Disclaimer: While we try to be as accurate as possible, the information contained in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal or other professional advice in any way. We are not liable for any direct or indirect risks, omissions or errors associated with the content presented on this site. Always consult a medical or healthcare professional to determine if airsoft is right and safe for your unique needs.
Always play responsibly.
If you’re interested in getting into airsoft but you’re worried about getting hurt or injured somehow, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
In fact, one of the most common concerns that those new to airsoft have (usually just before asking “can I really afford this”) is “how much is this going to hurt.”
Without sugar coating it the answer is yes, being hit with an airsoft BB can and does sting.
Now, to be honest it’s not terrible – if you’ve gone paintballing before you’ve certainly experienced worse.
But let’s face it – the prospect of being hit by a 6mm plastic ball rocketing out of a replica weapon isn’t always going to feel pleasant.
The good news is it hurts a lot less than you might think and is generally a pretty safe sport and hobby…as long as you follow the rules and use some common sense.
How Much Does Airsoft Hurt?
The thing about pain is that it is a very individual experience.
There are a lot of factors that play into someone’s ability to handle pain, that is their pain tolerance.
It’s very dependent on age, sex, stress levels, past experiences and even expectations.
That last one is key when it comes to pain and airsoft – if you’re new to the game and go into it thinking it’s really going to hurt, then you’ll probably have a worse time.
That’s why you’ll often see new players hanging back.
There’s little past experience for them to go by and, let’s face it, those realistic M4s that look really cool on a store shelf or at home suddenly look a little more intimidating when they’re pointed at you.
Let’s put our cards on the table for a moment: yes, getting hit with a typical plastic airsoft BB under normal circumstances can sting for a couple seconds.
Some people describe it as getting flicked by a finger, others like getting slapped by a rubber band, still others like a pinch or a bee sting – it really depends on the person and the circumstances of the hit.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when talking about how much getting shot by an airsoft BB is going to hurt.
Attitude and Excitement
Walking onto an airsoft field, whether it’s your first or thousandth time, is exciting.
People are running around, shooting at each other and shouting, there are noises and lights – it’s a very dynamic, fun and stimulating environment to be in and will very quickly get your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing.
Cheaters aside, one of the reasons that people have a hard time calling their hits is that because they’re so pumped up and having such a good time they may not actually feel the hits until long after the game is done.
Interestingly, and in contrast to the above, those who walk in terrified and expecting to be hurt by BBs are more likely to feel pain and feel it worse than those who are not.
A positive mental attitude, therefore, can make an airsoft experience a lot more pleasant and can make the hits feel a lot less painful.
To help keep yourself from getting too worried and making your first experience worse, keep this in mind: there are millions of people all over the world use and own airsoft guns and the vast, vast majority of them end up just fine.
All things being equal, the faster a gun fires a BB the harder it’s going to hit and the more it’s going to string.
Most airsoft guns are somewhere between 200 and 400 FPS, but there are some (such as modified builds, CO2 revolvers, bolt actions and sniper rifles to name a few) that can blow past this and hit well into the 5-600 FPS range.
For the most part, a standard FPS of 350-450 (depending on distance and other factors, which we discuss below) probably won’t do much more than leave a small welt or cause a shallow cut in bare skin.
It’s when people start shooting higher powered airsoft guns at close range that things start to go a little haywire and BBs can start penetrating skin.
For legal and liability reasons, then, most field owners will set some limits on allowable FPS.
For the same reason, many fields (and most airsofters who care about safety and have some common sense) limit the use of automatic fire to outdoors-only and at longer range.
A big factor in how much getting hit in airsoft is going to hurt depends on the range between the shooter and the person getting hit.
When an airsoft BB launches out of the barrel, it is, essentially, at maximum velocity.
As it travels along its flight path, air friction begins to affect its spherical shape and it starts to slow down.
By the time it arrives at its target the BB is usually traveling a lot slower than when it was first fired.
All things being equal, then, the closer the shooter is to their target (shoot-ee?), the more it’s going to hurt and the more damage it’s going to do (welts, cuts, etc.).
For this reason, shooting someone at point blank is usually (extremely) frowned upon and can be a reason to get kicked off some fields, as it can cause welts and minor bleeding
In contrast, if someone takes a shot at you with a typical 400 FPS airsoft gun from, say, 180 feet away, the BB might still hit you but would probably lack any real force behind it for you to feel any pain.
It is for this reason that most fields have a minimum engagement distance, usually between 20-30 feet, to protect players from anything really painful or injurious.
The interaction between FPS and Range is also a big part of why indoor and CQB ranges usually have such strict FPS testing and limits – people will be engaging at far closer distances than typical minimum engagement distances will allow for and so power has to be controlled a lot more strictly – typically there is a maximum of about 350 FPS.
