Difference Between Airsoft & BB Guns

by Jennifer D. Melville
Airsoft guns are used for gaming, while BB guns are used for target practice or small game hunting.

Airsoft guns are used for gaming, while BB guns are used for target practice or small game hunting.

Airsoft and BB guns are both extremely popular hobby guns. Both types of guns function similarly, look dramatically like real guns and are easy to purchase and operate. However, this is where the similarities end. Airsoft guns and BB guns are far different, and confusing them could be very dangerous.


Airsoft guns are strictly used for recreational purposes, and airsoft games are exceedingly popular among enthusiasts. Airsoft pellets are relatively harmless and do not cause bodily harm, so airsoft games are warlike and involve shooting at opponents similar to paintball games. Some popular airsoft games include manhunt (one player is hunted by the rest of the players), last player standing (last player alive wins), hostage rescue and capture the flag. For more information on these games, check out The Airsoft Gun website at www.theairsoftgun.net/airsoft-game-types/index.php.

A BB gun, on the other hand, shoots hard pellets and is much more powerful than an airsoft gun. It can cause bodily damage and should never be shot at another person. Thus, a BB gun cannot be used in war games like an airsoft gun. BB guns are useful for shooting pests and small game. Target shooting and plinking tin cans are classic uses for BB guns.


BB guns have been used for more than 100 years in the United States. They were invented by Clarence Hamilton in 1886. The guns quickly became very popular and were produced by Daisy Manufacturing Company, Inc. They were marketed as a young boy's gun. The most popular BB gun of all was the Daisy Red Rider, of which more than 9 million units have been sold.

The Airsoft gun is a much more recent development. It was developed in Japan in the 1980s as a legal way to enjoy shooting in a country where guns were banned. They were first marketed in the United States in the 1980s as a safe alternative to BB guns but didn't gain popularity. Daisy began marketing airsoft guns in the United States in 2003, and this time the concept took off to make airsoft gaming a popular sport.


While there are no license requirements for owning an airsoft gun in the United States, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase one. It's also required that airsoft guns have an orange tip to distinguish it from a real gun.

BB gun restrictions vary by state. There are no national rules or regulations, or age limits. The only state listing a BB gun rule on the NRA website is Delaware, where it is illegal for a parent to permit their child to possess a firearm, airsoft gun or BB gun except under direct adult supervision.

Firing Power

BB guns are much more powerful that airsoft guns and shoot 91 to 152.4 meters per second. This is enough to cause bodily harm. They shoot small, metal pellets called BBs.

Airsoft guns, on the other hand, shoot at a speed of 55 to 91 meters per second. This is generally not fast enough to cause bodily harm. They shoot small 6mm or 8mm plastic pellets.


Basically, airsoft guns have softer pellets and shoot at muzzle velocities considered non-lethal, while BB guns shoot hard pellets at higher muzzle velocities that can be lethal.

Airsoft guns are fun, recreational tools that can be used safely by both adults and supervised children. There is little risk of injury, and airsoft guns can be safely used in shooting games.

Although historically marketed as a children's gun, BB guns should only be used by children with close adult supervision. They can be deadly if misused.

Photo Credits

  • paintball player splat image by NorthShoreSurfPhotos from Fotolia.com