Evaluating airsoft vs. BB guns: which one wins?

Comparing airsoft and BB guns makes sense because of the same types of projectiles used in both guns. A BB gun as well as an airsoft gun are loaded with BBs. That is the reason these guns are sometimes compared. Which one is better? There’s no single answer to this question. It depends on the way you are planning to use a gun. That will define which gun is better for you.

Comparing BB and airsoft guns, however, will mean comparing the items from different age groups. Whereas the airsoft guns first emerged in the 70-s of the last century, the prototypes of the BB guns had been designed a century earlier, in 1886. But obviously, BB guns have changed dramatically since then, and the comparison with airsoft guns will be absolutely legitimate.

We’ll compare BB and airsoft guns by the most significant criteria, and then give you some advice on how to choose the best gun for you.

Airsoft vs. BB guns. A battle?

We’ve put a question mark in the heading because we really think that it shouldn’t be a battle. Both airsoft guns and BB guns can coexist peacefully (pun intended). They both have their niches and don’t need to compete. Now, to the criteria that will help you seal the deal with one of these guns.

Striking force

In general, airsoft guns are matched pretty evenly with BB guns in terms of striking power. They are both ranging in the area of 500 FPS (feet per second), and it’s an impressive amount of force. However, the devil is in the details as usual.

The BBs used in airsoft guns are lighter and more prone to be influenced by external conditions (we’ll talk about the ammo differences in the next section). This affects the striking force.

BB guns generally can reach the FPS number, going up to 550, whereas airsoft guns don’t have such a capacity. Although, we should mention that the latest high-performance airsoft guns are catching up with BB guns in this regard.


The major distinction lies here. That’s where the myth of BB guns and airsoft guns being the same is debunked. Yes, they use BBs to shoot their targets, but the nature of those BBs is not the same.

A plastic BB is used in an airsoft gun. It’s relatively big, with a caliber of six millimeters. Plastic BBs are also light, and rightfully so. They are mostly used in milsims and aren’t supposed to be deadly. Although, a plastic BB hitting you can still be uncomfortable.

As for the BB guns, they are loaded with metal BBs of a much smaller caliber (4.5 mm). The most common are steel BBs and also lead BBs. That positions BB guns much higher on the scale of the injury risk or even the possibility of death. And it’s fair because BB guns are used to kill, for example, rodents or to hunt small quarries. Unlike airsoft guns, whose major application is war games.

As for the gas used in both BB guns and airsoft guns, the options are the same: CO2, which secures a higher FPS, or green gas, which is “slower”. Not as common are HFC134a refrigerant and nitrogen.


Both BB guns and airsoft guns feature impressive precision in hitting intended targets. However, due to the metal nature of their BBs, BB guns have an additional advantage over airsoft guns, whose BBs are lighter and plastic and therefore more likely to veer off course compared to steel BBs, for example.

A strong wind can make a difference, and you’ll hit something which is not your target. If it’s not a big deal during target practice, it can be critical in the heat of the milsim.

There’s one more significant aspect: lighter plastic pellets are more likely to ricochet in an unpredictable direction and can accidentally hit someone. At the same time, steel BBs from a BB gun (or BBs made from a different metal), due to their weight, ricochet much rarer. Unfortunately, when they do, it’s more damaging than the harm done by plastic pellets.

By and large, BB guns are better at long-range shooting and should be used with great caution in close quarters. Airsoft guns are much safer to use in such a case.

Some airsoft guns are equipped with a so-called hop-up device, which gives a BB a backspin exiting the barrel, thus extending the effective range of the airsoft gun. It’s really beneficial when you get it working.


Both weapons have their niche and normally don’t compete. Obviously, the main application of most airsoft guns is airsoft, a.k.a. war games. That’s what they were designed for. Of course, if you want some target practice between the field days, airsoft guns will work just fine. Airsoft plastic BBs very rarely cause any damage to players, and that’s exactly how we want it.

A BB gun had different applications. Although they are good for target practice, too. Pest control is one more area, and many folks keep a BB gun at home for exactly that reason: pest control. It’s a solution, especially if you don’t want a real gun in the house. Hunting with a BB gun is not as common, but it happens. We are talking about small animals here, of course.

Authentic look

A BB gun can look pretty realistic, but an airsoft gun is undoubtedly the winner in this category. Because it’s part of the Game. Airsoft guns are the participants in the milsim and must make the experience as close to real combat as possible (without real injuries, of course).

So in most cases, airsoft guns are very hard to differentiate from authentic firearms. That is the reason for the US law requiring a special orange tip on airsoft guns to prevent misunderstanding and potential accidents whether with law enforcement or private citizens.

A BB gun has a more utilitarian purpose, so it’s not a carbon copy of a real gun. But some models can boast intricate designs and even various colors.


