Airsoft vs Paintball: What’s The Difference?

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Airsoft and paintball are two popular combat simulation sports. But how do they differ? And which one is right for you? This post delves into the major differences between them both. 

The game

Airsoft and paintball are both typically played outdoors (sometimes in purpose-built arenas). Players usually separate into two teams. If a player is shot, they are out of the game until the next round. 

The gameplay in airsoft is usually more serious and tactic-based, whereas paintball tends to be more casual. That isn’t to say that paintball can’t be serious too, however it tends to be played more leisurely among friends and family members. 

In airsoft, a player may shout ‘bang’ when they hit an opponent to let them know they are out, whereas in paintball it is up for each player to own up to when they have been shot. In many cases, you only have to leave the arena in paintball if the ball has splattered – not necessarily if you get hit. 

The guns

The best airsoft guns are generally designed to look as realistic as possible. Many are modelled off of existing guns ranging from assault rifles to sniper rifles. Many use realistic magazines and have in-built hidden air canisters. 

Paintball guns meanwhile do not look like real guns. Paintballs are usually fed into a hopper and are propelled by CO2 or compressed air stored in a large tank that sticks out the back of the gun. 

The ammo

Airsoft uses BB pellets. These are small round balls of plastic that are often propelled at a slower speed than paintballs, resulting in a lower range (although some guns are designed to add range). BB pellets can sting when they make impact, but are generally not painful and do not leave bruises.

Paintball on the other hand can hurt and may even leave welts at close quarters. Ammo consists of larger balls of paint that explode on impact. These are fired with more speed and are heavier, which can mean more range and accuracy. 

The clothing

Because airsoft pellets do not leave a mess, you can play airsoft in pretty much any type of clothing. The only safety gear that is recommended is eye protection.

Paintball is messier and therefore typically played in purpose-built overalls or outfits that can be washed/thrown away after. A greater level of safety equipment is required to protect the entire face – usually in the form of a mask or helmet. Gloves are also more commonly worn.

The cost

Airsoft tends to be a much cheaper hobby than paintball. While some of the guns can be a lot more expensive than paintball guns, the ammo is much cheaper.

In the long run, the cost of paintballs will add up faster than the cost of bb pellets. You’ll also spend more on clothing. Of course, many paintball arenas can save you money by allowing you to hire clothing and guns, as well as offering packages on paintballs. 


My wit is my power. Writing is my life. I'm from this often stereotyped place called Mississippi. I like green eggs with my ham and pancakes without bacon. I enjoy cups of green tea and James Patterson books. I'm ultimately here to share my gift. The rest is still unwritten.

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