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What Is the Difference Between an Air Pistol & an Airsoft Gun?

by Claire Moorman

Airsoft guns are often made to look exactly like real guns.

replica airsoft image by MelenaVerde from Fotolia.com

Air pistols and airsoft guns have become popular toys and sporting equipment. The guns are preferred for use by children or for first-time gun owners because they pose less danger than regular firearms. There are some basic differences between air pistols and airsoft guns, but both belong to the same basic category of weapon and should be used with caution.

Air Pistols

Air pistols and air rifles are classified as air guns. Air guns may be exact replicas of real-life pistols, but the main difference between air guns and regular guns is that air pistols fire using compressed air to shoot ammunition, while actual guns use a burned propellant. This makes air guns significantly less dangerous than real pistols because the energy and weight of the ammo must be lower.

Airsoft Guns

Airsoft guns are actually a smaller classification of air guns, pistols and rifles. The difference between the two is that while air pistols may fire metal ammunition, airsoft guns are air guns which are only used to fire plastic projectiles. The guns originated in Japan because of a ban on real firearms in the country, and have become a popular toy because of their relative safety.

Regulations on Air and Airsoft Guns

Regulations on air pistols vary from place to place, although they are not subject to the U.S. Gun Control Act, which regulates regular firearms. Since the ammunition is non-explosive, they cause less damage, but metal projectiles can still be a hazard. Velocity limits are imposed on airsoft guns to keep them safe for use as toys. The velocity for single-shot airsoft guns cannot exceed 500 feet per second.

Photo Credits

  • replica airsoft image by MelenaVerde from Fotolia.com

About the Author

Claire Moorman has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in several newspapers such as the "Bedford Times-Mail" in Bedford, Ind., and "Nuvo Newsweekly." She served for two years as a reporter and assistant copy editor for "The Franklin," her college newspaper. Moorman is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Franklin College.