Nerf Guns vs. Airsoft Guns: Here’s How They Compare

Nerf guns and airsoft guns have something in common: they’re both fun to use. Both guns are unique and used in different situations, so it’s important to understand how they compare to one another.

Nerf guns are toy guns that fire weak darts, while airsoft guns fire faster, more powerful bbs. Basic nerf and airsoft guns utilize similar technology, but expensive airsoft guns use advanced firing mechanisms. Nerf guns also differ in terms of styling, safety, and fun. 

You’ll find gun enthusiasts that swear by either nerf or airsoft guns. The problem that arises from the unwavering support of one option is that you’ll end up using a nerf gun where airsoft works best or vice versa. Keep reading as I discuss how nerf and airsoft guns compare, helping you pick the right gun for your situation. 

Airsoft Guns Shoot Better Than Nerf Guns

An airsoft gun uses a spring system that uses air pressure to fire a projectile called a bb. The spring releases a piston that compresses air, which shoots out the projectile.

A nerf gun uses a similar firing mechanism to an airsoft gun. The difference is that the spring in a nerf gun is weaker, resulting in a less powerful shot.

Airsoft guns are a tad more “advanced” than nerf guns in terms of firing mechanisms. The simplest firing mechanism in an airsoft gun requires the shooter to compress the spring by cocking the piston.

You’ll struggle to fire multiple shots with such a rifle since you need to compress the spring after each shot. However, it’s perfect for a sniper role.

Airsoft Electric Guns use battery power to compress the spring. Such guns allow for the firing of multiple shots within a short duration.

Gas blowback airsoft guns utilize a gas reservoir containing high pressured gas that releases to fire projectiles. This system is quite advanced and is even used in simulation training by armed forces.

High-pressure airsoft guns utilize a larger canister of pressurized air to shoot projectiles. They contain a regulator to reduce the pressure coming from the tank.

High-pressure air airsoft guns are practically flawless in terms of power and range, but such impressive performance comes at a higher cost.

Most Nerf guns use the basic manual cocking mechanism to load air into the chamber, which the spring compresses to fire the dart. Some more expensive nerf guns use lithium batteries but are less common than manually-loaded nerf guns.

Therefore, nerf guns aren’t suited to firing multiple projectiles. You fire, cock the gun and repeat.

You can fire multiple projectiles through modding, but it might impact the power and range of the darts.

Video: Airsoft vs NERF || The Ultimate Showdown

Airsoft Guns Look More Realistic Than Nerf Guns

Airsoft guns are created to look like real guns. Most people, especially children, can’t differentiate between an airsoft gun and a real gun by simply looking at it.

Airsoft guns also feel and weigh like real guns.

On the other hand, nerf guns are brightly colored and specifically engineered to look like toys. No one can genuinely mistake a nerf gun for a real weapon.

Legal issues may arise due to the visual similarity between an airsoft gun and a real gun. Some airsoft guns look so similar to real firearms that some police and military units use them as training tools.

Despite assurances by parents that their children could distinguish a real gun from a fake one, a study from Emory found that more than half the children misidentified a real gun for a fake one.

The danger is that children might injure themselves and others thinking that the gun in hand is a relatively harmless airsoft gun. Another danger is that law enforcement will mistake a fake gun for a real one, leading to potentially deadly consequences.

Tamir E. Rice, a 12-year-old boy, was shot dead by a police officer when he reached for an airsoft gun. The airsoft gun possessed by Tamir looked eerily similar to a real pistol.

To eliminate potentially catastrophic incidents, countries and states have enacted laws regarding the sale of airsoft guns. Such regulations govern the appearance, sale, and carriage of airsoft guns.

In Sioux City, Iowa, carrying a toy gun in public is prohibited. Therefore, you must check toy gun laws in your area to prevent any brush-ups with law enforcement.

Even after you’re sure that you’ve acquired your guns according to the law, alert law enforcement to the fact that you are having an airsoft or a nerf gun game in your backyard.

It’ll ensure no one mistakes your harmless game for a military shootout.

Airsoft Guns Are Pricier Than Nerf Guns

Airsoft guns are much more expensive than nerf guns.

You can get an airsoft gun for $40, but most range from $100–200; the price increases with the technology used to manufacture the weapon.

For instance, a high-pressure air airsoft gun costs more than an airsoft electric gun.

Furthermore, the cost of additional equipment drives the price up. You need ammunition, face and eye protection, and batteries or gas (depending on the gun).

On the other hand, nerf guns are toys, and they’re priced as toys. You’ll get a nerf gun for $5 and an advanced one for $60.

Modifying a nerf gun is also relatively inexpensive.

The darts used in nerf guns are reusable, negating the need to purchase new ammo every time you need to play. Furthermore, the darts used in nerf guns are harmless; therefore, there’s no need for extra gear beyond eye protection.

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Nerf Guns Are Safer Than Airsoft Guns

Airsoft guns do look like real guns, but they fire relatively harmless BBs. The bb’s are made from plastic rather than from metals like real bullets.

The velocity and range of bbs fired from an airsoft gun depending on the gun’s power. Nevertheless, the speed of bb’s bullets causes a sting and can be dangerous to the eyes.

