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Looking Out for Set-Ups

Posted by UniBoffin at 11:18 on 14th December 2012 in UniBlog

Looking Out for Set-Ups

So what comes round this time of year and starts with Ch? Yes, it’s the Championship of the World! Leaving you no time to mull over my slightly dubious use of word order there, let me hurry on to assure you that, although I shall be getting the same enjoyment as anyone else from simply watching the matches, I’ll also be taking the professional opportunity to check out the top players’ techniques and dart set-ups.

The good thing here is that I find watching in this way, both as a fan and with the analytical eye of the scientist, not only yields much useful data, but also adds to the viewing pleasure. Although, talking of set-ups, the more cynical among you may be questioning the complete sincerity of that statement when you eventually discover that the blatantly self-serving objective of this blog is to enlist you in this endeavour!

Moving on again, although the data may be useful, interpreting it (data as a plural is too pedantic for me!) is not always easy. Take just two set-up parameters, for example, barrel and flights shape. More players are likely to be using some form of pencil barrel with Plus-type flights than any other combination, so it’s tempting to think that should be the most accurate set-up. In which case, you may ask, why are the original Sigma 970 Pros – claimed to be aerodynamically optimised for accuracy – torpedo shaped with relatively small delta flights?

Now I have answered that question before, but it’s such an important one I make no apology for digressing to address it once again. The fact is, as important as the flight characteristics of a dart are, they’re not as important as the proper operation of the ergonomic interface between barrel and hand during the throw. Which is just a flash way of saying that the best barrel shape and grip depends on the individual player as well as pure physics.

So when I designed the first prototype Sigmas back in the 1980s, I had two problems. Firstly the maths said a parallel barrel wasn’t ideal for optimal flight characteristics, but observation said a lot of players nonetheless preferred that shape. Secondly, the maths also said that, for best accuracy with good players, the flights needed to be smaller than usual, a result again not substantiated by the choice of the majority of pros.

Fortunately, just as I was mulling these problems over, John Lowe was also hitting the first televised nine-darter – using a short torpedo barrel with a small flight. This helped give me the confidence to continue developing what eventually became those Sigma 970 Pros, reasoning that the shape might not suit all, or even most, players, but if one of the all-time greats used something similar, I could nonetheless be on the right track.

If that explains the 970 barrel shape (and why there’s a similarity with John Lowe designs), what about the small flights? Well, despite John again boosting my confidence in this area by winning a TV tournament using a set of prototype Sigma Pro flights, the maths did say that you needed to be a good player with a smooth, straight throw to benefit from them. For those of us with lesser ability, or with a “flicky” release, something which gave more stability was indicated, hence the development of Sigma One flights.

But that’s enough about Sigmas, I won’t even go on to explain again why latter versions can be more parallel because of their ZeroD noses, because I now want to drag this blog back to the topic of the World Champs and that little fun (honest!) job you might do for me.

So, Mr Phelps (or Mr Hunt, for those under 40), your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join me in looking out for any interesting stuff about techniques and set-ups the World Champs may throw up.

As an example of the sort of thing you might look for, you may find that, although it does depend on exactly how the dart is released from the hand, in general terms darts with smaller flights tend to land flatter – which can be a psychological help to aiming and thus may suit the more deliberate thrower. Anyone who’s a bit more of a “flinger” may prefer bigger flights and a point-down impact. Perhaps you’ll find the former will finish more clinically whilst the latter will hit more 180s? Or maybe you won’t!

Well, if you fancy that little task, I look forward to you posting in the New Year. But even if you don’t, here’s to you enjoying the feast of darts that’s about to hit our screens. And on that note, it’s time I went and checked the TV guide for timings. So Very Best Wishes of the Season to you all and hope to see you in 2013!


Ashton and Sigma Flights
I’ve passed on your comments to Unicorn, Ashton. In the meantime, why not try the Sigma Pro flights I prefer, in silver (cat no 68433).

Mihai and “Carrot” Barrels
Firstly, many thanks for your comments, Mihai. On your question about back-weighted darts, it might be worth you reading my “Get a Grip” blog from April 2010 and “Push Me, Pull Me?” from February 2011 in which I say, among other things, “there are some dynamic advantages to releasing a projectile from its centre of gravity and, more specifically, to having the finger-thumb part of a player’s grip pushing against an up-slope as opposed to pulling away from a down-slope” (you can find these blogs via the “UniBoffin” tab in the middle right of the Unicorn homepage). The above quote explains why Sigma barrels are mostly designed to have their maximum diameter at the centre of gravity of the whole dart including shaft and flights. Although this results in them being slightly back-weighted, I think your postulated “carrot” design would be going too far in this direction. As for being “speedy”, the aerodynamic drag of the barrel itself is pretty insignificant in darts, but, if it weren’t, such a shape would be pretty “draggy”. This is because the major source of projectile body drag in subsonic flow is usually the low-pressure region at the base and sharpening the nose beyond a hemisphere shape is almost (literally) “pointless”. The popular image of the streamlined missile comes about because a pointed nose is required to lower drag supersonically – however not many players throw as fast as 10m/s, let alone over 340!

Eddie and Grip
You’re right in that using the body of the index finger rather than the tip to hold the dart can help it to release straighter, Eddie, but not everyone gets on with such a grip (I can’t!). So if you find it comfortable and it yields results, I would recommend you stick with it. As for your comments on flights and points, as with Ashton I’ve passed your comments to Unicorn.

Jeff from PH
No question to answer this time, Jeff, but just wanted to say thanks for your comments to past blogs and hope you keep posting with your perspectives from the Philippines!

There are 3 comments to this post

Posted by Josh Brown at 12:35 on 15th December 2012

I have a two part question:

Firstly, which of these two Phil Taylor Set ups are the least unstable (for Phil);

Phase 2, medium xlti stems and slim flights or his current Phase 5 with the tiny DXM flights.

And secondly, knowing Phil throw as I'm sure you do after working with him multiple times, what barrel, shaft and flight configuration would you get him to use (forgetting his own grip preference etc and basing the choice on science)


Josh Brown

Posted by Gordon at 10:39 on 17th December 2012

Great blog from Uniboffin as usual. Just one question I wish to post.

I do concur that, as you said, "in general terms darts with smaller flights tend to land flatter" and bigger flights will generally result in a nose down impact.

I saw a clip from the Grand Slam, Scott Waites is able to land his darts flat (or maybe just 10 degree from the horizontal), although he uses darts with larger flights, longer shafts and grips his darts at the front end. I can imagine there are also many out there (professionals and amateurs alike) who is able to land a dart flat despite of using a large flight.

I would be very grateful if you can explain the mechanics to achieve a flat impact despite using a large flight. This would be extremely helpful to those of us (myself included) who do not have the technique to throw a dart well with a small flight, but at the same time wish our darts to land flatter.

Many thanks,


Posted by Jon H at 03:17 on 4th January 2013

I used to use andy hamilton maestro pro's 25g with gold sigma/phase 5 slik stiks with replaceable tops and sigma flights. These darts were one of the most accurate and deadly darts I've used on the doubles but I found my arm really getting tired from using "good technique" I'm still using the same style of stems(love those sigma/slikstik style stems) but of switched to pear flights and jamie craven 23g darts. There is something about that grip that lets me propel the dart forward with much greater ease and less fatigue. Since it is a new style dart I'm still reperfecting my throw(which now feels less like a taylor throw and more like a bob anderson throw) but on a whole is far more comfortable.

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