BB Guns Versus Airsoft Guns - Pros & Cons

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This Article is not intended to explain which type of gun is better or worse, it is only to point out what makes each gun different and how these differences can effect their performance and usage. I personally like all types of guns and respect other peoples choices in which guns they prefer to use. If you have a strong opinion about one type of gun being the "only gun" for everyone, then keep it to yourself please or it will be deleted!

For those "Special People" out there that like to call other people names for their interest in BB and Airsoft guns, here's an idea… go take your 9mm and shoot off a full magazine in your residential backyard and then see what happens? Also take note of how much money that magazine of 9mm ammo cost compared to the $5 that 2400 BB cost.

And please don't tell me to get a real gun because I probably have more real guns than you do! Like I said I appreciate and respect all types of guns.

What is the difference between a BB gun and an Airsoft gun?

  • In short BB guns (airguns that shoot a steel or lead BB) have been around for a long time so they get to keep the name of being called a "BB gun", even though many people refer to Airsoft guns as "BB guns". And yes Airsoft guns shoot a plastic BB but they do not inherit the name as it is reserved for the long standing… well BB gun!
  • BB guns generally shoot a 4.5mm or .177 caliber steel BB but some can also shoot lead BB's.
  • BB guns are most often used for target practice and training, some high power BB guns can also be used for pest control.
  • Airsoft guns generally shoot 6mm plastic BB's ranging in weights depending on what they are being used for. There are also larger caliber Airsoft guns available but they are not the norm.
  • Airsoft guns are most commonly used for tactical simulation games but can also be used for target practice and training, there are also Airsoft leagues that conduct IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) competitions.
  • Both BB and Airsoft guns can use Springs, Air, Gas or CO2 as a means of propulsion.
  • Both BB and Airsoft guns can be made out of a variety of materials depending on the grade and use of the gun.

Realism

  • I would have to give the edge to the Airsoft guns in this category, the entire hobby is bases on how real the gun looks and functions. Most Airsoft guns are near impossible to tell apart from the real steel versions, even on close inspection.
  • That is not to say that there aren't any highly realistic BB guns available, there most certainly are but the focus with BB guns is not always on realism. It is often more on performance and so compromises are made that can effect realism.

Power!

  • BB guns generally have more power (energy) and carry that energy out further down range, but both BB and Airsoft can shoot up into the 500+ fps ranges.
  • BB guns have a smaller but denser and harder ammo so they tend to penetrate deeper into objects which can be good or bad depending on what you want to do with the gun. (War Games vs target and Pest control)

Accuracy

  • Both BB and Airsoft guns can be very accurate and this surprised me when I started reviewing and testing Airsoft guns. I had the impression that Airsoft guns would not be nearly as accurate as a BB gun but I was impressed with the results I got from a well made and tuned Airsoft gun.
  • With that said I still feel that a BB gun takes this category, not so much for close up shooting, but when shooting out at range a BB is less susceptible to the elements and will be more accurate further down range.
  • One advantage Airsoft guns generally have over BB guns is the hop up that gives the BB some backspin and allows it to keep a more level trajectory which can help with long rang shots. (Kind of like the backspin a tennis player uses to make the ball float deeper into the court.)

Shooting Environment

  • Because of the material and energy levels of both projectiles, BB and Airsoft guns are best used for different shooting situations and with different levels of safety implemented. Always use eye protection with either gun but be aware that a steel BB will cause more damage when it hits an object and that object could be you. BB guns require a heavier backstop and will also ricochet off of objects with much more force than an Airsoft plastic BB would so you need to be careful around windows and breakable objects.
  • Airsoft gun can be a better solution for indoor shooting or even sometimes when doing some backyard shooting where you may live close to buildings.
  • Airsoft guns are obviously the better choice when being used in war games as the plastic BB's are designed to hit but not harm, keep in mind that proper clothing and protection is required and limits to the FPS are often employed to keep everyone safe.
  • Do not even think about using a standard Steel BB gun for war games unless you want to make a trip to your local emergency for BB removal. 

Hunting

  • I rarely recommend BB or Airsoft guns for pest control, I prefer larger caliber pellet guns that shoot at as high a velocity as you can obtain in your area. This is the most humane way to take care of small varmint if this is required, or for hunting to put meat on the table.
  • There are a few exceptions, some furry critters that do not like to stay still like squirrels and chipmunks can be alleviated with a high powered BB machine gun. A customized full auto Drozd can pump out 1200 rounds per minute with velocity up into the 800 fps range.
  • I would not consider an Airsoft gun for pest control or hunting period! If you want to scare off your neighbors cat, well that's another issue.

Cost

  • Both BB guns and Airsoft Guns can range dramatically in cost and so comparing quality to quality they are about the same to buy and also the cost of use is about the same as ammo is fairly close in price, perhaps steel BB's are a bit cheaper but not by that much.
  • Some BB guns can get up there in price, I have spent as much as $1000 on my full customized Drozd Blackbird with all the bells and whistles.  A high end competition Airsoft gun can also cost well over $1000 to even $2000 or more when all is said and done.

So I hope this Video helps you understand the differences and practical uses of both BB Guns and Airsoft Guns and wether you deiced to get one or the other or maybe some of each. Just remember to use them with respect and always shoot safely and you will have a great time doing so!

Watch the video YouTube version of this Article!

Airsoft, BB, Comparison, YouTube Video