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Anyone who plays with airguns long enough will come accross a packet of airgun darts, like those pictured here. With a hard alloy barrel and point, and a feathered tail, these certainly look wicked enough, but they’d obviously wreck the barrel of any quality air rifle they were fired through. So what are they for?


Interestingly, darts have a long history in airgunning. Back in the 18th and 19th century, smoothbore target air rifles were designed to fire darts, not pellets, and over indoor distances these guns were exceptionally accurate. Darts were handmade (of course), and the tails were tuned by plucking out fibers to adjust the flight.

Modern darts are also intended for smoothbore guns, of which there aren’t very many, aside from BB guns, most of which don’t allow anything as long as a .177 caliber dart to be inserted. But there is one classic air gun specifically designed for darts- the GAT.

Most American airgunners have never seen a GAT, but for the British shooter, the GAT was typically the very first airgun they ever fired. The mechanism, which involves a telescoping barrel that had to be pushed in to cock, is not terribly efficient, and produces perhaps a foot-pound or two of muzzle energy.GAT pistol
Of course, these were designed for young shooters, and the lack of energy means that the guns are relatively easy to cock, and at the same time not capable of too much damage. If you look at the pictured gun, you see it actually comes with three types ammunition: Darts, pellets, and corks. The muzzle has a large recess into which a cork can be inserted for early training. A GAT shooter could then start with corks, and after having demonstrated sufficient maturity and judgment, be moved up to darts and pellets. The pellets were used for general paper punching and plinking, and the dart, of course, for darts. They could be fired at a traditional English dart board without damaging it, given  the GAT’s low muzzle energy.

marksman pistolThere’s another modern pistol designed to fire darts- the classic Marksman BB pistol. This unique gun can actually fire 18 BBs from a resevoir, or load pellets and darts singly by tilting up the stub barrel. This gun was a great favorite of mine when I was young, as it had the size and heft of a real .45, a slide that pulled back to cock it, and a satisfying “chunk” when fired.  Used with darts, it makes a fine indoor pistol, just like the GAT.

Marksman makes traditional airgun darts, as well as a complete set, with pistol, darts and dart board. The last time I looked, Compesseco had these sets for under $17- certainly one of the great airgunning bargains today, and a fine training gun for youngsters (under supervision).

Marks also makes a curious dart they call a “bolt”-  it’s a dart with a metal head, but a plastic tail and a plastic body that’s designed to engagethe rifling, protetcing it from the metal head. I’m not sure why you’d fire one of these in a modern, high-powered gun with a rifled barrel, as they wouldn’t be terribly useful for hunting, target, or plinking, and I’d still be worried about damage to the rifling.

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