Airsoft Vs Paintball: What’s The Difference?

airsoft vs paintball 1

Want to know the differences between Airsoft vs Paintball? Read on to find out!

Any airsoft fan will be quick to tell you that airsoft is the best military simulation sport available and is second to none.

But is this all just hyperbole?

Airsoft and paintball may appear to be very similar on the surface, but dig down and you’ll discover that they are quite different.

Paintball and airsoft are both tactical combat scenario experiences that rely on teamwork, tactics, and firearms.

Objectives vary from capture the flag to classic team deathmatch, but they broadly involve teams of players out-manoeuvring and out-gunning each other.

Airsoft Equipment

Airsoft prides itself on using authentically replicated firearms to provide as real an experience as possible.  There are thousands of firearms available, each with its range, weight, and rate of fire.

Part of the tactical element of airsoft comes down to the choice of load-outs and ensuring that all your options are covered.

airsoft equipment
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What's The Difference?

Airsoft Guns

Airsoft guns use 6mm plastic BBs as ammunition, which is propelled through the air by compressed gas, battery-powered motors, or springs.

Furthermore, airsoft guns are required by law to have an energy output of less than 1 joule, meaning they can’t cause serious injury.

However, this doesn’t mean they can’t sting if you get hit in exposed skin at close range!

It’s worth mentioning that airsoft guns come in two main types – AEGs (Automatic Electric Guns) and GBBs (Gas Blowback).

AEGs are battery powered and as the name suggests, can fire automatically. GBBs use compressed gas to power each shot and are semi-automatic.

Paintball Equipment

Conversely, paintball guns are almost universally identical.

You can get larger paintball hoppers or different sized CO2 tanks, but for the most part, paintball guns are the same. You can choose from a range of coloured paintballs, though.

The ammo is different too. Paintballs are larger than airsoft BBs, at 8.2mm in diameter, and are filled with washable paint (non-toxic and biodegradable).

Paintball markers fire using compressed CO2, which is stored in a tank that’s either attached to the marker or carried separately.

paintball equipment
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What's The Difference?

Paintball Guns

Paintball guns, unlike airsoft guns, use compressed CO2 to fire paintballs at around 300fps.

The impact of a paintball is enough to leave a noticeable mark but rarely causes any serious injury.

Paintballs are also biodegradable, so there’s no need to worry about littering the battlefield with plastic BBs!

However, paintball guns do have one significant advantage over airsoft guns…

Airsoft vs Paintball: Accuracy

Paintball guns are far more accurate than airsoft guns, thanks to the larger ammo and the fact that paintballs are fired at a lower velocity.

This means that paintball is often the preferred choice for close-quarters combat, whereas airsoft is better suited to longer-range engagements.

Some airsoft guns do have the ability to fire in semi-automatic mode, which does improve accuracy, but for the most part, airsoft guns are less accurate than paintball guns.

Sniper rifles have long been part of airsoft skirmishes too,  which does help to counter the accuracy issue, to some extent.

Airsoft relies heavily on teamwork and communication, which is why many airsoft teams also use radio headsets to coordinate their efforts.

Airsoft vs Paintball: Rules and Etiquette

The big difference between airsoft and paintball, however, is the culture and community that has grown up around each sport.

Paintball has always been seen as a fun activity to do with friends, whereas airsoft has been taken much more seriously from the outset.

This is reflected in the equipment, with airsoft guns being replicas of real firearms, and the games themselves, which often emulate military exercises.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that paintball can’t be serious, but the two sports have different feels to them.

Airsoft also has a much more strict set of rules and etiquette than paintball. For example, players are required to shout “bang” when they think they have hit someone, rather than just shooting at them.

This is designed to make the game more realistic and also prevent cheating, as it can be difficult to tell if a shot has actually connected with its target.

Paintball has a more relaxed approach to its rules, and players are generally free to shoot paintball pellets at whoever they want, without having to call their shots first.

airsoft safety rules
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What's The Difference?

Airsoft vs Paintball Safety

Another big difference between airsoft and paintball is the safety equipment that is required.

Paintball masks are designed to protect the entire face,  as paintballs can break on impact and cause serious injury.

Airsoft masks, on the other hand, only need to protect the eyes, as the BBs are not large enough to cause any damage to the rest of the face.

This is reflected in the prices of the two sports, with paintball being significantly more expensive than airsoft.

Airsoft vs Paintball: Costs

Paintball has been losing out to other outdoor sports, like airsoft.

For the last few years there has been little growth in the market. For a long time, paintball was the old dog – expensive and unsatisfying.

But today it’s making something of a comeback.

Despite paintball’s comeback airsoft is, on average, still the cheaper option. Generally, an airsoft gun is cheaper and less expensive to maintain, and the BB ammo can be up to five times cheaper than paintballs.

A paintball gun is usually a lot more expensive than an airsoft gun too!

Airsoft Gameplay vs Paintball

Airsoft fanatics will tell you that squad tactics are far more important than they are in paintball.

The realism of the guns encourages the use of detailed tactics, while paintballing is just a firefight where the last man standing wins.

In reality, if you want to win a simulated combat scenario, you need to use tactics and use them well.

The casual nature appeal of paintball may result in sloppier tactics and people mucking around, but those who use strategy will always win the day.

Playing Paintball vs Airsoft

Paintball is easy to get into. You can buy a gun, some paintballs and go play.

Airsoft is not quite so simple. When you first start playing airsoft there is an investment in time as well as money.

You will need to find out about guns, brands, types of ammo , effective range, how to clean and maintain your airsoft rifle, what kind of battery to use and so on.

You might also need to make or buy some airsoft gear such as eyewear protection. Then you can start playing!

paintball vs airsoft
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What's The Difference?

Does Airsoft Hurt More Than Paintball?

If you’ve ever been paintballing, you know that it hurts. The reason for this is physics: Impact = Mass x Velocity.

While BBs travel slightly faster than paintballs, the superior mass of paintballs results in significantly bigger impacts. This is why unlucky paintball players end up with bodies looking like join the dot puzzles, covered in round bruises.

Airsoft vs Paintball Learning Curve

Paintballing is a known quantity and a popular activity for stag dos, parties and the like. But if you’re a new player looking to start a new outdoor hobby to get fit, have fun and meet new people, airsoft is the better option.

For new players it’s cheaper than paintballing and offers a great deal of depth to explore and enjoy from the guns to the roles to the tactics. There’s a lot to get your teeth into when it comes to airsoft.

So, which is better? Airsoft or paintball?

The answer, as with most things, is that it depends on what you’re looking for.

If you want a more realistic military simulation experience, then airsoft is the way to go.

But if you’re just looking to  run around and shoot at your friends for a bit of fun, then paintball is probably the better option.

If you’re thinking of starting airsoft, whether alone or with your friends, visit Socom. Our friendly and approachable staff can run you through everything you need to know about airsoft.

Our store also has everything you need to get started. Why not visit us today if you’re passing through Fleet?


About Laurence

Laurence is a keen airsoft player and has been the owner of SoCom Tactical for over 10 years. He’s played airsoft all over the country solo and as part of teams and is an expert on all things airsoft, like tactics, airsoft guns and gameplay equipment. As one of the UK’s leading airsoft suppliers and retailers, Laurence is the go-to source for airsoft knowledge.