Home Airsoft What is the Difference Between a BB Gun and an Airsoft Gun?

What is the Difference Between a BB Gun and an Airsoft Gun?

What is the Difference Between a BB Gun and an Airsoft Gun?

Airsoft gun vs BB gun – which one is better?

So, you want to get into shooting but are not willing to take a plunge into using real firearms? Look no further. Welcome to the world of BB guns and Airsoft guns.

Take a few mins to read through our article and learn about the functionality and differences between airsoft gun vs bb gun.

How do they compare against one another when put side by side? What are they used for? Aren’t they the same thing? We will answer all your questions and more.

What is a BB gun?

A BB gun is an air gun that fires small metal or lead bullet balls known as BBs. A single BB is the size of a single lead ball found in shogun shells.

The main purpose of a BB gun is for tactical practice on a shooting range. Since it’s cheaper to produce the ammo for a BB gun, it’s more efficient when it comes to firing at a target.

It is, however, not recommended for war games or certain sports. Because of the innate danger present when using BB ammo, it’s very likely to lead to someone getting injured. 

What is an airsoft gun?

An airsoft gun fires plastic or recycled resin balls and is used for sports and war games.

The reason for this is because airsoft guns offer a sense of realism in the guns used through their external visual representation. They also allow people to fire at one another without sustaining serious injury. Allowing for more tactical scenarios to be played out in a controlled environment.

Aren’t BB guns and Airsoft guns the same thing?

No. This is a common misconception among people getting into BB or Airsoft guns for the first time. People think that both types of guns are the same thing, and therefore will be used for the same activity.

This is incorrect. The specifications of each weapon differ greatly from velocity to ammo usage. However, there are similarities between both weapons, such as:

  • In some cases, both types of guns use a spring firing mechanism, gas, or Battery-operated mechanisms. 
  • Both weapons are used in a military capacity for different scenarios
  • Both can only fire round projectiles, because of gun design. 
  • The price of ammunition can fluctuate but generally are similar in price.

Purpose of Each Weapon 

As mentioned before, both weapons were designed to be tactical and meant to be used for training purposes and sports. However, some alarming differences make each weapon more suitable for certain tasks.

While yes both are designed to be for tactical practices, the airsoft gun has less velocity than the bullet. Generally, it only goes up to 500 fps(feet per second) which is perfect for war games, or military simulations; less velocity means less chance for injury.

On the other side of the coin, the BB gun is accurate and precise and is used for target practice, or sports involving target shooting. The BB gun generally has an fps of 550 or higher. This means that the velocity of the rounds is much faster. Considering the ammo used by bb guns, chance for serious injury is far higher. In some cases, people have used BB guns to control or deal with pests. 

Feet Per Second aka FPS

FPS of a weapon refers to the distance and speed the bullet travels in this case it’s the speed at which a BB or Airsoft ball travels. Since BB guns are designed to have more velocity when fired and the density of the lead balls the FPS is higher.

A BB gun is also regarded as being more accurate at longer distances. Since an Airsoft gun uses plastic or resin for the balls it requires less velocity to fire the weapon and tends to have a lower FPS count because of it. It is to be noted that there are some BB guns with low FPS and vice versa some airsoft guns with higher FPS. 


BB gun ammunition generally is a small streel or lead ball.

  • Lead ball measurement of 4.3- 4.4 mm 
  • while weighing about 0.33 – 0.35g
  • Corrosion resistance is prevented by using zinc and copper plating
  • Riffled Barrels use larger lead bullets weighing in at 0.48 – 0.50g

Airsoft Gun ammunition is a plastic or recyclable resin compacted into tiny balls

  • Plastic/resin balls measurement of 6 mm
  • Some selective models use 8 mm ammo
  • The most common weight is 0.12 g but can vary to 0.20g 
  • Some uncommon weights include 0.25g, 0.28g, 0.30, and 0.40g

Realism and the differences between BB and Airsoft

Realism is important to the nature of Airsoft guns since it’s used for competitions and war games. The more realistic the environment feels, the better the immersion is for the contestants or people being trained.

That is why Airsoft guns are so realistic it’s a huge selling point of the guns, it allows people to experience what a gun feels like to hold and use. However, laws have started becoming stricter. The realistic look of airsoft guns can be mistaken for the real thing, so by law airsoft guns are now fitted with orange tips to make a distinction between the two. 

In contrast, the BB gun is not designed to replicate a war scenario. It does not need to represent a realistic weapon, resulting in a small amount of effort put in to make it realistic. In some cases, people have designed realistic-looking BB guns, but they are part of a small percentage of people that do so.

Firing Mechanisms

There are three kinds of firing mechanisms associated with these types of guns. The mechanisms are Gas powered spring mechanism, spring-piston pump, and Battery operated.

