Airsoft vs BB

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Both BB guns and Airsoft guns have become wildly popular over the years. The two guns have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them unique from each other.


Because the two share some similarities, things can get a little confusing for many people, especially for beginners. It doesn’t help that airsoft pellets are called BBs too!

If you’re one of those wondering what are the differences between an Airsoft gun and a BB gun…

The confusion ends today.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What are the major differences between BB and Airsoft guns;
  • The history behind the two gun types;
  • How powerful, accurate, realistic, and legal each gun is;
  • And many more…

Read on further to learn about each gun’s pros and cons so that you’ll know which gun to get.

Alright, so first off…

What is a BB gun, and what is an Airsoft gun?

BB guns are basically air guns that shoot small metal pellets called Bullet Balls, or BBs, measuring roughly 4.6 mm in diameter. They are used for training and target shooting, as well as for hunting small game and pest control.

On the other hand…

Airsoft guns are also air guns, but they’re designed to resemble a real firearm. Plastic BBs that have a size of 6-8 mm in diameter are used for them. Although most Airsoft guns indeed look like real guns, they are non-lethal guns. As you can guess from the name, they are used mainly for Airsoft and military-style games and also for target practice.

Regarding similarities, both guns can be constructed out of various materials, and both can also be Spring-powered, Gas-powered, or Battery-powered.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of Airsoft vs BB guns, let’s have a little fun with history first. After all, it’s easier to understand things after knowing where they came from.

Let’s start with BB gun’s story first…

History Of BB Guns

Airsoft Vs BB

BB Guns have such an interesting history. 

Did you know…

…that the term BB actually referred at first to shotgun ammunition size? It was a term used for shotgun pellets that are 0.18 in diameter, which were initially known as round shots. Somehow, they became more popularly known as BB shots, and thus, the guns that fire them were named BB guns.

It was in the year 1886 when William “Phil”  F. Markham of Plymouth, Michigan invented the first BB gun (although some argue that it’s actually a certain George W. Sage). The world’s first BB gun was a spring-piston constructed out of maple wood and some metal materials.

Markham was credited by the United States Patent Office for the invention of the gun, and soon after, Markham founded the Markham Air Rifle Company. He marketed the gun as the “Chicago Air Rifle.” The company influenced other businesses into producing their versions of air guns, making Plymouth the “Air Gun Capital of the World.”

One of the many that followed Markham’s footsteps was the inventor and watchmaker Clarence Hamilton.

In 1882, Hamilton established Plymouth Iron Windmill Company, which produced all-metal, vaneless windmills, something he himself invented. After getting support from backers, the company began manufacturing the windmills.


The venture proved unsuccessful, so much so that investors were seriously considering closing the business. Fortunately, by that time, Hamilton had another idea in mind.

He presented his creation, an air gun completely made from metal, to the company board meeting. Impressed with the product after testing it, general manager Lewis Cass Hough exclaimed, “Boy, Clarence, it’s a daisy!” and thus, the Daisy BB Gun was born.

At first, the Daisy air guns were produced mainly as free gifts to anyone who purchased a windmill from the company, but they quickly realized that the guns were more profitable than the windmills. The guns were especially popular amongst Michigan’s rural residents as they provided them with something to use for hunting and target practice.

The board decided to stop the production of windmills gradually. In 1895, the company was renamed Daisy Manufacturing Company, with the air guns as their chief product.

Throughout many years, the Daisy Manufacturing Company and the Markham Rifle Company were in tough competition with each other, but because Daisy had a better marketing strategy, it eventually won.

Markham sold his company to two Daisy executives and retired to California. Renamed King Air Rifle Company in 1928, the former Markham Company eventually ceased operation in the 1940s.

Over the years, Daisy has become a household name, famous for their reasonably priced BB guns marketed to the youth, most notably the extremely popular Red Ryder BB Gun and Avanti Champion 499 BB Gun, known as the “World’s Most Accurate BB Gun.”

History Of Airsoft Guns

History Of Airsoft Guns

The Airsoft gun was born in Japan in the early 70s. Airsoft enthusiasts had photographer Ichiro Nagata to thank for the gun’s invention; a shooting enthusiast himself, he created the gun as a way to conform to Japan’s restrictive gun control laws while still being able to use real projectiles.

It was trademarked as “Soft air gun” but later became known as “Airsoft gun.” The Japanese used the term “soft air,” referring to the green gas used to propel the guns.

Initially, Airsoft guns were mainly used for target shooting, but after shooting enthusiasts discovered that they could shoot the gun at other people without causing injury, they began using them for war games.

Airsoft guns quickly advanced to the United States and the United Kingdom. Soon, they grew in popularity globally in the 1980s.

Companies started manufacturing Airsoft guns with recreational purposes in mind and were designed to look like real guns.

How They Are Used

History Of Airsoft Guns

BB Guns are mostly used for training and target shooting. The more heavy-duty models are also great for hunting small game, as well as for pest control purposes.

Airsoft guns are designed to be used in target practice, in games like paintball, and in Mil-Sim (Military Simulation) sports such as, of course, Airsoft. These guns are also utilized by law enforcement and military units for training purposes.

Difference Between Airsoft and BB Guns 

Difference Between Airsoft and BB Guns

One of the key differences between a BB gun and an Airsoft gun is that BB guns can be lethal against a human being as they can usually penetrate the human skin. Meanwhile, Airsoft guns are considered pretty much non-lethal because they normally can’t penetrate the skin. That’s the reason why Airsoft guns are ideal for war games, while BB guns are not.

