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Airsoft vs Paintball: Which Hurts More – Paintball or Airsoft?

Airsoft vs PaintballMore than 41 million results will turn up as soon as you enter the term ‘airsoft vs. paintball’ on a search engine.

The numbers are shocking but they shouldn’t be too surprising since these are very popular and very similar outdoor activities that choosing between them can be a challenge for many.

Paintball alone has 3.41 million participants in the US in 2017 and while airsoft has no corresponding concrete numbers, it’s estimated that they have millions of players, too. This can explain why the debate between the two is always loud and burning.

Both sides make compelling reasons why people should prefer one over the other.

If you’re torn between the two, there’s an easy technique to make a decision. By finding out how bad does airsoft hurt or which of the two sports hurts more, you might just be able to take a pick right away.

No Pain, No Gain: How Much Does Airsoft and Paintball Hurt?

Portrait of a man with stung wasp in the head puts ice

Bullets hurt, that’s a given. Bullets can travel from 1200 mph to 2800 mph and the concentration of this speed and momentum makes it very capable of breaking through the skin, tissues, blood vessels, and vital organs. This also explains how bullets can be fatal.

Airsoft guns and paintball markers are not engineered to achieve the same speed for their pellets and ammo, however. In fact, they can only reach a fraction of the speed of what most firearms can reach so they can’t be closely compared to actual firearms. But these do not mean that they won’t hurt you if you got hit.

Airsoft pellets, for one, are limited to have a muzzle velocity that can reach about 300-590 feet per second. With pellets that weigh about .20 grams, a shot only has about 1 joule of energy. These pellets are also only made of plastic and have low ballistic performance. Their hits will nonetheless sting and will even hurt more when shot at close range.

What can come as a surprise for many, however, is that paintball can hurt more than airsoft. Airsoft may seem like the more serious activity of the two with its realistic looking replica guns and military simulation skirmishes but it can actually be said that it’s less dangerous than paintball.

A quick web search about whether airsoft guns can kill will tell you that airsoft can kill under certain circumstances but it’s preventable. Paintball markers, on the other hand, based on the numbers, are believed to be capable of killing.

According to calculations, paintballs typically weigh 3 grams and release about 12.5 joules of energy. Their muzzle velocity is lower compared to airsoft at just 280-300 fps. Most indoor playing fields have safety restrictions that only allow markers with maximum muzzle velocity of 250 fps, however. Despite these facts, the amount of energy paintballs carry is still way larger than an airsoft pellet so you can bet that it will hurt more when you’re hit.

To better demonstrate the differences between the pain levels of paintball and airsoft, here’s a quick breakdown of its numbers:

Details Airsoft Pellets Paintball Ammo
Muzzle Velocity 300-590 fps 280-300 fps
Ammo Weight .20 g 3 g
Joules of Energy Expended 1 12.5

While airsoft pellets can travel faster, paintball ammo are larger and heavier. They also tend to release more energy in the process so they can cause more pain than the former. So, to put it simply, paintball will hurt you more than airsoft will.

Where Hits Hurt the Most

Now that we have established that both paintball and airsoft can hurt, knowing where the hits will hurt the most is also essential. Why? Such information will help you avoid being complacent. If you know the spots where you can get seriously hurt, you can try to actively protect those areas.

Even if veterans of the sports say that the hits only sting, it doesn’t mean that you will never get seriously hurt when you get shot. There may not be any close monitoring on the injuries these sports cause, the fact still remains that you can seriously get hurt or injured during the games. So much so that many venues and organizations that host such events require participants to wear protective gear.

Learning about where hits hurt the most can also help you hone your skill as a player. If you can avoid the spots where intense pain can be experienced, you can deem yourself a more considerate player.

So what are the most vulnerable areas when you play these combat-style games? Here are the ones to take note of:


It’s no secret that the ocular area of our face can be quite delicate. The skin surrounding the eyes are thin and stretched out while the eyeballs are delicate and have lots of nerve tissues. As a result, it’s one of the most fragile parts of the body. It would also be not too hard for a small pellet traveling at high speed to puncture its surface and injure the said body part.

Eye injuries are also the most common kinds experienced by those who play with nonpowder firearms. According to a survey, 13,486 children are taken to emergency rooms every year for treatment from injuries caused by BB guns, airsoft guns, and paintball markers.


Due to the many movable parts and the fact that the skin gets stretched in your fingers and knuckles, getting hit in this area can also be quite painful. It also doesn’t help that they get easily exposed during paintball and airsoft games. You can definitely expect a higher amount of pain if you get shot on your fingers.


Rear view of a man having severe neck painThe neck is also a vulnerable spot during paintball and airsoft games. Getting hit in this area can pinch a nerve or two which can bring incredible amounts of pain. Getting hit in the throat is something you should avoid, too, as it won’t just be painful but it can also affect your breathing.


As most men would know, there are very many sensory nerve endings in the groin area so receiving a large amount of concentrated momentum in the area will, without a doubt, seriously hurt.


The ears are also quite fragile parts of the body as it’s mostly composed of cartilage and has a delicate structure underneath without lots of outer cushioning for it. So if you receive quite a lot of pressure in the area, it would hurt and can even damage the complex systems beneath.


