All you need to know about BBs!
This article is going to be packed with everything you need to know about BBs. From the process of how they are made and from what materials to the variety of colours and weights available, alongside other things such as legal limits and recommended BB weights. To save you time, I have a created a content table below to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for:
- What is a BB?
- How are BBs made?
- Polishing and colours
- Quality Control
- What BB weights should I use?
- List of Recommended Brands
- What BBs to avoid?
What is a BB?
BBs, also known as pellets, are a spherical projectile that acts as the ammunition for Airsoft replicas. Airsoft BB’s are often confused with steel BBs, although they are very different but still keep the same name. Make sure to never use steel BB’s in your airsoft rifle as they might cause damage to the internals and are obviously dangerous to other players. Most, BBs are made from plastic – although some slightly vary in materials used, they can also vary in weight and colour. Factors such as weight can influence the degree of accuracy and the speed the BBs travel at in feet per second (FPS). Depending on the rules and regulations for what type of BB’s are allowed in your community, the standard diameter for the ammunition is 6mm across all airsoft gear; this allows all types of equipment, ranging from AEG (Automatic-electric guns), gas powered, spring guns, airsoft grenades and even clay-mores to be compatible with this type of ammunition.
How are BBs made?
BBs are made in a specialised factories as there is specific equipment required to combine, melt and mould the BBs to perfection. They are typically made of a mixture of plastics (known as “raw material”) to give it the required characteristics of a BB. The raw material is then supplied to a machine known as the ‘suction unit’. The suction unit also contains the dosage unit which is used to perfectly mix the plastic to give it the appropriate strength that the BB requires.
Following this, the plastic is then melted in the extrusion chamber so that it can be pressed into moulds to give the spherical shape of the pellets on a tray. Extrusion is an incredibly precise process which creates objects of a fixed diameter or cross-section; therefore it is perfect for creating BBs which need to be as precise as possible especially when used with tight bore barrels. The fixed moulds are then cooled and pushed out of the trays to provide each final individual BB pellet. While initially making BBs is a technical process with many different aspects, there are also many ways to improve and alter the BB which will be covered in the following section.
Biodegradable and non-biodegradable
BBs can come in a whole variety of specific materials but the ones we will focus on are biodegradable or non – biodegradable materials. Biodegradable BBs are made out of polylactide (PLA). PLA is made from renewable materials such as certain starches or corns – as a result of this they generally tend to cost more than non-biodegradable materials but do break down after 90 days in in most facilities and conditions. Some airsoft sites around Europe have now began to only allow biodegradable BBs in order to be maintain the plastic free policy; make sure to check the site’s policies before the game to avoid disappointment or extra costs.
Non-biodegradable BBs are made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (better known as ABS Plastic). ABS BBs are cheap but not environmentally friendly; however these are most common BBs currently used around airsoft sites due to their cheaper price.
There are also traceable BBs available which glow in the dark and are easier to see when playing in dark locations and during night-time skirmishes. Of course, these don’t work by themselves and a tracer unit is required for them to light up during their flight path.
Recommended Tracer Units and BB Brands
Tracer Units: Nuprol Tracer Unit, ASG B&T Tracer Unit & Xcortech XT301 Compact Tracer Unit
Tracer BBs: ASG Blaster Tracer BBs, RZR Tracer BBs and EMG Precision Biogradable Tracer BBs
Furthermore, there have been some iterations of BBs using paint to mark the target which aim to dismiss any disputes whether you’ve hit the person or not. All brands claim that the paint can be easily washed off with a little bit of water and soap, however most airsofters are against the idea due to the possibility of the paint leaving a stain on expensive gear. Also most of these BBs come in 0.12g weight which is simply too low for any serious accuracy and range. However, this concept might become useful specifically in Speedsoft once brands begin to produce heavier paint BBs.
Finally, exploding pellets are also available which crack on impact with a hard surface, however these are mostly a fun gimmick to use at home as no airsoft sites will allow these due to the risks involved with BBs splitting on impact.
