Pop Culture

Jarts: A Lawn Darts Game That Was Ultimately Banned

Jarts Is an Outdoor Missile Game for the Family

The use of Jarts, often called lawn darts, dates back to the 1950s when toy and game manufacturers latched onto the idea of marketing games specifically for use outside. The game was appealing because it combined wholesome group or family fun, a healthy sense of competition, and outdoor play. Typically, boxed outdoor dart games included four large and colorful darts and two plastic rings that served as targets. As pointed out at Mental Floss, the metal-tipped javelin-style darts were weighted, giving them a solid feel and ensuring they would lodge firmly into the ground when thrown from a distance. Jarts became increasingly popular in the U.S. in the 1980s. Considered the perfect game for spring and summer backyard gatherings, the dart game was sold separately or packaged together with other games intended for outdoor use.

jarts lawn darts

Jarts was a popular outdoor competitive dart game that presented a lot of safety concerns.

How to Lawn Darts

Setting up the classic outdoor missile game is quick and easy. According to Jarts’ official website, players place the two large plastic rings on the ground, leaving a distance of about 35 feet between them. Darts come in two colors, typically red and blue, and are distributed to either two or four players. If there are only two players, both players stand behind the same ring, facing the second ring. If there are two teams of two players each, each team splits up, sending one team member to stand behind each of the two rings. Gripping a dart in one hand, each player, in turn, uses a swift underhand motion to launch his dart toward the distant ring. Players aim to achieve a nice high arc when they throw so that darts stand perpendicular to the ground upon landing. Players alternate throwing their darts until all four of the darts have been thrown.

The participants then tally the points for that round. According to the traditional method of play, players award three points for darts that land inside the ring. Points are offset if both teams hit the center area. There are more complex scoring methods that award zero to six points per team, per round. Generally, players must score exactly 21 points, and not more, to win. The 21-point rule is standard for numerous lawn games.

opened box of lawn darts or jarts

A few lawn dart boxes opened up and ready to be played.

Safety Concerns of Outdoor Darts

For safety reasons, outdoor dart games have been surrounded by controversy. After many reports of accidents, injuries, and deaths related to the use of such darts, their sale was eventually banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in December 1988. Despite earlier concerns about the safety of outdoor darts, it was permissible for merchants to sell such games under certain circumstances. According to 1976 legislation, the outdoor missile darts could not be sold in toy stores, retailers could not position the darts in or near their toy departments, and dart games had to have a visible warning that the darts are not safe for use by children.

Why Did The U.S. Government Ban Lawn Darts?

In 1987, David Snow purchased a boxed set of outdoor games for his family. Included in the box was a set of outdoor darts. In keeping with the 1976 legislation, the large game box had a small safety warning printed on the outside, but Snow did not see the warning. A neighbor’s child discovered the darts in the Snow family’s garage, and, while playing with the darts, struck Snow’s young daughter, Michelle, in the head. Seven-year-old Michelle succumbed to her injuries and died several days later.

As a result of his daughter’s death and driven by a desire to spare other family’s similar loss and pain, David Snow began lobbying for a complete ban on the sale of darts. After an initial bill stalled in Congress in March 1987, Representative John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a similar bill to ban the darts. Finally, in December 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of all outdoor darts in the U.S. The CPSC also urged people not to sell or give away old sets. Instead, individuals were advised to destroy sets that were already in their possession. Canada followed suit by issuing a similar ban on lawn missile darts in June 1989.

Jarts were banned in the United States in 1989.

Jarts were banned in the United States in 1989. Image credit: istock

A Safer Yard Darts Game

Today, consumers who fondly remember playing with yard darts in their backyards or at the beach can purchase an updated, redesigned version of the game. Manufactured by POOF, a leading producer of foam balls and athletic equipment for youth, today’s variation of the original lawn game features kid-friendly darts with colorful plastic fins and rounded rubberized tips. Designed with maximum safety in mind, POOF’s game box includes four colorful, easy-grip darts and two target rings. As with the original outdoor missile game, the object is to be the first player or team to score exactly 21 points. In contrast to the original game, darts do not penetrate the ground. Instead, they land with a gentle bounce in and around the target. The soft, non-metal design greatly reduces the risk of injury. Great for use at company barbecues, family picnics, and other outdoor events, POOF’s version of the game is appropriate for ages 8 years and up.

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Jim H

Just like many of you who visit this website, Jim grew up in the 1980s. Since that timeframe, Jim has developed a love for website design and history. Jim and his wife Kim decided to put it all together and created inthe1980s.com. Thanks for visiting!