Darts As Ammunition?

Ok, I have no idea the reaction, if any this will get. I am pretty sure most forum members will not be familiar with this type of ammunition so I figured I would post a few pics. Some of you may know that I run a private wildlife Sanctuary and as a result, I use this type of ammunition in times of emergency and and or medical requirement. Below are a few photographs of some of the various types of tranquilizer darts I use. Their are many different kinds and styles of tranquilizer darts and the ones I prefer are the most “Ammunition Like”, of the bunch, even containing an explosive charge called pyrodex.

Group Shot, size is dependent on the volume of drug the dart can hold. I use both a Blow Gun for the smaller darts and a C02 powered rifle for up to 6 cc’s. My lungs are not what they used to be :-)

This pics shows two .5 cc darts, a 1 cc dart, a 4 cc dart and a 6 cc dart.

This picture shows a cutaway diagram of how these darts work. After filling with the proper drug combination, the dart is inserted into the delivery system and fired. Upon impact with the animal, inertia sends a firing pin into the pyrodex which in turn sends a internal plunger forward thus delivering the required tranquilizer. If you fire these darts at night, the tail end actually glows for a micro second from the internal charge going off.

This pic shows the tail stabilizer on a 6 cc dart.

This pics shows the tip of the needle projectile in the shape of a hypodermic needle. HEAVY GAUGE = Tiger Resistant! You may also notice a green tapered cone attached to some of the needles. These are made from a gelatin and are used on large darts as a barb to keep the dart attached to the animal insuring a full dose delivery. The gelatin dissolves after a few minutes and the dart is manually removed from the animal.

Anyhow, this will be a short thread, I just wanted to bring something unusual to the forum, out side the box.

Interesting, especially about the gelatin retainer. Are these made by Capture Systems or some other brand. I have some of the older ones with cotton bobs on the end instead of the plastic. These were powered by a .22 Short Tool Blank.

No, these are made by PNEU-DART Inc… I am familiar with the Capture Systems and have always preferred the Pneu-dart system in a crisis. With both lung power and C02 power, I also have the ability to adjust the impact wallop depending on the animal, distance, emergency level and dart size. Their is another brand, Telinject that uses a air pump to inflate a chamber in the dart. This air chamber is what pressurizes and forces the plunger forward upon impact. I always felt their darts were to complicated and had to much assembly required as you also had to install the tail piece. The pneu darts are self contained, easy to fill and have great flight characteristics. I also like to put a general anti-biotic gel in the needle opening and around the collar. This keeps the drug in the dart if you are darting from a high position aiming low and also medicates the injection site.

Thanks for sharing - very interesting.

I think somebody in Green Bay may be asking about samples when he sees this thread . . . !!!


I always thought of “capture and control” darts as ammunition if they were fired from a tranquilizing gun. I never thought of a blowgun. Hey, why not? They are interesting, and made to be “shot.” They certainly are not out of place on this forum. Many cartridge collectors collect airgun pellets and especially the pellet packets. I don’t see any particular difference here (except, of course, in the application of the ammunition, but again, so what. We have ball, blank, dummy, tracer, incendiary, etc., etc. etc. in regular ammo). This is so far from my field of interest that I couldn’t even measure the distance, but I found this posting interesting as could be!!!

APFSDS - don’t get mad at me, but the word “too” when meaning also or when used as in “too much” (meaning “excessive,” basically) is spelled as I have here, with a double “o.” Pardon me - there goes the proof reader in me. To bad I can never seem to catch all the errors in my own writing!

Great posting. Thanks! More than I ever knew, total, about these things.

Those are some NASTY needles. Pepper ought to get a few just to scare some of those big, tough football players!
Definitely interesting and relevant.

Thanks John. I was worried about posting about this subject in fear they may be WAY OFF. Thanks so much for the proof reading tips. I am a horrible typer and even worse speller. I typically, “Cut & Copy” what I write here and have my e-mail program do a quick spell check. Too (?) bad it does not catch all my grammatical errors. I am even worse with their, there and the other one. I never thought of collecting pellets. I have seen a few really wild ones that were awesome. Since the darts i use have a built in firing pin and mild explosive, I was hoping they would be considered ammunition. As far as the blow gun is concerned, in many cases I prefer it over the rifle. I practice regularly to insure accuracy in a emergency. I can now hit a quarter at 60 feet using a 1 cc dart. The blow gun can also be separated in 2 pieces making tight condition reality easier to deal with. I can also hide the blow gun from the animals view unlike the rifle. This keeps them calm and less stressed before firing. As far as application goes, I am sure the use of a dart delivery system can be used for all levels of immobilization from temporary to permanent. I of course only use them to temporally sedate exotic wildlife.