Polishing and Colours
So what makes a BB pellet better?
One of the major parts of the BB making process is the polishing. Polishing techniques are not often discussed but generally speaking, the more polished a BB pellet, the better the quality and subsequently accuracy of each shot. Some people choose to wash their BBs before use which creates a similar effect to polishing, but is not as effective. However, if you are super serious about creating perfect consistency of each shot, especially with a sniper rifle, we do recommend doing so the night before as an extra bonus especially when combined with high quality BBs. In general, high quality polishing of the BBs makes a huge difference and that’s something you must consider when purchasing your BB ammunition. Where, out of a total of 50 long distance shots, approximately only a half will hit a torso sized target if the BB is unpolished – this jumps to almost 90% when the BBs are polished. Simply don’t cheap out.
BB’s can also come in a few different colours, but more often than not it’s simply beneficial to use BB pellet colours that are easily visible and easy to track to help you with adjusting your shots. However, this also means it is easier for other players to see and avoid them. While darker colours are available and can be good if you are trying to be sneaky or are playing CQB, players tend to avoid these as they are harder to track and identify whether you’ve hit the target or not.
Following on from polishing, BBs are then processed through quality control. In this part of the process, the pellets that are larger than 5.95mm will be trapped in the nozzle of the equipment to prevent it from mixing with pellets of the right size. Also any pellets smaller than 5.95mm are discarded and will not be used in the final product. However, most brands allow for certain tolerances such as +/- 0.01mm, while most typically +/- 0.1mm. As in every other process, there can sometimes be mistakes in quality control, therefore I will tell you what to avoid when buying BBs and what to look out for at the end of the article.
Monitoring the precise size of the BBs to ensure consistency is crucial to accuracy and performance especially when using a tight bore barrel. The BB size allows it to fit perfectly into the barrel as the barrel is only larger by a small margin than the pellet itself. Most high-end airsoft weapon builds will use between 6.01 – 6.03mm diameter inner barrels, although there are exceptions. To learn more about inner barrels, see our AEG Breakdown article. In general, if the BB is slightly different in size, there is potential for it to get trapped in your Airsoft replica which can lead to misfiring and potentially deeming your gun unusable. Also, the size matters as the perfect fit allows the right amount of air to escape around the BB to push it and guide it out of the barrel with more accuracy – poorly sized BBs can cause slight loss of velocity and decrease consistency as air cushion around the BB will vary which guides it out of the barrel. Here’s an example of an inner barrel that is designed specifically to take advantage of the air cushion – Maple Leaf Crazy Jet Inner Barrel, it comes in different sizes and can be purchased from most airsoft retailers, for example Evike.com and Skirmshop.co.uk.
What weight of BBs should I use for my gun?
Recommended BB Weights
The weight of the BB plays a crucial part in consistency and accuracy of your replica, it can dramatically affect the gun’s precision as more weight means better retention of energy in flight . Our recommended weights for AEGs and Pistols range from 0.25g to 0.32g, DMRs from 0.28g to 0.36g and Snipers from 0.32g – 0.45g/0.50g depending on the quality of your hop up system and FPS consistency.
Use these weight ranges as a guide and make sure to trial and error different BB weights for each of your replica to ensure best accuracy and consistency. In general, we recommend to start on at least 0.25g BBs with any out of the box AEG and pistol, this might come as a surprise, however they usually cost the same as 0.20g BBs and provide slightly better shot consistency and grouping. Later down the line we suggest to upgrade to a high quality and well adjusted hop up system with flat or r-hop to produce the most optimal results with heavier BBs.
