Airsoft vs paintball – Which one’s best for you? [Detailed Comparison]

Airsoft vs paintball, which one’s better? It’s an ongoing debate ever since these games came into existence. Paintball enthusiasts aren’t ready to listen to the airsofters while the airsofters wouldn’t accept anything less than “Airsoft is the best”… just like the republicans vs democrats 😀

So we came forward to close this topic once and for all by diving in deeply as the devil is in the detail.

Both games comprise of guns and shooting on opponents but it’s not that simple to say this is best compared to other, and we won’t. We are only here to provide you everything you need, the decision will be yours based on your preferences.

Let’s dive in…

airsoft-vs-paintball

Airsoft vs Paintball: The difference

Before we dive into the detailed comparison, let’s learn the basics of what airsoft and paintball are?

 What is Airsoft? 

It is a guns shooting sport where the players try to eliminate the opponent players by hitting them with circular plastic pellets known as BBs (ball bearings) using the replica airsoft guns. Those guns look very similar to real-world guns.

The history of airsoft comes from gun enthusiasts of Japan where they created an alternative to enjoy shooting guns in the early 1970s, because of Japan’s strict laws for real guns.

Because of its ammunition called BBs, airsoft weapons can be often confused with BB guns, learn the difference between airsoft and bb guns here.

 What is Paintball? 

It is also a sport of shooting and eliminating opponent players by tagging them with color filled gelatin made round capsules using paintball guns known as markers.

The paintball originated from New Hampshire in May 1981, where a debate arose between two men; a city dweller and a person who had spent most of his life hunting. The main reason for this argument was if a metropolitan can survive against an outdoorsman in the woods.

That was it for the introduction of these two sports, now let’s have a look at the main differences between them.

Airsoft vs Paintball Guns

 Airsoft 

Airsoft guns are the replicas of real firearms, they so resemble that it’s hard to differentiate between them from a distance, though you will clearlyairsoft-gun know on touching or using it. Just like real guns, airsoft offers an enormous variety of weaponries in different designs, features, and mechanisms.

There are three major types of airsoft guns; the spring loaded, gas powered, and the Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs).

Again like real guns, you can also mount scopes on airsoft weapons and magazines filled with plastic BBs to shoot, each magazine of AR guns or SMGs hold hundreds of BBs which means you don’t need to frequently reload.

As per the US Airsoft Laws, you are required to keep an orange tip attached to the barrel of your airsoft guns so it’s clearly identified for being a replica. Furthermore, it’s also forbidden to carry your airsoft gun openly in public places. If you must, then make sure to keep it in a case or bag.

Cost: You can find airsoft guns at pretty cheap prices on Amazon or any other online or offline store, and the operational costs are also negligible, thanks to the spring-loaded and electrical airsoft guns. However, gas powered guns would require a continuous cost of purchasing CO2 or green gas.

Read: Best Cheap Airsoft Snipers 2021 – $40 to $200 [Top Rifles]

Accuracy: Airsoft guns are way more accurate even with the small size BBs it uses, the high FPS does the magic, air doesn’t affect its movement for a certain distance.

Upgradeability: Airsoft offers a plethora amount of options to upgrade; the spring, battery, gearbox, and so on. Usually the spring-operated guns need some customization before using them in the field.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Airsoft guns can be cleaned and maintained pretty easily and that is required only once in a while. But the gas-powered guns need to be cleaned after every use just like the real guns.

 Paintball 

Paintball markers don’t have any resemblance with the real world steel guns, though there are a few guns which show somewhat similarity but thosepaintball-gun too are distinctive. Paintball guns are more colorful, slim, and ultra-durable compares to airsoft.

Paintball markers are powered by compressed air (HPA) or CO2, and it offers less variety of guns compared to its counterpart.

Instead of a magazine, it comes with a large hopper which is used to load the paintballs before shooting. And it can hold around 100 – 200 paintballs at a time.

