When it comes to choosing the weight and style of your darts, there really isn't a wrong answer. Typically you will change darts after your first year of throwing, so don't spend a lot until you have a better idea as to which dart fits your style. Ultimately, it all comes down to what makes you feel most comfortable when you're at the line. Here are a few guidelines to review before buying a new set of darts.
There are many different darts to choose from: wooden darts, brass darts, nickel/silver darts and tungsten darts. The most popular dart for league throwers is the tungsten dart. The high-density tungsten resists wear and allows barrels to be slimmer, for tighter groupings, while maintaining the weight of the dart, minimizing bounce-outs. When buying tungsten darts, make sure to pay attention to the percentage of tungsten in the dart barrels, it is very important to the quality of the dart. The higher the percentage the better, and more expensive, the dart. Brass and nickel/silver darts are made of softer, less expensive metals. Compared to tungsten darts, the knurling on these darts can wear down quickly from skin oils, friction and contact with other darts. Despite these drawbacks, brass and nickel darts are still a good, economic option.
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Your owe it to yourself to try out all of the different options available. Darts come in weights from 12 grams to 50 grams. It is rare to see someone throwing darts heavier than 30 grams, but most dart organizations allow darts up to 50 grams. Visit your local dart store and throw the same dart style in each weight class. The speed with which you throw the dart will help determine which weight to choose. The lighter the dart the harder/faster you have to throw. The location of the weight on the dart barrel is also important. Some darts are heavier towards the front of the dart (front-loaded) and others are back-weighted. Try them all and you'll develop a feel for what works best for you.
Your next step is to try out different barrel grips that are available in the weight you have chosen. Some dart barrels have heavy knurling and others are smooth. Typically, the heavier the knurling the easier it is to grip the dart. Extremely heavy knurling however, can cause darts to stick to your fingers and mess with your accuracy. For the typical dart player, there is more than one dart barrel that will work. Just make sure to choose the one that feels the best.
There are many different sizes and styles of flights, including smooth and dimpled surfaces. The size and style of your flights can impact your game. Dimpled surfaces, for example, will help slow down and stabilize your darts. Try out all dart flight sizes and styles until you feel comfortable with your final configuration, but don't be afraid to experiment as time goes by. The two most popular sizes are standard and slim.
To learn more about flights, check out the following article: Standard or Slim Flights? Choosing the Right Shape and Texture Flights for Your Style.
You can also learn about L-Style dart flights, specialized flights that are becoming very popular among the top pro darters.
Dart shafts come in many styles and materials including plastic, aluminum, carbon-fiber, composite and spinning shafts.
If your dart is "fish-tailing" in the air (i.e. the rear of the dart wobbles on its way to the dartboard), then you may be using shafts that are too long. Finding the right shafts is a matter of trial and error.
Plastic or Nylon: Inexpensive, available in many colors, but many break fairly easily. These shafts will work well for most players until you start consistently throwing tight groups and breaking lots of shafts. Usually made of polycarbonate or nylon.
Solid Aluminum: More rigid and durable than plastic or composite shafts, aluminum shafts are available in many colorful styles, some with decorative engraved stripes, flutes, or spirals. They may tend to vibrate loose, especially on heavy darts. Fortunately, this can be couter-acted by putting rubber o-rings between the shafts and barrels of your darts. When used with thick flights, such as dimplex or nylon, the slots may need to be pried open slightly with a dart tool or knife blade. Will normally bend instead of breaking when hit; just straighten for more use.
Carbon-Fiber, Carbon-Composite: Carbon-fiber shafts are generally light-weight and very durable, while being slightly more expensive than plastic or nylon shafts. High-quality carbon dart shafts (such as L-Style Carbon shafts) have the durability of an aluminum shaft without the potential for loosening in the barrel or bending, maintaining the accuracy of your darts over time.
Spinning: A variety of shaft styles are now available that allow the flight to turn out of the way when struck by another dart. Spinning shafts do not improve the flight of the dart through the air, but allow tighter groups by letting the flights align with each other. These shafts will greatly reduce torn flights, "robin-hooded" shafts, and deflections.
Composite: Composite shafts, like the Alamo or Quiver, have plastic bases that thread into the dart, combined with aluminum or metal alloy tops that hold the flight. These are excellent shafts, quite durable, and will not vibrate loose from the barrel as easily as aluminum shafts. Generally available with replaceable tops for economy and convenience.
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