How We Made Lawn Darts Safe
The classic backyard game of lawn darts has seen its fair share of ups-and-downs over the years. The popular garden game has been enjoyed by countless families since its inception in the 1950s. In more recent times however, the game has suffered negative press and gained notoriety as one of the more dangerous backyard pursuits.
A chequered past
Early lawn dart game sets featured darts with heavy metal pointed tips, which enabled them to penetrate and stick upright in the ground. A lack of clear safety instruction from manufacturers at the time, coupled with numerous accidents and injuries (many involving children), caught the attention of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, who saw fit to ban the sale of lawn darts. Under pressure from manufacturers, the ban was overturned in 1970, on the condition that products no longer be marketed as toys.
The game of lawn darts reached the peak of its popularity in the 1970s and 80s, and became a backyard fixture at summer BBQ’s and garden parties. That was until a fateful day in 1987, when a young girl was tragically killed by a dart thrown over a garden fence by a friend of her brother. The girl’s father successfully campaigned to have the ban on sales of complete lawn darts reinstated by the CPSC in 1988 – a ban which remains in place today.
Despite legislation against the sale of traditional complete lawn darts being in place, the sale of replacement and spare parts remains entirely legal, and many adults around the world continue to enjoy lawn darts responsibly – some competing in annual tournaments and local events, and others playing simply to scratch a nostalgic itch.
Designing to preserve the game
Here at Crown Darts, the safety of our equipment and of those who choose to play the classic garden game is our top priority. Back in the year 2000, we began to investigate how we could make the game safer, without impacting a players’ enjoyment and experience of this timeless hobby.
The first thing we looked to address was the weight of the brass bodies themselves. The popular conception was that these needed to be as heavy as possible, to drive the dart into the turf and ensure it stands upright in the ground. Typical metal bodies could weigh as much as 250g. We produced a variation of differently weighted bodies, and tested them at both different throwing distances and ground firmness. Eventually, we hit upon a sweet-spot. We found that brass bodies and tip assemblies weighing roughly 150g provided the lightest weight to ground penetration ratio whilst still being effective in range of ground conditions. We asked the question, should we attempt to match the performance of existing lawn dart brands in a wide range of ground conditions, and inherit the same potential dangers of injury, or design for a well-tended lawn and reduce the potential risk of injury. For the sake of watering the lawn in dry weather, or preparing the area around the target to be easily penetrable far – the decision was an easy one.
Next, and most crucially, we looked to address the pointed metal tips. Traditionally, tips were sharply pointed to maximise the depth to which they would penetrate the ground. We set about producing a range of metal tips, varying both the circumference, and type of point used – blunt, rounded or squared-off. What followed was a painstaking two-weeks of testing, which included, most memorably, throwing countless darts into 5lbs of raw British beef steak from a distance of 12 metres – designed to simulate the effect of a lawn dart impacting human flesh. Our calculations determined that steel tips which are squared-off at the end, and 8mm in diameter provide the best protection against significant injury and are unlikely to pierce human skin.
But for us, that wasn’t enough. Even a squared-off tip could cause injury if thrown at sufficient velocity. So next, we added a small impact dampener within the brass body itself, to provide a cushioning effect upon impact.
When we benchmarked the newly designed Crown Darts against the most popular and well-established brands from the 1970’s and 1980’s, we found that the weight, momentum and impact pressure acted upon the new flat tips were 10 times less per square mm surface area than the original brand designs
Just as important as the safety of the darts themselves, is the safety and security of how lawn darts equipment is shipped and stored. We ship all our lawn darts and crown darts sets complete with everything you need to play the original game – unassembled as separate components and securely packaged in a polypropylene correx display box. Tips and brass bodies are wrapped in bubble-wrap and taped securely against the wall of the display box, so they don’t move around in transit.
A safer game to enjoy
All of these enhancements have helped to make lawn darts equipment safer than ever before, whilst still retaining the integrity and traditional elements of the classic lawn darts game that people love. We encourage you to enjoy lawn darts responsibly, and play the game in the friendly, competitive spirit in which the game was founded.