Paintball Vs. Airsoft

Unbiased comparison between airsoft and paintball

By: Kevin Lai

Note: Skirmish did not write this article nor provide/check resources.  We did edit some grammar.

If you agree or disagree with Kevin, please post!!!


Paintball: Founded in 1976 in the United States by Charles Gain and Bob Gurnsey. The concept of paintball was based on The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. Original games were based on Capture the Flag. The duo soon founded the National Survival Game company, which sold paintball equipment.
Airsoft: Founded in late 1970’s in Japan, although it is arguable that it started earlier, as far back as the 60’s. This was in direct response to firearm restriction laws imposed on the Japanese, which basically states that no civilian may own firearms. Needless to say, demands for firearms skyrocketed, but with the firearms ban, companies soon began making replicas of famous firearms. Most notably, the M4 and the AK47.


Paintball: Although play style, rules, and safety regulations have changed very little since its founding in 1976, paintball markers themselves have gone though HUGE advancements in technology. They were originally very simple, with their propulsion being an internal gas reservoir with manual bolt action loading. This was then replaced with a pump action. The major leap came in external High Pressure Air rigs and automatic loading. Today, these are the standard among paintball markers.
Airsoft: Airsoft developed completely independently from paintball. However, Daisy Outdoor Products, an American company most known for their pellet guns, took airsoft in its early stages to the U.S., where it was slow to catch on in part due to the popularity of paintball. However, airsoft THRIVED in Japan were paintball was outlawed. The simple spring loaded mechanisms of early airsoft guns were soon replaced by gearboxes. These gearbox mechanisms were driven by a motor to turn a series of gears and pull back a spring loaded piston, effectively creating an automatic airsoft gun. Today we have three leaders in the airsoft industry; Tokyo Marui, Maruzen, and Marushin.

Rules and Regulations:
The general rules of paintball and airsoft are very similar. You get hit by a BB or paintball, call yourself out, return to respawn, and continue the fight.  And of course, don’t cheat. However, the similarities pretty much end there.

Paintball: Requires a full seal facemask. FPS (Feet per second, basically the speed) is generally limited to 280 FPS for rec ball and 290 FPS for tournaments. Finally, paintball markers are usually restricted to semi- automatic.

Airsoft: Doesn’t require a full seal facemask. Only full seal goggles. FPS limits are 400 for automatics and 500 for spring guns (a.k.a. sniper rifles).

While neither activity is overly painful, a major debate between airsofters and paintballers is about pain. Paintballers usually claim that paintball hurts more, because it is a larger ball. This is highly contentious due to the fact that full automatics are not only allowed but are in fact the norm with airsoft and with there is also no ROF (rate of fire) cap in airsoft so you could be in for some legitimate pain.

Energy is measured in Joules. A paintball marker at 280 FPS can range from 2-10 joules. However, in airsoft, joules rarely exceed 4, even with 500 FPS set ups. For the sake of argument we will assume that, more joules=more pain. Keeping in mind that joules are a measurement of energy in much the same way that a calorie is. Further, one must understand that because paintball is semi automatic, it is much harder to land successive shots on target. Less paintballs on target equals less pain. Also, paintballs splatter on their targets, dissipating some of its energy over a wider area, which means less pain.

Airsoft, although rarely exceeding 4 joules (most airsoft guns rating in at 1.5 joules) can also be relatively painful. A solid BB means that all its energy will be transferred to a small area, unlike paintball, where it can dissipate to a larger area.  Also, the fact that fully automatics are allowed with NO FIRING CAP means that A LOT of bb’s can be landed on a target in a shorter amount of time.

On the topic of firing cap, paintball markers rarely exceed 20 SPS (shots per second), with some going as far as 30 SPS, which is relatively rare and very expensive. However, airsoft guns can easily exceed 20 SPS and can go up to 60 SPS with some custom tech work. The world’s fastest airsoft gun fires at 116 SPS. That’s SEVEN THOUSAND rounds per minute. Granted, it is really rare, as the only commercially available airsoft gun that shoots that fast is the Strafer MK4, retailing at $1400.
I’m not trying to say that one hurts more than the other. There are certain times when paintball hurts more than airsoft and times when airsoft hurts more than paintball. What I am saying is the debate about pain should END!


This is the part when airsoft and paintball really split. No matter how much ANYONE (paintballers or airsofters) love their sport, there is no denying that airsoft is MUCH more realistic. Case and Point:

Super realistic airsoft guns can be found as cheap as 360 dollars, emulating EVERY feature on a real m4, except for its ability to fire real bullets. Don’t believe me? Look up videos of the King Arms gas blowback m4.

For paintball guns to achieve a similar level of realism you are looking at tons of aftermarket parts and possibly some custom work. Plus when you’re done you will still be capped on ROF at any legitimate field.

Use as training:

There is a common misconception that the U.S. military uses paintball guns as training tools. They use something called simulation. It’s basically a paintball loaded into a 9mm cartridge. This hurts way more than any normal paintball or airsoft marker. They do use paintballs but they do NOT use paintball markers. They use modified M16 standard issue assault rifles. Paintball is used by the police but not to the extent of airsoft. Airsoft is cheaper, more realistic, and that is the reason why law enforcement is getting away from paintball and substituting airsoft as training tools.

Paintball is still used in riot and crowd control situations. They normally use Tippmann products for this application.


This is a serious advantage paintball has over airsoft. Paintball can be played professionally but airsoft cannot. Because of the unmistakable paint mark a paintball makes, cheating is very hard. It is however, very easy to cheat in airsoft. This is the only reason why airsoft cannot be played professionally. Everyone will start cheating once they know money is on the line.

International markets:

Paintball is predominately in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Europe, and India. Outside of these countries, paintball is almost none existent. Airsoft on the other hand, is truly an international sport. The U.S. is a relatively small market for airsoft compared to Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, where every toy store has an entire section dedicated to airsoft. Countries like South Korea, UK, and other European countries are filled with airsoft players. Airsoft, especially in the UK and Russia, is extremely popular.

Note: Skirmish did not write this article nor provide/check resources.

We did edit some grammar.

If you agree or disagree with Kevin’s point of view, please post!!!

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