Paintball Vs. Airsoft: What’s the Difference?

When thinking about a fun warfare style game you can play in person, there are two games that likely come to mind: airsoft and paintball. A lot of people don’t know the difference between these two sports, making it a challenge to find the one that’s right for you.

There are many differences between these two sports. The most obvious distinction is that airsoft is a combat simulation where you launch pellets at each other using guns similar to actual firearms, while paintball launches paintballs at the opposing team using a specific paintball gun and is a bit more relaxed.

Knowing more about these two entertaining sports will allow you to weigh the differences to help decide which game is right for you.

Major Differences Between Paintball and Airsoft

While these two games might appear to be one and the same, they actually have several distinctions from each other. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent characteristics of both of these fun combat games and see what the bottom-line difference is between the two in each case.

Definition of Airsoft and Paintball

Airsoft: With airsoft, you will have a more realistic warfare experience. This is due to the fact that the guns resemble actual firearms and you will be shooting round, non-metallic pellets that can look close to real bullets. There is really no standard way of playing airsoft, which means every location will give you a different way to play.

Paintball: Paintball is a more fun and relaxed warfare game where individuals or teams of players will have to eliminate their opponents. The paintball gun, which resembles a real gun less, will shoot capsules made of water-soluble gel mixed with a shell made of gelatin.

The verdict: Airsoft and paintball are fairly similar in the fact that you will be shooting something toward your opponents to eliminate them. Airsoft is more of a realistic experience using pellets, while paintball uses capsules of dye and gelatin.

Equipment Used

Airsoft: When playing airsoft, you will need to make sure you have a good airsoft gun as well as BBs to go with your specific gun model. You will also need some type of eye protection, while some sites will require an entire face mask for protection. Everything else you decide to use for play or protection is optional.

Paintball: Paintball gaming will require a little bit more equipment in order to play. First and foremost, you will need a paintball mask to protect all areas of your face, as well as a paintball marker completed with the proper tags, barrel, etc. You will also need the proper tank and hopper in order to compete.

The verdict: Airsoft only requires three pieces of equipment to play, unlike paintball which will need several different products. This makes airsoft a better choice for those who don’t want to buy too much equipment. However, paintball allows for more personalization and customization which many find enjoyable.


Airsoft: With airsoft, you will likely use a full imitation firearm during gameplay. However, there is also the two-toned, bright-colored guns that are mostly used for beginners or those who simply want to try out airsoft without spending a lot of money. Airsoft guns are completely rechargeable, using either regular batteries, a spring, or CO2.

In Airsoft you will use a full imitation firearm.

Paintball: The paintball gun consists of two specific components: the tank and the hopper. They are likely going to be used with HPA, although some guns can be powered using CO2.

The verdict: Airsoft utilizes firearms that look like actual, real guns. Paintball, on the other hand, uses a paintball gun that must have two different components in order for the gun to operate and doesn’t have as realistic of an appearance.


Airsoft: The two main accessories used in airsoft includes magazines and BB bullets.

Paintball: Paintball also has two main accessories, paintballs, and hoppers. The hopper is the area in which paintballs are held and shot off. There are many different speeds of loading the paintballs from the hopper into a paintball gun available on the market, so finding the right one for your skill level is imperative. You can also find hoppers that hold more paintballs than others, which can really level up your game.

The verdict: Both airsoft and paintball guns need two different accessories to function, but they are entirely different. Always make sure your airsoft gun has a magazine and the right BB bullets, while a paintball needs the paintballs and a hopper in order to shoot.

Usability of the Gun

Airsoft: Airsoft guns are mostly going to be lightweight and easy to maneuver. However, the downside to airsoft guns is that they can be difficult to load until you get the hang of it. Magazines have to be constantly wound, which may have an impact on overall gameplay.

Paintball: Paintball guns are far easier to load, although they may be slightly heavier. Pods will be carried inside of specialty pod packs which may have elastics inside to make the process even simpler for the paintballer.

