BB guns came into existence in 1876, nearly 100 years before Airsoft guns, and were mass produced two years later allowing people to shoot BB projectiles.
Airsoft originated in Japan in the 1970s and was originally used for target practice before it was used recreationally for war games and arrived in the UK in the 1980s.
Airsoft guns were not only just manufactured for skirmishes but were made to imitate the look and feel of real firearms.
This is the first major difference between the two; BB guns generally do look like firearms but Airsoft guns are made to resemble specific models throughout history or more modern models.
Both guns fire BB pellets but Airsoft guns use plastic pellets which do little to no damage while BB guns fire lead or metal projectiles which can potentially cause damage and/or harm depending on the force and distance of the shot.
In the UK, there is no real call for members of the public to own a BB gun as these are usually used for training or target practice. BB guns are more popular in places like the USA where citizens may own a gun and would use BB guns as practice.
Airsoft guns are used for battle simulations held on a number of sites across the UK and the world from skirmishes to military simulation; militaries may also often make use of Airsoft guns for training purposes.
Both Airsoft guns and BB guns are capable of producing powerful shots with a potential velocity of 500fps but the material used for the pellets make BB gun shots capable of causing damage to people, property or animals.
The ammunition used for BB guns also makes them more accurate than Airsoft guns as the lead and steel pellets are more resistant to wind and other conditions keeping their trajectory on course.
Airsoft weapons are often customisable or come with accessories which can help to combat wind resistance such as the hop-up system which improves accuracy over long distances to put it level with and perhaps beyond the accuracy of BB guns.
Both types of guns can be as cheap or as expensive as you need them to be. Simpler versions of BB guns and Airsoft guns without an array of different features can be relatively cheap.
Guns with more features, made from more durable materials or made to look like a particular iconic model can make BB guns and Airsoft guns a premium purchase.
The added cost of Airsoft guns comes from the maintenance and accessories for the gun as well as costs associated with regularly taking part in skirmishes or milsim or other Airsoft events.
Airsoft Guns and its plastic pellets makes it suitable for use against other people in these events as long as everybody wears eye protection while BB guns should never be used against people.
Some BB pellets for Airsoft guns are bio-degradable so that once it is shot and drops to the ground, it will eventually go back into the earth.
Neither type of gun should be carried in public no matter how fake it looks (Airsoft guns in particular can be two-tone meaning they are brightly coloured) so they must be stored away if you are carrying them around or to an event.
For someone to own an Airsoft gun, they must be at least 18 years old and will need to become a registered member at a skirmish site and play for at least three days over two months.
Otherwise, these can be used for historical re-enactments, for a museum or for film and television production.
Further steps are necessary if you want to own a Realistic Imitation Firearm for your Airsoft gun collection.
A run-down of some of the major acts regarding Airsoft Laws can be found on our site here.