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What are "soft-tip" darts?

What are "soft-tip" darts?

The term "soft-tip" applies to dart points which are made of plastic rather than steel. The term, however, takes on a larger scope than the name implies. In fact, since their advent in the early '80s soft-tip darts have redefined the way the sport is played.

I believe the plastic points were originally intended as a "safety" dart to replace those "nasty" steel points which someone obviously discovered can pierce flesh. The dartboards used are moulded in plastic and are full of holes to accommodate the darts. Each hole is bevelled to ease the darts' entry.

The big draw for soft-tip dart players are the electronic games. Since these are quite expensive to own, they are usually only found in bars and other venues where darts are played. The board is fixed to a large cabinet-like stand. To play a game, players insert a coin, usually 25 cents, into a coin slot and select one of several games to play including x01, cricket and baseball. Each playing wedge section, double, triple, bullseye and external non-scoring area contains an impact sensor which signals to the electronic system where the dart has landed. When darts enter the board the score is automatically totalled for the player rending math skills virtually unnecessary.

While steel tip darts have a maximum per dart weight set at 52 grams, their soft-tip cousins have a much lower maximum which is generally set at 16 or 18 grams. This limit is due to the fragility of the moulded plastic dartboard components and the impact sensors located therein.

Soft-tip leagues have become very popular in the United States. So much so that in some areas there are no steel tip leagues or venues to be found. Soft-tip darts are also becoming popular in Western Canada and Europe. Germany has a especially large soft-tip following. Because of the coin operation on the machines, soft-tip darts have quickly become a marketable asset to manufacturers and operators. Consequently there are several big-money tournaments drawing players from all over the world. It's interesting to note that the top steel tip players in the world, while professing to prefer the traditional game, have made the top soft-tip tournaments an annual stop in their tour.