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How Shot Darts are darting ahead

New Zealand company Shot Darts has been a permanent fixture on the world darts stage for almost 50 years. How do they do it, and what’s the secret to their success?

Managing Director Peter McCormick says it’s their focus on doing things better, pushing boundaries and, perhaps most importantly, their passion.

Their story begins almost 50 years ago in Katikati, New Zealand, with the establishment of Puma Dart Products. McCormick’s father John set-out to make darts more accurate, accessible and fun.

It was a notion that appealed to darts players and the successes came thick and fast. The company was responsible for the world’s first bladed dart board – The Bandit – which is officially recognised for tournament and competition play by the World Dart Federation.

In 2009, Puma Darts saw an opportunity to maximise its impact on the world stage with a high-quality, precision dart brand that would resonate with a global audience, and the Shot Darts brand was born.  

Shot Darts has since gone from strength to strength. Its reputation for contract design and manufacturing excellence is unparalleled, which has led to opportunities such as manufacturing dart ranges for current world number one Michael van Gerwen and World Youth Campion, German player Max Hopp, of whom Shot Darts also co-sponsors.  

Shot Darts has experienced 35% in sales growth in the European market this year. Due, in part, to the time spent in market last year conducting in-depth consumer research. This consumer research influenced the business’ new dart designs, which were showcased at the ISPO Munich Trade Show, where Shot Darts sold out of its initial stock of the Ronin range within an hour.

And while Shot Darts can lay claim to an impressive history, it’s also leading the way in creating an exciting future for darts.

Making the world’s best darts

Today, much of the team’s effort goes into creating the perfect dart and, as Mr McCormick says, “darts are a very personal thing, so we make a lot of perfect darts.”

The production and design team has more than 150 years’ combined experience. Several of the staff have been with the company for between 20 and 30 years, something McCormick says speaks to the pride the team takes in their work.

“You’ve got to be proud of what you’re doing to stay with a company that long, and everyone here takes immense pride in their part of the process.”

Each dart from the higher end Tungsten ranges is designed, sampled and manufactured in-house. Original concepts are hand-drawn and then transferred to CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. The software identifies the cuts and grooves to be applied to the dart and determines the weight, balance point, length and tungsten percentage.

Tungsten is used in darts production because of its high weight to volume ratio. It resists wear and allows barrels to be slimmer, for tighter groupings, while maintaining the weight of the dart. It has the highest melting point of all metals, is more resistant to fracturing than diamond and much harder than steel. It is often sintered together with other metals, such as iron and nickel but, simply put, the higher the percentage of tungsten, the better the dart.

Each dart starts in tungsten billet form, before being threaded and drilled, to ensure it’s the right length and weight. It’s then put through a CNC machine to profile cut the body.  This can take up to 10 minutes for a more complicated, higher end barrel - or half an hour per set.

From here, the barrel might be coated in either titanium nitrate or Shot’s own PCT coating, which determines its colour, re-machined for additional profiling, and then laser etched before being pointed and packed.

“Some of our more complex darts might go through eight or nine different processes,” says McCormick.

Given this attention to quality and detail, it’s unsurprising the company stands behind every tungsten dart with a lifetime barrel guarantee.

Each set is then hand packed with their distinctive flights, featuring stand out graphics that echo the story behind each dart. This represents the last quality control check before they end up in the hands of players. The barrels are match-weighted, by hand, and grouped to within +/-.05gm of the other barrels in the set. A small hand-written note identifying the weight is included in each set.

Pushing the boundaries and the future of darts

Staying at the top of the game requires more than luck.

The Shot Darts team collaborates with players and spends a lot of time in market at tournaments and trade shows to gather player insights and stay ahead of trends.  A recent visit to the factory by North American Champion Shot sponsored player Chris White led to the design and manufacture of his latest Great White Dart signature dart and conversion point.   

White says it was a great experience to be part of.

“The Shot Darts team’s innovative design process allowed me to have hands-on input and test the ideas I had to improve the dart’s performance characteristics. I’m using the dart, it’s improved my game, and other players I meet comment on its killer looks.”

Shot Darts’ focus on the future of the game is also evident through its ‘Young Guns’ sponsorship programme for talented players under the age of 18. This has so far included players from US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Hong Kong.

The company has recently been through a significant design revolution, inspired in part by their experience with the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Better by Design programme, which focuses on inspiring and enabling a customer-centric approach to market development. They also run an annual design challenge with New Zealand’s Massey Design School to develop original designs and new products for the darts market.

“With a sport so rich in tradition, we’ve got to look at how we can push the boundaries. Everything we’re bringing out has a point of difference,” McCormick says.

Shot Darts’ latest range, Ronin, which features three premium darts: the Ronin Yu, Rei and Makoto, is an example of balancing aesthetic appeal and enhanced performance with the timeless quality Shot Darts is famed for. It also showcases the company’s commitment to the philosophy that every dart has its own story.

McCormick says the Ronin is a range for the skilful dart player.

“Much like dart players, Ronin lived by a code of discipline known as the Bushido, which outlines eight virtues: Rectitude or Justice; Courage; Mercy; Politeness; Honesty and Sincerity; Honour; Loyalty; and Character or Self Control.  We see these virtues as having relevance on the oche and we’ve captured these values in our design.”

Particularly impressive is the Ronin range’s new dart grips. Ronin Yu features more than 400 multi-directional contact points across axial and radial cuts, creating a superior grip profile that takes flight on command, releasing smoothly for velocity and accuracy.

McCormick says darts is taking off around the world, as players from across generations and around the world discover, re-discover and embrace the game.

“We are at the fore of a bright future for darts, with endless possibility for innovation. We can’t be afraid to try something new. That’s where we’ll find the biggest success.” 

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