How is this different than paintball?

Airsoft is like paintball, but without paint. Airsoft guns shoot rubber pellets that don’t burst and aren’t filled with anything.

Obviously, in paintball, it’s obvious if you get hit. In airsoft, it’s not obvious, and you have to “call your hit.” This makes it easier to cheat in airsoft, and lots of people complain about this.

For whatever reason, airsoft guns are designed to look like real weapons, whereas a paintball gun is fairly obvious. Airsoft weapons commonly have an orange tip to distinguish them from real firearms. (This requirement is actually in the U.S. Code, however the tip can technically be removed after the weapon is shipped.)

This can be problematic sometimes: Los Angeles police officers shoot man holding realistic-looking airsoft rifle:

The man […] came out of the residence carrying a type of rifle, according to police. At least one officer opened fire, striking the man, who died at the scene, police said. Investigators later determined the man was holding a realistic-looking airsoft rifle without the usual safety orange barrel for fake guns.

A picture of the airsoft gun is in the article. There’s no orange tip, and it looks very much like a real firearm.

The general feeling I got from my research was that airsoft players view their sport as more realistic than paintball. Airsoft pellets are smaller than paintballs, so they more closely mimic the behavior of real bullets. Note too that I detected a distinct feeling of disdain from the airsoft community towards the paintball community. (However, this might just be the bias of online resources where people tend to publish to rant or to make a point they’re passionate about.)

Why I Looked It Up

I can’t remember. I was in San Diego in 2022 during Twitch-Con – right next to that conference center – and I think I saw some references to airsoft on a billboard or something. I had always wondered how this was different than paintball.

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