Paintball Vs. Airsoft Pain

Paintball and airsoft are two extremely popular sports in the United States, with the airsoft industry alone valued at $1.5 billion. With such massive popularity, it’s understandable why so many new people get into the sport every year. But one thing that keeps many people away is a simple concern – how bad does it hurt to get hit?

You may wonder, “How bad does paintball hurt” or “how bad does an airsoft shot feel?” With so many differences between the two sports, how are they compared? If you’ve been curious about which hurts more, read on for some important information.

airsoft battle recovering a teammate in pain

Protective Gear

One of the most important factors for getting hit in any sport is your protective gear. Football players can take massive hits because of their safety padding, and the same is true for paintball and airsoft. If you watch players, you’ll notice that nearly everyone is wearing some form of protective gear.


For paintball, most players wear something akin to light armor. This gear resembles motocross or motorcycle safety gear, such as a padded vest, long-sleeved shirt, and always some form of facial protection. The most common facial protection is a thick full-face mask to defend from paintballs.

This armor lessens the hit of the average paintball. A shot to the face likely won’t cause any pain whatsoever. Some players choose to wear even thicker armor or undergarments that block out even more pain.


Airsoft players usually don’t need to wear the same armor. BBs are smaller, lighter projectiles compared to paintballs. At point-blank range, you might regret not wearing armor. But in an average game, long-sleeved shirts and eye protection are all the defensive gear you need.

Size and Speed

Another important thing to look at is the size of a paintball and a BB. Paintballs are much larger, which can cause much more pain in comparison when all other conditions are the same.


The average paintball is 17-18mm. These are fired at speeds slower than 300 FPS for a variety of reasons. For one, paintball is usually much more close-quarters and in controlled environments. Additionally, a higher speed can cause a paintball to rupture in the gun’s barrel, causing a mess and potentially damaging the gun. While they’re much larger, this means that they move slower than the average BB, which impacts the pain of being hit.


Airsoft BBs are three times smaller than the average paintball, usually around 6mm. However, the average airsoft gun fires between 300-500 FPS. This means that even a weak airsoft gun is usually more powerful than a paintball marker. 

Despite being more powerful, the size difference makes it so that the pain isn’t as intense. Think of being hit with a pebble versus being hit with a rock. A weakly thrown rock is still likely going to hurt more than a small piece of gravel thrown twice as hard.

Frequency of Hit

One important difference between the two is how often the average player is hit. If you’re comparing single shots, it isn’t a fair condition. This is because paintball players will often only be hit once or a few times, whereas it isn’t uncommon for an airsoft player to have the majority of a magazine unloaded on them.

Because of that, it’s more a situation of comparing being hit by one paintball versus ten BBs. Even with such a condition, though, paintballs usually hurt more.

The reason for the extra hits is simple – airsoft works on an honor system. In paintball, you know when you’ve been hit without question, as does everyone else. The paint splatter on your gear directly shows where you’ve been hit and how many times. 

Airsoft has no such ability, meaning that it’s up to players to call their hits. Unfortunately, it’s a known issue that many airsoft players simply won’t do this to avoid losing a match, knowing there’s no way for other players to see a mark on their gear. 

Because of this, many airsoft players shoot each other enough times that the other player cannot deny being hit – especially if the victim hasn’t been calling their hits during the games.

Another important factor is that airsoft guns usually fire more BBs and at a faster rate. The average hopper loads between 100 to 200 paintballs, depending on the make and model. Airsoft magazines can hold upwards of 400 BBs, are easier to reload, and usually sport a higher firing rate. This means you’ll be hit more often in airsoft, though each individual BB will hurt less.

Distance and Field

The final thing to look at is the average distance in which these sports are active. This can vary wildly between venues, game modes, or even just the people playing them.

Paintball is typically a close-range sport, which is part of why the guns are less powerful. The common paintball field is square with pillars and other tactical insertions to dodge and duck around. The minimum is 20,000 square feet for an outdoor field – about a sizable warehouse.

Airsoft, however, is usually an open field game. Players are often very far from each other, which also welcomes higher FPS weaponry and even forms of sniper rifles. It also welcomes other accessories, such as airsoft versions of grenades. These all can have an impact on the game.

Because of the closer distance, paintballs usually hurt much more than a BB. Even a high-velocity BB won’t pack the same punch as a paintball at close range. In fact, in CQB-style games, most players of both sports will wear thicker armor.

The most common injury that you’ll see from paintballing is bruising. Even through armor, the large paintballs have enough of an impact to cause light to moderate bruising. If you’re really unlucky – or just wearing no armor – then the bruising is much more severe. BBs, however, tend to just leave small welts that go away within a day in most cases.

Scroll to Top