When you are first starting out in the game of darts it’s very unlikely that you will be a heavy scoring or consistent thrower, therefore it’s important to make every dart count. One of the most common ways to lower your 3 dart average is to suffer from bounce outs.
Why do darts bounce out? Darts can bounce out for a number of reasons, some of which include; having blunt darts, a dartboard that is too hard or dry, there isn’t enough force in your throw and finally you can have collisions with other darts already in the board.
Darts is a game where every single dart counts and it can be the difference between getting a shot at the double or losing the game, therefore it’s essential that you minimize bounce outs at all costs.
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Over time the points of your darts will start to blunt due to the repeated force of hitting the board much in the same way that a chef knife will blunt over time after repeated cutting.
Blunt darts are the number one cause of bounce out for most people. If you are a beginner then it might not even occur to you that a dart can blunt and even the more advanced player can forget to keep their darts sharp over time.
Fortunately a blunt point is easy to rectify and there are a few measures that you can take to keep your point sharp.
**Note that this section only relates to steel tip darts.
Point Sharpness Test for Blunt Darts
There are two ways to check for a blunt point on your darts and both are very basic if I’m being honest.
The first is the eyesight test. Much like you can physically see the difference between a sharp pencil and a blunt one a dart will have a similar visual queue. If the point looks rounded on top, even slightly, then you need to sharpen the dart.
The other test is the touch test. If the point looks rounded then run your finger over the top of the point, if it feels smooth and rounded to the touch then it is considered blunt and you will be reducing the percentage of your dart staying in the board as a result.
Caution – run your finger over the point very lightly as even a blunt dart can be sharp in comparison to most objects so handle with caution and care. If you are not confident or safely testing it by touch then use the eye test only.
A burred point on a dart is where it’s made contact with either the wires on the board or with the floor after a bounce out. A burr is similar to a blunt dart but you will notice that the point will have jagged edges and feel rough to the touch.
A burr is much worse for board health than a blunt point or one that is too sharp (yes, if the point of your dart feels sharp enough to prick your skin then this will be damaging to your board!). A burr can flatten and separate the fibers of a dartboard creating holes and can even pull the fibers out when removing your darts.
Therefore it’s essential that you test and examine your darts whenever a bounce out occurs to ensure that it has not burred, if it has then take immediate action to sharpen it.
How to Sharpen a Dart Point
Your first action when faced with a blunt or burred dart should be to sharpen it. A steel tip dart is of course a very hard material and therefore a specialist tool is required for sharpening.
Fortunately these tools are very cheap, effective and widely available both online and in sporting goods retailers.
The cheapest option you can use what is known as a sharpening stone, this can come either flat or as a v-shaped groove. The price will then go up slightly depending on the shape and design of the stone, an example of one is shaped like a pencil sharpener with the stone in side, you just place your dart point first inside it and rotate the dart to smooth out any burrs.
These are very cheap options that will come in under £5 and you can even get some that are very convenient like a key ring model for example.
If you really want an easy method when it comes to sharpening your point then you can buy a motorized dart point sharpener. This is a new model developed by Red Dragon Darts
How to Sharpen a Dart With a Sharpening Stone
To sharpen your point with a sharpening stone you need to spin the dart as you arc the point up and down the stone (imagine a sawing motion but a lot more intricate). The reason you want to do this is so that you can remove any burrs from the tip of the dart.
Do not do this motion with too much force or aggression as you will end up sharpening it to a fine point and lose the tapered effect of the point which is essential for dart health and to avoid bounce outs.
Repoint Your Dart
Over time (depending on how frequently you play/practice) your dart points will start to wear down and it will come to a situation where a sharpening stone will no longer be enough for maintenance.
Usually this will be when the dart point either becomes too short for you to grip or when bounce outs are becoming too frequent.
Your alternative for this is to either get a new set of darts or replace the point. Replacing your darts may seem like a drastic option however you’d need to factor in the cost of replacing the point and this will therefore depend on how much your darts are worth.
To replace a point you can either buy a point replacing tool (this is an expensive one off purchase but will then provide lifetime value) or you can send it in to a dart supplier/manufacturer who will do it for a small fee.
