airsoft-vs-paintballPaintball and Airsoft are very similar sports and have some differences, too. In this guide we will explore the differences between airsoft vs paintball.

Both sports are played on a field.  All players wear protective gear.

The paintball gun fires a small round ball filled with a water-soluble dye.  It leaves a mark on the target.

In Airsoft, the players use a gun that is very similar to a real gun. It fires plastic round balls that shatter an impact on the target.

A paintball is made of a biodegradable, non-toxic, soluble polymer that has a gelatin shell. Paintball quality is dependent on the roundness of the sphere, higher quality balls are close to perfect spherical. They have a very thin shell to ensure that it will break on impact. Most paintballs are biodegradable.  The standard size of a paintball is 0.68”.

A paintball gun is also known as a marker or paintball marker. The paintball marker is used by the player to shoot paintballs to tag an opposing player.

A hopper or loader is attached to the paintball marker to keep it filled with paintballs. Some are gravity-fed and some are electronically force-fed. The marker uses a CO2 tank or a compressed air tank for propulsion.

Airsoft guns are imitation firearms. They shoot plastic projectiles that are 6mm or 8mm in diameter. paintball-vs-airsoftAirsoft guns are either spring loaded, electric, or gas-powered. They are full replicas of grenade launchers that fire a spray of 6mm pellets.

For rapid fire, there is a gun called “PolarStar”. They have a high-pressure air tank and a battery pack. These guns have a high and adjustable rate of fire.

Some newer guns are made with metal inside internal and external parts. A typical airsoft gun is lighter than its real counterpart. This is because they are made of aluminum, alloy, and plastic. Added weights can make a gun to have a more realistic feel.

Paintballs come in pods and pod packs. A pod is a plastic container that has a flip-open lid. It stores paintballs so they can be ready to use. Pods come in 100 and 140 round sizes.

Tournament players favor the 140 round pods. A pod pack is where the pods are stored to be easily accessed during play. Tournament style harnesses are available. The recreational player may have a belt loop system that can carry one or two extra pods.

Airsoft gas handgun magazines hold 10 to 30 pellets. There exist high capacity magazines that hold 0 rounds or more.

The electronic propelled rifles come in capacities that mimic the real steel counterpart. These can be low-capacity, which are 10-50 rounds, mid capacity, which are 75-200 rounds, or high-capacity, which are 190+ rounds.

The magazines are spring-loaded. There are even guns with a battery-powered drum magazine that can hold thousands of pellets.

Both sports use similar protective equipment. Participants wear masks or goggles. Masks are worn to protect from paintballs or pellets. Today the goggles are similar to those used in skiing or snowboarding. They have an attached shell that covers the eyes, mouth, and ears of the player.

Some masks have throat guards. Paintball players dress in jerseys and pants that are derived from motocross and BMX clothing.

People who participate in tournaments wear clothing that has padding that allows free range of motion while protecting the player from paintballs and contact with the hard ground. Some designs help during the play because they sometimes deflect the paintballs.airsoft-paintball-difference

Hard-shelled armor is worn to protect a player from bruising while playing in an indoor field where shooting is at close range. Knee pads for paintball are made of soft foam and are worn inside the pants to prevent abrasions. Elbow pads and gloves are also available.

In airsoft, the players dress in a BDU which is their battle dress uniform. This is often camouflage or cammies. It is basically what is worn to designate a players nationality or country they are representing.

Airsoft battles mimic military or police actions.  So the dress is similar to that of real soldiers.  Many players of airsoft do Mil-Sim, or military simulation. This is a style of play where the military simulation of the sport is played. This requires proper attire, gear, and weapon setup.

Airsoft guns generally have a 6mm or longer orange tip on the barrel. This helps distinguish them from real guns. Paintball guns don’t require this. This, however, is not a federal law. There may be some guns not marked this way being used.

Lasers on the guns are generally not used. In fact, in some countries it is illegal to use the laser as a targeting device.

Paintball has a large variety of rules and variations. These are specified before playing. The basic idea of most variations is to accomplish a goal without being shot by a paintball. There are a number of different rules about the legality of a hit. This can be from “anything counts” which is where any hit whether the paintball breaks or not to the paintball must leave a quarter sized or larger mark. Players who are eliminated leave the field. Depending on the rules a player may re-enter the game or be eliminated completely.

A particular goal of the game is determined before the game begins. Some examples capture the flag and elimination.  One variant is the woodsball. It is played in a natural environment. The playfield is usually very large. Woodsball is where opposing teams compete in a wooded or natural environment.  It has been applied to any form of paintball played in a natural surroundings instead of an artificial field or an arena. Woodsball is played with very large teams. They have to obtain a goal or an objective. 


Player kneels down in a game of speedball

Airsoft is played mostly in mil-sim or military simulation. Reenacting military operations is one of the ways Airsoft is played. Many other games also exist.  There is hostage rescue, free for all, team Deathmatch, or behind enemy lines.  There are a variety of games available to play.

Both paintball and Airsoft have competitive play. There are large scale and small scale competitions. Many games are featured andcompetitions can be found all over the United States and in other countries as well. Paintball and airsoft appeals to the person that likes to get out there and shoot something.

In paintball the thrill of hitting a target and causing a paint tag is a fantastic feeling.

In airsoft, the experience of military style combat and use of near real-like weapons can be alluring. Suiting up for combat is a thrilling experience. The fun of hunting down enemies and delivering a shot is unmatched.  Playing in a historical re-enactment can be rewarding.

Both sports are very similar. One would have to decide whether they want the shots to be clearly marked with a paint spot or if the honor system is used. In airsoft the honor system is used to identify when someone is shot. The type of weapon used is also a choice of sports. One uses a gun that is clearly a sport weapon, whereas the other uses a weapon that looks like a real weapon. The choice is up to the preference of the player. Choosing which is best is very difficult.

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