Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

airsoft or paintball

We’re often asked: what’s more painful: paintball or airsoft? When we’re talking about bare skin, both can cause a noticeable amount of pain, but we’ve taken many airsoft shots in our time, and we’re sure paintballs hurt more, but let’s find out if that’s true and what you can do to minimise the risk of getting shot during your skirmish or paintball match.

Join us as we look at why paintballs and airsoft BB bullets feel different, which hurts more, and how you can protect yourself to make the sport much more comfortable.

What Hurts More, Airsoft or Paintball?

What Hurts More Airsoft or Paintball 1
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

When comparing the pain level between airsoft and paintball, it’s a bit subjective, as different people have varying pain tolerances, and different types of pain can affect people differently.

However, generally, players report that getting hit by a paintball tends to hurt more than an airsoft pellet. This is mostly because paintballs are larger and heavier, meaning they have a more forceful impact on your body, causing a larger bruise or welt.

That being said, safety measures such as wearing the right gear can significantly reduce the pain experienced in either sport to make them more enjoyable.

What Are Paintballs Made From?

Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

Paintballs are typically made from a combination of food-grade ingredients and are biodegradable, which makes them perfect for outdoor play as you don’t have to worry about collecting the remnants after your match.

The outer shell is made from gelatine, similar to that used in common food and pharmaceutical products. This allows it to break easily upon contact with players. Inside, the filling is primarily composed of polyethene glycol (PEG), along with other non-toxic and water-soluble substances and dye to mark hits.

Paintballs come in a range of sizes, from the petite 0.43 to the mighty 0.71. Each has its own unique uses, benefits, and drawbacks. But ultimately, the bigger the calibre, the farther and faster those paintball guns can launch them!

The composition of paintballs ensures they are environmentally friendly, safe for players, and easy to wash off clothing and gear.

Paintball Size (Calibre)Approximate Weight (grams)
0.431.0 – 1.2
0.501.5 – 1.7
0.68 (Standard Size)3.0 – 3.5
0.713.8 – 4.2
  • 0.43 Calibre: These are smaller paintballs, often used in low-impact paintball games, suitable for younger players or those looking for a less intense experience.
  • 0.50 Calibre: A mid-size option offering a balance between impact and comfort. It’s less common than 0.68 but is growing in popularity for recreational play.
  • 0.68 Calibre: This is the standard size used in most paintball games and tournaments. It’s the most widely available and used size.
  • 0.71 Calibre: These are larger and heavier, providing a more significant impact. They are less common and typically used in specific types of paintball markers.

What Are Airsoft Pellets Made From?

airsoft pellets
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

Airsoft pellets, also called BBs, are typically made from plastic or biodegradable materials.

The standard size for these pellets is 6mm in diameter, and they weigh between 0.20 and 0.40 grams. The lighter airsoft BBs tend to be less expensive and are suitable for less powerful airsoft guns or for indoor or short-range use.

Heavier BBs, on the other hand, are more accurate and have a longer range, making them preferable for outdoor use or with high-powered airsoft guns.

It’s worth noting that while plastic BBs are suitable for general use, many outdoor airsoft sites require the use of biodegradable BBs to minimise environmental impact.

Weight (grams)Common Use
0.12Indoor play, low-powered airsoft guns
0.20The standard weight for most games
0.25Outdoor play, medium-powered guns
0.28Outdoor play, higher accuracy
0.30High-powered guns, long-range play
0.36 – 0.40Sniper rifles, long-range accuracy

It’s important to choose the right weight for your specific airsoft gun and play style, as it can significantly affect performance and accuracy.

How to Protect Yourself During Airsoft & Paintball

Ensuring safety and maximising enjoyment – that’s the name of the game when it comes to airsoft! ultimately, you won’t be able to fully enjoy games of airsoft if you aren’t taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself protected from airsoft BBs.

Here are our top tips to help you keep yourself safe while playing airsoft and minimise the effects of getting hit by on-target shots.

#1 Wear Protective Gear

airsoft protective gear
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

Wearing appropriate protective gear can significantly lessen the impact and resultant pain of being hit with paintball or airsoft shots.

