When it comes to airsoft vs paintball, both are fairly established sports with large communities behind them. Not only that but there is also solid support in terms of offered guns and gear for both.
However, if you are trying to find an answer to which one to try out, there are notable differences in basic parameters. Let us walk you through it! Besides the basic differences, we will check out prices, realism and safety/painfulness.
In a hurry? Jump to the conclusion!
Both sports use almost harmless guns to hit other players. Moreover, both use compressed air to propel the ammunition. But that’s about it.
Technically speaking, the main difference is the specific ammo guns use. Airsoft is played with 6 mm plastic BBs, whereas paintball uses larger pellets filled with paint.
On top of different ammo, airsoft is mostly played in a sort of Military Simulation environment, whereas paintball is played in artificial arenas with inflated barriers, giving it a more sport-ish feel. However, in recent years, airsoft has been played on sports fields, and paintball has seen action in the woods.
🎓 Different ammo and game fields essentially influence all the other points: Costs, realism, safety and required skills.
How much does airsoft/paintball cost?
Since there is equipment involved, neither is dirt cheap to get into. However, there are still differences. In both sports, you need to follow 3 main cost categories.
Gun & Equipment Cost 🔫
Regarding equipment, both airsoft and paintball require about the same amount of money for starters. That’s due to the simple fact that you need just two things: a gun and some eye + face protection. You can get both airsoft and paintball sets for around 200 – 300 bucks.
State-of-the-art gear is of course, expensive. Long-time players can pay up to 1 000 just for a gun…
Ammo Cost (with example) ⚪️
This is the main difference between airsoft and paintball in regard to price. The logic is simple. Airsoft BBs don’t have paint and are smaller than paintballs. This makes them notably cheaper. How much? Let’s take an example.
Standard paintball pellets used at commercial fields can cost around 45 € per 2 000 shots. That makes it around 0,0225 € per shot.
On the contrary, premium NOVRITSCH airsoft BBs in standard weight used for most rifles cost roughly 10 € per 2 500 shots. Airsoft BB costs you around 0,004 € per shot.
That makes an airsoft BB roughly 5 – 6 times cheaper than a paintball pellet. Given you can shoot even 2 000 rounds per day, that makes a notable difference, making airsoft a clear winner in this one.
Field fees 🌎
Of course, fields also cost money as they are for-profit services. We definitely recommend going to standard fields as the experience will be way better for both sports.
The standard games have about the same admission fees from 5 – 30 bucks for both airsoft and paintball. Interesting fact: in the US, the fees are generally higher as field owners need to pay high insurance costs. Europe usually has cheaper entry fees.
However, in airsoft, you can sometimes go into a forest nearby, given nobody will see you and call the cops. And if you use Biodegradable BBs, there is no harm to the environment, enabling you to eliminate these costs if you have enough friends to join you! That would make airsoft a slight winner in this category for us – but it’s not a deal breaker.
Airsoft vs Paintball: Which one is cheaper?
Airsoft is generally cheaper than paintball. 💸
This is mainly due to airsoft BBs being more affordable and the option to go for free/cheaper games. If you want a more detailed breakdown of an airsoft example, check out our airsoft cost breakdown:
Realism and Authenticity in both sports
Another major thing about airsoft vs paintball is the realism and authenticity. In most cases, airsoft provides more authenticity and realistic gun handling, while paintball is more oriented towards sports.
Here we must mention that with the ever-growing size of both sports, there are ways to make paintball more realistic and airsoft more sporty. However, the “mainstream” flow remains, as mentioned earlier.
Why are airsoft guns more realistic?
Compared to paintball guns, airsoft rifles are, in most cases, 1:1-sized replicas of real-steel guns. And it’s not just about the looks/shape of the gun, but also operations.
Most airsoft guns work just as you would expect with the real thing. You insert the magazine where you would in a real firearm, and you would find the trigger and safety in the same places as well. On the contrary, paintball guns have a recognizable shape specific to the sport.
Moreover, airsoft replicas can often take real gun parts and accessories, as the standards are often compatible.
When we look away from the gear, authenticity is built using the environment. And it’s more often than not airsoft where you get to meet complex games where for 4 days, you get in the skin of a freedom fighter somewhere on another part of the planet. Not like you couldn’t do that in paintball, but it’s less often.
✔ In realism, we consider airsoft to take the lead as the number of options you get is just staggering.
Does Airsoft/Paintball hurt? Safety aspects!
Regarding safety, it’s essential to know that if proper means of protection are used, both sports are perfectly safe!
On top of that, both airsoft and paintball game organizers oversee that guns aren’t too strong to hurt someone. Yet, there are differences in how much it actually hurts.
Both are safe! Paintball hurts a bit more though. 👨⚕️
That is mostly due to 2 main factors: the range you need for a fun game/fight and the dimensions of the pellets. Paintballs are both heavier and bigger than airsoft BBs, meaning they need more energy to achieve the same range as an airsoft gun. And the energy is what makes the hit less pleasant at close distances.
This is further amplified by the Hop-Up System that good Airsoft Guns have. It basically adds about 30+ % of extra range by applying backspin to the BB – this way you can accurately shoot further than 50 meters with 1,6 Joules worth of energy, whereas a typical paintball could easily go over 10 Joules – making paintball more than 5 times as much strong.
Recommended protective gear for both sports
In both sports, you will always need to protect your eyes and teeth. Those can be permanently damaged so make sure not to be cheap on that one. Paintball masks work for both, though airsofters tend to use a combo of safety goggles and a mesh mask.
Up next, for both we would recommend you to grab protective gloves and knee pads. They are not 100 % necessary but hey, it’s your pain you are avoiding. Also, loose clothes will work better to mitigate any pain from impact.
On top of that, to feel even more comfortable you might want to protect your torso with an airsoft plate carrier or paintball body armor. But that’s outright optional. We wrote a full-size post about pain in airsoft.
Conclusion: Which one makes more sense?
To wrap it up, airsoft is less painful, offers you greater range, is a bit cheaper and more realistic. For us, this combination makes it the winner – which is also why we are an active member of the community, trying to improve what airsoft offers.
On the other hand, paintball is well established, focusing on the sport aspect of similar games. Therefore, if you want to compete, it’s gonna be easier for you. Also, people know paintball more, both in saying and in actually trying it, meaning you would likely have an easier time finding someone to play with.
Since both airsoft and paintball thrive as team sports, consider if you already have some friends who would be playing one or another. If you don’t, as a beginner, we would personally choose airsoft again. However, both are cool and you will have loads of fun!