Airsoft vs. Paintball – Difference & Comparison

Airsoft vs. Paintball – Difference & Comparison

Airsoft or paintball? It’s an ever going argument among gaming enthusiasts. Airsoft fans cannot agree with paintball devotees on which game is better. Though the answer is indefinite, the choice on which game you should pick is a personal selection based on preference. Before making a decision, you’ll be better off learning the many differences between the two games, which will help to reach an informed conclusion.

Simply put, both games involve the use of weaponry to eliminate the supposed enemies. They both include shooting the opponents who when hit, they’re called out and removed on the spot. Both games are also exciting and challenging. However, they operate with different rules, their weapons are different, the participants have different roles, and they come at different costs.

Read on to be further enlightened about the differences between airsoft and paintball games.

Airsoft vs. Paintball Accuracy

For both games, accuracy in the game is almost everything. Though these qualities vary with every player, skill in shooting a target sums up your efficiency and success in the game. Regardless of what quality is most important to you, shooting off-target can get any gamer frustrated.

To determine the accuracy of airsoft and paintball, you need to learn various factors that contribute to a higher precision or reduction in efficiency.

  • Shooting paintballs versus BBs

Airsoft uses small round pellets popularly known as BBs to shoot while the paintball game uses paintballs.

The two determine the accuracy of the shoot due to the following factors.

Here’s an interesting video of paintball accuracy:

  • Size

Though paintballs are much bigger than BBs, their size, in this case, should match the bore size. The paintballs should match the exact size of the bore such that they’re not too small or too big. If they’re too small, they’ll shoot off in any direction; it won’t be easy to direct them to a target. If they’re too big, they’ll not leave the bore easily, and sometimes they’ll shatter and slow you in the game after causing a mess.

Paintballs are bigger rein size compared to BBs. The bigger the size of a ball, the bigger the resistance when in contact with the wind. After shooting a paintball, it may not reach the target because of the large surface area in connection with the wind resulting in resistance. For this reason, the paintballs’ accuracy is at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, BBs are small, and their surface area doesn’t encourage as much friction. Though the accuracy for both games is almost the same, airsoft has a better accuracy advantage because of the small surface area.

  • Quality

Paintballs are capsules with dye while BBs are plastic spherical pellets.

Good quality capsules have a dense material, and the liquid color is well filled in the capsule leaving no space for air.  Once it’s shot from the barrel, the forces against its accuracy cannot come from within it.

Low-quality capsules curve upwards or lean on one side when shot out because they lack the balance within themselves to stand the propulsion. The half-filled liquid causes the ball to tilt on the heavier side affecting the paintball’s accuracy.

The quality factor for paintball compares with that of BBs in that accuracy for both paintballs and airsoft decreases with a decrease in quality. A low-quality airsoft ball is light, has cracks, dents, scratches, and uneven shape. All these features work against accuracy.  

Cracks increase air absorption causing the pellet to drag to its target. Dents increase the surface area exposed to the wind which leads to a slower movement, and rough shape affects trajectory.

A good quality pellet is smooth, round and with the right weight and size for the specific weapon. If it’s too light, there are high chances of being blown away and missing targets, and if it’s too heavy, it may not reach the desired distance.

Watch the video on how to choose the right BB’s.

No matter how advanced your weapon is, poor quality pellets and paintballs cut down your accuracy by half.  

  • Visibility

The bigger the BB or the paintball marker, the higher the chances of a target spotting it as it approaches. Paintballs are big and colorful hence higher visibility. The opponent can quickly change positions immediately they see it approaching.

Pellets or BBs are small and white. They’re not easy to spot, and in most cases, targets are caught unawares as they would with real bullets. BBs visibility is lower than that of paintball markers which increases their accuracy because in most cases, the opponent cannot see it approaching.

  • Airsoft Inner Barrel Versus Paintball’s Barrel

Both airsoft and paintball games make use of a barrel where the missile travels through before shooting the target. Barrel directly affects the trajectory which affects accuracy for both paintball and airsoft games (watch the video below). Below are the features that directly affect accuracy for both games.

  • Barrel length

Simple physics dictate that the longer the barrel, the better the accuracy and the further the pellet or the paintball shoots. While this is true for the first few rounds, there are significant drawbacks with the continuous use of a longer barrel.

For paintball,16 inches or longer barrel increases the accuracy of hitting a target. However, it also decreases the processing time as the paintball marker travels up the barrel. There are chances that the opponent will move or change positions by the time the ball leaves the barrel.

For airsoft, just like paintball, a longer barrel increases the accuracy of hitting the target. Moreover, a longer barrel in airsoft brings about stability in BB. The pellet will shoot off at the same speed and force it had while traveling up a barrel. Shorter barrels means that the BB will not have stabilized enough before leaving to the open air. This instability can cause the outside forces such as wind and precipitation to affect the BBs direction.

