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Tournament quality bristle dart boards are made
of natural sisal rope fiber. Sisal fiber is made from the leaves of the Agave plant, the same plant species from which tequila is made!
These rope fibers are
compressed under tons of pressure, banded with steel,
and bonded to a non-warping backboard. The final effect is that of a tightly compressed brush, which will catch and hold dart points, then close up when the darts are removed. Bristle dartboards will accomodate both steel tip darts and soft-tip darts (if long points are used).
The surface is later sanded smooth and
screen-printed with the appropriate colors. Finally, the
wires or other dividers are attached and the number ring fastened on with clips,
to allow easy rotation of worn areas.
Bristle dartboards should be rotated after about every 4 hours of steady use, so that wear is evenly distributed around the dartboard's surface.
Keep dart boards dry, and never apply any type of liquid to a bristle dartboard, as water of other liquids will immediately ruin the dartboard. (Editor's note: No matter what you hear at a bar, applying any liquid really will ruin a bristle dartboard. Over the years I've personally seen dozens of boards ruined this way. Yet darters keep doing this, because for an few hours, it seems to work. Then the board's fiber pulls loose, forms giant blisters, and falls apart.)
Darts may be left in a dart-board for brief periods of time, such as a day or two. If steel-tip darts are left in the board for extended periods (weeks or more) the dart points may rust and leave permanent stains in the bristles.
The English company NODOR first developed bristle dartboards in the 1930's,
and introduced them commercially in 1936. Before that time, dartboards were generally made of elm wood, although the NODOR company also made a plasticene dartboard.
Note: It is a
common misconception that dartboards are made of animal
hair, such as pig bristles, camel hair, or horse hair.
This is a myth... No such animal fiber boards have ever
Also, the spelling "Bristol
Dartboard" is incorrect. The name "Bristle Dartboard"
refers to the sisal rope material that the board is made
of, not the city "Bristol".
Darts setup information, including mounting information such as dartboard height and throwing distance measurements, are included at the bottom of this web page.
Compared to many other sports, a a fairly small amount of equipment is required to play Darts. Darts sets generally consist of 3 darts barrels, with points (usually of steel or plastic), as well as shafts and flights to help stabilize the path of the dart when thrown or tossed. Occasionally dart barrels are sold by themselves, but most major dart manufacturers market their darts products as complete sets, with barrels, points, flights, and shafts all pre-assembled, or at least in the same package. Some darts sets come packaged in carry cases with storage room for extra darts accessories.
Dart barrels are sometimes referred to as "dart pins" or "darts pins" in some parts of Asia.
Each person should have one set of 3 darts. Each
person throws 3 darts, then removes them before the next
There should NEVER
be more than 3 darts in a dartboard at one
It is difficult to share one set of darts, as it
drastically slows down the game. Darts is not a game
where blocking scoring areas by opponents is allowed. And
having more than three darts in the board means more
damaged darts & "robin hoods" due to hits from
As darters have different hand and finger sizes, so
darts are not one-size-fits-all. That is another reason
why it is often hard to pick just the right dart from a
catalog or online site. It is really important to try the darts
before buying, to ensure that the "fit" is just right for your hand and grip style. When buying darts, visit a darts shop that
has boards setup for trying out the various darts styles
The least expensive type of metal dart. ( $5-$20 )
Brass is a fairly dense (heavy) metal, composed mostly of copper and zinc. It is relatively
inexpensive, and easy to machine. However, it is
so soft that the machined "grip" may quickly wear down,
changing the "feel" of the dart. Brass Darts are commonly
mass-produced on automated lathes, so the quality and
consistency of the machining may vary considerably. Brass
darts are often used as "house darts" due to low price.
( $10-$35 )
Like Brass, this is a fairly dense (heavy) metal, is
relatively inexpensive, and is easy to machine. However,
Nickel/Silver is harder and therefore more durable, which
prevents the machined grip from wearing away as rapidly.
