Airsoft Gun vs BB Gun

What Is the Difference?


Many people today believe that Airsoft guns and BB guns are the same things. But that’s actually not the case. Airsoft Gun and BB Gun are not the same. And in this article you will know what is the difference between them- Airosft vs BB.

So are you shocked by the blunt revelation?

I was too! Until I stumbled upon Wikipedia the other day.

I was researching online on the topic Can Airsoft Guns Kill Animals?

While scouring through people’s comments and opinions in different forums I became a bit confused.

Some claimed that you can kill and some said you can’t. Some said that it’s possible to only kill small animals and some claimed that it would definitely kill them. After observing and researching a while I started to notice something. People were using two different terms for the weapon. One is obviously our favorite airsoft gun and the other is a BB gun.

Airsoft and BB are not the same

Yes just like many other people I was also fooled and thought that both are the same thing. But very soon I realized that I was so damn wrong! Although they share many similarities they also have much difference between them. So before researching about killing animals with airsoft, I had to research about BB gun and the difference with airsoft.

In this piece of article, I’ll explain as much as possible about the difference between airsoft and BB gun. I’ll also try to logically establish in an airsoft VS BB scenario which one should be stronger or what will have the upper hand in which situation.

A brief history of airsoft and BB will also be given. Since history is also different therefore it can also be counted as difference right?

Yeah right…

Anyway, first I’ll give you the definition of both types of guns, history, similarity and then we’ll go the difference. You’ll get the general idea of difference from the definition.

What’s an Airsoft Gun?

An airsoft gun is an almost lookalike replica of a real gun but shoots out small balls of plastic called BB instead of bullets using spring, air, gas or CO2 for propulsion. Airsoft guns are made for practicing military simulation either for training purposes or just for enjoyment.

(Learn more from What Is Airsoft | A Beginner’s Guide)

History of Airsoft Gun

Airsoft gun was first invented in Japan in the early 1970s. Since Japan had a strict gun control rule, gun enthusiasts there had to look for some other ways to enjoy their hobby. So Japanese shooting hobbyists developed a non-firearm plastic BB shooting weapon that will not go against the law. It was trademarked as a soft air gun. The term soft air or airsoft referred to the compressed Freon-silicone oil mixture that was later replaced by a propane-silicone oil mixture known as Green Gas. The gas was used for the propulsion of the BB pellets. At present CO2 gas is used to propel the BBs which is stronger than Green Gas.

Use of Airsoft gun

In Japan, airsoft gun or soft air gun was only used for target practicing. But soon it was discovered that airsoft plastic pellets can be shot at humans without causing significant injury to the skin. After that soft air guns were used in war simulations. The Japanese called it survival games or in their tongue “sabaibaru gemu.

After the introduction of tactical war simulations using soft air guns in Japan, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, airsoft guns spread in the UK. A company named LS introduced them there. In the beginning, the airsoft guns were sold in pieces that had to be assembled to shoot BBs with it.

Recreational purpose

After it was popularized in the UK, airsoft guns were manufactured for the purpose of recreation and most of the time designed to resemble its real deal counterpart firearm. From the mid-1980s, an airsoft gun was used for purely recreational purpose and it was a sport enjoyed by people of all ages.

Currently, airsoft guns are manufactured worldwide. The majority of them are produced in Asia. At present many of the military units in the US military and various law enforcement organizations use airsoft guns to practice force-on-force training drills.

Now we will discuss about BB Gun to know a more clear idea about Airsoft VS BB.

What’s a BB Gun?

A BB gun is a kind of air gun but shoots out round metal projectiles made of steel or led instead of bullets using spring, air, gas or CO2 for thrusting. Usually, BB guns are made for target practice and gun training. But Tactical training with BB gun is not possible for its too dangerous compared to airsoft guns.

Now before going to the main topic, I’ll mark the similarities between airsoft guns and BB guns.

History of BB Guns

The history of the BB gun is very old, much older than that of airsoft guns.

The First BB Gun

In 1886 the first BB gun in the world came into existence. It was made with maple wood and a little bit of metal with the spring-piston mechanism inside. The Markham Ari Rifle company in Plymouth, Michigan manufactured this weapon first. The first pellets that were used in this gun were actually shotgun pellets with the diameter 0.18 inches or 4.6 mm. George W. Sage was believed to be the creator of this weapon. He simply picked out the most common projectiles available at that time which should fit inside this gun.

