Steel tip darts are mostly used with bristle dart boards. The points are very sharp and made of steel, designed to stick fast in between the sisal fibers. The rest of the dart is made from brass, nickel-silver, tungsten, and/or copper and has as many as five completely separate removable parts. Darts can can be fine-tuned to your playing style and come in different standard weights.
Soft tip darts are generally used with electronic boards. The primary difference is in the soft, flexible plastic tip, but the rest of the darts can be as complex and customizable as steel tip models. The weight of soft-tip darts is often distributed differently, but you'll find many of the same designs and materials.
Convertible darts have removable tips and versatile designs that allow them to be used for either board type.
Metals very greatly in density and weight, so some are more valued than others in dart construction. Lower-priced darts are made from brass and copy, which are only medium-dense. That means the dart must be longer to achieve proper weight. The most popular high-end metal for darts is tungsten, which is very dense and allows for the build of short, slim barrels and shafts.
To the occasional player, dart weight probably makes no difference. Many serious players prefer specific dart weights that feel most comfortable when they throw. Some dart players will even buy kits to add a gram or two to their favorite darts. Generally, soft tip darts range from 14 to 20 grams, and steel tip darts range from 18 to 26 grams.
The purpose of a dart flight is to provide drag (not lift); it keeps the tail tracking the point and works against gravity in flight. Smooth, ribbed, dimpled or otherwise, they all do the same thing with slight variations. Try throwing a dart without them and you'll understand better. Heavier darts usually need larger surface area flights, commonly known as "standards." Lighter darts with less mass can be thrown with smaller area flights, commonly known as coal-crackers or "speed flights." Speed flights have smaller wings, which can help promote tighter groupings and decrease the chances of another dart striking the previous simply by the fact that there is less surface area to hit.
A spinning shaft turns freely, reducing deflections when other darts land close by. Instead of a collision of flights and a bounce-out, the landed dart spins and allows the thrown dart to land. Some players complain that spinning shafts can be too loose or can rattle when thrown. Magnetic spinners generally solve this problem.
When a dart strikes the spider wire on a bristle board, the point of the dart retracts into the dart body. This allows the point to slip off the wire while the forward motion of the dart body hammers the point into the target, virtually eliminating bounce outs.
Only if you're using steel tip darts. These handy little tools help you tighten tips and metal shafts, spread metal shafts for easy insertion of flights, and reshape metal shafts. Many also include a convenient key ring.
The knurl is essentially the engraved pattern or grip on the barrel of a dart, and it's one of the most important features of a dart. With the best grip, you'll get three things: control, consistency and accuracy. Darts come in a wide variety of knurls; you'll have to discover which is best for you.