Paintball or airsoft, that is the question. If you are struggling to decide what to try, you came to the right place.

On the first glance, these two games look very similar. In both games you use some kind of a gun to fight the opponent, and the key to winning is having some kind of a tactic to reach the goal and defeat the opponent by shooting at them.

However, there is much more to that. To help you understand the differences between paintball and airsoft, we compared and contrasted these games for you. There are some similarities but many more differences, which can really influence your final decision on what might be a better choice for you.

Type of Guns

The first major difference between airsoft and paintball is in the guns used. One similaritiy is that both airsoft and paintball guns cannot be loaded with real bullets and they cannot hurt a person (if a person is wearing protective eyewear). In other aspects, they differ substantially.

Airsoft guns are replicas of real weapons. They have a very realistic feel to them, especially those with more blowback action. They are loaded by magazines filled with non-metal ammunition, called BBs or airsoft pellets. These guns make the game and the experience more realistic, and with airsoft guns it is really all about realism. Military simulation is a big part of airsoft, and guns contribute to that greatly.
Also see – Best Airsoft GunsBest Airsoft Snipers

Paintball guns are different because they do not look like real guns. They have a visible tank as a power source and a hopper which holds the paintballs and loads them into the gun. They are very easy to use and they do not have that blowback which would make shooting from them similar to shooting from a real weapon.
Also see – Best Paintball Guns

Type of Ammunition

In the previous part, we already mentioned BBs and paintballs.

BBs or airsoft pellets are non-metal ammunition used in airsoft. They are loaded from a magazine and fired. When they hit the target, they do not leave a mark. They are incapable of penetrating the skin or harming someone. However, if you are hit by one, especially if it is a sensitive part of the body, you may feel a stinging sensation and a bit of pain.  

On the other hand, paintballs leave a mark when they hit the target because they are filled with paint. Their gelatine shell breaks and the paint marks the opponent. Similarly to BBs, they are also harmless and relatively ‘painless’.


Besides guns, in both airsoft and paintball, additional weapons and pyrotechnics are allowed.

Airsoft pyrotechnics consists of BB grenades, smoke grenades and flashbangs. In paintball, there are smoke grenades as well, paint grenades and rockets.

Using these additional means of fighting and killing the opposing team may not be allowed in some fields. In any case, the use varies depending on the site.

The Realism of the Game

This is one of the major differences.

Airsoft is very realistic, from the guns used (which are very similar to real guns) to the tactics used in the game. Airsoft games usually simulate warfare situation, where each player has a certain role and there are specifically determined objectives of the game. To make the whole experience as real as possible everyone behaves in a certain way, uses special equipment and try to achieve set objectives.

Paintball, however, also has many game types, including MilSim, but the guns are far from realistic and there are fewer strictly regulated positions and objectives. Players of paintball do not strive as much to make the game as realistic as possible. Paintball can be played by anyone and in any way the teams agree.

The Seriousness of the Game

This point is where airsoft and paintball are similar. Both games can be played recreationally and for fun. However, there are also very serious tournaments organized, with highly experienced players, a large number of players and valuable prizes for the winner.

In general, airsoft can be considered more serious, because it is rarely going to be played without a specific tactic and game objective. There is usually some kind of a military simulation which demands from players that they are more invested in the game and maybe more experienced.

Paintball is, on the other hand, the activity you choose when there are more people who are not experienced, but you need a fun team activity. It is often picked because it can be played as a more relaxed, recreational game.


Airsoft relies on a so-called honor system. This means when a player is hit, he/she needs to call him/herself out. This is because BBs or airsoft pellets do not mark the target, so when someone is hit, if they do not call themselves out, the shooter would not know he/she hit the opponent. Of course, this leaves a lot of space for cheating.

Paintball, on the other hand, is different, because paintballs leave paint upon hitting the target. This way no one can get away with being shot or cheat. Because of this fact, paintball is easier to regulate and organize tournaments with valuable prizes.

Age Limit

Another difference is the age restriction.

Airsoft is usually stricter when it comes to age, because of the realism of the game, airsoft guns, and seriousness in general. Military simulation and real gun replicas are usually not considered suitable or appropriate for really small children.

However, paintball is considered suitable for children as young as 8 years old, and in many fields, you can bring your children along. Also, paintball is usually not regulated by law (like airsoft is), so there is no legal age limit for using a paintball gun. If the player is younger or inexperienced, there are low impact paintball guns which are more suitable. For more experienced and more serious players, full impact paintball guns are better.

It is important to check whether there is an age limit in your country and of course do not leave your child unsupervised around airsoft or painball guns.

The Necessary Equipment

If you want to play airsoft, you will of course need an airsoft gun, the ammo (BBs) and protective goggles or a full face mask, depending on the rules of the field you are playing on. Everything else is optional.
Also see – Best Airsoft Masks

In paintball, besides the paintball gun (usually called a marker) with a tank (which is the power source) and a hopper (which holds the paintballs), you will also need protection for your eyes, and face in general and the ammunition.
Also see – Best Paintball Masks

The Venue

The venues for airsoft and paintball are similar. In general, they consist of a field or a wooded area with lots of different objects in the field where the players can take cover and hide.

One difference is in the fact that paintball exists longer as a sport, hence there are usually more playing fields for paintball in a city, than for airsoft. Paintball has been around for a while, which allowed more time for different paintball fields to open and develop. Nevertheless, you will surely find an airsoft field as well, but there might not be so many options.

Of course, it is not recommended to play these games anywhere where there are people who are not playing (e.g parks), because you are still shooting and there is a possibility to accidentally hit someone who is not participating in the game. Airsoft is especially not suitable for such places because airsoft weapons may appear to look like real weapons to someone who is not familiar with airsoft, and they may be frightened.

The Price

When we compare airsoft and paintball gun prices, they are pretty similar. There are both entry and top-level choices in both categories. We could say that paintball guns are a bit more expensive since they need gas tank refills, while airsoft guns (at least electric ones) run on rechargeable batteries.

However, the real discrepancy in the price comes with the ammunition used.

BBs or airsoft pellets can be found in a pack of 5000 pieces for $10 or $20. This is a pretty good deal considering the amount of pellets you are going to use in one game.

Paintballs, however, are much more expensive, because you can get only half of this amount (so 2000) for $30. This difference in price is justifiable because the material of which paintballs are made of is more expensive. So, we could say that playing paintball, when you count in both the gun and the ammunition, will cost you more than airsoft.

The Verdict

These were all the similarities and differences between airsoft and paintball. If you were wondering what sets them apart, we hope than you are now able to see how different these games really are.

If your question was which game is better, there really is no one definite answer to that. It depends on the time and money you want to invest in the game, how passionate you are about it and what you expect from it.

We hope that this paintball vs. airsoft list helped you determine your preferences and choose the most suitable game for you. The most important thing to remember is that these games are very safe and fun when you are playing by the rules and wearing protective equipment. Take your pick and enjoy!