The laws that are applicable to airsoft or bb guns, also apply to paintball guns in which case they are also not allowed to carry in public places without being dismantled and inside a case. Though there’s no need of keeping an orange tip attached.

Cost: The guns themselves are pretty high priced compared to airsoft guns. And since the only source of power is gas (CO2 or compressed air) in paintball markers, so the ongoing cost is also included.

With more power comes great responsibility means that it also includes extra costs of purchasing a hopper and a paintball tank to store some spare gas.

Accuracy: Paintball doesn’t have a good accuracy as that of airsoft. Due to the more weight and high sized paintballs, they tend to deviate in the air.

Upgradeability: When it comes to upgrading your paintball markers, there are not many options available in your gun as well as in the market.

Cleaning and Maintenance:  Well, the “paint” makes it obvious that it needs cleaning after every time of use. Thanks to the modern water-based pants, it won’t give a headache cleaning all those splashed or shattered colors all over your clothes and other gear. And good luck with your operation clean up when you play it in the backyard.

Ammunition Comparison

 Airsoft 

The ammunitions of airsoft guns are made of ABS or PLA plasticairsoft-bbs having a smaller size of 6 – 8 mm in diameter and less weight preferably 0.2g. That’s why they are cheaper in price and you could carry a lot of them without disturbing your gameplay.

  • It travels faster and farther

 Paintball 

On the other hand, the paintballs are made of gelatin filled with water-soluble paints,paintballs-ammo come in comparatively larger size of 17 – 18 mm in diameter and with more weight of around 3g. That makes it pricier and it requires a large hopper to keep some extra ammunition. With more weight, it affects your maneuvering.

  • It travels slower and has a less range so achieving high FPS is also not possible

Equipment of Airsoft vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

The accessories or equipment you can find in the airsoft realm include helmets, goggles, facemasks, body armors, gloves, batteries, chargers, gas cartridges, military clothing like ACUs or BDUs, scopes etc.

Furthermore, airsoft also offers throwables and melee weapons like a smoke grenade, BBs frag grenade, rubber knife etc. and machine guns, grenade launchers as well.

 Paintball 

The accessories of paintball sport are different from airsoft, it has colorful helmets, goggles, clothing, protective vests, and gas cartridges etc.

Paintball also offers color-filled grenades along with smoke grenades in throwables, and rockets, tanks as well.

Clothing of Airsoft vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

Airsoft offers some amazing and most realisticairsoft-clothing tactical clothing such as Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) and Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs). With these clothes, you will look exactly like Navy Seal making your childhood wish come true. 😉

Learn more in our airsoft clothing guide

 Paintball 

paintball-clothingUnlike airsoft, the paintball clothes are usually more colorful and stylish along with its gear like helmets, vests, masks, etc.

But it depends on the game type; colorful wearing is preferred in the speedball while darker and nearly closed to military-type camo clothing is preferred in the woodsball game so that the players wouldn’t stand out because of vibrant clothing.

Airsoft vs Paintball Realism

 Airsoft 

We all want to experience this:

Well airsoft have it, with the best replica guns, grenades, tactical boots, helmet, military vest, scarves, and on top of all; the Military Combat Uniforms make it the most realistic sport to what soldiers do in the field.

The game types are also of serious kind i.e Mil-Sim games, capture the flag, protect the base and the players also show serious attitude in following the orders and performing their duties.

 Paintball 

Paintball is more of a fun and enjoyable type of gun sport where they hit each other with paintballs loaded markers to have fun, improve their surviving skills etc.

Paintball also has some big events where hundreds of people participate, indicating that it’s not any less famous.

Popularity of Airsoft vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

Airsoft’s graph of popularity is increasing day by day which makes its guns, tools, and fields easier to find.

Other things that airsoft takes an edge over paintball are; the realistic guns with more options, less costly, similar to military clothing, and all other gear.