Aside from that, there are several more differences between BB guns and Airsoft guns, such as their level of realism and accuracy, how they perform, how good they are in hunting and pest control, how much they cost, differences in legality, and more…

… all of which we’re going to discuss further below, so keep scrolling!


The Airsoft gun is the winner when it comes to realism, as it’s designed to look as close to a real gun as possible. In fact, it can be a real challenge to most people to be able to tell if the Airsoft gun they’re holding is the real deal or not. It doesn’t help that some Airsoft guns have added weight to them for more realism…

…which is understandable, considering that the entire hobby (Airsoft game) revolves around the gun’s realistic look and functions…

Airsoft guns so closely resemble real firearms to the extent that they’re mandated to have an orange tip at the barrel’s end to distinguish them from the real ones.

Now that’s not to say that BB guns look far from real firearms; it’s just that BB guns generally are built with performance in mind rather than having a realistic aesthetic.


While both BB and airsoft guns can perform equally well, they still differ in some aspects. The type of ammunition used by both guns significantly affects their performance and power.

BB guns can shoot up to 550 FPS, but airsoft guns, generally speaking, can fire at only less than 500 FPS. Yes, high-performance airsoft guns have the ability to fire up to 500 FPS and beyond, even surpassing some high-performance BB guns in velocity, but they will never be lethal because of the difference in ammunition used.

BB guns use metallic BBs, which can penetrate a target effectively even at lower velocities because of their density and small size. There’s also the fact that Airsoft guns have the tendency to lose velocity quickly because of their low mass.

So yes, Airsoft guns may look and feel more realistic, but BB guns have more shooting power.

Pest control

When it comes to the matter of getting rid of the pests in your home or any property, it’s best to do it quickly and get it over and done with. BB guns are simply better for the job than Airsoft guns. 

As mentioned earlier, BB guns can penetrate targets deeper and more effectively, which makes it the more humane choice, as there wouldn’t be any need to torture the target for long.


It depends on what you’re going to use the guns for. If it’s for long-range shooting, there’s no doubt that a BB gun can shoot more accurately, as the ammunition used (lead and steel BB’s) are more resistant to wind and other environmental factors, so it doesn’t lose velocity like Airsoft BBs tend to do.

But if we’re talking close-range shooting, then an Airsoft gun is where it’s at. It also certainly helps that Airsoft guns have a hop-up system that provides excellent accuracy in long-distance shooting.


Comparing the prices of an Airsoft vs BB gun, they don’t really differ from each other much. As with most things, you can find entry-level BB guns at a price range of $12-50, but you have to be prepared to spare extra cash, sometimes as much as a few thousand dollars, if you want more features or the higher-end ones. The same goes for Airsoft guns.

As for their ammunition, steel BBs can be a bit cheaper than Airsoft BBs, but not by much.

Shooting Environment

As we’ve already established by now, BB guns can be much more dangerous to use in comparison to Airsoft guns. Airsoft guns shoot at a lower velocity and use more lightweight ammunition, so they just rebound off the target instead of penetrating.

Combine that with Airsoft guns’ effectiveness in short-range shooting, and they’re a no-brainer choice for both indoor shooting and backyard shooting.

Now, sure, Airsoft guns are relatively safer to use compared to BB guns, but that doesn’t give you a license to fire Airsoft guns at random people or to act in a careless manner. No matter what gun you’re using, always use proper protective measures, such as making sure never to fire an Airsoft gun at a range of less than 10 feet. Also, never forego proper clothing and eye protection (trust us, you don’t want to be shot in the eye). You want to prevent a serious injury as much as possible.


As with pest control, when it comes to hunting, it’s best to go about it in a quick and humane way.

And that’s why…

You’ve guessed it right; the BB gun is the better choice for its power and long-range accuracy. But remember, BB guns should only be used for hunting small animals. Neither a BB gun nor an Airsoft gun can kill larger animals quickly, and it would be unethical to allow them to suffer for a long time.


Although both the BB gun and the Airsoft gun use BBs as ammunition, make no mistake, they are not the same thing at all.

The BBs that are used in BB guns are made of steel or lead and have a measurement of 4.3mm in diameter. Their weight, size, density, and BB gun’s characteristic power can be a deadly combination, so remember to never fire a BB gun on any human or living thing.

Airsoft guns shoot out plastic BB’s, also referred to as Airsoft pellets. They measure 6mm in diameter and don’t have much impact because of their light weight and bigger size (compared to steel BBs).

Differences In Legality

Neither the BB gun nor the Airsoft gun is legally considered a firearm under the federal law, and therefore any person who’s 18 years old and above can own one. For underage people, they have to obtain their parents’ permission first.

Even so…

Imitation firearms, Airsoft guns included, are required to have an orange tip during transportation and shipping. The orange tip should at least be ¼ inch or longer and must be covering the gun’s muzzle.


Different countries and cities will also have different laws regarding air guns, so it’s best to know them before owning one.

Conclusion: Airsoft vs BB Guns

Well, that was a blast.

Both BB and Airsoft guns are great in their own way. They do have their similarities, so it’s understandable that some people will mix them up, but by keeping in mind their key differences, there’s no need for confusion.

Just always remember that the BB gun is designed for training and target shooting and can be lethal if not used safely. In contrast, the Airsoft gun is made to resemble a real gun, is mostly used for recreational purposes such as playing, well, Airsoft games, and is also relatively safer to use.

As we’ve shown you, neither is better than the other, and it’s just up to you which one will suit your needs better.

We hope we’ve helped you cut through the confusion with today’s article on airoftnut.com

Now make your choice and go dominate the battlefield!

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