These days, the most common material for dart barrels used by budding darts players is Nickel-Tungsten. Tungsten is a very dense material, so these types of darts can be made very thin whilst still being the required weight.
Many years ago when darts was still in its adolescence, most players used Brass barrels. Then Tungsten darts were released and their overnight success almost made Brass barrels obsolete.
The problem with Brass is that it’s very light and very cheap, so the darts themselves were rather large, which makes high scoring very difficult. This is because the darts made from brass were also not very durable, so the grip on the dart would wear off very quickly.
Brass darts are still used today in pubs, clubs and homes because they are half the cost of a standard Tungsten barrel so are ideal for non-serious social players who only play once every few weeks.
Tungsten darts are not 100% Tungsten but are in fact a Tungsten alloy. Other materials such as Nickel and Copper are used alongside the Tungsten to make a dart barrel. The reason Tungsten is combined with other materials is that current manufacturing techniques are unable to make a 100% pure Tungsten barrel.
Nickel-Tungsten is the most common combination of dart materials, and darts tend to be around 80% Tungsten and 20% Nickel. However, they can go as high as 97% Tungsten and 3% Nickel because Tungsten is much denser than Nickel or Copper, so the more Tungsten you use, the thinner and heavier you can make a dart barrel. This being said, usually the higher the Tungsten content you have, the more expensive the darts tend to be but this is not always the case.
As with flights and stems, there is no right or wrong answer when choosing a dart to use. Just look at Phil Taylor - he won everything using his early phase 1, 2 and 3 darts which were long straight barrel darts, then changed to a short bomb shape and continued to win everything!
It may sound daft but when picking a dart barrel, you should always pick something you like the look of. Any player can learn to throw with any barrel shape and learn to build a game around that style of play. There’s no point in playing with a dart you think is ugly because playing darts is all about complete confidence in your ability and equipment. Any negative thoughts you have will eventually take their toll on your game.
Certain barrel shapes have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the style of play you’d like to adopt. Certain barrels might be more suitable than others for you, so here’s a little list of the pros and cons of each barrel shape.
Used in the right way, the straight barrel can be used for any style of play. This includes the Phil Taylor ‘stacking’ method, the Eric Bristow method where he used to get them straight in the board and slide each dart past each other, or even the Adrian Lewis style where he gets his darts to stick up and tries to cannon off the target by hitting his second and third darts against the first arrow. The straight barrel is certainly the most universal dart barrel.
This barrel has been used by the very best in the business and has won multiple World Championship titles. It even hit the world’s very first televised nine dart finish! This barrel is most effective when being used in the ‘stacking’ method. This is because this type of dart tends to be short and fat, so it’s not a dart that would be renowned for hitting 180 after 180, but is still very effective at hitting ton after ton.
Similar to the bomb shape, this dart tends to be short and fat, so if you want to hit 180 after 180 then this is probably not the barrel for you. The weight in these darts is centred in the front of the barrel, so if you’re having trouble keeping the darts in the board, then these torpedo shape barrels tend to go into the board with more force so this will help keep them in.
Scallop darts can actually come in a few different shapes. You can have straight barrel darts and bomb shaped darts that have a scallop. The scallop in the barrel is more for the grip side of things and is meant to encourage consistent grip and release, as you’re always trying to put either your finger or thumb in the same spot every time.
A tapered dart is a barrel that will start out reasonably straight and thick at the front, then suddenly taper down towards the stem. A barrel like this, depending on how thick it actually is, can be used in different ways. Scott Mitchell will slide each of his darts past each other, whereas Steve Beaton will adopt a more Adrian Lewis style of play and attack the board with his legendary silky smooth throw. A barrel like this can be perfect for people who grip with their thumb at the rear of the dart on the taper itself.
As used by Steve Beaton & Scott Mitchell
Stealth barrels are good for 'cheating' points out of a dartboard. By this I mean because of their shape (thin at the front and thick at the back), they are very good at squeezing into a space that doesn't seem to be there. Darryl Fitton is a great example of this. He can hit 180 after 180 on a pin head, whereas he wouldn't be able to using a bomber or torpedo shape dart.
As used by Darryl Fitton & Andy Hamilton
The grip on the dart barrel itself is of massive importance, but as with everything else it’s all down to player preference. Certain players will need vast amounts of grip (Jamie Caven razor grip) while others will only need a barrel itself with no grip at all (Terry Jenkins smooth grip). You will find that even though the difference between grips may not look like much, there can still be a massive difference between them. So we rank these grips on a grip level system from 0 to 5. Zero meaning no grip whatsoever, and 5 meaning a dart that doesn’t want to come off the end of your fingers.
No grip at all. A completely smooth tungsten barrel.
It all depends on how deep and wide the rings are cut. If it’s a standard ring grip that features on a Eric Bristow or Tony O'Shea dart, then that would be a level 2. If it’s something like the James Wade darts, then they push up to grip level 3.
Depending on the quality of the knurling, some darts have a much higher quality of knurl grip than others. But even so, there is NOT a huge amount of difference between them.
From a distance, this type of barrel can look almost smooth if it has a micro grip. But don't let it fool you - it is not the most hard wearing grip ever made, but when brand new it is a seriously grippy dart.
Thick cut razor grip barrels provide one of the best grips on offer from a dart barrel. Much longer lasting than micro grip, these types of barrels are ideal for a player who is looking for that little bit extra grip.
The atomised grip feels like the surface of the barrel is made of stone. It tends to be used in rings on the barrel designs. It's reasonably hard wearing and certainly gives a dart a different feel completely compared to more traditional grips.