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Every player shoots at a bull's-eye that is 7 feet, 9-1/2 inches away and whose center is 5 feet, 8 inches above the floor. And that's where the uniformity ends. Professional dart players are like the rest of us in that they have different preferences and opinions about precisely what length, weight and shaped dart finds its target most consistently.
All darts have four basic elements. Each has a point, commonly call the tip, a barrel, which is the part that you grip, a shaft and a flight to stabilize the dart in on its way to the target. Tips can be be movable or fixed. A movable tip will retract a tiny fraction of an inch when it makes contact with the target, reducing the chance of the dart bouncing off the board rather than sticking firm.
Weight, Shape and Length
Joyce Stafos, owner of the St. Louis Dart Shop, in St. Louis, Missouri, says, "You want the dart to enter the board straight." To that end, the weight, shape and length of a dart must fit the player's delivery. Front-loaded darts are heavier toward the tip. Even-loaded darts are uniformly shaped along the length of the barrel. And the length of the barrel depends on where the thrower most comfortably places her hand. To aid grip, barrels can be of several textures. Some, for example, are ringed, meaning that shallow grooves are cut into the circumference. Others barrels are knurled, which is a cross-hatching of the surface that for some players provides a tackier feel. Professionals commonly use darts weighing anywhere from 20 to 24 g. A few use darts as light at 14 g.
Flights come in a number of shapes and sizes, and the exact type of flight a professional will use depends on the weight of the dart and, more importantly, on the speed of his throw. A player throwing a fast, light dart will likely select a small and slender flight because his dart reaches the board quickly and is less susceptible to air currents. Players who throw slower, arcing darts typically use larger flights that promote stability along the way.
What the Pros Play
Terry Maness, owner of Horizon Darts, in Kansas City, Kansas, says, "The pros will experiment with different shafts and flights. They'll play with whatever dart feels good to them. And if they're sponsored by a manufacturer like us, or like Unicorn or Winmau in Great Britain, then they'll play darts made by them." A set of three darts that a professional might use can cost as little as $25 to $30 and as much as $180 to $190, as of 2011.
Jan Stowell began his writing career after retiring from the Syracuse Fire Department in 1995. He has written on varied subjects, including college basketball, hiking the Appalachian Trail and bungee-jumping in South Africa. Stowell's work has appeared in national and international newspapers, including his hometown "Syracuse Post-Standard," "The Washington Post," and Cape Town's leading newspaper, the "Cape Times."