Darts are as diverse as the day is long and it an be incredibly confusing when you go to pick your first set of darts. Here are the 5 essential things you must know and some further reading if your really keen.
1. Dart Parts... A Basic Guide
Harrows Darts produced an incredible Infographic that helps you understand the parts of a dart. This is the first thing you need to understand when looking at a set of darts.
2. Steel Tip or Soft Tip?
First you need to know if you are using steel or soft tip darts. This is made simple by checking which board you are using. If you are using a Compound or Bristle Dartboard like below, then you need Steel Tip Darts.
If you are using an electronic or soft-tip board like below, then you need Soft Tip Darts.
3. Brass or Tungsten Barrel?
The barrel’s composition makes a significant difference to a darts size, look and feel in relation to it's weight.
Dart barrels are commonly made from brass, nickel, tungsten and commonly an alloy of more than one. Brass barrels are the cheapest option, but dent easily and the metal is less dense, therefore fatter barrels at lower weights. Nickel barrels are slightly more durable and have a tungsten look to them, while still being a relatively light metal. Tungsten barrels are used by the Pros and darts enthusiasts as the metal is long lasting and you can have thinner barrels at a higher weight.
For a set of darts you are going to use in the backyard with mates, a Brass Set is best as it's cheaper and no less fun to play with casually.
If you are looking to improve or be the best you can be you need a Tungsten Set. The thinner barrels and higher durability will set you up for improving and hitting your best scores.
4. Light, Heavy or Somewhere in Between?
Weight really is up to the individual and can take some time for people to narrow down.
Generally, heavier darts are used by more experienced or advanced players as they need to be thrown harder and with more accuracy. Lighter darts are generally the best choice for people starting out who don't throw as hard and are less accurate.
No one can actually say what will be the best dart for you for 100%. The best way to test what is best for you is to get 3 brass sets (Light - Around 18g, Medium - Around 22g and Heavy - Around 26g) and then refine from there with keeping your experience with each dart set in mind.
5. Shafts? What are they and how they impact you!
Shafts (or Stems) are very important to the dart when it is thrown and effect the stability of the dart as it flies to it's target.
The longer the shaft is, the more unstable the dart´s flight path will be. However, long shafts decrease the risk of crowding the dartboard and bounce-outs. Shorter shafts make for more stable throws but increase the risk of bounces.
Shafts many materials including plastic (usually nylon), aluminum, and various other metal alloys including titanium. The material has more impact on the longevity of the shaft, look and price than the flight of the dart.
The overall longevity of your dart will depend to a high degree on the material chosen here. Plastic or nylon options are more fragile and can break easily. Alloy shafts are more durable, but you will often pay more.
6. Are Flights just for Looks?
Flights are not just for looks. They provide extra stability for your darts in flight in the same way as the feathers or fletching on an arrow does (Darts are often referred to as arrows).
Flights come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but there are two main things to consider. The larger the flight the more stable and slower the dart. The smaller the flight the less stable and faster the dart.
When getting started it is recommended to use the larger size flights, however, this is definitely not a necessity.