What’s the Difference Between Airsoft Guns and BB Guns?

When it comes to recreational shooting sports, two popular options often come to mind: airsoft guns and BB guns. While they may appear similar at first glance, there are important distinctions between these two types of firearms.

An Airsoft gun shoots plastic BBs and is intended for person-to-person shooting games. A BB gun primarily shoots metal BBs and is intended for plinking or pest control and should not be shot at another person. Using a BB gun at an Airsoft game is not allowed and will result in you getting banned from the field and in some cases charged.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key differences between airsoft guns and BB guns, including their design, ammunition, safety considerations, and recommended uses.

Design and Function

When it comes to design and function, airsoft guns and BB guns have some similarities, but they also have important differences.

Airsoft guns are designed to replicate the appearance and operation of real firearms. They typically feature a blowback mechanism that mimics the recoil of a real firearm, providing a more realistic shooting experience. Airsoft guns are often used in simulation games.

On the other hand, BB guns are typically designed to resemble real firearms, but they don’t offer the same level of realism as airsoft guns. BB guns are usually powered by CO2 cartridges or spring mechanisms and are commonly used for target practice and plinking.


One of the key differences between airsoft guns and BB guns lies in the ammunition they use.

Airsoft guns fire plastic pellets known as “BBs” or “airsoft pellets.” These pellets are lightweight and specifically designed for airsoft gameplay. Airsoft pellets come in various weights, ranging from 0.12 grams to 0.48 grams.

BB guns, on the other hand, use metal or plastic BBs as ammunition. These BBs are typically made of steel and are heavier than airsoft pellets. BBs used in BB guns are not suitable for use in airsoft guns due to differences in size and weight. But more importantly, the potential for injury. The safety gear for airsoft is not made to withstand the force and impact of a metal BB.

Muzzle Energy

Muzzle energy refers to the force exerted by a projectile when it leaves the barrel of a firearm. It is an important factor to consider when comparing airsoft guns and BB guns.

Airsoft guns generally have lower muzzle energy compared to BB guns. Most airsoft guns have muzzle energies ranging from 0.70 to 1.5 Joules (or as high as 2.5 Joules with engagement restrictions), depending on the specific model and country regulations. This lower muzzle energy makes airsoft guns safer for use in close-quarter combat and recreational gameplay.

BB guns, on the other hand, can have significantly higher muzzle energies. Some BB guns can exceed 15 Joules, making them much more powerful than airsoft guns. The increased muzzle energy of BB guns makes them more suitable for target shooting and pest control purposes.

Safety Considerations

Safety is of utmost importance when it comes to handling any type of firearm, including airsoft guns and BB guns. Both types of guns should be used responsibly and with proper safety precautions in place.

Airsoft guns are generally considered safer than BB guns due to their lower muzzle energy and the use of softer plastic pellets. However, it is still essential to wear appropriate protective gear, such as goggles and face masks, to prevent injuries. Eye protection is particularly crucial when engaging in airsoft games to shield against potential eye injuries from flying pellets.

BB guns, with their higher muzzle energy and metal BBs, pose a greater risk of injury. It is essential to handle BB guns with caution and always follow proper safety guidelines. Additionally, BB guns should never be used in scenarios involving human targets or in unsupervised environments.

Recommended Uses

Airsoft guns and BB guns are often used for different purposes due to their distinct characteristics.

Airsoft guns are primarily used in competitive shooting sports, military simulations, and recreational gameplay. The realistic design and lower muzzle energy of airsoft guns make them ideal for engaging in close-quarter battles and tactical scenarios. Airsoft guns provide a safe and exciting way to simulate combat situations without the risks associated with real firearms.

BB guns, on the other hand, are commonly used for target practice, plinking, and pest control. The higher muzzle energy and greater accuracy of BB guns make them suitable for shooting at stationary targets or small pests. It is important to note that BB guns should only be used in controlled environments and with proper safety precautions in place.

Legal Considerations

Before purchasing an airsoft gun or BB gun, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the legal regulations in your country or region.

In many countries, airsoft guns are subject to specific laws and regulations. These regulations may govern the muzzle energy limits, age restrictions, transportation, and use of airsoft guns. It is crucial to research and comply with these regulations to ensure you are legally allowed to own and use an airsoft gun.

Similarly, BB guns may also be subject to legal restrictions, depending on your location. Some countries classify BB guns as firearms, while others may have specific regulations regarding their use and ownership. It is important to consult local laws and regulations before purchasing or using a BB gun.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Proper maintenance and upkeep are essential to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of airsoft guns and BB guns.

Airsoft guns require regular cleaning, lubrication, and battery maintenance. Cleaning the barrel, removing debris, and lubricating moving parts are crucial steps to keep your airsoft gun in good condition. Additionally, regularly inspecting the hop-up unit and adjusting it as needed will help maintain accuracy and consistency.

BB guns also require regular maintenance to ensure reliable operation. This includes cleaning the barrel, inspecting and replacing seals, and periodically lubricating moving parts. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance to prevent malfunctions and ensure safe operation.


The cost of airsoft guns and BB guns can vary depending on factors such as brand, quality, and additional features.

Airsoft guns are available in a wide price range, ranging from affordable entry-level models to high-end professional-grade replicas. The cost of airsoft guns is influenced by factors such as build quality, realism, performance, and additional features like blowback mechanisms and adjustable hop-up units.

BB guns are generally more affordable than airsoft guns, with a wide range of options available at various price points. The cost of BB guns can vary depending on factors such as build quality, brand reputation, and additional features like semi-automatic or fully automatic firing modes.


In conclusion, while airsoft guns and BB guns may share some similarities, they are distinct in their design, ammunition, muzzle energy, and recommended uses. Airsoft guns are favored for their realism, lower muzzle energy, and suitability for competitive gameplay, while BB guns excel in target shooting and pest control applications due to their higher muzzle energy.

When choosing between airsoft guns and BB guns, it is essential to consider factors such as your intended use, safety considerations, legal regulations, and maintenance requirements. By understanding the differences between these two types of firearms, you can make an informed decision and enjoy a safe and enjoyable shooting experience.

Remember to always handle firearms responsibly, follow safety guidelines, and comply with local laws and regulations to ensure a positive and safe shooting experience.

About the author

Nathan Skoczylas

When I'm not playing Airsoft I enjoy working out, training BJJ, mountain biking, and making music!