The Ultimate Dart & Dartboard Buying Guide
We live, breath, and eat the game of darts. You're in the right place if you want to learn about darts, dartboards, dartboard cabinets, and dart accessories.
On this page we will walk you through the the entire world of darts, from beginning to end. By the end of this, you'll know how to decide what kind of dart board, cabinet, and darts you'll want to get.
If you don't need the guide, jump straight to the section of the site you're interested in.
Choosing A Dartboard
There are several different types of boards but the most common are bristle and electronic dartboards.
There are pros and cons to both, so the first question you really need to figure out is if you want a traditional board or an electronic dartboard.
The easiest way to look at it is to ask yourself this: do you want the quality of a traditional dartboard or the features of an electronic dart board? Let's dive into it a bit more.
How to Choose a Bristle Dartboard
The bristle dartboard is definitely the most common type of board that you'll see. It was invented in the 1930s but became more popular in the 70s. That's around the time they were adopted as the standard tournament dartboards.
These dartboards are made from compressed sisal fibers glued to a board. The edges are held together with metal bands and sometimes staples.
The benefit of the sisal bristle fiber is that when you take a dart out of the board the hole closes behind it. This gives it a longer life than the original traditional wood dartboards.
Picking a Quality Board
The first thing you need to look for is a board that meets competition standards. Cheap dartboards won't last as long because the fibers are not as tight so they won't last as long.
Also, sisal is the best material for a bristle dartboard, so avoid dartboards made from other fibers as they won't last as long.
Another thing to consider when buying a dartboard is having a removable number ring.
The reason for this is because some numbers are hit more often than others. So, you will want the ability to rotate the board so certain sections don't wear faster than the rest of the board.
This is done with a removable ring. You can take it off, rotate the board, and reattach the number ring and extend the life of the board.
Consider the Spider
If you're buying from a quality manufacturer, you'll notice that there is a huge price disparity between their entry level and high-end models. The biggest difference in these is in the construction of the wiring system.
The spider separates the scoring sections on the board. Low end dartboards tend to have round wires and staples. High end boards have thin triangle shaped edges with no staples. Then there is a range in between the two.
In the middle range you might find a staple free bullseye. Moving up you'll see dartboards with no staples, then thin wiring, then ultra thing with lower angle and higher strength.
The purpose of the angled wire is to deflect the dart into the board if it strikes the wire, rather than allowing it to bounce out.
How to Choose and Electronic Dart Board
This is probably the fastest growing segment of darts. You see them popping up all over the place including in bars. These dartboards can be set up for league play as well against other people on the network.
Electronic darts is also called soft-tip dart because the type of dart has a softer plastic tip rather than metal.
The dartboard is covered in thousands of little holes. The hole is smaller than the dart tip, so as it goes through the material has to expand and trap the dart in place. Also, when it enters, the hit is automatically recorded.
Why Get an Electronic Dartboard Instead of a Traditional Bristle Dartboard?
Bristle dartboards have a higher quality than electronic ones, are more authentic, and are definitely what the professionals prefer to use.
But, bristle dartboards are less expensive, higher quality, and more traditional. And, they look way better.
So, why does anyone like electronic dartboards?
Electronic Dartboards are Safer
The #1 reason to get an electronic over bristle dartboard is safety.
Darts can bounce out of the board, and steel tip darts can be a bit heavy. This can cause damage to your walls, floors, or children who happen to stray too close to the board.
Honestly, you should never play near children, but you never know when one will just come running by and get whacked by a steel tipped dart.
So, soft tip darts and electronic dartboards are the most family friendly.
The Features on Electronic Dartboards Are Pretty Cool
You really can't beat the features on an electronic dartboard. You can get a ton of different games and variations, data to tell you how you're doing, automatic scoring, built in handicapping, and an engaging and interactive board.
Each board is different so we won't go into that here. If you want more info on electronic dartboards, go here.
Deciding Which Electronic Dartboard To Buy
One of the great parts of these dartboards is they are generally a big larger than tournament boards. They do this to fit more holes in the board, but it makes it easier for a novice to strike which makes them far more popular for new players.
If you are looking for league or tournament play, look for a regulation size electronic dart board (15.5"). You have to pay attention because many don't come in this size.
Also, you'll want to find thin dividing sections (allowing for more holes in each area).
A few other features to pay attention to are:
- Dart averaging tracker
- # of games and variations
- Scoreboard size and display
Price of Electronic Dartboards
The price depends on the number of features and options. Thin dividing sections, more games and variations, etc all cost more.
Also, there are some electronic dartboards that allow you to use steel tip darts, but they wear out a lot faster.
What About Coiled Paper Dart Boards?
These are better for the super beginner or for children.