There is always the option to do it yourself if you have appropriate DIY tools like a vice but this carries a high risk of damaging your darts so in my opinion is just not worth the effort or potential cost.
If you need to replace your points for the first time then you are best using a repointing service to save you any hassle. The more frequently you play however then the more viable it would be to get yourself a repointing tool.
Dartboard Wires Are Flat
This is a topic that you need to keep in mind when first purchasing a dartboard or when considering purchasing a new one. Over the years darts technology has improved significantly and much like in the 100m sprint the margins at the top are incredibly fine the same is now true it darts.
Power scoring has before the norm and gone are the days of fat barrel darts (for the majority of people), everyone is now looking for the most efficient and streamlined dart kit in order to up their averages and the dartboard is no different.
A cheap dartboard will often come with flat wires that have a wider surface area meaning you are more likely to face bounce outs then you would with a top end dartboard. You might not think it makes much difference for a practice board but bounce outs will significantly affect your dart throw, especially as a beginner.
When first learning the game as soon as my darts bounce out in the first or second dart then the first thing I do is automatically look down to see where the dart goes. This simple action breaks your focus from your throw and will negatively impact the rhythm for the rest of your throw.
Therefore even when practising it’s important to minimize bounce outs and a board like the Winmau diamond series which uses a triangular wire system will help to prevent this.
Not Enough Force in Your Throw
Another common reason for dart bounce outs is a lack of force in your throw. A dart throw requires force and trajectory and a simple way to evidence this is to throw a dart at the board from regulation distance, take three steps backwards and throw again.
You’ll notice that you need to adjust your throw and might need some shoulder input in order to generate enough force to get the dart to reach the board. Dartboard height, throwing distance regulations and even the dart design itself have all been adjusted over the years to create a universal throwing distance.
Therefore one reason why you darts might keep bouncing out (or failing to stay in the board to be more precise) is that you either don’t have enough force behind your throw or you are using a dart that is too light for your throw style.
If you like to ‘float’ your darts into the board or use a technique that doesn’t involve a full drawback of the forearm/wrist then the force you produce will be a lot lower. I’m not saying this is an incorrect technique however a throw style like this will mean that your darts don’t penetrate the board as deeply.
Combining this with a light dart <17g will make it more likely that you have darts drop out of the board or are more likely to be knocked out by a collision due to close grouping.
It’s hard to adjust your technique and it’s highly unlikely that you would need to resort to this extreme but if you are having a problem keeping three darts in the board during a throw then increasing the weight of your dart could be an easy adjustment to make.
Collision With Other Darts
The final issue with dart bounce outs is collision with darts already in the board. As a beginner it’s highly unlikely that you will experience this too often because you’d need to be grouping your darts with a high level of accuracy for this to occur on a regular basis.
Once you are grouping your darts with a degree of accuracy and consistently getting your darts into the treble bed or landing them on the wire then collision will become much more likely.
The size of your darts will also factor into this, if you have a streamlined and slim dart then you will still have plenty of room in the bed after getting a single dart in however if you have a larger, top heavy dart then the room will be significantly reduced for a second dart once you get your first dart in.
Other factors will also make a collision more likely including flat ended stems, obtruding barrels (particularly around the point) or blunt points which we’ve already covered. In order to reduce collisions and ultimately bounce outs it’s a good idea to start looking at ways to make your darts more streamlined.
Grouping is a good thing and essential if you want to become a good dart player and therefore you should look to streamline your darts as best you can and reduce the amount of contact points from the tip of your point right the way through to your flight.
If you look at my starter dart set you’ll see that the barrel is rounded and has a large surface area which makes a collision much more likely, my recent set however has a streamlined connection between the point and barrel which means a reduced point of contact.
You can also look at finding streamlined stems as there is even a new model out which has the flight pre-built into the stem meaning you will have completely removed one potential contact point. These are not drastic changes but small ones that will reduce bounce outs and ultimately improve your three dart average and help you win more games.
As you can see there are numerous reasons for bounce outs in darts and each time a dart bounces out you will either miss out on a score or even worse, a checkout opportunity.
While some of these might be unavoidable (the game board you use) have a point that isn’t blunt or burred, a streamlined dart that takes up minimal space in a bed whilst also having reduced contact points will go a long way to reducing bounce outs and improving your 3-dart average.