Otherwise, similar to Brass Darts, and popular with
budget-minded beginning darters. (Note: There is no
actual Silver content; this Nickel and Tin alloy is often
used for the moving parts of silver jewelry and for
Tungsten is an extremely dense metal, heavier than
lead for the same size item. Tungsten darts are
considerably more dense than Brass or Nickel/Silver Darts.
Higher density materials result in darts with smaller diameter, better "feel",
and tighter possible groups on the dart-board. Tungsten
is also very durable, so the machined grip will not wear
down as rapidly as on Brass or Nickel/Silver Darts.
For darters, having all of the dart's mass
concentrated between the fingertips greatly enhances control of
Tungsten is also very durable, so a high-density
tungsten dart resists wear and the grip will last much
longer. On softer metal darts, the grooves and rough
knurling may wear down fairly quickly from skin acid,
friction, and hitting other darts.
The billets that tungsten darts are made from consist
of a variety of metals, including tungsten. To
manufacture the blanks for machining tungsten darts,
tungsten powder and other metals are blended and bonded
by heat and pressure, resulting in a "sintered" material
that we refer to as Nickel-Tungsten (or Copper-Tungsten,
etc.) Common materials include tungsten, nickel,
copper, and iron. The exact mix of materials varies
considerably from one company to another, based on their
requirements for density, cost, and ease of machining.
Tungsten darts cost more for several reasons: The metal is expensive, and since it is very dense, tungsten requires more effort to fabricate into darts.
There are 4 general categories of Tungsten darts.
50% to 70% Tungsten- $15 to $50 (commonly sold
at discount stores)
Tungsten - $25-$75 (popular with new league
3. 90% Tungsten- $50-$200 (high density, will hold up well,
feel better to throw.)
4. 95% to 98%
Tungsten - $100 - $200 (high density, thinner,
resist wear, feel better to throw. However, slightly more likely to break.)
Discount outlets often sell low-density Tungsten darts
without specifying the percentage of Tungsten content,
but just say "Tungsten Darts". Such darts are often cheap
Chinese imports of poor quality. Look for the percentage
of tungsten on the packaging, a higher number means that
the dart is more dense, and generally better quality.
Tungsten prices have gone up in recent years, raising
the price of quality darts sets. However, in order to
offer "bargain" prices, many sporting good stores &
discount outlets now sell cheap "Tungsten Darts" that
actually contain only a tiny trace of tungsten in them.
Many of these cheap sets are about the same density as
brass (or less), but cost quite a bit more. Always look
for the percentage of tungsten on the package, and buy
from a reliable vendor.
There are also a small number of Copper-Tungsten darts
available. This is a much softer material, with about 70%
Tungsten content. They are generally less expensive than
Nickel-Tungsten darts. Some darters, especially
old-timers, like the grip of these darts as the metal
surface develops microscopic pits after they have been
thrown for awhile. Copper tungsten darts have
become much less common in recent years, with
Nickel/Tungsten darts becoming the primary type of
Shafts serve to hold the flights away from the
center of mass of the dart barrel. The shaft acts
as a lever to make the flight more effective at resisting
sideways motion. A longer shaft will produce about
the same effect as a larger flight. There are a
plethora of different shaft designs, but all serve
essentially this same purpose.
SHAFTS - Plastic
Inexpensive, and available in many colors, but break
fairly easily. Good shafts until you start throwing tight
groups and breaking lots of shafts. Materials are usually
polycarbonate or nylon, some have replaceable tops for
greater longevity. Priced from $1 to $3.
SHAFTS - Composite
Composite type shafts, like the Alamo or Quiver, have
plastic bases that thread into the dart, combined with
aluminum or other metal alloy tops that hold the flight.
These are excellent shafts, quite durable, and will not
vibrate loose as easily as solid aluminum shafts.
Generally available with replaceable tops for economy and
convenience. Most styles priced at $2 to $6.
SHAFTS - Solid Aluminum
More rigid and durable than Plastic or Composite
Shafts, in many colorful styles, some with decorative
engraved stripes, flutes, or spirals. May tend to vibrate
loose, especially on heavy 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. Priced from $2 to $6.