They are far cheaper than bristle or electronic dartboards so they're great to have just to toy with, but they wear out fast and are damaged easily.
While these are supposed to be self healing, they usually don't work out that way. If the dart tip isn't perfectly smooth, it can damage the paper. Also, make sure you twist the dart when pulling it out to minimize the damage.
Look for similar features as a bristle dartboard such a rotating number ring and a thin spider
Did You Know That Wooden Dartboards are The Original Ones?
Originally, soft hardwoods such as elm or poplar are what made dartboards.
The biggest problem with wooden dartboards is they get dry, split, crack, and do all the other things that wood does. In order to combat this, the wood needs to be kept in good condition and often moistened or soaked overnight.
The modern clock layout has its origins in the wooden dartboards as the growth rings and cracks would have created the clock shape
While these kinds of dartboards are not that common anymore, they are still common in the American darts style game.
Avoid Cord Dartboards
These were a lot more common in the past, but still available. These are generally cheap as they wear out fast.
There really is no reason to get a cork dartboard with inexpensive bristle options available.
Choosing The Best Darts
There are two types of darts - soft tip and steel tip darts. If you have an electronic dartboard you'll generally be using soft tip darts. All other boards use steel tip darts (even some electronic dartboards use steel tip darts.
Besides that huge difference, the rest is pretty similar between the two types. So, let's go over the different considerations to make when buying darts.
The first consideration you need to make is the material it will be made of.
Lower priced darts will be made out of brass while higher quality darts will be made from more tungsten. Some darts are also made of nickel-silver which is a step above brass.
The difference between the two is dart grouping on the board.
Brass is less dense so it requires more area for the same weight. That means it's impossible to get as many darts into the same area (also known as crowding out the following darts).
Brass darts prevent high scores, but are great for beginners and are far cheaper.
Tungsten darts can fit in a smaller area (say, getting 2 bulls eyes in a row). The higher the percentage of tungsten, the more narrow the dart can be. You'll generally see tungsten darts in 3 levels
Entry level tungsten darts. Great for people that are growing in the sport as these are affordable but still high quality.
These are a great balance between quality and affordability. If you are a serious about your game and aspiring to get better, this is perfect for you.
90% or 95% Tungsten
These are the highest quality darts for people who are serious about the game or are professionals.
This is entirely based on preference. Steel darts tend to range from 18g to about 32g while soft tip darts are between 14-20g (though there are some up to 25g now).
The most common sizes are 22-24g for steel tip and around 18g for soft tip.
Generally, a heavier dart allows for a more relaxed throw as you have to put in less effort. Lighter darts have less force (because of less mass) so you need to throw it harder to make up for it.
Remember that heavier darts will wear your board out faster as they will impact with more force and go deeper than lighter darts, but heavier darts are easier to throw.
There are tons of different grip options on darts and it's entirely up to your preference. In general, rough hands needs rougher grip. From rings to grooves, you'll want to experiment and see what works for you.
There are a ton of options, but generally you'll find about 6 key designs.
This is a common criss-cross pattern that gives excellent grip
These are rings that flow in waves. The rings are smooth and it's the wave action that gives the grip
These are shaped just like the name suggests. They are multiple, cascading grips like shark fins. They will give a rougher grip than a wave grip due to the sharper edges.
These have a ton of soft rings that are very close together.
This is like the micro grip but the rings are even finer which gives it a grippy surface that is a little rough.
Multiple large rings that provide good finger placement and no slip.
You'll see a ton of darts that have some combination of the above grip types,
The shaft is there to counterbalance the tip. There are several types of shafts, but you'll generally see nylon or aluminium for every day use.
Nylon shafts are more economical and are really designed for the recreational user. They come in different lengths as well.
Aluminium shafts are good for recreational and professional players. They look more stylish and are also durable.
A longer shaft will bring the center of gravity to the rear while shorter shafts bring the center of gravity forward.
So, the length of the shaft you need will depend on how you hold the dart.
If you hold the dart toward the rear, then longer shafts may work better for you. Similarly, if you hold it toward the front (most players hold it near the front) then you'll want a shorter shaft.
The 'flight' is the fin on the rear of the dart. The type of flight will affect the way the dart moves through the air. There are a variety of flights depending on your style.
Larger flights are better suited for people who are more gentle in their throw and gives an arc flight path. Slimmer flights are better for people with a faster throw that is straighter.
There are a ton of features that darts may have to differentiate themselves from the competition. Most of the features are related to reducing bounce outs when the dart hits the dartboard.
These features will either cause the dart to continue to spin and dig in deeper, or have a spring in the tip that "hammers" the head into the dart board if it hits the spider.
Cheap darts cost basically nothing while quality, professional grade darts can cost $100+ each.
You can find a good balance of price/quality in the $50 to $70 range for a set of 3.