Airsoft Guns vs. BB Guns: What’s the Difference?

Airsoft vs. BB Guns: What's the Difference?
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People who are new to Airsoft are often a little perplexed as to what makes an airsoft gun different from a BB gun.

It’s hardly surprising.

After all, they both fire BB’s, right? And they are both ‘toy’ guns.

There are, in fact, some distinct differences between BB and airsoft guns.

BB Gun History

A BB gun is a replica of a real gun that has been designed to shoot small metal pellets, known as BBs.

The BBs are usually made of steel and are coated with zinc or copper. BBs are smaller and far more dense than those used in airsoft rifles.

In 1886, the Markham Air Rifle Company brought out the very first BB gun.

This was a wooden, spring-loaded air pistol that was designed as a training gun for young people. The ammunition used was BB-sized pellets that had up until then been used for birdshot.

Two years later, the famous Daisy BB Air Rifle was introduced by the Plymouth Air Rifle Company.

Markham Air Rifle Company BB Gun

BB Gun Fire Power

A BB gun is capable of a shooting velocity of more than 200 feet per second (fps), with most of them reaching up to around 560 feet per second.

Some BB guns are capable of an fps of more than 1,000. A BB gun velocity of 200 feet per second can draw blood and fractured bones.

The maximum range of a BB gun with a velocity of between 390 and 590 fps is 220 to 330 meters (240 to 360 yards).

Because they are made of steel, BB gun BBs are likely to ricochet off objects. This makes them far more likely to strike an unintended target than an airsoft BB.

Airsoft Gun History

Toky Marui Logo

Airsoft began in Japan. In the 1980’s it was illegal to own a private firearm in that country.

This led the Tokyo Marui company to create an airsoft gun that fired a plastic BB pellet. The early versions were based on air-driven pellet guns.

The airsoft market opened up in the USA in the mid-1990s.

In 2003, Daisy, the innovator of BB guns, began manufacturing airsoft guns. There are now many manufacturers all over the world.

Airsoft Gun Fire Power

Airsoft guns generally have a velocity of between 300 and 450 fps.

This is usually lower than a BB gun. The BB pellets used in airsoft guns are made of plastic and have diameters of either 6 or 8mm.

BBs may weigh between 0.12 and 0.88 grams, with the standard being 0.2 grams. These pellets are designed to strike another human being but cause minimal injury.

An airsoft BB pellet will generally fire at a velocity of 20 feet per second less than a BB gun BB if fired from the same gun.

The Differences in Usage

BB guns are designed for two end uses:

  • Target shooting
  • Hunting small animals

They are not intended to be used to shoot at another human being. In contrast, airsoft guns are specifically designed to be used in airsoft battles.

They are much safer than BB gun BB pellets. We can sum up the reasons why are as follows:

  • Airsoft BBs have a lower fps
  • Airsoft BBs are not as heavy or dense
  • Airsoft BBs are made of soft, malleable plastic, not steel
  • Airsoft BBs are far less likely to ricochet

Differences in Realism

Airsoft guns are far more realistic looking than BB guns.

That is because the whole concept of airsoft battle play revolves around simulating reality as closely as possible.

Replica airsoft rifles are extremely popular and are virtually indistinguishable from the real gun.

As a consequence of the realism of airsoft rifles, there is an international requirement that all airsoft guns have an orange tip at the end of the barrel to distinguish them from the real thing.

In contrast, BB guns are not intended for battle simulation. As a result, there is little effort put into making them look realistic.

Differences in Environmental Impact

BBs Pellets

The differences in environmental impact between BB guns and Airsoft guns comes down to the BB pellets, which are likely to be left behind once the shooter leaves the scene.

Being made of steel, BB pellets are not biodegradable. They will remain where they land for an indefinite period of time.

BB pellets will also cause more collateral damage to the environment, impacting trees and other natural formations.

Not all airsoft pellets are biodegradable. You will have to buy specially marked biodegradable BBs, which will be a little more expensive than non-biodegradable BBs.

However, Airsoft gun BBs will not cause as much environmental impact due to their being less powerful than their BB gun counterparts.

Differences in Precision

A BB gun is more accurate than an airsoft gun.

That is because it has less drag and travels at a higher velocity. However, airsoft guns can still provide you with impressive precision.

This is especially the case if you are able to make use of the ‘hop up’ on the gun, which adds a level of backspin to the gun in order to ensure a truer trajectory.

Differences in Price

Taking Dollars From Wallet

There is a wide price range when it comes to buying both BB and Airsoft guns.

Generally, the prices are quite comparable in terms of the quality of the gun.

We suggest investing at least a hundred dollars, whether you are buying a BB or an airsoft gun, as anything less than that will invariably compromise on precision.

Differences in Legality

Both BB guns and Airsoft guns are legally separated from firearms in most places around the world.

As such, they are both generally classed as being legal. However, many places have specific restrictions regarding their use by children.

Check the laws in your local area.


Although BB guns and Airsoft guns may appear to be very similar, there are fundamental differences between them, as we have discovered.

Airsoft guns are far safer for both humans and the environment. However, BB guns are more accurate for target shooting.

In the end, your decision between them will depend on what you intend to use it for.

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