Therefore, eye protection is mandatory when firing airsoft guns. Face protection can come in handy as well as one close-range shot to the cheek will hurt a great deal.

For extra protection, ensure you don’t have any exposed skin while playing with airsoft guns. The cost of protective clothing will drive the overall cost up, but it’ll save you from a world of pain.

Protective gear becomes a paramount consideration if the game involves children.

You’ll be good to go with goggles, helmets, and padding for your chest, legs, and arms.

Another potential risk with airsoft guns is injury from a malfunctioning rifle. High-pressure airsoft guns utilize a canister of pressurized air to fire the bb.

If the can malfunctions, the pressure might injure you. Therefore, ensure the gun works properly before you start firing.

For added safety and to reduce damage to household artifacts, it’s recommended that airsoft guns be fired outside.

Nerf guns are much less harmful than airsoft guns. The spring mechanism that fires the darts is several steps weaker compared to the mechanism in airsoft guns.

The result is a short-range and weak strike that won’t hurt or leave a mark. At times, you won’t feel the dart hit you.

With nerf guns, there’s no need for protective gear beyond eye protection. No one will get hurt by a nerf dart.

Nerf guns are also safe to use indoors as they don’t strike with much force.

Airsoft and Nerf Guns Are Equally Fun To Use

Perhaps the biggest point of contention between nerf and airsoft enthusiasts is which of the two is more fun than the other. I, an impartial figure, opine that both are fun, but they fit better in different scenarios.

Below, I will explain why nerf guns are the best choice for family fun, especially where children are involved. Furthermore, I will detail why airsoft works best in a competitive environment where winning matters more than anything.

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Choose Nerf for Family Fun

From the outset, nerf guns appear suited for family fun. They’re often brightly colored and resemble a toy rather than a weapon. It’ll fit right into your child’s toy collections.

The velocity at which nerf guns fire favor family fun. Also, the dart is highly unlikely to injure your children or anyone else playing with them.

Furthermore, the nerf is made from spongy material that bounces off the target rather than sticking on. The children need to wear protective goggles, and that’s about it for nerf gun protective wear.

Nerf also lends itself to family fun because it’s cheap. Nerf blasters are affordable, and so is setting up nerf indoor games.

You don’t need a modified nerf gun for family fun. It’ll cost you more and make you unnecessarily powerful.

The purpose of family games is for everyone to enjoy firing brightly colored darts at the other. There’s a lesser need for competition when the family is having fun.

I’m not telling nerf enthusiasts not to modify their guns, and neither am I trying to dictate the rules of your family’s nerf gun battles.

All I’m saying is that standard nerf guns make the best tool for family fun.

The safety of nerf guns allows for indoor games that you can construct swiftly in the house. Due to the brightly colored nature of nerf guns, no one will mistake your match for a life-threatening indoor shootout.

Nerf arenas are great places to play nerf games. They come with guns, gear, and a specially built zone for players to display their skills.

The cost of renting the arenas can be expensive, but the equipment on offer is relatively cheap.

It makes nerf guns the best option for family fun and gun competition enthusiasts running a bit low on funds.

Choose Airsoft for Competitive Fun

The first thing that airsoft gun enthusiasts point to is realism. Airsoft guns aren’t real guns, but they look a lot like the real deal.

Airsoft guns are not toys for kids, you hear some say, and they are absolutely right. Children under 12 years of age are discouraged from participating in airsoft games.

The guns can be heavy, which isn’t what youngsters want. However, a competitive shooter will relish the weapon’s weight as they endeavor to emerge top in a competition.

Airsoft guns are perfect for competition as there is not much difference in performance between high-end guns and rentals. In nerf, the equipment matters more than the shooter’s skill.

An advanced airsoft gun will offer you an advantage, but the extra edge will prove futile against a person with a lesser weapon and greater skill. You won’t buy your way to victory in an airsoft arena.

Airsoft gun competitions have a lot to do with trust. At times, you might need your opponent to reveal that they’ve been hit.

Most of the time, however, the fast-moving bb’s produce a sound that’ll inform you that you’ve nailed your target. The soft nature of nerf doesn’t lend itself to competitions: A competitor can easily lie about getting hit, or they genuinely might not hear or feel the dart hit them.

Airsoft guns are built for competition. They fire fast projectiles that require full safety gear to prevent contact with exposed skin.

An airsoft gun competition can resemble a real shootout, so it’s essential that you inform authorities of your game, especially if you’re playing in your backyard.

Airsoft will separate the wheat from the chaff as the skilled players will come to the fore.


Nerf and airsoft guns have a similar spring mechanism that fires projectiles. However, the spring projectile in nerf guns is weaker, resulting in low-velocity shots.

Nerf guns are usually brightly colored and resemble toys. Airsoft guns resemble real firearms and can land you in trouble if you break your area’s laws concerning purchasing and carrying airsoft guns.

The elements of nerf guns lend themselves to family fun, while the characteristics of airsoft guns lend themselves to competition.

Therefore, there’s no superiority between nerf and airsoft. The above comparison will guide your choice, depending on your scenario.

Happy playing!