Unicorn Blogs

Quick Search Posts
Quick Browse Posts

Elbow Grease

Posted by UniBoffin at 23:38 on 18th January 2017 in UniBlog

Elbow Grease

A very warm welcome to my first UniBlog of 2017, I hope you had a great festive season! As usual mine, and perhaps yours, was made all the more enjoyable by the PDC World Champs being on telly. Many congrats to MvG on his thoroughly deserved second title and to The Flying Scotsman for following up successive victories with a third final. Several other members of Team Unicorn also performed very well, especially Barney, who hit the fourth highest World Champs average (109.34) in his semi only to be outdone by Mighty Mike’s record-breaking 114.05.

After such a mouth-watering entree, as I write I am in the midst of enjoying the follow-up course of the BDO Champs. I’ll re-visit this epistle before finally posting so I can report on the results at the end, but one encouraging aspect of the event that has stood out for me already are the signs of an increasing strength in depth of the women’s game. No longer is it just the very top female players who are capable of the high averages and the big finishes.

Which brings me, somewhat circuitously, to the main topic of this blog. If I had to offer just one piece of darts coaching advice to a novice player it would probably be “extend your hand toward the target on the follow-through”. Top players may exhibit a vast and varied array of grips and other aspects of throw technique, some even break the supposed golden rule of maintaining stillness and balance on the oche (the big Highlander John Henderson for one, perhaps invoking the spirit of the late, great, Jocky Wilson), but very few neglect to continue stretching out their arm long after the dart has left their hand.

Of course some players do this in a more extreme fashion than others, with variation even amongst multiple World Champions. Barney’s beautifully elegant, relaxed, throw ends with his arm extending almost lazily as it arcs slightly downward. In contrast his old adversary Phil Taylor shoots his arm out like a piston, dead straight.

However there is a player that it seems to me exaggerates this straightening even more than Phil, so much so, in fact, that his elbow almost seems to hyper-extend with each throw. Given the above image (from 2012), no prizes for guessing this player is none other than the new two-time World Champion, the Green Machine himself, Mr Michael van Gerwen.

Is it possible that it is some innate looseness and hypermobility in his elbow joint that has enabled MvG’s record-breakingly accurate throwing style? It’s an intriguing possibility, and there may even be some corroboration in that two other players with notable elbow looseness in their throw are those prolific 180-hitters Michael Smith and Adrian Lewis.

Whether or not that argument has merit, before you rush out to test the theory by buying that elbow grease your parents were always advising you to apply, let me first offer up another multiple World Champion whose follow-through is far less exaggerated than even Barney’s but hasn’t found that any bar to darting success. Lisa Ashton.

In my mind any technique that allows one to achieve a 98.84 average (as Lisa did on TV in 2015) isn’t to be lightly dismissed, which just shows that coaching standard technique is all very well, but one should always allow for exceptions. In my own mind I call this the “Peter Marshall Principle” - if you want to know why either check out my November 2013 UniBlog or ask another squash coach!

Well, that’s almost it for this time, but before I put this blog aside to wait for the BDO results, just a couple of left-over questions from last time. For Mr K, Unicorn tell me that Gary’s “glasses darts” are just his 23gm Phase 3 model, at 52.32mm long (and 6.35mm in diameter) indeed a little shorter than the 55.14mm Phase 4s which he used for a time. Lastly, apologies to Warren for the delay, but his dart design has now been located in the UniCave archives and I’ll be commenting on it in a follow-up post to this blog in due course.


OK, Stop Press; a couple of days have passed since that last para and the BDO results are in. Many congrats to Glen Durrant on his long-overdue first men’s title, and on the women’s side guess what? Yep, The Peter Marshall Principle strikes again, as did The Lancashire Rose (and in some style, albeit her very own). Well done Duzza and Lisa!

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

There are 5 comments to this post

Posted by The UniBoffin at 11:32 on 2nd February 2017

For Warren...

Finally checked out your dart design, Warren - sorry for the delay!

As you say, it works better in 90% alloy, if only because the max diameter of 7.87mm is better for grouping than the 8.51mm of the 80%. Apart from that, 80% or 90% versions both obviously meet your requirements on weight and length (circa 24gms with point and 43.51mm without) with a "bomb" shape to help your specific grip issues, although given those I wonder if the extensive grooving might irritate your finger slightly.

On the flight dynamics side, either version should prove to be an easy and forgiving throw - I'd maybe try pairing them with a medium Omega Carbon or Sigma CR shaft and Sigma One flight, although to be fair many set-ups should work OK with them.

Hope that's what you were looking for from me and that you're enjoying your darts - trying to find the right weapons can be a frustration, but also a good motivation to hit the board (albeit in both sense of the phrase!).

Best Wishes,

The UniBoffin

Posted by Steve_00 at 13:02 on 6th February 2017

I had this topic in mind a little while ago, as I was ruminating on the idea of a dart throwing machine...

I decided the simplest (possibly not the best) way to ensure an accurate release would be to have a 'stop' at the point of release. Do you think a full extension really necessary, or is it more of a mnemonic device to concentrate on a smooth acceleration and release?

