This post is to share the knowledge I have collected over the years. I don't know what else to put in the intro, so I'll just get to the good shit...Foam/ FBR/ Foam Backer Rod/ Caulk SaverColorRecovery rate
You want a color that has a high contrast to the ground color where you play. I play in parks, which includes green grass. So I want foam that has a high contrast to green, such as red or white.
Having a color of foam that is unique to you will allow you to pick your darts out of the dart stash easier. Also, if someone has the same looking darts as you (foam, length, and tip style) but uses a different weight than you, you're likely to pick it up and shoot it back expecting it to fly like your darts. However, this will cause you to misjudge the angle of your blaster because every weight affects the dart's trajectory in a unique way. Knowing exactly what your dart will do when it leaves the barrel is very important for consistency and accuracy.Size
1/2"foam backer road is the most common, but anything will work as long as it fits your barrel and blasters. Many people use 1/2" PVC fittings, so 1/2" darts work well as far as barrel compatibility goes.
While 1/2” is considered a Micro Stefan, 5/8” is a Mega Stefan. These could fit in some stock blasters that are designed to work with mega darts. These darts typically do not fly as far or fast as micro darts, but can be a lot of fun.Density
The density of the foam is difficult to explain with words. There are typically two types of foam, dense and squishy.
Dense foam lasts a little longer than squishy foam. It also, won't deform as much if abused, such as being stepped on or handled roughly with the hands while loading. However, dense foam is not as accepting to different barrel types. It takes a bit longer to tune the barrel set-up to be perfect, because the foam will not deform much in the barrel and fit itself to the barrel.
Squishy foam, in some ways, is the opposite. Because it's squishy, it won't last quite as long because every force that is applied to it will affect the foam slightly. However, because it moves so easily, it will conform to pretty much any barrel you put it in, so they're much for flexible for temperature changes during wars or just using different barrels.
I like scavenging squishy foam at wars because I know it will work fairly well in my barrels. If you use squishy foam, and are used to its ability to conform in barrels, then scavenge dense foam at a war, it's unlikely the darts will fly well with your barrel set-up.
Dense = last longer
Squishy = more flexible barrel materialsBlank Length
The blank length obviously affects the dart length (blank length is the length of your dart minus the tip). There is not one “best” length to use for any application. This length comes down to personal preference and your play style. I'm making generalizations in this section, you may see different results with other techniques, foam, or barrel set-ups.
The accepted lengths of stefan darts vary from 1” - 2.5” inches. 1.25” - 1.5” is very common, because you get the “best” of both options.
The longer the dart, the more stable it is, to a point. A 2.5” stefan dart, with the same weight, tip, and foam, will fly much straighter and more predictable than a 1” dart. However, a 1” dart is much easier to load into a barrel/barrel system and you can fit many more stefans in the same sized magazine with shorter darts.
So there is a trade-off of capacity and dart stability. Cost of foam and air friction are also relevant factors, but I don't want to get into them :/
Long = stable
Short = capacityWeight
The purpose of the weight is to add stability to the dart in the air. The weight is added as far forward as possible in order to increase range and projectile stability. Generally speaking, the more weight the better range. I've used the analogy of throwing a foam ball with your arm. Then throwing a baseball. Then throwing a bowling ball. You'll most likely throw the baseball the furthest, because it's all about finding the weight that can fight through air resistance, but not be too much to overwhelm your power source.
Watch out adding too much weight, though. Generally, more weight = more pain when fired at a person. Most hosts set a limit on how much weight you can have in your darts because they don't want people getting hurt.
Recently, there has been a movement to find a new, safer weight for the front of darts. In my opinion, felt pads covering pretty much anything is safe enough. If you want to play it safe, just use stock darts. Or, you know, clean the sand out of your vagina. :)
Here are some common weights used in stefan darts. This is not a "full" list or every option, these are just some common ones.Washers
Washers were used in the original "Slug darts" posted by CaptainSlug on NerfHaven. Washers have the advantage of placing all of their mass in the very front of the dart. This helps the stability of the dart quite a bit. However, washer darts are probably the weakest darts as far as longevity goes. Because of the attachment style, these darts often fall apart after a few wars, which is frustrating.3/0 Fishing Weights
3/0 fishing weights are used my fisherman to make their hook drop in the water. I'm not a fisherman, but I have used these weights to make stefan darts. They are great because of their size/weight ratio. They are very easy to place in darts because they're fairly small, but they're still heavy which gives your blasters more range with these darts.
But watch out, these are often made of lead, which is poisonous. So if be sure to wash your hands after dart smithing and make sure to pick all of the darts up after use. You don't want the dart to degrade and have a bird or small child to find the lead ball.