Note: Aluminum shafts often vibrate loose when
playing, so rubber O-ring lock washers are highly
recommended. This only occurs when there is a
metal-to-metal contact, so plastic shafts do not normally
need the lock washers.
SHAFTS - 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 nothing to improve the
flight of the dart through the air, but they do allow
tighter groups by letting the flights align with each
other. Also, these shaft will greatly reduce torn flights
and "rovin-hooded" shafts. Priced from $2 to $12.
Rules to the Darts Game of '01, (pronounced " Oh-One")
The game of '01 is the classic game of Darts, played
world-wide. The "01" refers to the fact that the game is
played from a certain number of points, always ending in
"01". For example, the common tournament game of 501
(pronounced "Five-Oh-One"), is played from 501 points.
Other variations are 301, 601, 801, 1001. The higher
point games are usually played by teams.
The object of the game is simple... each player starts
with the same score (501, for example) and the first to
reduce his score to zero wins.
Players take turns throwing three darts each and subtract
all points scored from their own beginning score (501).
Each player removes his darts and marks his score before
the opponent throws. Darts that bounce off or miss the
board do not score and cannot be rethrown that turn.
The difficult part of the game lies in the finish, known
as "going-out". To win, you must reach zero before your
opponent, but you must also reach exactly zero, and the
dart that brings the score down to zero must be a double.
Doubles consist of the numbers in the outside narrow
scoring band and the center (small) bullseye which counts
as 50 points and is an actual double of the outer
For instance, if you have 2 points left, you must hit a
double-1 to bring the score down to zero. From 18 points,
a double-9 would work. If you have an odd number left (a
number that cannot be divided by 2), then darts must be
thrown to reduce the score to an even number, before
throwing at a double. For instance, there is no possible
double out from 19, so a way to finish would be to throw
a single-3 first, reducing the score to 16. The 16 can
then be "taken-out" by throwing a double-8.
The games of 501, 601, 801, 1001, etc. are all played the
same way, except for starting with more points. The game
of 301 is different, however. Because of the potential
for a very short game, 301 has an added difficulty...the
game must start with a double. That is, each player must
hit a double (any double) to start scoring. Each players
scoring begins with the score of the first dart that hits
FLIGHTS...What kind to use?
Flights are the fins or wings found at the
back of a dart. They serve to stabilize the dart
during flight and are made of various
materials. Dart flights do not generate
lift. Flights only resist motion away from the
centerline of the dart. (Airplane wings
generate lift by means of their curved shape,
whereas darts flights are flat.)
HARD FLIGHTS are made of a
stiff polyester plastic that holds shape well.
The layers are permanently sealed together by
heat during manufacture. Because the plastic is
harder, they don't tear as easily as Soft
Flights... however if they do tear, they cannot
be resealed and are ruined. Hard Flights do not
flex like a Soft Flight when hit, but do "pop
off" the shaft when hitting another dart. This
is desirable as it reduces deflection and allows
tight groups. Hard Flights were originally made
of a clear plastic, which resulted in fairly
dull colors in printed designs. During the last
few years, Melinex, a type of opaque plastic,
has been used for printing hundreds of brighter
designs. Also known as "Poly Flights"
NYLON FLIGHTS, made of ripstop
nylon fabric, ar by far the most durable type of
flight. These dart flights are are very hard to
tear. The stiffness varies according to the
weight and type of fabric used by the
manufacturer, but is roughly midway between Soft
and Hard flights. The most common point of wear
with this flight is at the front, where it is
inserted into the shaft. Since ripstop nylon
fabric is a thicker material, it is important to
pry open the slots on the shaft for a properly
loose fit to avoid damage to the flight. Nylon
Flights are available in solid colors and dozens
of printed designs.
