Differences Between Airsoft & Paintball

Airsoft & Paintball Differences

What’s the difference between airsoft and paintball? The question is asked regularly by new paintball players, especially because many local paintball fields now offer airsoft play as well! While both airsoft and paintball are designed to be a fun, safe outdoor activity players of all ages can enjoy, the difference between paintball and airsoft is real and worth considering when deciding which game you might want to try!

Difference between airsoft & paintball

Perhaps the most obvious and immediately noticeable difference between paintball and airsoft is the projectile used by the two games – the paintball that gives the sport its name is a large, water-based and environmentally-friendly paint-filled projectile designed to break open and “splat” on target, clearly marking the impacted player as eliminated from that game. Airsoft guns, on the other hand, fire a small, often biodegradable BB. While paintball players are clearly marked when struck with a paintball that breaks open with a brightly colored splat, allowing teammates, opponents and referees to easily see who is eliminated from the game and who is still active, the game of airsoft largely relies upon a sacred honor system amongst players to ensure that those struck by a fired airsoft BB will raise their hand and leave the game. While paintball players are expected to do the same, the visual indication of a splattered, broken paintball acts as further indication of elimination from the game. 

Apart from the obvious difference between paintball and airsoft of the projectile used by the two games, there are other, more subtle differences between the two. While paintball can be played in a strict military or tactical-simulation style by camouflage-clad competitors attempting to capture objectives, eliminate opponents and complete missions, there are other styles of paintball as well, like “speedball” and tournament paintball played between more colorfully-clad teams, big games, scenario games and more. Airsoft, predominantly, is a game more rigidly structured as a military simulation pitting squads of tactical operators against one-another in a more disciplined environment. This is bolstered by the more realistic appearance of the airsoft guns and equipment used by participants, as they are often highly detailed and designed from the ground up to look, function and operate much like the firearms upon which they are based, like rifles, pistols, submachine guns, PDW’s shotguns, sniper rifles and the tactical weaponry used by military forces of the world, new and old – many are even licensed replicas of popular military firearms from major manufacturers like H&K or Walther.

Paintball and airsoft differences

Paintballs, because they are larger and heavier than airsoft BB’s, have created a completely different set of peripheral equipment needed to sling them back and forth reliably. While airsoft guns can be powered by airsoft green gas, CO2 capsules or rechargeable batteries depending on their design, and can be fed from magazines resembling those used by their firearm inspirations like M4-style magazines or pistol magazines that can be inserted into a pistol’s grip, paintball markers require a hopper or much larger magazines to feed them paintballs, and a large, generally external air source like a 20oz CO2 tank or large compressed air tank to power the paintball gun and send the paintballs downrange. For this reason alone, some players prefer one format over the other. Players who want to simulate military-style force-on-force engagements as accurately as possible, with extremely realistic gear and guns, may prefer airsoft, as do players who don’t like the splatter, spray and cleaning involved with breaking paintballs and the splattered paint and broken shell that often cover paintball fields and the players who love the game.

Finally, another difference between paintball and airsoft is that airsoft tends to more readily lend itself to playing indoors. While indoor paintball arenas do exist and major paintball tournaments have been played inside, even in major sporting venues, the extensive cleanup and large space required to play the game of paintball tends to keep paintball an outside activity, while indoor airsoft arenas are much easier to maintain, allowing airsoft to be played rain or shine, hot or cold, with a roof overhead.

While similar in their nature in that both paintball players and airsoft players eliminate one-another from the games they’re playing by shooting each other with a projectile while wearing safety equipment and enjoying a fun, safe game, the differences between the two are preferred by some who enjoy paintball rather than airsoft, or airsoft instead of paintball. Some players try both and love both, while others may try both and fall in love with one or the other! As long as players enjoying airsoft or paintball are playing safe and showing respect to one-another, enjoying the game as a great way to get off the couch and have a great time with friends and family supporting a local business, you can’t go wrong!

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