For both airsoft and paintball, if the barrel is too long, there are high chances of losing some of its energy, causing the missile to slow down while still inside the barrel. In return, the slow speed after exiting the barrel reduces the distance it may have covered.

Therefore, for both airsoft and paintball games, a barrel length has both advantages and disadvantages, and the choice for a long or short barrel is entirely on personal preference.

  • Barrel’s Diameter

In paintball as with airsoft, the smaller the barrel’s diameter, the higher the accuracy. It is especially true if the paintball or the BB is a perfect fit for the bore. If the paintball or pellet rolls inside the barrel on its own through gravity, then it’s too small for the barrel and may not route as desired. It also means there will be lost energy as it bounces and spins through the barrel before reaching the target.

For both games, the diameter affects of the pellet or the paintball. The less the room ammo has in the barrel, the better the accuracy. It’s crucial to keep polishing the barrel to get rid of any accumulated dust that could reduce the barrel’s diameter affecting the movement and precision.

Airsoft Vs. Paintball Game

Airsoft and paintballs are both competitive sports that use shooting mechanism on opponents. Both games, though similar to an outward view, they meet different purposes and preferences.

Airsoft uses real firearms replicas to shoot rubber pellets to targets. The bullets are so small that the opponents do not feel the hit immediately unless they see the pellet. So the game uses an honor system where one walks out the field when hit.

The paintball game just as its name suggests uses paint to tag and mark the opponents using a paintball marker device. The device shoots dye-filled capsules made of gelatin which burst on hitting an opponent or a surface. Consequently, unlike airsoft, the color tag is visible.

Below are some of the definite differences between airsoft and paintball.

  • Guns

Airsoft guns look like real fire-arms so much such that, the laws expect manufacturers to add an orange cover at the tip to differentiate from the actual firearms. The paintball markers are much bulkier in design giving room for a hopper that carries paintballs.

Airsoft has a large variety of firearms with different features and power consumption. Spring-loaded guns are of manual nature with rechargeable batteries. There are also gas-powered and electric powered rifles (AEGs) that work similarly to the real weapons. The paintball markers are solely gas-powered.

The airsoft guns load the pellets in magazines much similar to real firearms. Paintball markers have to use a big hopper which feeds the paintballs to the barrel and has to stay upright throughout the game to prevent spillage.

Both guns are similar in that you can easily customize them with the available parts in the market. The airsoft guns have a wider variety of customization tools than paintballs.

Also, the better the quality of guns and parts for both arms, the higher the price and the performance.

  • Airsoft and Paintball Ammos

Airsoft uses plastic spherical pellets that weigh less than a gram and make use of magazines that resemble actual firearms. Paintball markers use  3 grams paintballs filled with soluble color stacked on a hopper which attaches on top of the paintball marker.

The airsoft pellets are not easy to spot because of their small size, so its easy to catch targets unaware. When hit, they do not leave a mark unless they’re shot from a close range directly a bare skin. The paintballs are easy to see when they approach, and opponents have a better chance of escaping the tag. Besides, they leave a visible watercolor on opponents clearing marking them as tagged.

Regarding price, airsoft pellets are affordable. For instance, for a $20, you can get more than 5000 pellets while the same amount can only get you 500 paintballs.

  • Roles Within the Games

Airsoft participants have specific tasks because of the strict and defined rules of the game. Different weapons have different purposes. Snipers use the longer rifles while the pistols are used to attack during close combat. The game can take hours, and it imitates the real-life battles. So it’s not unusual to have airsoft grenades to distract opponents.

Paintball participants’ roles vary with their experience and personal preference. Unlike airsoft, paintball is fast-paced and takes shorter period between sessions to incorporate as much variety as possible. Also, there are no snipers in paintball because the nature of paint markers cannot allow shooting from a long distance.

Paintball uses marshals to oversee the game’ progress, and they ensure the game remains as fair as possible for the teams involved. For longer airsoft games, they include medics to take care of any injuries that may arise, and members follow a strict code of honor system.

  • Clothing and Gear

In airsoft games, participants dress similarly to real soldiers. Like the real soldiers, they wear vests, headgear, grenade-carriers, boots, and goggles. The dressing may vary with the terrain as well. Indoor combats may not require boots, however, when outdoors in muddy grounds, you’ll need to wear clothing that you can easily crawl on a muddy terrain with if need be.

The paintball game requires overalls and a full face mask to protect the paint from exploding on the face. The paintball game is messy, and choice of clothing should be one that can take blots of colors.

The clothing and gear for both games are available on a rental basis in local stores unless you would prefer to purchase your own.

What Hurts More Paintball or Airsoft?

The gaming enthusiasts argue about the pain inflicted on both games as a means to portray the game’s superiority. The degree of discomfort varies with individuals. While some can take some degree of pain, others may find it hard to bear a direct hit. If the level of pain is an important feature to consider before choosing either of the game, below highlights will help you make a knowledgeable decision.

