If you’ve watched professional darts, you’ll be familiar with the traditional and commonly used steel-tip dart. These are the darts of choice for the modern game, league/tournaments worldwide have used steel-tip as a base requirement over the years.
In the early 2000s though, the soft-tip dart which was typically seen as a kids toy rapidly made its way into mainstream darts and is now just as popular as the steel-tip variation (even more popular in the USA and Japan!)
There is now a genuine split between which type of dart is best and it’s sparked a debate of steel tip vs soft tip darts. Therefore, in this article, we’ll cover what the difference is between the two types of darts and if one is actually better than the other (because we all secretly think steel tip is best!).
Why Are There Two Different Dart Tips?
If you’re new to darts, you might be clueless as to why different dart tips exist and what’s the difference between them. Dart players either use a set of steel tips or soft tip darts for various reasons. Your dartboard material will probably affect your dart tip choice as well.
Most soft-tip players use this type of dart to avoid accidents. Darts are not unsafe but can cause an accident or injury, especially in homes with young children. They can also cause damage to walls, floors, and other household belongings due to bounce-outs which is why soft tip darts are considered a safer option.
Besides, softer tips can be used to prolong the life of a softer dartboard made with plastic and cork paper. However, most players use steel-tip darts due to durability and reduced bounce outs.
The closest thing in a traditional darts game has a metal-tip tool to throw in. Darts were invented as a military pass time, and players use real weapons in these games. Additionally, most professional leagues use steel-type darts, especially those televised ones. When you think of darts, you will likely think about metal-tipped darts.
One of the reasons why most pros and experienced players use steel-tip darts is the heavier weight. An average steel-tip dart usually weighs between 20 to 30 grams. Steel-tip darts are heavier, make it easier to throw, and give precise throws. Since steel-tip darts are heavier, it adds a bit of downward trajectory, making your aim closer to where you aim.
Besides, steel tip darts consist of metal alloys like tungsten. Metal materials have a higher resistance to wear and tear, making them an excellent material for longevity. This is a better option for people who want to make the most out of their money. It is also better for long-term practising since you’re making more consistent throws.
Another thing to consider is bounce-outs. Steel-tip darts tend to work with sisal and wood because they can penetrate the board a bit better. Reduced bounce out occurs because the metal sticks better, which is great if you’re a type of player prone to making groupings.
If you’re planning to join the professional darts scene, proficiency in using steel tip darts is required. There are old-school dart players, specially hardened veterans, which might not take you seriously if you play soft tip darts.
Steel Tip Darts Pros
- More weight
- It sticks better on any dartboard
- The preferred choice for pros
- Also great for beginners and casual players
Steel Tip Darts Cons
- Needs sisal or wood boards
- More expensive
- Lower darts average
- Needs wall protector
Soft Tip Darts
Soft tip darts, on the other hand, are a fairly new type of dart set made with lighter materials such as plastic. This set is made in such a method because of one main reason: increasing safety. Due to its lightness, the heaviest soft tip dart you can find in the market is 18 grams.
That’s only 2 grams short of reaching the lightest steel tip dart weight of 20 grams (though players do use steel-tip darts weight between 12g – 20g, it’s just less commonly used).
Due to their lightness, soft tip darts are generally safer for beginners, kids, and players with pets. The softer tip creates lesser impact, which greatly minimizes the possibility of players sustaining injuries.
A lighter dart is also used to achieve lesser accidental damage in a structure. This is to avoid any holes that might appear when someone misses the board. Hence, most soft tip darts usually don’t require wall protectors.
With that said, the board requirement is also a bit low.
While the steel tip dart set only works well on sturdy and heavy-duty boards, its soft tip counterpart can work on any dartboard. It won’t break cheaper alternatives like paper, plastic, and cork boards because the tip does less damage. There is also another option called the modern soft-tip dartboard, which can handle up to 18-gram darts.
What makes soft tip darts popular in the past few years is their convenience in electronic dartboards. Since online dart tournaments and games had become popular recently, more dart players see this as an alternative for the live event. The majority of these electronic boards use partner apps that give automatic camera setup and scoring systems.
Soft Tip Darts Pros
- Safer and cheaper
- Easier to learn for beginners
- Best for home and casual plays
- Great if you’re into electronic darts
- Minimize damages on structures
- It can be used on more inexpensive boards
Soft Tip Darts Cons
- Needs sisal or wood boards
- More expensive
- Lower darts average
- Not durable
What Is the Difference Between Steel Tip and Soft Tip Darts
The difference between steel tip and soft tip darts is the material of the dart tip. Steel tip darts are made from steel and can be used on bristle dartboards whereas soft tip darts are made with a flexible plastic tip and can only be used on dedicated plastic dart boards which hold the soft tip dart.
Steel Tip vs Soft Tip Darts
It really depends on your preference, playstyle, and space availability. Some players even use both darts, changing into the other when the situation calls for it. However, note that changing your dart will often be more harmful than helpful in the long run. You need to choose a dart tip that will work the best for you.
People who usually play on the standard sisal board use steel tip dartboards exclusively. These players are often more serious in playing competitively and will often practice daily to perfect their aims. A steel tip dart is also better if you play in an official setup (for example, you joined a darts club.) This is also the better option if you’re planning to participate in local leagues.
The soft tip dart set is for people who are just casual players and like to play with their friends. It’s also better for kids and beginners, who might or might not have a messy throw. Also, note that this type of tip will work on cheaper boards, even on paper.
What About Convertible Darts?
Convertible darts serve as the middle ground. This type of dart set is a steel tip dart with a tungsten soft tip dart component. It has a basic metal component (usually tungsten) in which you can attach either a soft tip or a steel tip. It is primarily designed for soft tip users who might have to play on sisal boards occasionally.
Although it seems like a good idea, do note that it doesn’t have an anti-bounce-out mechanism due to its design. And since it has a soft tip dart base, your maximum weight limit is 18 grams. The majority of the players either have a soft tip or steel tip dart set. But in case you need to play with friends on the other camp, the convertible darts are a good solution.
When it comes to the debate of steel tip vs soft tip darts, there is no clear winner. Steel tip darts are most common in the professional game though they are also the dart more favored by a “serious” darter. Soft tip darts on the other hand have boomed in popularity due to lending themselves more to a casual player and due to their compatibility with electronic dartboards.
There is no better or best option of the two though. Both types of dart are made the same and the only variation is the tip which is a relatively minor modification. Therefore, the type of dart you select should be based on your geographical location, local leagues available and general preference.