Eye Protection

First and foremost, eye protection such as goggles or a full-face mask is mandatory, not only for pain prevention but primarily to avoid serious injury. 

We recommend the Dye i4 Mask Thermal (Camo) for full face protection or the Bolle Cobra Hybrid Glasses if you’re on more of a budget.

Body Protection

Body protection, such as padded clothing, can help to absorb the energy of the pellet, reducing the chances of bruises or welts. Specific airsoft vests also provide additional padding in high-impact areas. 

We love the Emerson Gear G3 Combat Shirt for upper body protection. The Ripstop fabric helps avoid unnecessary tears during tough combat, and there are pouches for elbow pads to offer extra protection.

The Emerson Gear G3 Combat Pants are great for your lower half. They feature built-in knee pads and a double-layered seat to ensure durability and protection no matter how intense things get on the battlefield.

Gloves protect the hands, one of the most sensitive and exposed parts of the body during games. We recommend the Kombat UK Delta Fast Gloves for airsofters who want to be able to still feel things through their gloves. The elasticated wrist makes it easy to get on and off in the heat of battle.

Head Protection

Lastly, headgear such as helmets or hats can protect the scalp, another sensitive area. Our favourites are the Kombat UK Adjustable Fast Helmet and the FMA AirFrame Style Helmet. Both of these helmet designs offer significant protection for your head during a skirmish.

Remember, while no gear can entirely eliminate the potential for pain, they can substantially reduce it, making the game more enjoyable and safe.

#2 Keep Your Skin Covered

airsoft clothing
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

Keeping your skin covered during a paintball or an airsoft game can be an effective strategy for minimising pain from pellet hits. The clothing acts as a barrier, absorbing some of the impact force and spreading it over a larger area, which makes a huge difference to the intensity of the hit on a specific point.

This is particularly true for thick clothing or when you’re wearing multiple layers. Also, it goes without saying covering your skin protects it from direct contact with the fast-flying pellets, reducing the chances of abrasions, scrapes, or cuts.

Covered skin also mitigates the risk of direct hits to sensitive areas, further contributing to a safer and more comfortable playing experience.

Note: While regular clothing can offer some degree of protection, specialised airsoft gear is designed specifically for this purpose, often incorporating padding and durable materials for enhanced protection.

#3 Adhere to Safe Firing Practices

Safe firing practices in airsoft not only make the game safer but also less painful.

Adhering to a minimum engagement distance rule, for instance, can significantly reduce the pain of being hit. This rule prevents players from firing at an opponent who is within a certain distance, typically 10 feet, thus avoiding the increased pain that can occur from close-range hits.

Additionally, practising controlled firing instead of spraying BBs can prevent unnecessary hits and potential injuries, which also helps in reducing pain.

Highlighting safety in firing practices can make airsoft a less painful and more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Remember that airsoft is a game of skill and strategy, not of causing pain to others. Therefore, understanding when to fire and when to hold back is a key part of the game.

#4 Stay Alert to Your Surroundings

Maintaining a high level of vigilance over your surroundings during a paintball or airsoft game is an effective way to minimise the risk of getting hit by ammo, subsequently reducing potential pain.

This strategy involves a keen understanding and constant awareness of the field layout, player positions, and game tactics. By being aware of your surroundings, you can spot the best places for cover, potential ambush sites, and advantageous positions for attacking or defending.

This awareness gives you the upper hand, allowing you to avoid opponents’ fire or respond quickly when under attack. 

Also, by staying alert, you can better anticipate your opponents’ moves and dodge incoming pellets, further reducing the chances of being hit.

Remember, airsoft is not just about firepower; it’s also about being skilful and smart. So, the more aware and tactical you are, the less likely you are to face painful hits.
protect yourself with airsoft clothing
Airsoft Vs Paintball: What Hurts More? (& How to Protect Yourself)

Suit Up & Protect Yourself With Socom Tactical

Being hit by BBs in airsoft or pellets in paintball is part and parcel of the game. However, you can minimise any pain from taking a hit with the right gear and experience. In fact, the hits you take can barely register depending on whether you’ve got the right combination of tactical clothing.

Stock up on essential protective gear before your next battle and shop online or in-store today.


About Socom Tactical Airsoft