Although all the mechanisms are functional some are better suited for certain types of activity. So, how do each of these mechanisms function? 

Gas Powered Spring Mechanism

 The potential energy of airsoft and BB gun combined with compressed gas is the driving force behind this type of mechanism. Because of this, it operates slightly differently, and the most common type of gas-powered mechanism is GBB (gas blowback); which is usually found in the magazine. Once the trigger is pulled there is a burst of gas that propels the pellet/ ball creating a blowback that mimics the feeling of recoil.  

There are different types of gas used for bb and airsoft guns, the most commonly used gas is called “green gas” aka propane. This is common for pistole weapons because it doesn’t need a high pressure to propel the pellet down the barrel. The uncommon gas is known as “red gas” which is CO2 or nitrogen/high-pressure gas, which is more common in rifles.

Spring Piston Pump Mechanism

A single shot device that uses elastic potential energy from the stored energy in a compressed coil string to drive the pressure; when the trigger is released it rapidly blows pressurized air down the barrel propelling the ball outward. An important thing to remember is that the user needs to manually recompress the spring before firing the weapon again. 

Spring-based firing mechanisms in airsoft are generally not as powerful as gas-powered but are more powerful than battery-operated firing mechanisms.

Battery Powered Mechanism

Generally, the concept of electric-based power mechanisms is like the spring mechanism. Except it removes the manual operating function from the gun. A battery pack is used to automatically preload the spring for the user.

A gearbox is present in the electric motor which allows for the user to switch between firing modes, like 3-round burst or semi-automatic, and it’s all possible because of the electric motor inside the weapon. 

What Does one of these weapons cost to run?

Well, normally you could find very similar price ranges for either a BB gun or an Airsoft gun. Some examples would be you could find some that cost roughly $15 at the lower end. But you can find some that cost upwards of $3000 and more, depending on customization, the make of the weapon, and the quality of the weapon.

It is recommended that people that are looking to get into Airsoft or BB guns should spend about $100 at least to get a decent experience with either weapon. 

Different Types of BB and Airsoft Guns

Real firearms come in several different categories with different specifications and airsoft gun vs bb gun are no exception. For Airsoft guns, there tends to be more variety because of their innate design to replicate the real thing. In terms of Bb guns there is variety but not as nearly as much as Airsoft. 

The different types of gun categories associated with airsoft gun vs bb gun:

  • Sniper Rifles 
  • SMG (Submachine Gun)
  • Assault Rifles 
  • LMG (Light Machine Gun)
  • Shotguns
  • Pistoles

Age Limit Required to Purchase or Use a BB or Airsoft Gun

The age a person needs to purchase one of these guns is 18. It is a state law that no one under the age of 18 can purchase a BB or Airsoft Gun.

However, under parental supervision, Airsoft and BB guns can be used by persons under the age of 18. In fact, there are some Airsoft Competitions that allow 14-year odds to use Airsoft guns, but it is in a controlled environment. 

What is the conclusion?

It is clear that the functionality and differences of the guns are apparent. While there maybe be things in common with the guns like the firing mechanisms as well as sharing in some cases similar FPS (feet per second) the guns were designed for separate activities. 

In the case of the Airsoft gun, its design was to replicate the look and feel of a real firearm, allowing people to immerse themselves in a war scenario or sports competition.

This is achieved because of the low FPS associated with the most common airsoft weapons, as well as, the ammunition used which is made from plastic or recyclable resin, while these balls are maybe non-lethal they can pack a punch at close range, especially on bare skin. 

In the case of the BB gun, its primary function is for shooting targets for either sport or target practices of dealing with pests. Unlike the airsoft gun, its design is not focused on the replication of modern weapons. Because it’s not used in military scenarios how it looks is not as important as how it functions.

The FPS of a BB gun is generally higher than an Airsoft gun which makes it more powerful and allows for a more accurate shot at longer ranges. The ammunition used for BB guns is made from metal/lead that is the size of a single lead ball found in shotgun buckshot.  

In terms of price for each type of gun, it’s relatively on par in price, but it’s up to personal preference. You need to ask yourself what your focus is, and depending on the focus will depend on the choice of gun. 

Persons under the age of 18 are prohibited to purchase a BB or Airsoft Gun. Persons under the age of 18 need parental supervision to operate or use a weapon and it must be in a controlled environment. 

So, next time you see an airsoft gun vs bb gun in a video or you happen to be in a store that sells them, you will be armed with some basic knowledge that can help you make an educated decision.

On the other hand, you could be having a conversation with friends or people in general and have a better understanding of how guns work.

Whichever scenario you find yourself in you will have the knowledge to make good decisions. Who knows, you may find yourself becoming an Airsoft pro in competitions with friends or a sharpshooter with a BB gun at the shooting range. Why not try it you may find a new hobby.