Legal Limits – BB Weight, FPS and Joules
When choosing your BB weight, you must consider two other factors – FPS and energy measured in Joules; these are used to measure the gun’s power for legal limits. Most sites will check your replica’s power using FPS if you use 0.20g BBs; on the other hand, they will measure it in Joules if you use anything above that. Most airsoft sites in UK use the following standard:
- Fully Automatic (AEGs and Pistols) – 350FPS using 0.20g / 1.2 Joules
- Semi Automatic (DMR) – 400FPS using 0.20g/ 1.5 Joules – Minimum engagement distance varies between 10m – 20m dependant on site’s policy
- Bolt Action Rifles (Snipers) – 500FPS using 0.20g / 2.4 Joules – Minimum engagement distance varies between 20m – 30m dependant on site’s policy
According to the Police & Crime Act 2011, the legal limit is 1.3 Joules for Automatic Airsoft Weapons and up to 2.5 Joules for Semi-Automatic and Bolt Action. However, always make sure to check the site’s specific limits and stick to them as you simply might not be allowed to play or asked to leave if you adjust your FPS during the event.
–Is FPS the most important factor for replica’s accuracy and range?
✅ Although FPS is important, the combination of the hop up system, the quality of inner barrel and carefully selected BB weight is crucial. Although heavier BBs will decrease the gun’s FPS, they will in return significantly increase its range and accuracy; heavier BBs will simply just take a little longer to get to the target.
-So can I use any BB weight as long as my gun still shoots at 350FPS?
✅ Let’s assume your replica shoots at 350 FPS with 0.20g BBs, here are equivalent energy outputs with our recommended BBs weights to ensure you’re under the UK legal limit:
AEGS and Pistols
|Weight||Feet per sec (FPS)||Energy|
|0.25g||320 FPS||1.19 Joules|
|0.28g||300 FPS||1.17 Joules|
|0.30g||290 FPS||1.17 Joules|
|0.32g||280 FPS||1.17 Joules|
|Weight||Feet per sec (FPS)||Energy|
|0.28g||335 FPS||1.46 Joules|
|0.32g||325 FPS||1.47 Joules|
|0.36g||300 FPS||1.49 Joules|
|Weight||Feet per sec (FPS)||Energy|
|0.32g||400 FPS||2.38 Joules|
|0.36g||375 FPS||2.35 Joule|
|0.40g||355 FPS||2.34 Joules|
|0.43g||345 FPS||2.38 Joules|
|0.45g||335 FPS||2.35 Joules|
|0.50g||320 FPS||2.38 Joules|
AR Recommended BB Brands
For AEGs and Pistols
- ASG Blasters & Devil Blasters
- 6mm Ammo
- Elite Force
For Snipers and DMRs
What BBs to avoid?
Finally, when you’re buying BBs, generally try to avoid cheap packages – these are more likely to get damaged, split, break and have poor quality tests performed on them. Unbranded products or counterfeits should be avoided at all costs as they are also poor quality – look for dimples, seams, uneven polishing to hide imperfections. Finally, when buying a new brand look out for pellets that are not formed properly. All of the above faults are to be considered seriously as they can damage the internals of your gun; especially if the BB breaks in the hop up chamber or the inner barrel.
Branded options of BB pellets are less likely to damage your weapon or break apart when you shoot. Also, make sure to trial and error different weights of BBs for your specific gun to ensure optimal performance, everything provided in this article is purely guidance.
The Golden Rule is to never reuse pellets! The main reason for this is that dirt that can attach to pellets or any cracks, splitting of the pellets after hitting objects may cause it to get stuck in the mag, barrel or hop up and not only reduce accuracy, but has potential to completely ruin those components. Simply buy more BBs.
It’s easy to guess that higher priced BB pellets will generally be the best quality and produced in the best condition- they are least likely to create any risks to your gun and provide you with reliable performance. 0.25g BBs, are the most commonly used and also the most affordable. It is always important to check optimal weight of BB depending on the weapon and its specific requirements before buying any pellets. Don’t waste your time trying to use 0.20g BBs in your 500 FPS sniper!
Written By Georgina Saldanha
Edited by Kamil Turecki