Airsoft pellets are small weighing between 0.28 to 0.3 grams. At high speed, the bullets can travel at a rate of 400 FPS. If a pellet hits you from a close shot, the pain that results will vary with the area assaulted and the coverage you have. A direct hit on a bare face, neck or knuckles stings more than a shot on the leg or the back. When wearing heavy clothing, even at a close range, you may hardly notice the hit until you see the pellet, which in many cases bounces off you.

Paintballs weigh 17 times more than the airsoft BBs. Due to this weight, their speed is lower than that of airsoft pellets going as far as 300FPS. Though the pace is moderate, their large size carries more force, and one hit delivers a more significant impact than an airsoft ball.

Being hit by a pellet or a paintball can hurt, but the pain will depend on the distance you’ve been shot from, your level of pain endurance, as well as the thickness of your clothing.

Airsoft vs. Paintball Hurt/Pain

Pain is relative especially one caused during a game. For many airsoft enthusiasts, they take pain as a mark of honor and a result of a firm -calculated shot. Several determinants influence the pain resulting from a hit of either of the ammunition.

  • Size of Ammo

The airsoft pellets are 6mm wide while the paintballs have a diameter of close to an inch. The paintballs are likely to hurt more on impact as a result of their larger size. Airsoft pellets may also cause pain on impact, but their small surface area may not generate as much pain like that of a paintball.

  • The velocity of The Shot

Paintballs carry more energy and travel further after a shot because of their density. On the other hand, airsoft pellets start losing power the further they’re shot. Taking into consideration their weight and speed, it’s therefore unlikely that BBs will cause pain on impact while a paintball will deliver more force on impact consequently hurting more.

  • The closeness of The Shot

The nature of paintball game does not allow shooting in close proximities. Opponents have to be at a distance of more than 10 feet. The airsoft game allows a close-range shot which when combined with the pellet speed can deliver some level of pain, especially on thin clothing.

In this regard to proximity, airsoft pellets will hurt more than the paintballs.

  • Protective Clothing

Paintball is a more massive ball than the airsoft pellet and can cause more pain on impact. The players, therefore, put on protective clothing to prevent injuries that may occur during combat. The gear includes a full face mask and thick overalls.

Airsoft players do not have to worry about protective clothing as the pellets are quite small and may not cause much pain. Most of the players opt for the usual military wear and protective glasses which leaves their face, neck, and knuckles bare.

As a result, on impact, the airsoft pellets will cause more pain for lack of protective clothing compared to paintball.

Airsoft vs Paintball – Costs

airsoft riflesIf cost is a factor to consider before choosing either game, then you’re better off choosing airsoft because of the large variety in the market. Spring-powered guns are the cheapest and more comfortable to operate. They use a rechargeable battery, so you don’t have to purchase a new one every time.

There’s no variety for paintballs in the market, and therefore the cost is standard for the device and its operations. The paintball marker is gas powered, and needs a refill is required after every use.

Further, airsoft ammo is readily available and come cheaply. You can purchase thousands of airsoft pellets with less than $30. The same amount gets a few hundred paintballs. The reason for this huge cost difference is the manufacturing process involved. Airsoft pellets are easy to make since they use plastic. On the other hand, paintballs use a water-soluble dye in a gelatin capsule.  

For both sports, the prices go up with an increase in quality. Airsoft electric guns operate better than the spring-powered guns making the AEGs costlier than the standard guns. Besides, the AEGs have better internal parts that cause them to work just like real weapons.

paintball gamesPaintballs also vary in price depending on the quality used. Some paintballs are not well filled, affecting affects the accuracy of the shot. High-quality paintballs are costly, but for an experienced player, they’re worth the amount.

The paintball field fees are high because of the mess it leaves behind. At the same time, the airsoft game is not allowed in many places because of the noise pollution resulting from airsoft explosives such as grenades and bombs.

Besides the heavy ammunition required for the paintball and the expensive paintballs, the high field fees make it a costly hobby. However, its popularity in many States allows for annual sales of the gears and ammunition which cuts down the cost by a significant percentage.  


Airsoft and paintball are essentially two unique games serving different groups of people with a variety of preferences. Though they’re both sports involving combat, their rules, roles, and techniques vary. The level of excitement and how enjoyable one is from the other is purely on personal experience and preference.

The airsoft is more affordable than paintball. The airsoft ammo is cheap, and the protective gear is not a vital necessity. On the other hand, paintball is fast paced and has marshals to oversee its fairness. In addition to the color tags, it’s impossible to cheat in paintballs.

Airsoft is a simulation of a real battle. The weapons resemble those of actual combat and the participants like wearing military-kind of clothing too. The simulation makes the game thrilling and enjoyable. It’s also less messy than paintball.

The honor system required to call oneself out may bring conflict when dishonesty arises in some participants. For an aspiring gamer, these differences on both games will help in choosing the kind of game environment and rules that resonate with your inclinations.

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