Does Airsoft Hurt Worse Than Paintball?

  • Updated March 10th, 2023

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When those looking to choose between airsoft and paintball, the number one question they ask is how much each hurt. Often, however, a person may play either of the sports and want to know which hurts worse? We’ve gone in depth on the pain associated with paintball in this article here. The question remains, does airsoft hurt worse than paintball?

Judging how much something hurts is a nearly impossible task, considering each person tolerates pain differently. However, by looking at the facts of each sport, we can deduct which hurts worst, airsoft or paintball. Simply speaking, most agree that paintball is the more painful between the two. Let’s examine why this is.

Projectiles are different sizes

While the two sports are similar in many ways, the objects that they shoot are entirely different. While paintball uses an object that is a little over a half an inch in diameter, the airsoft bb is only 6mm round. Additionally, while a paintball contains a gelatin substance surrounded by a wax-like shell, the airsoft bb is entirely made of plastic.

Does Airsoft Or Paintball Hurt Worse?
Does Airsoft Or Paintball Hurt Worse?

Therefore, with the differences in size and density, the paintball impacts a considerably larger surface area than the airsoft bb, thereby inflicting more pain. Furthermore, because the paintball is a larger mass than the airsoft bb, the pain on impact is greater.

Velocity of the Shot

Though both sports use the same style of guns, and the same type of gas or compressed air to fire, the internal components in each are entirely different. While paintball guns can be dialed up to shoot near 500 feet per second (fps), airsoft guns usually shoot considerably slower, around 350 fps.

Now, one wouldn’t think that 150 fps difference would make that much of a difference. Yet, the distance that each can travel at that speed becomes a factor. Since the paintball does have a larger mass, it can hold energy better and travel at a further distance. Likewise, the airsoft bb tends to start diminishing in speed and drops at a shorter distance. Therefore, though both come out of the barrel at similar speeds, it’s not long before the similarities go away.

Now, some may be wondering what speed has to do with how much each sport hurts. Well, without getting into the technical, scientific calculations, because let’s face it, who understands those anyways, let’s examine the fundamental principle. Speed becomes an issue when it’s combined with the weight of an object. An object like a paintball, which weighs around 3 grams, will hit harder than an airsoft bb, which can weigh anywhere from 0.12 to 0.25 grams, depending on the quality, though they are traveling the same speed.

The Effects

Some people argue that, because the airsoft bb is smaller than a paintball, its impact hurts less. When looking at the aftermath of being shot with a paintball and airsoft gun, the bruising and welts are considerably different. The injuries from the paintball, on exposed skin, usually consists of heavy bruising and welts that can last for several days or weeks.

The impact from the airsoft bb, on the other hand, usually results in a small welt that, the next day, is barely visible. Therefore, judging by the injury sizes, we can again deduct that paintball is the more painful of the two.

Proximity of the shot

Proximity is where the balance begins to lean toward airsoft being the more painful of the two. During play, most paintball arenas have a minimum shot range that prohibits you from shooting the opponent when you are extremely close; this is usually within 10 feet of each other. Airsoft, on the other hand, usually only requires that you not place the end of your barrel against your opponent.

This freedom allows you, then, to get within inches of your opponent and shoot them with airsoft. This proximity can cause a substantial amount of pain, especially if the victim is wearing thin clothing. With a shot that close not being allowed in paintball, airsoft can quickly become the most painful.

How the Gear affects the pain

In paintball, because of the level of pain from the shot, it’s common for players to wear thicker clothing or even padded clothing specifically designed for paintball. In airsoft, however, no such care is taken. In fact, most airsoft players dress to simulate military soldiers instead of dressing for pain tolerance.

Additionally, all paintball games require the players to wear a full face mask to protect the face, and eyes, from the impact. In airsoft, it is common to have no such requirement for face protection. Instead, most players will wear impact-resistant glasses but leave their face exposed. However, the face can be one of the most painful parts of the body to get shot.


With these facts in hand, deciding if airsoft hurts worse than paintball comes down to the player’s ability to tolerate pain and limit the chance of getting shot. The pain of both, however, is seldom a factor in why people quit playing. Therefore, get the first hit out of the way, so you know what to expect and then have fun inflicting that pain on others.