Based on the different applications of BB guns and airsoft guns and their dissimilar BBs, it’s safe to say that BB guns are much less safe than airsoft guns. Steel BBs of BB guns are dangerous and can become lethal.

Unlike the light plastic of the airsoft BBs. But at the same time, an airsoft plastic BB shot from an airsoft gun being light can ricochet easier. It means causing collateral damage. So, airsoft guns are not harmless either. They are very unlikely to kill someone, but they still can cause an injury, especially if a player is not responsible enough to wear essential protection.

For example, if a player isn’t wearing protective goggles, they can get a ricochet into the eye, resulting in substantial damage. With airsoft guns, you are strongly recommended to avoid shooting at someone in close quarters (less than 9-10 feet).

BB guns can be deadly, and you must never use them against other people. Steel BBs can do a lot of harm. Pest control should be the farthest you go in harming living beings.

More powerful BB guns are even more dangerous than ordinary ones. Definitely not toys. The careless attitude towards BB guns and airsoft guns is unjustified and negligent. Even the most benign object can become a weapon, and these guys are hardly benign.

Knowing the major safety rules will probably not save you from any potential accidents, but will certainly minimize the risk and put you in more control of your own safety and the safety of others. We thought it would be useful and even essential to specify basic safety rules for the users. They are very simple and absolutely common sense.

Airsoft guns and BB guns safety instructions

  • Do not load the gun until ready for shooting
  • Do not take the safety off until ready for shooting
  • Do not shoot randomly. You should always know where your pellet is going, the best way is to have a backstop behind the intended target
  • Do not try to hit liquid or hard surfaces, which the pellets can bounce off
  • Do not point the gun at people when not shooting
  • Do not be careless, always handle the gun as if it’s loaded
  • Do not keep your finger on the trigger. Do that only when you are going to shoot
  • Do not use alien ammo or use the BBs for the second time. Improper ammunition is unpredictable and dangerous
  • Do not keep your gun in an unprotected location where anyone can reach it
  • Do not let minors use the gun without adult oversight
  • Do not use the gun unprotected. Use eye and body protective gear
  • Do not operate the gun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Do not skip maintenance. Always keep the gun in pristine condition
  • Get familiarized with the manual for the gun before using it. Make sure you understand the operation process properly.


It’s hard to say which gun is more expensive. By and large, airsoft matches a BB gun of the same level. If the models are matched in materials, technical features, etc., they will match in price too. The most budget-friendly models will be on the same level, and the most advanced and fancy can come in at comparable prices.

You can buy inexpensive airsoft guns for less than $100 and fancy ones for $3000. Airsoft and BB guns both require protective gear, which raises the total cost of the package. Being more hazardous, BB guns require more significant protection for their owner. That could affect the total amount too.

Final shot

As you can see from the article, there can be only one conclusion: there is no winner between airsoft guns and BB guns. They simply shouldn’t compete. Although both of them are used in target practice, the main application of airsoft weapons is war games.

BB guns are too dangerous for milsims but good for hunting rodents on your property or small game in the woods. Backyard shooting is an option too. Each of these guns has its niche and hits the targets it’s supposed to hit. So choose the gun depending on your goal, that shouldn’t be hard at all.

Frequently asked questions

Which is more powerful, airsoft or BB?

Powerwise, they are matched pretty equally, although there are models of BB guns with an FPS of 550, whereas airsoft guns don’t exceed the 500 mark. Also, The BBs for BB guns are made of metal and smaller in diameter, which adds to their striking force. The combination of both factors weighs in favor of BB guns as weapons with higher striking power.

Can an airsoft hurt?

In the majority of cases, a hit from the airsoft weapon will feel like a mild poke, but it will largely depend on the body part. Statistically, only 5% of the hits really hurt. Those are the hits to open areas when the BB strikes bare skin like an ear or a finger. The players are advised to avoid targeting the face or groin.

If the player skips some part of protective gear, they can get hit in rather vulnerable and sensitive places like ears, fingers, and eyes. But even in such cases, the minor wounds are rather superficial, although they will hurt for a while.

Can airsoft break skin?

Normally, BBs from airsoft guns don’t break the skin. As they are designed to shoot at people during milsims, they are supposed to be harmless for a player wearing all the essential protective gear. If the player hasn’t met the requirements and made themselves vulnerable, BBs, which contact the skin, can leave small superficial wounds that will be sore for a while.

What hurts less airsoft or BB?

BBs from airsoft guns are made of plastic and are quite large in diameter and light. In 90% of the cases, they will not hurt at all, just a little poke. BBs from BB guns, on the other hand, are made of metal, smaller, and heavier. They are not supposed to be used on people. Target practice and hunting small game, but no milsims with BB guns.

You can read also: Airsoft bb size: a detailed guide


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