Paintball guns are far easier to load, but they are a bit heavier than airsoft guns.

The verdict: Airsoft guns are lightweight and compact, although they are harder to load than paintball guns. Paintball guns are easy to load with pods, and some pod packs have elastic inside to make loading even simpler.


Airsoft: You can usually get an airsoft gun for less than $100, sometimes even less than $50. The cost of pellets will be anywhere between $10 and $20 for a pack of 5,000 BBs.

Paintball: A good paintball gun will likely be over $100. The paintballs themselves are usually sold in cases or packs filled will around 2000 paintballs. Depending on the paintballs you choose, the pack could easily be around $30 or higher.

The verdict: Airsoft is the cheaper option when it comes to combat games. The guns and BBs together can be less than $100. Paintball is a more expensive game to play as the paintball guns will likely range over $100, with paintball cases being sold for around $30 or higher. This makes airsoft a more cost-effective option.

Contact with Players During Gameplay

Airsoft: Different sites will have different rules on what they allow, but most sites will allow you to say ‘bang’ instead of actually hitting your opponent when they’re close to you. This still eliminates the opponent. You can sometimes bring a foam or plastic toy knife to help eliminate opponents.

Paintball: Paintball sites will almost always allow some physical contact between players. You have the option of tagging opponents using a barrel, toy sword, etc. There is also a ‘mercy rule’ instigated for players close by.

The verdict: Both airsoft and paintball games will allow for some type of physical contact. Always check with the site to see what is allowed and what is not.

Paintball Vs. Airsoft Pain – Which pain is Worse?

One thing that concerns new players is the pain they might experience during gameplay. After all, we all have those friends who have those horror stories about how awful it was to get ‘shot’ by a BB or paintball. So, which one is actually worse in terms of pain?


Some people may think that because airsoft is more realistic than paintball, it is going to cause more pain. After all, an airsoft gun that looks like the real deal and shoots actual tiny bullets will feel like the real thing too, right? Not exactly.

How much you hurt will vary according to where you are hit and what your pain tolerance is but being shot with an airsoft BB is typically not that bad.

For instance: someone who has been shot a few feet away in the neck is going to experience far more pain than someone who is shot in the back at a far distance. So really, every shot is going to have a different outcome in terms of pain.

To lessen the amount of pain you may experience, you always want to make sure you have on thick clothing that will cushion the blow. A BB pellet hitting against bare skin or even thin clothing will likely have a bigger, more painful impact.

The cool thing about airsoft specifically is that it resembles actual combat warfare. You’re using lifelike guns with ammo, and you can dress up in camouflage and other gear to intensify your experience. That being said, some people may actually consider being shot with a pellet a ‘badge of honor.’


Paintball is probably the more popular sport, but does that mean there is less pain involved? Unfortunately, not at all. In fact, paintball is likely going to cause more pain than airsoft.

Paintballs are larger than BBs, therefore they hurt more when being hit.

The main reason why paintballs are going to cause a significantly larger amount of pain is mostly due to paintballs size. These larger ‘bullets’ carry a whole lot more impact behind them, especially if you are shot at a short-range.

The size also impacts the amount of surface area that will be affected by the blow. Think about it like this: if you got hit with an airsoft pellet on your thigh, you might have a small stinging sensation with a small welt. If you get hit in the same area with a paintball, it’s going to cause bruising to the area it hit directly as well as the surrounding area.

The best way to reduce the amount of pain and bruising that can come from a paintball hit is to always ensure you’re wearing proper clothing and have the right safety equipment on.

Remember: while full-face safety masks typically aren’t required for airsoft, it’s a good idea to wear one anyway. The more protection you have on your body, the less likely you’re going to get hurt playing either one of these sports.

