To an outside observer, airsoft and paintball seem similar. Anyone that has played either knows that is not the case; intricate differences make the two of them completely different sports. As a newcomer, should you play airsoft or paintball?
You should play airsoft if you want a cheaper investment and a more realistic experience. Meanwhile, you should play paintball if you wish to play in larger events and get more accessible play opportunities. Paintball guns are easier to use than airsoft guns, which can be positive or negative.
Let’s take an in-depth look at how realism, cost, and accessibility should play into your decision to play airsoft or paintball.
Airsoft Is More Realistic Than Paintball
Airsoft battles are closer to real-life warfare than paintball skirmishes.
Manufacturers design airsoft guns to make them look as close as possible to real guns. Pistols, machine guns, SMGs, and shotguns all look starkly similar to their actual counterparts.
Take the BBTac Airsoft Gun Package (available on Amazon.com). The set includes a diverse array of starter weapons for airsoft beginners, and all look stunningly close to their real-life equivalents.
Even the most realistic paintball guns fail to capture that level of authenticity.
Most paintball guns are noticeable by their bulky hopper. This ovular part holds paintballs, and also makes paintball guns look somewhat like a toy.
Check out the Mercury Rise Venom Semi-Auto .68 Caliber (also available onAmazon.com). With a sleek black design, the gun is as realistic as paintball guns come. Still, with its long snout, it’s clearly not the real deal.
Airsoft Pellets Are More Realistic Than Paintballs
Much like their respective weapons, airsoft pellets are more realistic than paintballs.
Airsoft pellets are small, round plastic bullets that hit opponents and bounce off. Paintballs, meanwhile, are far larger and explode with paint on impact.
Airsoft Guns Are More Realistic But Harder To Use Than Paintball Guns
Because airsoft guns are more realistic than paintball guns, they’re also harder to use.
Airsoft magazines require winding before use. Magazines come equipped with a bottom wheel to wind them up and prepare them to fire. These magazines take time to wind and change mid-match and require a learning curve to use in battle.
More advanced magazines, such as the Lancer Tactical Gen 2 Hi-Cap AEG Airsoft Training Metal Magazine (available on Amazon.com), can load large amounts of BBs to save time on the battlefield. Still, upon reload, they require winding.
The paintball hoppers mentioned above need no such winding. Simply place a winder full of ammo on your gun and fire away.
The Empire 2017 Halo Too Paintball Loader (also available on Amazon.com) can fit over 180 paintballs with ease. While it fits less ammo than the Lancer Metal Magazine, the hopper features an opening to slip in paintballs amid a match.
Airsoft vs. Paintball Prices
Generally, airsoft is cheaper than paintball. As you dive deeper into either sport, however, prices fluctuate.
Airsoft Guns Are Cheaper Than Paintball Guns
Beginner airsoft guns are less expensive than beginner paintball guns.
Starter airsoft rifles price around $40–75, while starter paintball guns can cost $150 and upwards.
The prices fluctuate even further with specialty weapons. You can get the cheapest airsoft pistols for under $25. On the other hand, paintball pistols are rare and cost upwards of $200.
Airsoft Pellets Are Cheaper Than Paintballs
Airsoft pellets are also less expensive than their paintball counterparts.
You can find 5,000 count airsoft pellets for around $20. Check out the BULLDOG AIRSOFT – 5000 Airsoft Pellets (available on Amazon.com). They’re a great starter BB pack. Plus, they’re biodegradable.
On the flipside, paintballs can cost $45 and up for a pack of 2,000. That’s over double the price for less than half the product.
While less affordable, paintballs are more customizable. You can find all sorts of colors online to cater your game to your style. The Valken Infinity Paintballs – 68cal- 2,000ct- Orange pack from Amazon.com, for example, leaves a stark orange burst on your foes.
Airsoft and Paintball Safety Gear Cost the Same
Both airsoft and paintball require minimal safety gear, and both are affordable.
Airsoft and paintball players alike use goggles to protect their eyes. You can use the same goggles for either, and they’re quite inexpensive.
The SPOSUNE Outdoor Sports Airsoft Tactical Goggles from Amazon.com include UV400 and are great for either sport.
Paintball players occasionally wear protective vests, but they’re hardly an essential purchase.
Airsoft Accessories Are More Expensive Than Paintball Accessories
Hardcore players spend far more money buying extra equipment for airsoft guns than paintball guns.
Potential airsoft accessories include multiple guns, multiple magazines, tracer units, optics, gun lights, hand grenades, and gun stands. Each of these seeks to replicate real-life firearms, which are also accessory-rich.
That said, for the most realistic airsoft experience, you’ll have to seriously pay up.
You’ll find weapons besides rifles far less frequently on paintball fields than airsoft fields. The lack of additional armaments also results in a lack of additional equipment.
For a peak paintball experience, all you need is a rifle and safety gear. That simply isn’t true of airsoft.
Paintball Is More Popular Than Airsoft
If you’re new to either sport, it’ll be easier to find game time and a field with paintball than airsoft.
According to IBIS World, over 1,695 paintball fields are available in the United States. Virtually anywhere you go in the United States, you’ll have reasonable access to paintball.
Airsoft has far fewer places to play. According to Airsoft Station, there are less than 300 airsoft fields. While they note their list is not entirely comprehensive, all those unaccounted fields would bump the number up to 500 at best.
Statista found that there were 3.41 million participants in paintball in 2017. While there are no official statistics about the airsoft player base, the lack of fields would imply that it’s much smaller. More players also mean larger events.
For a casual engagement, you’ll have an easier time finding paintball than airsoft.
There are several factors to balance when choosing between airsoft and paintball. Suppose you’re looking for the most realistic experience, select airsoft. However, if you’re looking for a more casual engagement, go for paintball.
Consider trying both to see which one fits your playstyle and taste before making a more considerable investment in either.