DIMPLEX, RIBTEX, and other
similar styles are actually hard flights which
have been embossed with a texture. The bumpy or
ribbed surface tends to stiffen the flight,
which some darters consider desirable. The extra
surface area also adds a small amount of drag to
the flight, which makes the dart slightly more
stable in some cases. The various embossed types
of flights are generally a little harder to
insert into a metal shaft, due to increased
thickness. Use a dart tool or knife blade to
gently spread open the slots at the back of the
---> Most types of flights tend to split at
the back center, where the folds meet and are
hit by dart points. FLIGHT PROTECTORS are small
metal or plastic devices that fit over and
protect this area. The life of a set of flights
may be greatly extended by using Flight
Protectors. They are also reusable and may
outlast many sets of flights. Flight protectors do not add any significant weight to the dart, and will not change the way the dart flies.
SOFT FLIGHTS are made of a
flexible plastic sheet, preprinted with a
variety of designs and then folded into shape.
Adhesive (glue) holds the layers of plastic
together. If the flight is torn during use, the
layers can be pressed together with fingers and
the adhesive will "heal" the tear. Another
benefit of this type of flight is that a Soft
Flight will often flex out of the way if another
dart hits it. These flights are available in
hundreds of bright, attractive designs. Also
known as "Reseal Flights".
Soft Flights have fallen out of favor in
recent years, and are now rarely available.
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Tips & Habits to Avoid
There are a number of basics to keep in-mind, including
several bad habits that you should avoid:
A steady Stance is very important. Don't
lean way over the line to get closer to the
board. This one is a tough habit for some people to beat,
but try.. as leaning robs the darter of stability. The
feet and legs should be positioned in a solid,
comfortable, and relaxed stance, with weight distributed
to both feet. Excessive leaning places nearly all of the
body weight on one foot, tiring the shooter in long
matches and damaging accuracy in the short run.
The few inches gained by leaning over the line are
simply not worth the huge loss of balance and stability.
Plus, leaning lowers the shoulder, forcing one to throw
upwards, fighting gravity. Leaning also usually means
tensing the major muscles of the body to preserve
balance. This often results in a jerky release and poor
follow-through, since the body is already off-balance.
A number of long-time players report back, knee,
ankle, and foot pain, from spending many years standing
on one foot while playing darts. Even in the short run,
leaning to throw will cause minor pain in the small of
the back. Especially for older players, a firm stance
will stop this discomfort, both while playing and the
Think about it..
In what other sport
would you drink a few beers, try to stand balanced
"tiptoe" on one foot, and then try to consistently hit
a small target with a sharp pointed object?
In EVERY competitive sport,
Accuracy begins with a Solid Stance!
Keep your feet planted solidly on the floor, and
avoid lunging, rocking, or lifting the back
foot off the floor during the dart toss.
Leaning, or rocking, is often done in an attempt to get a harder
throw. The dartboard really does not care how hard you
throw the dart. The only important thing is how
accurately you throw it.!
Even a light throw, if accompanied by a smooth and
exteded follow-through, will easily reach the dart board
Such wasted motion can really be a bad habit, as it
affects the entire body and throw. Lifting the foot even
partway from the floor deprives the body of good balance
during the crucial moment of follow-through. The strength
required to reach the board with any normal dart is
minimal, and for best accuracy should be provided only by the fingers, wrist, and forearm.
After the dart leaves your hand, let your hand and arm
continue on towards the dartboard, ending with full
extension, and the fingers pointing at the target.
Imagine that you are bowling.. after letting go of the
ball, you still must follow-through! The same applies to
Golf, Billiards, Basketball, and most every other sport.
Follow-through after realeasing the dart, ending up with
your fingers fully extended, as though touching the spot
that you want to hit.
Missing the board or hitting too low often cause
beginners to think that more power is needed. This is
rarely true, as one can tell by the fact that the missed
darts usually hit hard enough to stick in the wall, which
is quite a bit harder than a bristle dartboard. The
problem lies with the accuracy of the throw and follow
through. Even small children can be taught to throw
accurately without lunging or using the shoulders in a
If you feel short of power, stand upright, and keep
your elbow up. The upper arm should be approximately
parallel to the ground. This allows you to bring your arm
back further, without hitting yourself in the face with
Stand Straight, Elbow Up, and you will effectively
double the power of your throw without any extra effort.
