Airsoft vs Paintball - Which is Better in 2023?
Airsoft and paintball, as you may know, are two popular tactical sports that involve players shooting at each other with guns that fire small, non-lethal projectiles. Although they share a ton of similarities, there are also several key differences between the two. In a nut shell, you can explore 7 different topics below, though we dive deeper into a few key items of airsoft versus paintball at the bottom of this page.
- Guns: Airsoft guns are replicas of real firearms and are designed to look and feel like the real thing. They are usually powered by batteries or gas, and fire small 6mm plastic BBs. Paintball guns or markers as many refer to them as, on the other hand, are designed to look and feel like a tool rather than mimic a firearm. They are powered by compressed air (HPA) or CO2, and water soluble paint-filled projectiles ranging from .43 to .71 caliber (inches in diameter).
- Ammo: Airsoft BBs are 6mm, lightweight plastic pellets that are inexpensive (~$20 for 5,000 rounds) and easy to find. They come in a variety of weights, from lightweight for higher velocity, to heavyweight for increased accuracy and range. Paintballs, on the other hand, are much larger and heavier, and are more expensive (~$50 for 2,000 rounds) than airsoft BBs. They are also messier and can stain clothing.
- Play Style: Airsoft games are often more tactical and realistic than paintball games. Players use realistic military tactics, such as flanking and cover fire, to achieve their objectives. Paintball games tend to be more fast-paced and less tactical, with players often relying on speed and accuracy to win. The courses/fields also show drastic differences where airsoft fields are a more "normal" interior designed space with walls or doorways, whereas paintball courses typically has inflatable cover and spans about 100-150 feet in length. Both sports can use the exact same outdoor fields for longer range and slower-paced gameplay.
- Pace of Play: Airsoft games tend to have a slower pace than paintball games. The longer range and higher accuracy of airsoft guns means that players can engage each other from farther away(100-250 feet for airsoft and 20-80ft for paintball), which can lead to longer standoffs and more strategic gameplay. Paintball games tend to be faster-paced, with players moving quickly and firing more often.
- Cost of Gear: Airsoft guns and gear are typically less expensive than paintball guns and gear. Airsoft BBs are cheaper than paintballs, and airsoft guns use less CO2 or compressed air than paintball guns, reducing the cost and frequency of refills. Paintball guns and gear tend to be more expensive, with paintballs costing significantly more than airsoft BBs. This category is heavily variable as the player can manipulate the total price of their guns and gear in either sport. Both airsoft and paintball can have gear/guns that cost thousands of dollars, or they can only cost a few hundred dollars.
- Safety: Both airsoft and paintball are safe sports when played responsibly and with proper safety gear. Airsoft BBs can be dangerous if not used properly, and players should always wear proper, FULL-seal eye protection. Paintballs can also cause injuries if not used properly, and players should wear proper safety gear, including full facemasks and sometimes even chest protectors. Many, including us at Minnesota Airsoft, would describe the pain of airsoft as a sting where paintball is more of a whack. Both can hurt, but paintball is generally accepted to be the more painful sport of the two because of the increased kinetic energy in paintballs.
- Community: Both airsoft and paintball have passionate communities of players who enjoy the sport and love to compete. Airsoft players tend to be more focused on the tactical and realistic aspects of the sport, while paintball players tend to focus more on the fun and adrenaline rush of the game. Both communities are a pleasure to be a part of and discuss everything to do with the sport. Rest assured that both airsoft and paintball player-bases are great people who want nothing more than to go out and enjoy the game.
For a more in-depth look at the ammo, guns, and play style of both paintball and airsoft, please continue reading below!
Let's talk about the ammunition used in both airsoft and paintball guns. Airsoft guns use 6mm plastic bbs, while paintball guns use paintballs ranging from .43cal to .71cal which are usually filled with water-soluble dye. The size and weight of the projectiles are quite different, with paintballs being larger and heavier than airsoft pellets. Another key difference is that paintball guns use compressed air (HPA) or carbon dioxide (CO2) to shoot the paintball, while airsoft guns use a spring or an electric motor to launch the pellets in most cases. There are indeed gas airsoft guns which use gasses called green gas or the same gas as paintball, HPA and CO2.
The design of airsoft guns and paintball guns is also very different. Airsoft guns are modeled after real firearms, and many manufacturers produce replicas of popular firearms that are used by military and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Paintball guns, on the other hand, have a more futuristic and unique design that is specific to the game of paintball. Additionally, airsoft guns are more realistic in terms of weight and handling, while paintball guns are designed to be lightweight and easy to maneuver for more fast paced games.
Now, we can take a look at the intensity of the games played with airsoft and paintball guns. Airsoft games are often played in a more tactical and realistic manner, with players trying to simulate real-world combat scenarios. Paintball games, on the other hand, are more focused on fun and entertainment, with players enjoying the thrill of chasing each other around and trying to eliminate their opponents by shooting them with paintballs. Paintball guns are thus designed to be much more ergonomic, faster, lighter, and overall more "sporty" than airsoft guns to accommodate for their rapid movements and shooting.
In conclusion, airsoft and paintball are two different sports with their own unique characteristics. While they share a ton of similarities, they also have key differences in guns, ammo, play style, pace of play, cost, safety, and community. Whether you choose airsoft or paintball, the important thing is to have fun, be safe, and respect your fellow players.