Buckshot & Birdshot

The biggest shotgun pellet which was used at that time was called 00 or double ought. This was used for hunting deer. Normally a male deer, antelope, and many other game animals are called a buck. So the name buckshot came to be for this type of shotgun pellet. Smaller sized pellets were normally used to shoot down small and medium-sized birds so it was called birdshot. Birdshot is called number 9 shot or BB shot. The term BB actually came from birdshot.

Metal spring-piston Air gun

In 1887 Clarence Hamilton developed a complete metal spring-piston air gun which could shot led projectiles. The gun then was shown to a businessman named Lewis Cass Hough. From then the weapon was destined to be mass-produced and sold.

Full metal Air Gun

In 1888 Plymouth Air Rifle Company in 1895 first produced full metal air guns that could shoot BB shots. The rifle’s name was The Daisy BB Gun. Due to successful marketing, it became a very popular household name and in 1895 the company name was changed into Daisy Manufacturing Company.

Round shots vs BB Gun

Around 1900 Daisy Manufacturing Company changed its bore diameter to 0.175 or 4.4 mm. After that, they began to produce and sell led shots specifically for their BB guns. The company called them round shots but The “BB” name got established so perfectly well that most of the users called their guns BB gun and the pellets as BB Shots or BBs.

The BB we know now

The term BB became very common and general for the public. Currently, it refers to any small round projectiles of different materials and calibers.  This includes small marbles, 0.177 caliber steel or led pellets used in air guns, metal bearing balls used in land mines, etc. But BBs should not be confused with ball bearings coz it’s a mechanical part made with bearing balls.

Why do People Confuse Airsoft & BB Guns?

So now the question is, why people confuse airsoft guns with BB guns?

There are a few reasons for that. One is that BB guns are there in the market for much longer. And airsoft guns were made using more or less the same mechanical concept of BB guns. So when airsoft guns came to the market, the concept of BB guns was already established in people’s minds. Because of the similarities between those two different projectile shooters, many people started calling them both with the same name and the confusion is still present today.

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Airsoft and BB gun Similarities

Despite being made for completely different purposes, airsoft and BB guns have some common features which made it confusing for us to differentiate between them.

Then let’s have a look at those confusing similarities:

1.      Replica

Both of them are replicas of original guns or weapons. (Obviously!)

2.      Ammunition

Both of them shoot round balls of projectiles instead of bullets. This is actually the main reason people mix up these two different weapons.

3.      Projectiles

Only spherical projectiles of a certain size can be shot from airsoft and BB guns.

4.      Propulsion

Both of them use spring, air, gas or CO2 to shoot BB.

5.      Price

On an average basis, both BB and airsoft guns and their ammunition are close in price.

6.      Practice

Both of them can be used for target practice and gun handling training.

Airsoft and BB gun similarity table

Replica Of the original gun Of the original gun
Ammunition Round Balls Round Balls
Projectiles Only spherical Only spherical
Propulsion Use spring, CO2 or other gas Use spring, CO2 or other gas
Price Similar Similar
Practice Target practice and gun handle Target practice and gun handle

Airsoft Vs BB

Now that the introduction is over let’s get to the real business.

I’ll set up the basic difference between an airsoft gun and a BB gun for my readers to understand.

1.      Ammunition

Airsoft guns shoot out plastic BB but BB guns shoot out metallic BB’s generally made with steel and sometimes led. This is the most apparent difference that easily sets the two weapons apart.

Also, airsoft guns shoot 6 mm or 8 mm diameter plastic BBs and the weight usually ranges from 0.12 to 0.40 gm. On the other hand, BB gun usually shoots 0.45 mm or 0.177 caliber BBs weighting usually from 0.33 to 0.35 gm. But some of them even have a weight range of 0.48 to 0.50 gm. So as we can see BB gun’s metallic BBs have more weight in less diameter compared to airsoft gun’s plastic BBs which have less weight in more diameter.

2.      Originality

Another apparent difference between airsoft guns and BB guns is their originality.

Airsoft guns are all about how they look and feel. Airsoft guns are designed to look like real weapon so it’s really hard to even distinguish between the two. The manufacturers make sure it has the same details like an original gun. An airsoft gun is all about how much the shooter looks like the real thing and airsoft enthusiasts won’t have it any other way.

On the other hand, BB guns are not manufactured for a realistic look. They still can look a lot like the original firearm but not as in the same level as an airsoft gun. BB guns better in performance compared to airsoft guns rather than looks.

3.      Power

BB guns usually have more shooting power than airsoft guns.


Because airsoft guns plastic BBs are larger but lighter compared to metallic BBs shot from BB guns which are definitely smaller have more mass relatively.