For one thing, the dart is much higher than when leaning,
so gravity does much of the work for you.
The dart should be held in a level position, and
maintain as level a stroke as possible. Don't hold the
dart sideways, or in any other position than
level and pointed at the board. Skill at darts, or any
other target sport, means being able to perform the same
motion exactly the same way, time after time.
Common sense, as well of years of studies in other
sports, show that all non-essential
motion should be avoided and discarded from the
In Darts, this means that if the dart is to strike the
board at a level attitude (nearly always the best), it
should be held and thrown from a position as close to
level as is possible.
Any other position (such as dart point-up, dart
point-down, or sideways) means extra motion of all the
hand and wrist muscles to correct the initial starting
position. Pure wasted effort... and usually futile, since
the dart will likely leave the hand at an angle and
wobble all the way to the board.
The correcting motion needed to get the dart pointed
back at the dartbaord imparts inertia to the dart's mass,
away from the direction of the target. Then the darts
will often stick in the board at odd directions. After a
long period of play, when concentration starts to slip a
little, this can really be obvious, with darts hitting at
all sorts of different angles.
Instead of "throwing" the darts, instead just
gently "place" them in the dartboard with a smooth motion
of your hand & fingers. Throwing like a baseball is
unnecessary and even dangerous, as a dart thrown too hard
may hit a wire or other object and bounce clear across
the room to hit someone. Dartboard wires get bent and the
bristles crushed from this type of abuse.
Fortunately, "baseball throwers" usually stop after a
while, either due to the laughter of spectators or the
frowns of the darts bar manager. This method is also
hopelessly inaccurate, as all of the major strength
muscles and very few of the fine control muscles are
used. A dart should never be thrown so hard that the
front of the dart barrel touches the bristles. If this
happens when a dart is thrown normally, then the dart's
point is too short and should be changed at a darts
Avoid Spinning the dart as you release it to
add stability. Spinning the dart is often done
inadvertently, and is a symptom of uneven release,
usually a side effect of wrapping fingers OVER the dart,
which then forces the dart to roll off the fingers on
release. Instead, grip a dart gently from the sides, so
that it easily flies free upon opening the fingers.
All parts of the hand should leave the dart at nearly
the same time to ensure level flight. To achieve this,
make opening the hand a positive motion, and open the
fingers and thumb rapidly to an extended position, ending
up pointing at the target. This will also help keep the
flights from touching the fingers as the dart leaves the
As an exercise to get that qucik release, imagine
dipping your hand in a bucket of paint, then fling it at
a spot on the wall. If your hand ends up towards the
floor or ceiling, that is where the paint would have
gone! Let your fingers end up naturally open and pointing
at the exact spot where you want the dart to go.
Purposely adding spin to a dart-throw is wasted effort
at best, and spinning the darts can actually make your
game worse by causing uneven release. Most darts flights
are not shaped to properly induce spin, and the darts fly
too short a distance (less than 6 feet) for aerodynamic
spin to be a stabilizing factor anyway.
Soft Tip Darts (Electronic
A light weight dart with a soft plastic point is thrown
at a board consisting of a perforated plastic face. Each
hole in the board is sized to fit the dart point and has
beveled edges to facilitate entry of the point. A series
of sensors and circuits behind the face of the dartboard
note the impact and inform the central computer
processor, which calculates and displays the score for the
dart players to see.
Note: The score displayed by the dart machine
usually cannot be corrected, and the common rule for league play
is: "The machine is always right!" At a soft-tip darts tournament: if a tournament official is notified before the next person throws any darts, it may be possible to correct a scoring error.