Ok, since we are talking about “Darts” as ammunition, I feel I should at least bring up a topic I am sure many of you are at least vaguely aware of. I am sure most of you have heard of native tribes, using poisoned darts & arrows to both hunt and in warfare. In these cases, the dart ammunition is lethal to animal and human, unlike my sedation darts which are less then lethal. In any-case, the primary poisons used by South American cultures are gathered from the skin secretions of tiny Poison Dart Frogs. Ron, you have probably seen many of these in your travels? These frogs are tiny, with the largest rarely being over 2 inches. Their are many species of Dart frog and most of them are brilliantly colored. Of all the species, the Golden Dart frog Phyllobates Terribilis is the most deadly and sought after. It is said their toxin is so deadly that their would be enough toxin on the tip of your finger to kill 10 adult men. Animals have been killed ingesting a leaf that a Terribilis walked over. When a native wants to coat his dart with venom, he will typically anger the frog causing it to secrete even more toxin before wiping his dart all over it. I will not go into to much detail, but a cool thing about this deadly toxin is that scientists have isolated a property from it that is 100 times more effective then morphine in treating pain with zero addictive effects. Unfortunately, only wild frogs are toxic or should I say MASSIVELY TOXIC. Captive frogs lose most of their toxic proprieties. Anyhow, I have no idea how far back poisoned darts go in history, but I would imagine pretty far. Pretty creative and in this case DEADLY ammunition.

This is a picture of the most deadly of all DART FROGS, Phyllobates Terribilis. This frog is less then 2 inches and is the preferred frog utilized by indigenous natives.

Here are a few other species of DART FROGS used by natives to poison their darts.


While I think that darts as ammunition is stretching the conventional definition, they certainly seem to fit the description and force us to “think outside the box” a little bit. I too found the gelatine barb to be a very interesting concept! It is my understanding that wild poison dart frogs depend on their native diet to create the toxic secretions, which is why captive born ones are not toxic. Perhaps the Hague and Geneva conventions should be revisited to address the use of poison tipped ammunition. It would seem more humane to be hit with a poison dart than a .303 Mk VII ball projectile! But, I digress…

I had always assumed that these darts you posted about were reuseable, but due to the pyrodex charge it would seem that they are not.

Interesting post. Thanks!


Yes, in my travals in the Amazon I have seen many species of “Poison Dart Frogs”. Just handling them will cause the hand to tingle or become numb. And, yes, it is the diet that causes the poison secreation, mostly from ingesting various algae. The natives do catch them using a leaf as protection and then wipe the dart on the backs of the frogs. However, the most potant poison is made by “Sweating” the frogs over a low fire so the secreations drip into a bowl. This is then thickened with latex from various plants and boiled down to a thick tar-like substance. This is then coated unto the dart tips for the blow guns. The darts are made from spines from ratton vines or some palm species. They then wrap a “puff” of cotton from the Kapok tree on the end of the dart to make it a loose fit in the blow gun. The blow guns are usually about 6-8 feet long, buy I have seen some that were about 12 feet. The longer ones are used mostly to hunt monkeys in the tree tops as much as 100 ft in the air. Some of these guys are so good that at 75 feet they can poke out the eye of George Washington on a $1.00 bill. I saw one native do this 5 times in a row. For hunting monkey, a curare poison is prefered over frog poison. This is because frog poison causes the muscles to size up. So, if you dart a monkey in a tree, they grip the branch and sombody has to climb up to get it. Curare causes the muscles to relax so the monkey fall out of the tree.

You are correct that the darts I use are not reusable. In addition to the charge going off, the tips get dull after firing. Also, if they are barbed or gel collared, the barb bends and the collar dissolves.