The lips are also very sensitive body parts as it has lots of nerve endings. As a result, it can also easily feel which can be a bad thing if you get hit by a paintball or airsoft pellet in that area.

Back and top of the head

Blows to the head are not something you can shrug off because it can lead to serious issues. While your skull is pretty thick and solid, it doesn’t mean that you won’t feel hurt if you get shot on your head by a paintball or airsoft pellet.

Possibilities of Fatalities

Since the use of nonpowder guns can cause a significant amount of pain, it’s not surprising that lots of people also wonder about their number of fatalities. If something can hurt you, it’s not far-fetched that it can also kili. So to err on the side of caution, it would be best to learn about such dangers as well.

For airsoft, it’s said that there are no recorded deaths related to the outdoor sport or the nonpowder guns they use. Unlike BB guns that the CPSC has released an alert for being capable of killing a person, there are no similar warnings related to the use of airsoft guns. This shouldn’t be surprising since BB guns have higher ballistic performance than airsoft guns.

Despite this fact, having an airsoft gun in one’s person can still be fatal. There have been several reports of fatal police shootings that are caused by civilians possessing and carrying what look like guns but aren’t. Some of these became high-profile cases like the one that involved the 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Airsoft guns, like BB guns and other toy gun replicas can really look like real firearms that in high-tension moments, they can be mistaken for real guns.

As for paintball, there are a few incidents that lead many to believe that it can be fatal. While getting shot at by a paintball marker will not kill you on the spot, it can lead to complications. This is the case for the few fatalities of paintball.

One notable incident is when a paintball player died of stroke a few days after playing paintball. It was said that he was shot from the back of his head. He was already experiencing migraines the days leading to the paintball game so it is believed that the shooting may caused the blocked blood vessel in the brain that caused the player’s death.

Instances of fatal heart attacks were also recorded among players of paintball. Some players had them during the game while others had theirs shortly after. The shock that getting hit has led to such unfortunate outcomes.

Aside from these, there were also a few incidents wherein the malfunctioning of certain parts of a paintball marker caused fatalities. In 2004, two incidents of accidental detachment of carbon-dioxide-filled cylinders killed two people on separate occasions.

These fatalities may not always be related to the actual use of the nonpowder guns involved in paintball and airsoft but they are still worth noting. These incidents note that the mere presence of these implements can lead to fatal casualties, so they’re very important to know about.

How to Avoid Getting Seriously Hurt and Injured When Playing Airsoft and Paintball

Airsoft and paintball injuries are not uncommon but are highly preventable. How? Here are a few tips:

Wear eye protective gear.

Since the eyes are some of the most exposed and delicate areas of the body, it’s important to protect it when playing paintball and airsoft. You should at least wear some eye protective gear like some ski goggles or eye protection glasses to keep the ammunition from getting into your eyeballs.

Wear a full face mask.

Wet and murdered in a paintball mask after the gamPaintball face masks are often considered as essential gear since they can prevent bruising and injuries to the face. Some might find them too cumbersome but they will certainly come in handy for you if you don’t want to look banged up after the game.

Wear some neck covering.

To protect your neck and throat, it’s best to wear a neck protector.

Wear a helmet or some kind of head cushioning.

You don’t want your head to take on high amounts of concentrated pressure. It’s dangerous and it will hurt you seriously. To avoid this, wear a helmet or some other kind of head protection to keep those pellets bouncing off your head instead.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt and full pants.

While airsoft and paintball ammo don’t always break skin, they can still cause welts and bruises. To cushion their blow, cover up your skin nicely. The fabric will provide extra cushioning against the pellets that will hit you.

Pad up.

Knee, elbow, and chest pads will save you from a lot of pain, especially if you’re playing close-contact variants of paintball and airsoft.

Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear for the terrain you’re playing in.

Airsoft and paintball are very active outdoor sports so it’s crucial that you wear the right pair of shoes when you play. Wear something that will give you enough traction so you’ll have ample control of your footwork despite the tricky terrain. Make sure that they’re comfortable as well.

Nerfs: An Alternative Option If You Don’t Want to Get Seriously Hurt

Pile of foam bullet for gun toyAside from airsoft and paintball, Nerf wars are also exciting combat-style outdoor activities that you can try. As the name suggests, these events use Nerf blasters instead of specialized, high-power replica guns.

Since these are toy guns, they are not as powerful as the nonpowder guns used in airsoft and paintball. They don’t hurt as much and are also designed to look like toys so they won’t be mistaken for real firearms.

Nerf wars can guarantee the same amount of enjoyment since they also employ gamestyles similar to airsoft and paintball. The only difference is that the weapons they use are safer and friendlier for kids.

If you’re not too fond of their 70 mph dart speed, you can also add some muscle to your blaster. These blasters are possible to modify even though the manufacturers advise against doing so. Fans love it because it allows them to express their creativity and hone their electric wiring skills.


With all of the points discussed above, we hope that we were able to paint a clear picture of how bad does airsoft hurt and the dangers that come with playing paintball. As you can also see, the risks that come with these sports are manageable. So despite the numbers and possibilities, you can still safely enjoy the outdoor activity as long as you observe ample caution.

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