In 1999, the recommended maximum weight for soft tip
darts was raised to 18 grams, for league and tournament
play. The actual machines used in bars can accomodate
darts up to 25 grams or more, without damage to the
board. However, darts over 20 grams tend to break more
tips, so their use is discouraged. Check with your local
league to see if they enforce any weight limits, as some
are quite strict, and other leagues may not care what you
Most coin-op machines in the USA are made by
Arachnid or Medalist. However, in the last few years some new companies have entered the market. Particularly notable is DartsLive, a Japanese soft-tip brand that heavily promotes the networking features of their darts machines. The major coin-op manufacturers
also help setup leagues to play on their machines, and
have national competitions. Quite a few companies import
and market home versions of soft-tip darts machines.
Most games are played about the same way as for
steel-pointed darts, except that the darts setup uses a throwing distance of
8 feet for soft-tip machines. The height to the center of
the board (the Bull) is 68 inches, the same height as an
English Clockface Bristle Dartboardoard. Rules of play
and weight limits for Soft-tip darts are generally set by
the manufacturers at their annual meetings.
Darts Leagues are similar to other sports
leagues, such as bowling or softball leagues. There are
many variations, but the following is a general outline
that applies to most dart leagues.
Leagues may be run by a group of volunteers, or the
league may be run as a business. A group of players,
(usually from 4 to 8) form each team, who play one night
a week for a season, which may run from 8 to 40 weeks in
length. During the season, each team normally plays each
of the other teams several times. To ensure consistent & fair games, dart leagues generally measure and approve the darts setup and quality of the dartboards in each participating league darts bar.
In most areas, each team member must join a Darts
Association, paying annual dues (typically $5-$40). This
entitles you to participate in league activities, get the
newsletter, if any, and sometimes get a patch, pin, or
shirt with the Association logo. Compared to other activities, the cost of darts league play is generally very reasonable.
Each darts team must also usually pay a team fee every
season, ($10 to $75) which goes towards paying the
statistician, printing scoresheets, buying trophies,
jackets, etc. In many cases, the team fee is paid for by
the sponsoring bar, that is, the pub at which the team
plays darts. The bar will also often provide team shirts,
imprinted with the bar logo and team name.
Some leagues also have nightly fees, or player fees.
These are usually in the $2 to $10 per night range, and
is normally paid back at the end of the season as prize
money, or as perks such as a major party, pre-paid trip
to an out-of-town tournament, or as jackets. (One
soft-tip league in Texas gives every member a 4-day trip
to Las Vegas at the end of the season. They fill an
entire chartered plane once each year!)
If several bars participate in the League, then play is
usually Home-and-Away, meaning that you play at your home
bar every other week, and visit at the other teams' bars
the alternate weeks. Some leagues, called In-House
Leagues, play all games at just one location.
Leagues in most areas play on weekday evenings,
although there are quite a few local exceptions. Typical
start time is 8pm, with play normally lasting from 1-1/2
to 2-1/2 hours. Play consists of a variety of games of
'01 and sometimes Cricket (see RULES),
with Singles, Doubles, and Team matches usually played.
Don't be afraid to join a league, due to lack of
skill... Most leagues are split into divisions, of
different skill levels, or have some sort of handicapping
For more info on Darts Leagues in your area, check
Setup a Dartboard:
Dart Board Measurements for hanging a
Bristle Dartboard Setup, for stee-tip darts:
The Official dart throwing distance for league and tournaments, in
most countries, is 2.37 meters, as measured along the
floor, from the plane of the face of the dartboard. In
Imperial measurement, or feet/inches, that distance is 7 feet, 9-1/4 inches.
The height of the board, from the floor to the center of the bull, (also called bullseye), is
173 centimeters, or 5 feet, 8 inches.
To easily check your throw line measurement, the
diagonal distance from the Bull, down and out to the
Throw Line, should be 9 feet, 7-3/8 inches.
Electronic Dart Board Setup
The height of the Bullseye is the same as for
both soft-tip and steel-tip dartboards: Height from floor to center of Bull,
is 173 centimeters, or 5 feet, 8 inches.
However, Soft-Tip Darts is played from a throwing
distance of 8 feet, measured along the floor from the
plane of the face of the electronic dartboard.
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