As mentioned in a previous blog, in general paintball hurts more than airsoft. After subjecting (un)willing volunteers to sustained fire from a range of airsoft guns and paintball guns (for science!) we can confirm that paintballs hurt more.
While BBs in airsoft travel faster than fat, sluggish paintballs, when paintballs land, they land with serious impact. But there are more considerations than being shot to take into account…
Why does paintballing hurt more than airsoft?
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 difference isn’t that much.
But the difference in size is much greater. The superior mass of paintballs results in significantly bigger impacts. It’s the difference between being hit by a stone or a piece of gravel in terms of size.
Another consideration is design. Paintballs need to explode on impact, otherwise you’re not paintballing. In order to breach on impact, a paintball needs to be travelling at a sufficient (and more painful) speed. When it impacts, the energy is dispersed in a larger radius than a BB, which is why it hurts more.
Ballistic Flight Physics
So size impacts performance. Heavier BBs hurt more than lighter ones. Heavier BBs also provide greater accuracy, and are better suited to long range and long barrel airsoft guns.
In order to meet legal limits, the heavier the BB, the lower the FPS. Paintball guns on the other hand, in the majority, have fixed FPSs, especially if you’re renting them. This means that your experience in getting shot is constant.
Airsofting, on the other hand, features a wide range of airsoft guns, each with different rates of fire and BB weights. So some guns basically hit harder than others.
If you’ve picked up a voucher booklet from the paintball people at the shopping centre and popped down to the site with your friends, what do you get? A mask, overalls… maybe knee and elbow pads. It’s a one-time thing so you don’t need anything more than that.
But, if you’re airsofting, you’re looking to invest. Not just in your gun, but in your gear. Before you know it, you’re wearing or carrying all lots of gear. Tactical rigs, gloves, helmets and apparel that all help reduce the impact of BBs hits.
How hard does a BB have to hit to penetrate the skin?
The critical velocity required to pierce skin is calculated using this formula:
m is the mass of a BB, in grams. We are defining penetration here as the BB entering your skin to a depth of more than half of the BBs diameter (also known as “$#*! that hurt!”). So, a typical 0.20g airsoft BB will penetrate the skin at 136.7 m/s.
136.7m/s can easily be achieved by many airsoft guns at close ranges, so what out! Make sure you’re wearing your protective gear. Ultimately, how much it hurts depends on your pain threshold, where you’re hit and what you’re wearing. but one thing’s for sure — it hurts much less than being shot for real!