 Paintball 

Because airsoft is a tactical military simulation sport with realistic imitation firearms, paintball is losing its popularity as most players are moving to airsoft or the new ones choose airsoft.

But popularity declining doesn’t mean that it’s dead, there are a lot of enthusiasts who would stay at paintball for their lives. And you would find enough fields, players, tournaments etc.

 

Airsoft Min. Age Requirement vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

The minimum age one is allowed to play airsoft varies from state to state and country to country. And the playing fields have their own rules where they usually mention their minimum age requirement.

A person needs to be 18 years old if he’s purchasing an airsoft gun by itself, that’s another thing if his/her parents are purchasing it for him.

He/she needs to be at least 10 years old to play airsoft.

 Paintball 

The paintball age requirement is also not universal all over the world. It has some variations from country to country and state to state in the US.

Kids of age 10 or even below are allowed to go paintballing but with some limitations like low impact guns and special playing areas for kids, etc.

All kids under 16 are only allowed if their parent or guardian is with them, and only their permission is required for under 18s.

Cheating in Airsoft vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

As the airsoft BBs don’t leave any clear marks on clothing, so it’s not easy to detect if someone’s been hit. It’s mostly based on the “honor system” where the players themselves call the hits.

 Paintball 

Due to the paint in the paintball bullets, there is not much space left for cheaters when you have clear paint markings on your body if get hit. The referee will notice it in seconds.

In case of uncertainty, if a shot is connected to your body or not, you have the option of confirming it from your teammates or a referee, the game will be paused for that decision making process.

Playing fields Cost

 Airsoft 

Similar to the airsoft guns, airsoft fields are also cheap to play in as compared to the paintball fields. They will charge you an average of $30 per day.

Unlike paintballs, you can always bring your own airsoft BBs to any field. There are not many safety issues with airsoft BBs, they only need to be of plastic.

 Paintball 

The charges per day of paintball fields are a little more than airsoft fields, it will cost you around $40 – $50. And that’s only the field charges excluding the paintballs, you will have to pay extra for that.

Most of the paintball fields don’t allow bringing your own paintballs because of safety measures, they only allow their paintballs to be used in that field.

If we roughly estimate, a 500 rounds bag of paintballs will cost you somewhere from $15 to $30, and a 2000 rounds case would be around $50 – $75.

Roles of the Players

 Airsoft 

As we have mentioned earlier that airsoft resembles the real-world military, so there are specific roles for the players which they have to perform strictly (depending on the game type).

Paintball doesn’t have this much variety of roles which airsoft provides; the snipers have to eliminate opponent players from far away with their long-range sniper rifles and provide necessary information to their teams, they also keep a pistol and a rubber knife to kill players in the close proximity.

Furthermore, the heavy canons are handled by their own experts. Grenades, ARs and SMGs are used by the assault teams. And the shotguns are usually utilized to break doors.

In case of long battles, the medic teams are available to help in case if First Aid is required.

 Paintball 

The paintball guns aka markers are the same so their roles also don’t differ that much, their roles are based on their expertise and preferences.

This sport can’t afford to have a sniper because of the less range of the paintballs. Instead, all the players come in the category of assault troops; some play at front, others at the center, and the rest of them provide cover from the back.

Events for Professional Players

 Airsoft 

Since it’s way easy to cheat in airsoft, we see fewer events and tournaments for airsoft players. Even in normal games, people cheat. Imagine the amount of cheating in tournaments where the reward is a huge amount of cash.

BUT, if you are interested you can find enough events and participate in tournaments. These are more organized ones with proper roles and tactics used just like the real soldiers.

 Paintball 

Paintball takes the lead here, many investors invest a lot of money in arranging cool tournaments in different fields. And the reward as cash is pretty high as well for the winners.

These tournaments are often seen as very crowded, an extreme and record-breaking example is of 5000+ participants in a single match, that’s INSANE!