That means metallic BBs used in BB guns have a higher density than plastic BBs used for airsoft guns. This is why even when shot at the same velocity, metallic BBs tend to penetrate more than plastic BBs. Normally plastic BBs shot from an air gun stings on the skin which may leave a small bruise and sometimes can break the skin on the point of impact. But with BB guns it’ll do more than leave a bruise.

Both airsoft and BB guns can shoot up to 500+ fps. Within that range, plastic BBs shot from airsoft guns cannot penetrate human skin. That’s not the case for BB guns though. A metallic BB with the speed of 150 fps has the capability of piercing human skin. Airsoft BBs also tend to lose velocity relatively earlier than BB gun’s metallic BB.

So we can easily conclude that BB guns pack more power than airsoft guns.

4.      Accuracy

Both airsoft and BB guns can hit targets pretty much accurately when optimized. But BB guns have a bit more advantage on accuracy over airsoft guns. The plastic BBs usually gets influenced by natural elements like wind and because of that the velocity loses fairly early and the accuracy also decreases. As for metallic BBs, they are relatively smaller in size and heavier in weight which made them denser than airsoft plastic BBs. Because of this extra density, BB gun BBs are less affected by the wind and tend to maintain speed as well as accuracy.

If you want to increase your accuracy try these 5 amazing airsoft training drills.

5.      Practice Environment

BB guns are lethal compared to airsoft guns since they can penetrate human skin fairly easily. So it definitely should not be used indoors at any cost. On the other hand, airsoft guns are less dangerous because it doesn’t damage the skin much. So low powered airsoft guns can be practiced indoors pretty easily.

BB guns can damage skin and may even penetrate flesh so in a warlike simulation game airsoft guns are used instead. Or else people may get injured frequently.

So for safety reasons BB guns are only used to practice shooting, targeting, and gun handling while airsoft guns are mainly used in military tactical simulations. Don’t even think for a second that you can use BB guns in a war game. Do not ever shoot other human beings with metal BB.

6.      Hunting & Pest Control

Hunting and pest control is not recommended using airsoft and BB gun.
But if you have to choose between the two, then I say it has to be a BB gun.
Since BB guns punch more power and tend to maintain speed and accuracy for a longer range and period, it’s more effective than airsoft guns. You should not use any of the guns to hunt larger animals coz it will be non-ethical and inhuman to the animal.

The animal will just suffer instead of dying. As for smaller animals like rats and squirrels can easily be killed by a BB gun. As for airsoft guns, they can kill small animals as well but it may be painful for the animal and they’ll suffer while dying.
(Learn more from Can Airsoft Guns Kill Animals?)

But in the end, you shouldn’t try to hunt animals with BB or airsoft guns unless you are in a post-apocalyptic world.

If you are interested in .177 pellets for hunting, (who wouldn’t be?) you can find our full review by clicking this .177 hunting pellets here.

Airsoft Gun VS BB Gun Table

Ammo Material Plastic or resin Steel or led
Ammo Size Usually 4.5 mm or 0.177 Caliber Usually 6 or 8 mm
Ammo Weight Usually 0.12 – 0.40 gm. 0.33 – 0.50 gm. normally
Originality Close to the original firearm Less close to the original
Power Relatively less powerful Considerably more powerful
Accuracy Pretty much accurate Higher accuracy rate
Skin Penetration Normally can’t penetrate the skin Usually penetrates skin
Lethal Not very lethal against human Lethal against human
Shooting Practice Easily practice shooting Not of humans or animals
War Game Can be used in war games Can’t be used in war games
Environment Low-speed May be used indoors Can’t be used indoors
Pest Control Shouldn’t be used against pest Can be used to kill pests

So, as we can see these are the main difference between airsoft guns and BB guns. Low powered airsoft guns can be used indoors and can even be used in your backyard. But there is no way even a low powered BB gun can be used indoors because it’s just too powerful and dangerous. So in this sense, BB gun is actually more powerful than airsoft gun since it can be a bit more accurate and tend to penetrate objects rather easily.

Be cautious about Airsoft and BB Guns

However, in terms of safety airsoft have the upper hand and can be used in a friendly shooting game. With that in mind please be very cautious while using either of them and always wear protective glass and use other protective measures as well. Even a plastic BB can damage the eye permanently which is not wanted by any of us. Even a plastic BB can damage the eye permanently which is not wanted by any of us.

Do you know how much does airsoft hurt?

And how exactly we can reduce the airsoft pain? Read this article to find out How to reduce Airsoft Pain

Do you want to get better at Airsoft?

Don you love playing airsoft? You want to get better at airsoft? Practice this 5 great airsoft training drills to improve.

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