart fly better.
- If your throw is powerful but paced, rely more on a shorter shaft.
- If your dart wobbles, you can correct this by shortening the shaft length.
Shafts are replaceable as they can bend or snap easily depending on their constitution. The cheaper kind is made from nylon or aluminum. Nylon breaks easily when dropped while aluminum bends easily affecting flight.
The more expensive titanium shafts are sturdy and will not bend or break.
How to choose the perfect dart flights
The flight provides drag not lift, and they steer as well as maintain the stability of your dart to the board. There are smooth as well as dimpled ones.
- Dimpled flights can help slow down your dart, stabilizing it.
- A heavy dart needs larger flights also known as standards.
- Lighter darts can utilize smaller flights known as speed flights or coal crackers. Speed flights are perfect for tighter groupings as they have less surface area.
Another consideration when picking a flight is the aesthetics, as they help you personalize your dart. They are most commonly made of nylon and polyester fabric. All your three shots should generally have the same flights.
How to choose the perfect dart tips
You have a choice between a soft tip or a hardened steel tip. Tips lengths vary from 15 to 60mm.
Steel tips are fitted into the barrel and used on cork, paper or bristle dartboards. They are costly to replace, but can be sharpened.
Soft tips, on the other hand, are flexible and plastic. They are used on digital or plastic dart boards. They are very easy to maintain.
So general rule of thumb is if you’re not playing on an electronic or plastic board, steel tips are preferred. But if you have an electronic board, you have to use soft tips.
How to choose the perfect dart finishing
Darts can be coated with paint or applied a 1-micron thick titanium finish. Paint may cause slippage of the dart, while titanium protects the grip of the dart, especially in a high grouping.
It also keeps the tungsten free from corrosion due to sweaty palms as well as grime build up. The look is also classy and comes in three different types, the silver titanium, gold titanium and black titanium.
These are just of the highlights you should consider when purchasing high-quality darts. And now that you know what to look for, the next step is to take a look at my guide on the best darts for beginners.
More resources for beginners:
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