When thinking about sports such as Airsoft, most people like to believe they’ve done something similar, such as Paintballing- I mean they both use a gun, so why wouldn’t they be?  In reality the two sports are a lot more different than you are led to believe. I’ve decided to show you exactly how different they are from each other.

So what is Airsoft?

Airsoft is a competitive team shooting game, but you can find that edge anywhere. Airsoft is more than just a competitive game; it’s a team building sport strengthening core traits and mostly dependent on honour!  Airsoft is also the more realistic of the two shooting games; it uses replica guns of original firearms while also using operational magazines and most events are created with realism in mind. It’s an exhilarating experience and fully embodies scenarios that could be found in realistic situations; imagine lying in the dark, holding onto your rifle waiting for the enemy to appear and suddenly a silhouette of two opposing players creep into the light – THIS IS AIRSOFT.

what is airsoft?
Look at the concentration in their faces.

There are a number of different styles of play in Airsoft. One of them is best known as MilSim or military stimulation. These are large armed confrontation scenarios created by the Airsoft sites; they often include a set of squads, team leaders, specific objectives and so on. MilSim can be divided into further categories such as re-enactment and simulation. Re-enactment allows the players to replay a particular event in history with aim of portraying it as accurately as possible. Whereas, simulation focuses more on a time period than a set event and looks more at the representation of that course of time. Most of MilSim events are based on modern warfare.

However, MilSim is not the only style of play in Airsoft, there is also Speedsoft. As opposed to any re-enactment, Speedsoft treats Airsoft as a sport using speed and agility as the main contributors to any match. It uses minimal, lightweight replica guns to get to an manouver around the field as easily as possible, more comfortable clothing and shoes (for example, wearing tennis shoes instead of the usual leather boots) and lightweight gear too. Speedsoft tends to go against convention of the stereotypical Airsoft weekend, but it is just as well played and enjoyable, if you are up for a fast paced game.

Another style of play in Airsoft are known as Skirmishes. They are played in most Airsoft sites as it a versatile game, it includes a mix of both MilSim and Speedsoft. Skirmishes hit in that sweet spot in the middle with a good balance of fast paced gameplay and small scale tactics and strategy. This game style is especially good for beginners so that they can get a feel for the game and see what they want to go into.

Finally, the rules are constantly changing depending on the Game Mode the marshals choose to play – and believe me there are so many to choose from! The variety in Airsoft game modes and maps is immense and is one of the key elements why Airsoft is seen to be a lot more versatile than Paintball.  The game modes can range from ‘Capture the Flag’ where each team attempts to reach the opposing team’s flag kept in an open space to return to their own base, or ‘CQB’ (Close Quarter Battle/Combat) usually played indoors in big warehouses or on a small wooded playing field. There are so many more but the list here would be almost endless!
So that covers Airsoft in a nutshell…

What about Paintball?

Paintball by dictionary definition is also a competitive team shooting sport. But the differences between Paintball and Airsoft are apparent in the gritty details such as the types of “bullets”, guns, gear and modes. Paintball doesn’t rely on people being fair and honourable as you hit your opponent the paint dye splatters on their ego whilst you enjoy the light slowy ‘dye’ away from their eyes. All puns aside, Paintball is a more obvious sport in that there are a lot more structured tournaments and a popular know-how of the sport by just about anyone.

what is paint-balling?
Although paintball guns don’t look realistic they still pack a punch

The type of the guns used is one of the major differences between Airsoft and Paintball. Paintball uses a gas powered, often compressed air or carbon dioxide gun often known as a ‘Paintball marker’. The gas propels the paintballs froward from the gun and with a precise speed.  Paintball also uses much heavier ammo than Airsoft; spherical balls filled with dye (also known as paint) that break on impact when they hit a target.

Again, in terms of styles Paintball is limited in its variation; it was initially created for recreation of events but instead of developing into a variety of styles, Paintball developed into a specifically organised sport that involves tournaments, fast pace and more of a professional approach. Similarly to Airsoft, however, Paintball does have a whole range of game modes but the variety falls short in comparison (probably attributed to the fact it’s more of an organised sport). The top four game modes often include, Capture the flag, attack and defend, hostile takeover and death match.

So now that we have a firm understanding of both sports and some key differences, we all want to know…

Which Sport hurts more?

Obviously in terms of pain, it depends on a variety of factors such as range of the shooter, the weight of the ammunition and the type of clothing but despite some contesting it is generally thought that Paintballs hurt more than Airsoft BB’s. This is because generally on impact, Airsoft BB’s tend to bounce off the skin whereas Paintballs generally stick to the skin and therefore the point of impact is enhances. The size of paintballs in comparison to Airsoft BB’s, also makes a huge difference as obviously, the heavier the object with larger mass, the worse the pain upon impact.

Which Sport costs more?

In the short term, Airsoft generally seems more expensive in terms of having to buy quality and long lasting equipment and replicas so there are considerable upfront costs. However, there is little need for replacing equipment for a very long time if properly maintained, and the BB ammunition is much cheaper than its Paintballing counterpart. For example 5000 bbs cost an average of 7-10 dollars, where as paintballs cost a minimum of 10 dollars for 500 paintballs, and trust me those paintballs will disappear in no time! You really don’t want to be thinking if you can AFFORD to provide covering fire for your squad mates…

Paintballing on the other hand initially seems cheaper (and it is probably the case if you plan on going once or twice a year and just hire the gear), A full high end paintball setup is going to be around $1500, this will also include a marker, high end paintball pads, and jersey/pants set. Similarly for the same price in Airsoft you can have a great gun, mags, milSpec uniform, eyepro, and still have some change left over for some cool attachments.

If you don’t go with pro gear Paintballing will seem the cheaper option in the short term, but once a game has begun the cost of ammunition piles up considerably quicker than expected and there is no way that a player can say no when mid-play.

Which Sport is more fun?

Paintball, of course has considerable merits in its game play, modes, weaponry and so forth; otherwise it wouldn’t be the popular team-shooting game that it is now. However, Airsoft also has all of the above with the enhanced realistic gear and scenarios, guns with better accuracy and speed, and despite not being as widely popular as Paintball, it is considerably more fun!

Of course, “fun” is a subjective term. Therefore, this begs a question: what aspects are you looking for as a player? In regards to available game modes, simulation and realism, Airsoft definitely has more to offer! Not to mention playing in squads with ex-military soldiers or other airsoft maniacs with realistic replica guns, “flashbangs” and smoke grenades makes you feel like a total bad-ass! If you’re looking for a more widely organised sport with constant engagement, teams, tournaments etc. then either Paintball or Speedsoft will probably be more fun for you!

Either way, if this is something you are interested in- I would say- just go down to your local Airsoft site, pick up some gear and give it a shot!

Thinking of picking up airsoft, our article 7 tips to make you better at Airsoft has got you covered.

Agree with us? Disagree? Think we have left something out? – Let us know in the comments and we will get back to you.

Written by Garlen Saldanha

Edited by Kamil Turecki

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