Rules and Limitations

 Airsoft 

Since airsoft focuses on realism, its fields are usually of every type and in many different sizes. That’s why the rules aren’t universally applicable everywhere. Since the basic rules are always the same that’s why we will be talking about those here, and the rest of the rules vary from field to field.

  • Wearing eye protection is necessary
  • The max. FPS allowed for airsoft guns is 400, and for sniper rifles is 500.
  • A direct BB hit eliminates you from the game.
  • Friendly fire doesn’t exist in airsoft.

Read more about the airsoft rules in our detailed post.

 Paintball 

As the paintball doesn’t offer much variety in the type of games you can play, nor does it have super vast and different terrain fields. So its rules are structured which stays the same almost anywhere.

  • A direct paintball hit eliminates the player and he should go towards the dead zone.
  • No player can go out of certain boundaries.
  • Climbing the trees are also not allowed for safety concerns.

Which one’s more painful? Airsoft vs Paintball

 Airsoft 

The BBs that airsoft guns utilize are made of plastic having weight of 0.2 to o.3 gm and a size of 6 – 8 mm in diameter. And the FPS that airsoft guns shoot with is higher than the paintball markers, usually from 300 – 400 FPS, and it’s 500 FPS on average for sniper rifles.

So with less size and weight, even the high feet per second (FPS) doesn’t help in causing much pain as compared to the bigger and heavier paintballs.

which-hurts-more-airsoft-vs-pintball

 Paintball 

On the other hand, paintball markers achieve around 300 FPS on average, but the paintballs are about 15 times heavier (3.0g) and 3 times bigger (17mm) in size as compared to the airsoft BBs.

But size as well as the weight matters 😉

So, yes the paintball is a more painful sport than airsoft. Use protected gear and heavy clothing to reduce or completely avoid the pain.

 

 

Airsoft: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Economical hobby
  • Precise and accurate guns
  • Military simulation, requiring proper strategies and tactics
  • Realism
  • Powerful guns that even you can snipe from very far away
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance of guns
  • Less operational costs
  • An enormous amount of replicas you can choose from
  • Tons of BBs can be loaded in one single magazine
  • Good for physical health
Cons
  • Control cheating is not easy, it works on “honor system”
  • The airsoft guns don’t last that long
  • Airsoft shots may sting hard and might leave welts if you aren’t wearing proper clothes.
  • Risk of injuries for being hit from powerful FPS guns
  • Because of closeness to the real guns, kids may carelessly use a real firearm which may cause serious trouble

Paintball: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • It is almost impossible to cheat, thanks to the paints
  • Colorful and stylish clothing
  • The paintball markers are highly durable
  • More opportunities to participate in tournaments
  • Good for physical health
Cons
  • Less variety of guns
  • The paintball guns aren’t very accurate
  • It doesn’t have a good range so sniping isn’t possible
  • The big hoppers make using the gun somewhat difficult
  • An extremely messy sport and cleaning all that paint is a nightmare
  • Cleaning the gun is necessary after every use
  • Extremely painful and will leave bruises and welts especially if you aren’t wearing proper clothing and other safety gear

Wrapping Up

There you have it, a very detailed comparison of each aspect of Airsoft vs paintball, now you should have a good idea of each sport and which one you want to go with.

If you have made up your mind then start the necessary preparations; having fun with your friends, family or making new friends from playing with total strangers is absolutely gonna worth it whether you want to go with airsoft or paintball.

All that and physical movement and thinking critically will be useful for your mind and physical health.

If you would ask me? I am totally an airsoft guy, I have an extreme love for military life and I would hate my dress messed up with annoying paints all over my body.

Let me know in the comments if you still have any doubts left, and don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family members.

Stay safe and Happy Shooting! 🙂

A Navy Seal veteran who has served multiple international tours to Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. He is also an airsoft enthusiast who enjoys playing, sharing his knowledge and expertise of the vast airsoft realm.

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