Ball bearings are what I most recently used for my stefan darts. These are slightly easier to work with than 3/0 weights because of their nearly perfect shape. In their nature use, in bearings, it is imperative that these are perfectly round. This makes creating consistent stefans that much easier. Also, these aren't made of lead, which is a plus
I used 3/16" diameter ball bearings and was quite happy with the results. Their weight is roughly the same as a 3/0 weight, which is more than copper BB's and less than a 1/4" slingshot weight.1/4" Slingshot Weights
Ah, the infamous slingshot weight. These are often banned at wars because of their weight. They are quite heavy, which means the darts inflict more pain to people on impact. These weights are commonly used as slingshot ammo. They are typically fairly round, but often have a flat portion. Their shape makes them consistent when making darts, which is very important.
Although, the fact they are 1/4" in diameter poses problems. If you aren't accurate with your initial hole for the weight, the slingshot weight will be off center and may be pushed out of the foam if fired from a powerful blaster. This can be countered by just making sure the initial hole is centered, making the weight rest in the center of the foam.
I currently use slingshot weights in my stefans in order to achieve better ranges.Copper BB's
Copper BB's seem to be what most people start with, when making their first stefan darts. Copper BB's are meant to be used as ammo in BB guns. They are very small spheres, and typically quite consistent in shape. These weights are great for very lower powered blasters, but are too light for most primaries. However, some nerfers simply place two BB's into their initial dart hole to add more mass to their stefans. While this does work, it is very hard to make these consistently and this method often leads to terrible accuracy.
Because many other weight options must be purchased online, copper BB's are a great start if you've never made stefans. Though, if you're seeking maximum range out of your Nerf blasters, I would suggest finding another option.6mm Airsoft BB's
Airsoft BB's are commonly used by “teh noobs” in Nerf. Airsoft BB's are a terrible idea for stefan darts. They're plastic and have a very low weight, which is worse than copper BB's. I would highly suggest not using these at all.
Think mass, not shape. 6mm airsoft BB's are terrible, they're light and large.Tip
The tip of the dart is very important, but is also going to change quite a bit depending on where you're from. Hosts have different rules when it comes to tips, most of the time these rules are based around safety.
There are two common types of tips, hot glue and felt pads. There are more types coming out, but none that are a good alternative to these and that are widely used.Hot Glue Tip
Hot glue tips are simply a blob of hot glue on top of your weight. The purpose of the hot glue is to keep the weight inside the foam, and to absorb energy on impact. While hot glue is pretty hard when dry, it will still bend a bit on impact making it safer than a metal/other hard material tip.Pros of Hot Glue
- Cheaper than felt tips
- Faster to make than felt tips
- Hot glue can be found locally fairly easily
- Better aerodynamics = better rangeCons of Hot Glue:
- Banned many places
- Inflicts more pain on targetFelt Tips
I believe the idea of using felt tips was introduced by Captain Slug in his tutorial on how to make “Slug darts.” These darts were widely accepted because they can be more consistent than hot glue dome darts and inflict much less pain.
The consistency comes from taking out human error. There isn't a dome to be made by hand, just a tip to be attached. So, theoretically, you can make better, more consistent darts which would improve your accuracy. This accuracy really comes down to how straight you cut your foam though.
The reduced pain comes from the use of a felt tip and broadening the surface area of the dart's weight. The felt tip is much softer than a hot glue tip, so it doesn't hurt as much to get hit by a slug. This makes games more fun when there isn't fear of pain when rushing someone. I don't care how tough you are, taking a 1/4” slingshot weighted hot glue stefan to the face stings.Pros of Felt Tips:
- Allowed at more wars
- You can safely use a heavier weightCons of Felt Tips:
- Harder to find locally, most people order online
- More expensive
- Harder to make
- Slightly less durable
So I believe that wraps up my article. The goal of this article was to discuss the aspects of the stefan dart and share information I've learned over the years of playing with Nerf blasters. I reserve the right to amend this document as I see necessary if I learn new things in the future regarding these topics. Hopefully you learned something.
My dart testing data: http://www.coop772.com/articles/darttesting
CaptainSlug's “Slug dart” post: http://nerfhaven.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=22986
Ryan's overall stefan post: http://nerfhaven.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=23034
NerfHaven's dart directory: http://nerfhaven.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4646Materials Mentioned:
McMaster felt pads: http://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/118/3762/=joq5vz
#6 washers: http://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/118/3218/=joq6ae
#8 washers: http://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/118/3218/=joq676
Slingshot weights: http://www.amazon.com/Marksman-MS3100-Steel-Shot-250ct/dp/B000Q9F2U8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1350038960&sr=8-3&keywords=1%2F4+slingshot
Copper BB's: http://www.amazon.com/Crosman-Copperhead-Copper-Coated-Bottle/dp/B000HKKY7M/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1350038985&sr=1-1&keywords=copper+bb