Airsoft VS BB Guns: What’s the Difference?

TLDR: With airsoft you can shoot at other people (at the field), with normal metal BB’s that isn’t a good idea.

Are you one of the many people who get confused about what the difference is between an airsoft guns vs BB guns? You aren’t the only one.

At Airsoft Core we review airsoft guns and they are certainly not the same as their counterpart. We’ve been shot by steel BB’s before… it isn’t fun nor safe.

Yes, there are similarities, but the distinctions make it pretty clear that the two are in different categories.

So what we’re going to do is provide you with answers as to what these differences are.  This should clear up any confusion you might have on the subject.

airsoft vs bb guns - what's the difference?

What’s the difference between airsoft guns & and a BB guns?

Airsoft Gun Distinctions

Finding the Best Airsoft Pistol for Range & PowerOriginally made in Japan, these replicas were made so its citizen can participate in the sport of recreational shooting, which due to strict gun control laws, wasn’t really possible. So, these guns shoot projectiles with the intent that it would not be too harmful to the target.

Steel BB guns aren’t used in any kind of recreational way typically, but airsoft guns generally are used for the recreational activity of “airsoft”, which players form teams and conduct force-on-force games. There are different varieties of airsoft games users can play with differing levels of competitiveness.

The pellets that come with airsoft guns are not designed to cause any serious bodily harm. You can get shot with most of them at close range without having to worry about any serious damage to the skin.

Airsoft games are designed to be like skirmishes. It’s it similar to paintball, except instead of using paintball filled packets, pellets are used instead. Getting hit with airsoft pellets doesn’t leave any kind of stain on a person’s cloths, but can cause small welts or bruises at close range.

Airsoft guns generally have an important distinction that makes it clear they aren’t real guns. This would be an orange tip. Federal law requires this when it comes to replica firearms.

Airsoft guns fire small BBs typically come in certain sizes such as 6mm and are created using hard plastic. The weight is usually about 0.2 grams. You can also find biodegradable Bb’s that aren’t going to be harmful to the environment. The propellant will vary, but it is typically compressed air, green gas, or co2.

The majority of airsoft rifles used in recreational airsoft games can shoot about 300 to 450 feet per second (FPS). The accuracy is going to vary though depending on the quality of the airsoft guns and the weight of the 6mm BB used.

Even though the Bb’s from airsoft guns are safe to have hit a person, in order to ensure this players have to wear protective gear. These might include goggles and a facemask. In serious competitive play the skin should be covered up with protective gear as well.

BB Gun Distinctions

bb gun designed to fire steel ammoA BB gun (also known as an air gun or pellet gun) were designed by the Markham Air Rifle company and they shoot hard pellets and are a lot more powerful than a typical airsoft gun. Airsoft guns can hurt, but not to the level of traditional BB guns.

Because of this they are able to cause serious bodily harm and shouldn’t really be used to fire at another person. In fact, a bb gun can be capable of killing smaller animals like rodents. DO NOT SHOOT ANOTHER HUMAN with one.

BB guns aren’t able to be used in competitive play like airsoft guns can, but they do come in use for people who want to shoot pests, small game, or for target practice.

BB guns generally don’t come with an orange tip, because they are designed to look as close to a real gun as possible.

BB guns have two primary forms of ammunition: Metal BB and metal pellets.

BB guns are able to fire off as powerful as 1250 FPS. This can be close to what a real firearm can do. The majority of BB guns shoot in the range of 275 FPS to 1000 feet per second.

You can easily injure another human with a steel BB airgun!

In order to use a gun users will or should apply the similar caution as what they would if using a real firearm, such as shoot glasses.

Air rifles typically make use of two primary propellants, pneumatic pump or gas. Pneumatic pump build up air pressure via hand pumps. The gas version makes use of prepackaged, compressed gas, typically Co2. The gas version makes it so that a person fire their BB gun in rapid bursts or semi-automatically.

Older air guns would actually just be powered by a spring piston.


BB air guns and airsoft guns are made to be very accurate. Some people think that airsoft guns aren’t as accurate as their BB gun counterpart, but this isn’t true. The thing is users need to make sure the airsoft gun they have is good quality and properly tuned with a good hopup. The best airsoft pistol is capable of striking targets at 100m away on a good day.

An airsoft gun have an advantage over a BB gun due to the hop up system that enables the airsoft pellets to have backspin. This enables them to maintain a more level trajectory, which is useful with long range shooting.

Due to the weight and size ratio, pellets from a BB gun tend to be less effected by the elements when shooting – and are good for general target practice.


BB guns and airsoft guns use projectiles of different weight and materials. Due to this it’s best to use them in distinct shooting situations.

A pellet from a BB gun are more likely to ricochet off of things when shooting with a lot more force than plastic BBs from airsoft guns. So users need to be careful if using a BB gun near windows or any object that can be broken.

Airsoft 6mm plastic BBs are more safe to use against live targets in control airsoft games (assuming every player is equipped with safety gear like eye pro.)


The cost of BB guns and airsoft guns are going to vary depending on the quality, brand and style.

BB guns can be more expensive when you get to the higher end models, but airsoft guns can also be pricey. This is usually based on brand though. The higher end airsoft guns have a tendency to be far more expensive than even the high end air guns.

Type of Ammunition

This, right here, is the most important distinction to be made. Airsoft guns utilize a plastic 6mm BB pellet, which is extremely distinct from a 4.3mm steel BB fire by pellet guns. The 6mm BB is both larger, lighter, and travels at a slower velocity than its steel counterpart.

BB weight

The energy at the point of impact on a 6mm BB is significantly less than that on the steel BB’s. In fact, steel BB can cause severe injury to the victim, especially if shot in a very sensitive place.

Both are good at any kind of target practice.

These bb's are made of steel or brass and can be harmful to the target

Airsoft VS BB? They are two different things entirely

As you can see there are differences between airsoft vs bb guns, but the key one is how much more damage a BB gun can do over an airsoft gun. That’s why at Airsoft Core we do what we can to educate users so they understand what they are getting into.

Airsoft guns generally are much safer, but still will require the proper protective measures in competitive play as some guns, like an airsoft sniper rifle, fire can fire at 500 fps or more.

The other main distinction we want you to take away is that airsoft guns are designed for recreational and competitive play, not BB guns. This is why you can find them in so many styles and they have the orange tip to distinguish them. Plus, the airsoft bb is far less likely to injure someone if you shoot them (which is the name of the game in competitive airsoft matches).

BB guns are just too powerful for this, even on the low end. Hopefully you understand now about these two types of guns and won’t make the mistake of thinking they are the same thing.

It’s actually easy to make this mistake to because sometimes you might go on a site that uses the same terminology for BB guns as they do airsoft guns. Even in every day lingo, we sometimes say “BB” when we really are referring to the airsoft BB. Remember the distinctions and you’ll be okay.

Timothy Hackett
Timothy Hackett

Tim has been playing airsoft since 1994. With over a thousand (no lie) airsoft games under his belt he has spent countless hours testing various airsoft guns and tactical gear. He's gotten hundreds (still no lie) of people into the airsoft hobby and is more than willing to spread the love of slinging 6mm plastic to any new player.

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