Similarly, guns that are designed to exceed standard FPS rates, such as sniper rifles and DMR builds, will often be subject to stricter minimum engagement distances and firing modes and may be excluded from some game styles and fields for safety reasons.
BBs come in many different weights, from very lightweight, hollow .12g BBs to heavier BBs (.40g) designed to be more stable and travel a lot further.
As you might expect, the heavier the object you’re hit with, the more it’s going to sting.
A 0.20g BB fired at a given velocity (400 FPS, for example) will impact with certain amount of energy (1.49 Joules), while a 0.28g BB fired at the same velocity (400 FPS) will impact with considerably more (2.08 J).
Where you’re hit
Certain parts of your body are more vulnerable to injury than others.
As a general rule, getting hit in areas with lots of muscle, bone and fleshy tissue, such as your arms, legs and torso, aren’t as dangerous (or as painful) as getting hit in more vulnerable, nerve-rich areas of your body, such as your face, teeth, mouth or groin.
This is why high quality eye protection, or ideally a face mask, is highly recommended and often required in most respectable fields – to protect your most vulnerable areas from injury.
Remember, airsoft involves small bits of plastic flying around at decent speed.
Nobody wants to be the guy who has to help their friend squeeze an airsoft BB out of their cheek or drive them to the dentist after breaking a tooth because someone refused to respect distance requirements or decided to bring an FPS monster to the field.
This, of course, goes double for your eyes.
One of the most dangerous places to be hit by any small object, of course, are the eyes and special precaution should be taken to protect them in any game, as serious injury can result.
Clothing thickness and layers
Unlike steel BBs and airgun pellets, airsoft BBs are plastic and, with their more reasonable average velocity, won’t generally penetrate clothing.
Exposed bare skin and airsoft is usually a recipe for a bad time, leading to pretty bad stings, welts and even some minor bleeding (again, depending on FPS, distance and BB weight).
While nobody says you have to gear up SWAT-style for a game, wearing more layers of clothing and exposing less skin is a good rule to follow.
If you’re not fancy, jeans and a loose sweatshirt/work shirt should do fine.
Decently loose and thick long sleeves and pants can go a long way at dissipating some of the energy coming your way.
Can airsoft guns kill you?
Airsoft BBs are typically 6mm round bits of plastic that weigh a fraction of a gram and are traveling at only a few hundred feet a second.
While injuries do happen, with broken teeth, eye injuries and soft tissue being some of the worst (and often preventable) accidents encountered on an airsoft field, it’s highly unlikely that an airsoft gun will lead to a fatality.
After all, airsoft guns were originally designed to be a specifically non-lethal sporting option that could adhere to Japan’s strict gun control law, theFirearm and Sword Possession Control Law.
Do BB guns hurt more than airsoft?
Yes, BB guns and air rifles hurt a lot more than airsoft and can be very dangerous.
There is a fundamental difference between traditional BB guns, pellet guns and airsoft guns.
In contrast to airsoft’s use of relatively soft plastic BBs, BB guns traditionally use metal BBs, and pellet guns/air rifles fire off little conical metal projectiles – neither of which are supposed to be used on human beings and both of which can do a lot more damage (due to their ammunition and typically higher FPS rate) to a human being than an airsoft gun.
Does airsoft hurt more than paintball?
Airsoft and paintball are two communities with a lot of overlap, many paintballers play airsoft recreationally and vice versa, so this is a question that gets asked a lot.
Generally speaking, getting hit with a paintball gun will hurt far more than getting hit with an airsoft BB.
Paintballs are typically restricted to only a slightly lower FPs than airsoft (usually around 280 FPS on most fields), but their projectile (paintball) can be many times larger and heavier than a typical airsoft BB.
To put it in a little perspective, a .68 caliber paintball weighs 3 grams, 15 times that of a standard 0.20g airsoft BB.
As we mentioned above, the heavier the object, the more kinetic energy it’s going to have, and the more force it’s going to hit its target with.
For example, a typical airsoft BB might hit its target with less than 1 Joule of energy, whereas a traditional paintball gun will hit its target with about 11.65 joules of force, which is quite a difference.
We won’t lie to you, getting shot in airsoft can hurt sometimes.
That said, it usually doesn’t hurt too badly, is a gentler than paintball, and the game itself can be a lot of fun.
Wearing the proper clothing and safety gear and making sure that everyone follows minimum engagement distances, any FPS limits and basic common sense can go a long way in preventing anything more serious than the occasional welt or bruise.
When in doubt consider this: In what other sport or hobby can you run around and light your friends up with an M4 or AK47 in relative safety?
Pretty much nowhere – and isn’t that worth a little sting here and there?
David Lewis – A longtime airsoft and airgun enthusiast and collector, our editor David’s lifelong passion for tactical sports began in high school with some friends, a cheap knock-off airsoft M4, and an open field behind his parents’ house.
When he’s not plinking around, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of airsoft and helping those just starting out.