Airgun, Airsoft, BB, Pellet, Paintball (Differences Explained!)

recreational gun types

Recreational guns are not considered firearms. These include paintball, airsoft, pellet guns, BB guns, and air rifles among others. Each is designed for a specific role, and we broke it down for so it’s easy to understand.

Recreational Gun Comparison

Gun TypeUsed For:Power System
Airgun- Marksmanship competitions

- Hunting, mostly small game
- CO2
- Pneumatic
- Spring-piston
Airsoft- Sport- Gas
- Spring
- Electric
BB- Target practice

- Plinking
- Pneumatic
- CO2
- Precharged pneumatic
Pellet- Eliminating small pests ( like rats )

- Indoor training
- Pneumatic
- Spring-piston
- CO2
Paintball- Game/ sport- CO2
- Nitrogen


Airguns have a broad category. Depending on where you are in the world, it can mean different things. It can be a BB or even an airsoft gun that utilizes an air-based projectile system.

Air rifle is a term applied to rifles that use air instead of gun powder. Air rifles can be as large and as powerful as you can imagine. They fire mostly lead projectiles with varied sizes.


  • Serious marksmanship competitions at Olympic levels.
  • Hunting small game and some are powerful enough to kill large game.

Power System

CO2 – It uses small, disposable CO2 cartridges to project a round. These cartridges are affordable and easy to find.

Pneumatic – Basic pneumatic guns have a reservoir that must be filled with air. It requires manual action to fill the tank. This is commonly done with a pump system.

Pre Charged Pneumatic – These are incredibly powerful airguns that can be used for hunting. They use a reservoir system but are not manually filled since they are pre-filled and allow the user to take several shots before refilling. It is refilled with a hand pump, a scuba tank, or air compressor.

Spring-piston – It is the most affordable and conventional airguns. It is manually operated and requires the compression of a powerful spring topped with an air piston. These are the most accurate airguns.

You can also take a look at our buying guide for picking the best air rifle.


Airsoft is both a type of sport and a type of weapon.

A&k m249 paratrooper
A&K M249 Paratrooper

As a Sport

It is played in a versus style competition. Men and women equipped with airsoft guns are actively shooting at each other while attempting to reach certain objectives. It is often played as a military simulation game with troops usually in military regalia playing specific roles and with incredibly realistic airsoft guns.

Generally, it is safe to be struck by an airsoft projectile at most ranges. At ranges considered point blank, the round can break the skin and cause minor harm. It can damage the eyes so players universally wear goggles or full face masks.

As a Weapon

Airsoft guns fire round plastic projectiles that measure 6mm. They vary in weight, which may affect the distance and accuracy of the BBs.

They also come in the categories same as real guns — handguns, rifles, shotguns, SMGs, sniper rifles, and more. We even have a buying guide for finding a best airsoft gun.

Power System

  • Gas
  • Spring
  • Electric

BB Gun

Daisy red ryder
Daisy Red Ryder

BB guns are air rifles that use a manual system to insert air into a chamber. The air is then fired through the weapon which propels a small BB down the barrel. They shoot small, mostly copper, balls that are accurate and capable of penetrating a soda can.

It is not safe to shoot it at another person, especially that it can easily break one’s skin. It should never be pointed at a person or animal. It is also inhumane to be used as a hunting weapon.


  • Target practice
  • Plinking

Power System

  • Pneumatic
  • CO2
  • Precharged pneumatic

They are less serious than airguns since  they are genuinely made for children. The most famous is the Daisy Red Ryder, a BB gun that serves multiple generations of young shooters.

BB guns are not exceptionally accurate beyond 15 yards, and that is also their max effective range. They are very simple and affordable compared to other recreational weapons.

Pellet Gun

Sig sauer mcx
Sig Sauer MCX pellet gun, based on the original version.

Pellet guns are essentially airguns that are designed for less serious use. It is the general term applied to cheaper airguns aimed at recreational shooting. They can be either rifles or pistols.

They are a step up from BB guns but should not be considered for hunting and never be fired at another person.


  • At most they are effective for shooting pests like rats.
  • An affordable solution to indoor training. Actual firearm companies, like Sig Sauer, produce pellet guns that operate like their actual firearms.

Power System

  • Pneumatic with a pump system
  • Spring-piston
  • CO2

Paintball Gun

Planet eclipse ego 11
Planet Eclipse Ego 11

Paintball guns, also known as markers, are gun-like devices that shoot 68 caliber paintballs. This is an action shooting sport like airsoft and they are safe to fire at other people. Take note, 15 feet is the standoff distance to avoid injury.

Paintballs can be quite painful and can leave welts and bruises. So always use a full face mask when playing.


  • Game or sport

Power System

  • CO2
  • Nitrogen

A tank is filled and attached to the rear or center of the marker. This provides the propellant to send paintballs down range. Most paintballs are semi-automatic but there are full auto models as well.

Alternatively, cheaper paintball guns are pump models using smaller CO2 cartridges, like paintball pistols. Paintball markers have been around for decades, and there are already professional paintball leagues too.

Choose Your Weapon!

Recreational guns can be an absolute blast. It’s important to match your weapon with your overall goal of having fun. Some people want to see tin cans dance on the cheap and others want to run around shooting each other.

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