Paintball Vs. Airsoft Range

A common question people ask is whether or not they are going to have a better shot with an airsoft gun or a paintball gun. Of course, plenty of practice is going to lead you to the best possible outcome in terms of shot but knowing which one is easiest with the best distance is always good knowledge.

For the most part, all airsoft and paintball fields and sites are going to have a maximum allowance in terms of velocity. This means that even with a better velocity for maximum range, you are going to be limited when you head out onto the paintball or airsoft field.

You can expect most fields and sites to limit paintball guns down to sub-300 fps (feet per second) while airsoft fields are a bit more lenient, which allows for around 300 to 500 fps on average (although some may allow an even higher number of fps).

It might shock you to learn the high number of fps allowed on airsoft sites. However, you should always keep in mind that airsoft BBs are a lot smaller and lightweight than the paintballs used in paintball. This means that you can fire off an airsoft gun faster, but it won’t have the same impact.

In terms of an actual built-in range, though, the airsoft allows for better range. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of using an airsoft gun is that it can be fine-tuned by the owner to allow for a more accurate shot at a further distance.

Since paintball guns are shooting paintballs that weight a lot more than an airsoft BB, the range is not going to be as far as gravity takes its toll on the paintballs. This is why you won’t have as good of a range as you would find with most airsoft guns. Paintball guns can also be fine-tuned, but it won’t have a very big impact on the range capabilities.

Is Airsoft More Fun than Paintball?

There’s no easy way to answer this question. There are many things to consider when deciding if one game is better or more fun than the other.

Paintball is a more relaxed game. It’s a fun sport for all skill levels.
  • Cost. If you are looking for a game that isn’t going to cost you too much money than you’re going to have a better time with airsoft. Airsoft guns are remarkably cheaper than paintball guns, and their BBs, safety gear, etc. is far cheaper as well. This doesn’t have a direct impact on ‘fun,’ but if you’re trying to save money, it can be fun to save!
  • Experience. It all depends on what you want to get out of the game. Do you want to have a blast shooting your opponents and end up covered in paint? Or would you rather have a more realistic combat warfare experience where you have a real gun and can dress up like a soldier? It truly comes down to personal preference.
  • Pain tolerance. Pain should always be a factor when deciding whether or not a sport or game is more ‘fun.’ It’s important to note that paintballs are going to cause a lot more pain than an airsoft BB, but you don’t have the fun of having paint splatters every which way when you are hit.
  • Skill level. There’s actually a fair amount of skill that takes play in both sports, but airsoft gaming will require a little more. It’s not as easy to line up a shot using an airsoft gun, which means you’re probably going to have to practice a lot before the get-go. Paintball guns are a bit easier to shoot with, making it a fun sport for people of all skill levels.
  • Ease of play. A lot of people find paintball to be more fun because it’s colorful and playful and exciting, but paintball guns are actually harder to reload and are far heavier than airsoft guns. If you choose airsoft, you have the ease of loading your magazines swiftly and can pull out your gun in an instant. It’s lightweight, and you don’t need a ton of accessories or extras to get out on the site.
  • Seriousness. For most players, airsoft and paintball will require a certain amount of seriousness. After all, you want to beat your opponents and get the win, right? However, many people say that paintball is a little bit more on the relaxed side, simply because you’re likely not replicating a war zone as you would in airsoft, and there are colors and paint splattering everywhere throughout the game.
  • Cleanup. It’s true: when you play paintball, you’re likely going to be covered in paint (and bruises) by the end of it. While some people may find this fun and exciting, others may find it an absolute pain to keep having to wash themselves and their gear every time they play.

So, is airsoft more fun than paintball? It really all depends on the experience you want. If you’re looking for a somewhat serious game that utilizes lifelike guns and ammo, then airsoft will be your choice. For more color and excitement, you might go the paintball route.


Airsoft and paintball are fairly similar, but they have distinct differences. From the guns to the ammo, range to play, there’s a lot of distinctions that set these two warfare combat games apart.