Best regards,


Posted by The UniBoffin at 18:13 on 8th February 2017


That's a great question Steve! In a human the benefit of full arm extension long after the dart has been released is indeed pretty much a "mnemonic device" (as you put it) to aid throw linearity. Such linearity obviously helps to compensate for variations in release timing, although even partial extension could in theory achieve that (qv Lisa Ashton!). In practice for most of us, however, full extension offers a better aid to consistency.

In a dart launching machine the situation is somewhat different in that a linear action, with or without a sudden "stop" at release, could be engineered to be extremely accurate (see sniper rifles!). That said, most such machines that I know of (including those from Columbia, Munich, Weingarten, and Stellenbosch Universities) feature robot arms which rotate and actually "throw" (rather than just merely "launch") the dart. As I recall release is not linked to any sudden stopping of the rotating arm, which could anyway easily cause damage to it, but not sure quite how accurate are the results achieved.

Hope that aids your ruminations - should you decide to go ahead with producing a mechanical MvG yourself, good luck and I look forward to the video!

Best Wishes,

The UniBoffin

Posted by Glen R Huff at 07:23 on 6th March 2017

Dear Uniboffin, this is Glen Huff from Seattle. I really enjoy your posts, and please keep doing what you are doing. I enjoy reading your posts, and it's fascinating reading how and why darts are designed as they are.

I've been a Unicorn user, fan and collector for well over 30 years, and have been a fan of various Unicorn barrels over the years , Unicorn T80, the original Titanium Tungsten in 1988, Gripper II (22 gm) but I think the Unicorn Ultracore One darts are the best darts I've ever used. The ability to adjust weight and balance, whilst keeping the same outer barrel shape and grip is fantastic, and is a brilliant design. I've often liked a front weighted dart to in my case help the dart get to the board, being 5ft tall, hence my liking of the Gripper II barrel, but the Ultracore One dart provides me that option with a slimmer more parallel barrel which should benefit me as my grouping ability improves. I did pull the finger grip points from the nose collars, and repoint them with Unicorn's black coated standard points, as I prefer Unicorn's black coated standard points. They provide better grip in the board than the chrome points without wearing out the sisal. I've been experimenting between the weight configuratioins of the Ultracore One's .. debating between Tungsten, Polymer, Polymer, Tungsten, or Tungsten, Polymer, Tungsten, Polymer .. / It's fun to be able to try different combiations with the same barrel, and the darts have really helped my game. I'm using them with the short Sigma CR carbon stems , and my favorite John Lowe Golden Extra flights. Thanks to your efforts and the kind and good folks at Unicorn I've finally found the darts I've been looking for for over 30 years. Thank you, and thank you to the kind and good folks at Unicorn. Ultracore One are the best darts I've ever used. Trying to spread the word amongst my friends and teammates as I think this dart could work for a lot of folks not just me. Any chances of Ultracore One being offered with Titanium Coating, and with the Unicorn standard black finish points in the nose cones, or the nose cones offering the black Unicorn points? My Unitool pulled and replaced the points in a jiffy, but perhaps the Unicorn Standard black points might be good to offer in the nose cones ?

Love the Sigma CR carbon shafts. Straight, no warping, they hold flights well and are very durable thus far, and don't work loose whilst playing. Great item. //

Did have one item to menttion about Unicorn X flight system - Unicorn X flight system is a great Idea and I like it and did buy some of the all in one sets - long stem, flight body, and flight wing. It's a great idea and I like it, but in all of the stems I purchased the shafts were not straight, where the stem insertion holes were not centered. I have other variables in my own personal style, where that probably is not a big factor, but I hope that the long X flight clear stems I purchased were perhaps an anomaly, or an early production run.

I ***do*** like the idea of the Unicorn X flight system, and I would use it and promote it to my friends, as a lot of my friends use other spinning flight systems by other manufacturers, I think if the Unicorn X flights stems were straight, *and* if the injection holes in the shaft stem were centered and straight, the Unicorn X flight system would be the best of the spinning flight systems, as the Unicorn system is the only one I've seen where the wings of the flight can be separated and the flights stored flat in a conventional darts case. I really like that option, as I find some of the drop-in cases too bulky.

Thank you for reading my post, and I realize it was not on topic with the article, but I wanted to send my thoughts and feedback, and suggestions whilst they were fresher in my mind. Thank you to Unicorn for the fine products which you produce, and thank you to the Uniboffin for your interesting articles.

all best wishes,

Glen R Huff
Seattle, Wa, 98105

Posted by The UniBoffin at 11:40 on 10th March 2017

Dear Glen,

Glad you like the UltraCore Ones - so do I! So much so, in fact, that I persuaded new Q to let me plagiarise his idea in the Sigma version. I've passed on your requests for black points and a Ti coating for them, but no promises there.

I also agree about liking the X-flight system, which, by the way, I found worked especially well for me with my old Sigma 950 barrels. I do believe there were some issues with bent stems from early production runs which have hopefully now been sorted, but I have again passed your comments on to Unicorn.

Thanks once more for all your interest in Unicorn products in general and these blogs in particular!

Best Wishes,

The UniBoffin

Leave a comment
Please leave your details and message below.

Email (this will not be published)