Blow Darts


Right on Target

Darts has become a sport of the ’90s. Leagues are developing all over the continent. Traditionally, the sport of darts excluded individuals with limited upper extremity strength, coordination or physical function. If you could not throw the dart, you could not participate.

Courage Center in Golden Valley, Minnesota has developed the solution: the blow gun. “Blow darts” were first reported in the October 1987 issue of “Paraplegia News.” The article described target shooting with a blow gun using Velcro-tipped darts and a Velcro board. But Courage Center has determined a way to combine equipment that will allow blow darts to be used with a traditional dart board, permitting people with limited physical ability to play darts in leagues, bars or friends’ homes.

The innovative solution involves combining a blow gun, a blow gun dart, and a soft-tip dart. It allows someone with a physical disability to participate in this popular sport with the option of electronic dart boards or traditional boards.

This type of equipment is typically marketed to the hunter. Blow guns are inexpensive and available from most sporting goods stores that sell archery equipment. (The most popular blow gun at our centre is purchased at Cajun Archery, Route 4, Box 88, New Iberia, LA, 70560, U.S.A.). A blow gun together with 12 darts will cost $25 to $48 Cdn.

Soft-tip darts and recreational boards can be obtained from Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Targets, or similar department stores. The recreational board and six soft-tip darts will cost about $20 Cdn.

Starting with the six soft-tip darts that came with the recreational soft-tip dart board, unscrew the plastic shaft of each dart from the barrel that connects it with the shaft of its soft tip. You will not need the plastic shafts. Take the soft tip that is still screwed into the barrel and drill a hole in the centre.

Now attach the metal dart to the plastic flight of each dart that came with the blow gun. You now have a dart that can be used with traditional dart boards. (Do NOT use this modified dart with electronic dart boards.)

To revise this blow dart to be suitable for use with electronic dart boards, stick the pointed sharp end of the blow dart through the barrel of the recreational dart and into the hole you drilled into the soft tip. The barrel is needed to provide the proper weight necessary to permit the dart to stick into the electronic board. Without the barrel weight, the dart is too flexible, and will not stick into the board but will ricochet.

If you do not have the coordination, strength or function to hold the blow gun, you might consider an innovative device that is commercially available called the “third hand” (available from Town & Country General Store, Suite 200, 8131 Pennsylvania Circle, Bloomington, MN, 55438 (612) 941-9073). The “third hand” has two clamps, one at each end, that are attached to a section of microphone-type goose neck. This allows the blow gun to be clamped at one end while the other end of the “third hand” can be clamped onto a table, chair or armrest of a wheelchair.

A plastic straw is an aid that will help if you have difficulty sealing your lips around the blow gun tube. Insert the plastic straw into one end of the blow gun tube. Insert the dart at the opposite end and inhale to suck the dart up to the front end of the blow gun tube. Then blow out the straw.

“Shoot shelves” can be built to allow anyone with severe spasticity to participate. The shelf will hold the blow gun and provide stability. The blow gun can be rested on the shelf, using sand bags underneath and on top of the blow gun tube.

Darts is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. It has the same safeguards as any target sport — the blow gun with the soft tip inserted is no more dangerous than the soft-tip dart thrown.

Blow darts contributes to the improvement of respiratory functioning. It can improve your coordination of breathing and increase your oxygen intake. Undoubtedly, blow darts will become popular with all kinds of recreational and therapeutic applications.

(Lyn Rourke is a therapeutic recreation specialist with the Courage Center, Program Services Department, 3915 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley, MN, 55422, U.S.A. She can be reached at (612) 520-0476.)


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