You are also correct that it is assumed that the toxic properties of these frogs is believed to be diet related. No one has pin pointed the exact cause of the toxin and many scientists speculate in could be the ants they eat that in turn eat a specific fungus that only grows on the poop of a rare South American snake. They think the cause may be very complicated and involve a entire food chain of events to occur. Just shows how important it is to preserve the rain forrest and how interconnected life is.

Speaking of poison dart like ammunition; I recently read an article were some one was assassinated when a umbrella armed with a tiny, almost microscopic dart equipped with a even smaller spherical ball projectile was tapped into his leg. The assassin basically tapped the tip of the umbrella on the shin of the guy which caused the micro dart to penetrate the skin leaving the poisoned ball behind. The impact was like a mosquito bite. I forgot if this story involved the CIA or the Russian Government? I’ll see if I can find the story again.

Awesome Ron! I knew you would know all about this. Makes allot of sense not using frog toxin with monkey hunting. I have cared for hundreds of captive Dart frogs which I primarily fed termites, ants and fruit flies too. All the ones I had were multiple generations of captive born animals and were probably 1/100th as toxic as wild frogs. Still, they would cause your hand to tingle.

Just found a article on the umbrella poison dart story mentioned above.

cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/01 … bulgarian/

I guess if I see any bright colored amphibian-looking critters hopping around, I’m going to avoid picking them up!

It’s interesting just how wide the umbrella of “ammunition” can spread and in what directions.

Thanks to all for sharing their knowledge.


Bright, flashy colors in nature very often mean trouble. The beautiful dart frogs are often referred to as “Jewels Of The Rainforest”.

Ammunition is definitely a wide reaching subject. Using animal derived weapons and ammunition is probably a bigger, broader subject then I know. I just always found the Poison Dart or Arrow Frogs so interesting. I am aware that in the era of the catapult and trebuchet, they would launch dead and diseased animals over castle walls as a form of bio ammunition projectiles. Pretty sick.

Anyhow, if interested, I wrote a short piece a while back on Dart Frogs for our web site.


Geez! is there any topic you guys don’t have knowledge and experience in? I say darts are fine as they are “loaded” as opposed to just thrown or hurled. Very cool information! I’ve been fascinated by those frogs since I was little.

Another very interesting post- keep up the great work. I like the following which FORENSIC uses on his posts: “If someone finds typo-errors, he may keep them for own use :-)”. To + too still equals fore or tutu if you are artistic rather than athletic. I will drive down to Florida to see you take down an elephant with a blowgun.

The poison which we used on our “darts” came from shellfish contaminated by micro-organisms. It is 1000 times more potent than the frog poison BUT it takes a ton of them to make a gram of the poison.

Darting an elephant is an easy target but requires tranquilizers so concentrated they are beyond dangerous. Darting a angry leopard coming at you is anouther story. A challenge when darting large game is that in most cases they require large volumes to sedate them while most darts have insufficient volumes. So you either have to dart an animal multiple times or have the tranquilizer super concentrated to fit a required dose in a single dart. Anyhow, come on down to Florida and bring one of your 120’s with the massive penetrator darts. haha!

I am familiar with the venom used by the Cone Snail, a species similar to the Conch. It is supposedly has the claim to fame as the most toxic and fastest acting venom in the world. This snail actually has a harpoon dart that fires so fast it is hard to film with high speed cameras. I have heard of this venom being used to coat projectiles but can’t remember where to site a source. Could have been in a James Bond movie?

I am surprised that tranquilizing darts have not been considered or used as Less Then Lethal ammunition. I would guess that the biggest draw back is that you rarely get an immediate “Knock Down”, without using a potentially lethal dose? In most cases, at least with my focused experience, is that a subject is darted, and you wait anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes for desired effects depending on species. Also, animals rarely sue you, crimials do.

PS: I am really happy members are finding some of my posts interesting as I know very little about headstamps and smaller caliber ammunition and seem to post “Out Their”, subjects. I am sure the founding fathers of the IAA never thought pictures of frogs would be posted on the forum or torpedo stuff :-)

PSS: The darts pictured at the begining of this thread is 50 cal.

I think the incident with the poisoned umbrella tip happened in London and involved the Bulgarian version of the KGB, although as I recall, there was some suspicion that the Russian KGB was actually behind it, using their Bulgarian allies to actually do the job. I could be wrong too - I didn’t retain anything to do with this case in my files - so am going by memory.