Airsoft vs. BB Guns – Similar yet Different

If you are like tons of others, you probably have been confused about the difference between an airsoft gun and a BB gun, because, like others, you’ve always believed both are the same. They are not, and though it’s easy to confuse them, you’ll understand that they are very different once you get some in-depth details on both.  

Airsoft vs. BB: Accuracy

When it comes to accuracy, both guns can accurately hit targets when factors like gun type, BBs and FPS are optimized.

However, BB guns have been known to be a bit more accurate than airsoft guns because of the ammunition. Steel and lead are generally less susceptible to the wind and other elements that might easily knock light-weighted plastic BBs off course which makes it easy for them to dominate long-range shooting.  

Nevertheless, they are usually no match for Airsoft guns up close. Plus, Airsoft guns are designed with a hop up system that puts some spin on the BB, to help it maintain a level trajectory for longer distances, enhancing the accuracy for long distance shooting. True, it could take some time to get your hop excellently tuned, but the result is worth it once you get it locked in.

Airsoft vs. BB: Ammunition

Ammunition is perhaps one of the most significant differences between BB guns and Airsoft guns. While BB guns fire small metal or lead BBs which of course makes them potentially harmful depending on the strength of the gun, Airsoft guns on the other hand fire plastic projectiles making them safe enough for recreational use.

Also, BB guns propel 4.5 mm metal pellets (.177 caliber) with a lot more energy than regular airsoft pellets while airsoft guns fire 6mm or 8mm diameter plastic pellets that range between .12g to .42g.

BB guns can break the skin and in more severe cases get lodged beneath the skin and may require a visit to the hospital to take out. Yes, they may be unbelievably fun and even give you the same feeling you’d get from shooting the “real thing,” keep in mind that they are far from being toys and should be treated just how they work – like actual firearms. This might be why they are never shipped with the same distinguishing orange-colored tips found on airsoft guns.

Airsoft vs. BB: How They Are Used

BB guns are used for target practices or training. Most of the more powerful ones can even be successfully used for small game hunting or pest control. Airsoft guns on their part are commonly used in war games where players are arranged in tactical simulation and are expected to eliminate the opposite team or complete various objectives. They are also popularly used by SWAT teams and military units for training purposes.

Airsoft vs. BB: Realism

Airsoft guns are the exact replicas of real guns and differentiating them can be challenging once you take out the orange flash hider. Unlike BB guns, Airsoft guns are more or less focused on aesthetics in an attempt to appear as much as possible as their steel counterparts.

Also, it’s hard to find an airsoft gun that isn’t the replica of some actual military firearm which is why they are used frequently as movie and TV props instead of real guns. BB guns, on the other hand, are often modeled loosely after old hunting rifles, pistol-grip-less firearms, or some other pistol model, but they are without doubt not the most realistic looking guns available. However, they make up in performance where they fall short in appearance.

Airsoft vs. BB: Power

Typically, airsoft guns fire 6mm plastic pellets without as much energy as the BB guns. And because they are bigger and lighter, some pellets types may also slow down quickly after leaving the barrel of the gun. Also, because of their lightweight, bleeding or welts may not occur even if you fire an airsoft pistol into your hand (you shouldn’t) though it could sting for some minutes. You can’t attempt the same with BB guns without a skin tear at least.

Another difference is that BB guns can fire up to 1250 FPS, which is quite close to what an actual firearm can do. Airsoft guns on their part can shoot up to 500 FPS with modified guns going above that mark and even beyond the high-performance of BB guns.

Airsoft vs. BB: Cost

The cost of the guns can vary depending on the brand, quality, and style. High-end BB guns can be pricy but so can airsoft, but all this again is dependent on the brand. Commonly, you may find an airsoft gun at Wal-Mart or any other regular store for as low $12.00, but it’s also not unusual to find high-end professional models with all the bells, whistles and cam for as high as $1,000 to $2,000 or even beyond. It’s the same with BB guns and their ammunition.

Airsoft vs. BB: Environments

While the environment for shooting both may differ because of the material and energy level of the projectiles, ensure you use eye protection when using either of them. However, because steel BBs can cause more damage and bounce off objects with more force than an airsoft gun, you would need to be extremely careful for your safety, the safety of others around you and breakable objects like doors and windows.

This cannot be overemphasized; never shoot a BB gun at another human, if you need a gun for war games, airsoft remains the best for such as they are designed to hit and not to harm. If you’ve decided on using a standard steel BB gun for war games, you may want to be equally prepared for a trip to your local emergency unit for injury treatment and BB removals.

History of BB guns

The origin of the first BB guns dates as far back as 1886. A revolutionary piston-gun made of maple wood and bits of metal, the initial BBs were real shotgun pellets measuring 0.180 inches in diameter. George W. Sage, the man credited with designing the new air gun, picked one of the most common projectiles that could fit inside of his weapon.

The following year, Clarence Hamilton invented an all-metal spring-piston airgun that could shoot lead BB projectiles.  He showed this to Lewis Cass Hough, a savvy businessman and mass production of the gun began in 1888, from then, Hamilton BB guns grew in popularity as they sold like hotcakes. 

History of the Airsoft Gun

The guns today known as the airsoft guns were first manufactured in Japan in the early 1970s. These guns were created by shooting hobbyists who wanted to enjoy their prized pastime but also had to abide by Japan’s strict gun control laws. 

The airsoft guns were initially used for target practice until it was discovered that humans could be shot at without significant injury. Soon the guns traveled overseas and grew popular in the United States and Europe in the mid-1980s with Daisy BB Gun Company developing the first spring gun models called “Replisoft” and “Soft Air.”  In 2004, Daisy began the manufacture and marketing of guns again in the United States using the brand name “Powerstrike.” Soon, other manufacturers have followed in Daisy’s footsteps, and different models were made available in the U.S airsoft market.

So, there you go; Airsoft vs. BB guns, the purpose of this article wasn’t to decide which is better but to help you understand the differences and practical uses of both airsoft and BB guns and also help you appreciate and respect each better. Again, BB guns cannot be used for competitive play especially in actual leagues with many participants.

Also, no matter which you eventually opt for or use frequently, use such with your safety, the safety of others and your environment in mind and remember to have as much fun as possible.