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Straight As An Arrow

Posted by UniBoffin at 21:42 on 5th October 2016 in UniBlog

Straight As An Arrow

As previewed last time, this blog is going to address the tricky question of why the majority of pro dart players seemingly favour longish, straighter-sided barrels over more curved, bullet shaped ones, while also looking at why there are notable exceptions.

Firstly, I’m going to support the above contention with anecdotal evidence in the form of the above graphic showing four World Champions’ “Player’s Choice” darts from Unicorn’s 2016 range. As you can see, three of the four barrels are pretty similar, all being over 50mm in length and more-or-less straight, so how come John Lowe’s is markedly different?

One obvious reason is that John has a somewhat shorter “wheelbase” grip than does either Gary Anderson or Barney, both of whom can use their second finger as a stabiliser over the front of the dart rather than at the side like John’s. However, Bob Anderson also has a fairly short wheelbase grip, so there must be more to it than that.

On to the next factor – whereabouts they grip the barrel. Of the four, Bob has the most forward grip whereas John has the most rearward. With John’s bullet-shaped dart this means he is effectively partly pushing against an upslope whereas the others, if they used such a dart, would be pulling on a downslope. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognise which of those is liable to yield the more consistent results!

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Barney’s recent Phase 5 darts are rather “carrot-shaped”, which enabled him to push against an upslope even with his grip position. However, this inevitably involves the front of the barrel being fatter for a given weight and a forward balance which can feel wrong to players used to neutral weighting.

Having a maximum diameter greater than a straight dart of the same weight and length (assuming equivalent density tungsten alloy) is something that also applies to a bullet-shaped dart, and the fractionally reduced tendency to bed-block is another slight factor in favour of the straight, especially at the heavier end of the weight spectrum.

Now to the question of throw tempo. Whilst none of the four players are quite in the MvG, Adrian Lewis, Michael Smith, etc, mould, Barney is definitely a rhythm player and The Flying Scotsman can certainly loose his second and third arrows pretty rapidly when in pursuit of yet another 180. A straight barrel helps rhythm and quick-fire players in that marginally less time needs to be spent concentrating on registering the grip in exactly the right position. By comparison Old Stoneface himself, a more deliberate (although not slow) type of player, will have no trouble with the requirement for such precision.

So far, so “straight”forward; now it gets more complicated. As I’ve explained many times before, longer barrels tend to require bigger flights to stabilise them. For a lower standard player with a slightly erratic throw even Big Wing flights may not be enough to ensure straight-as-an-arrow flight and for them fatter, shorter, bullet-shaped darts can prove easier to control. Moreover, room in the treble 20 for three of them is liable to be less often an issue!

Meanwhile, as I’ve also explained before, for higher standard players with smoother throws there is a lower optimum level of stability. At board impact this can allow the dart to land flatter than the trajectory angle (a psychological aid to aiming) or help to minimise the deviation of the point caused by aerodynamic forces acting on the flights.
For the type of 50mm long barrels in the graphic, theory indicates this level of stability can be provided by larger flights such as those shown, whereas for shorter barrels such as John Lowe’s, smaller flights like the pear-shaped Xtras (or even the Sigma Pro prototypes) he actually used can do the job nicely.

Now for an interesting bit. The same theory also shows that, because of their higher inertia (to be scientific, moment thereof), longer barrels with larger flights will be less sensitive to minor changes in set-up than are smaller-flighted, shorter darts, even though the deviation causing aerodynamic forces they experience may be greater.

So, whilst lesser players may find straight, relatively long, barrels a bit hard to control in flight, better players, especially those with a faster tempo throw or more forward grip position, are quite likely to prefer them and find them relatively forgiving in terms of which shafts and flights (providing those aren’t too small!) give good results.

Nonetheless, for those whose grip and throw tempo suit bullet-shaped barrels and who are willing to work hard to identify exactly the right set-up for them (this is where Sigma darts and UniLab are designed to help), the fact that they work with smaller flights can give an aerodynamic advantage. Not much in terms of millimetres, maybe, but, as the guys whose darts are shown in the graphic will doubtless tell you, becoming World Champ can depend on “not much in terms of millimetres”.

If you have any comments or questions for UniBoffin, please do so through the website link below.

There are 6 comments to this post

Posted by Glen Huff at 01:02 on 18th October 2016

Dear Mr. UniBoffin,

Thank you so much for an interesting and fascinating article yet again. I really do enjoy your articles, and I find them always worthwhile reading. I've been fascinated by the differences in equipment top players use, and your article helps explain some reasons why top pros often use longer even weighted barrels.

Speaking as a pub level player with only ever 1 180 in all my years of playing, my own preferred shape of barrel does tend to be a front weighted barrel such as the Gripper II 22 gram dart, or the 27 gram Striker barrels, or a torpedo shape like Cliff Lazarenko's old dart. Being front weighted or being able to adjust the weight as with Sigma Ultracore I find the weight at the front easier for me to throw.

Thanks as always for an excellent read - keep up the great work !!


Posted by Warren at 00:10 on 16th November 2016

Hi UniBoffin.. very interesting this one. Im sure you have access to Jeremy's plans of my darts.. I would like to hear your thoughts on those (Still hoping to get them in 90% though)

Stay well friend

Posted by Mr.K at 23:53 on 24th November 2016

Been watching Gary Anderson play lately on TV and he has his glasses on. His new darts are shorter (to accommodate his glasses) and looks wider.
Are they still 23g? Care to share the dimension (length and diameter) of the new darts? I am curious because i often hit my glasses when I draw back my darts.

Posted by Kevin at 22:27 on 27th November 2016

I think this explains my quest for a "longer" bullet shaped dart. The ability to throw with my rear grip against an upslope. I guess a straight barrel with a tapper at the back would be the same, like a Beaton shape. But I do like a tapper at the nose end for close groupings.

This was a good read, thanks.

Posted by The UniBoffin at 17:12 on 21st December 2016

Dear Glen, Warren, Mr K, and Kevin,

Firstly, gentlemen, apologies for the delay in responding to your posts, which unfortunately I've only just seen. Many thanks for your kind words and your continued interest in these blogs.

I'm consulting with Unicorn to try and answer the questions about Warren's and Gary Anderson's darts - watch this space (or possibly my next blog) for the answers!

In the meantime, Best Wishes to you all and hope you have a great festive season.

The UniBoffin

Posted by Warre at 10:13 on 29th December 2016

Dear Uniboffin

Belated Seasons greetings to you and everyone there at the UniCave from Diana and I

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