A picture of a dart

Why this site?

About thirty years ago, my cousin and I were wandering around a parking lot in Bethesda, Maryland when we came under fire. Strange "plock" noises sounded around us, and we found funny little paper cones on the ground. Eventually we traced this phenomenon to a scraggly looking guy standing in back of a restaurant holding a four-foot piece of aluminum electrical conduit. He showed us both the secret of the rolled paper dart. I remember little of the actual encounter, except that he was not the kind of person I'd want my parents to know I'd met.

Of course, my cousin and I quickly went home and taught everyone we knew how to make and shoot paper darts. It was winter when we saw this nut, and the next week we had an all-night-and-most-of-next-day New Years eve party, much of which we spent playing with paper and conduit. Around 2 am we had a war with some folks across the street, as they shot bottle rockets and we fired darts. Darts are both cheaper and more accurate than rockets, so we emerged victorious due to our higher volume of fire. We spread several magazines around the suburbs of Washington that night. By the time things broke up at around 11 new years day, most of us could reliably shoot a potato chip out of someone's hand from across a room.

Soon we found that 1/2 inch (12 mm) Copper tubing makes a superior tube for shooting darts. I have since acted as the lunatic in the parking lot for a lot of folks. Just watching one vertical shot of 80+ feet convinces any kid between the ages of 12 and 19 that this is the k00lest thing on the face of the earth. Lots of kids older than that are fascinated too.

In 1977, when I was in college, I managed to sit down and write a careful article on how to make and shoot paper darts. Some friends graciously helped me make a sheet of color slides to go with it, and I sold the package to Mother Earth News for $150. Alas, I don't think they ever published it. This website, then, is my second shot at the paper dart problem.

In all the time I've been making and shooting these things, I have met nobody who has seen this folk technology before. My extensive searches show only tiny signs of it on the internet -- a hint of something similar here and there, buried deep in someone's personal diary pages. The guy in the parking lot never resurfaced. Did he learn it from someone like me? Was he smart enough to come up with it on his own? Surely some Anthropology grad student's PHD is waiting to be written here.

Important Update!

Looks like paper darts originated in the Netherlands! You can check Links and Badges to see the wikipedia article on paper darts (in Dutch). Who knew?

So sign my guest book and tell me of your adventures. If you've seen this before, I'd love to hear about it. I promise to publish any interesting stuff I find. Contact me at dartroller@mad.scientist.com.

Dart Main
Copyright Charles Shapiro July 2001
Last modified 7 Mar 2007