What Do Airsoft Guns Shoot? A Complete Guide

As an avid airsoft player, one of the most common questions I get asked by newcomers is “What do airsoft guns shoot?” It’s a valid question, as airsoft guns look and function similarly to real firearms, but they don’t fire traditional ammunition. Instead, they shoot small plastic projectiles known as BBs. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll delve into the fascinating world of airsoft and provide all the information you need to understand what these guns shoot and how they work.

Understanding Airsoft BBs

Airsoft BBs are the ammunition of choice for airsoft guns. These small, spherical projectiles are typically made of plastic or biodegradable materials, such as polyethylene (PE) or biodegradable plastic (BIO BBs). The standard size for airsoft BBs is 6mm in diameter, which is roughly the size of a pea. However, some airsoft guns may use slightly different BB sizes, ranging from 5.95mm to 6.12mm.

The weight of airsoft BBs can vary, with standard weights ranging from 0.12 grams to 0.48 grams. The most common weights used in airsoft are 0.20 grams and 0.25 grams. Heavier BBs have better accuracy and range, while lighter BBs are generally used in high-speed guns to achieve higher muzzle velocities.

Airsoft BBs come in various colors, such as white, yellow, green, blue, and red. The color of the BB doesn’t affect its performance but can be used for identification purposes or to enhance visibility during gameplay.

Types of Airsoft BBs

There are several types of airsoft BBs available, each with its unique characteristics and applications:

1. Standard Airsoft BBs: These are the most common and widely used BBs in airsoft. They are made of plastic or biodegradable materials and are designed to be fired from airsoft guns with varying muzzle velocities.

2. Precision Airsoft BBs: Precision BBs are manufactured to meet tighter tolerances in terms of size, weight, and roundness, which can improve accuracy and consistency. They are often used by experienced players or in competition settings where precision is essential.

3. Tracer Airsoft BBs: Tracer BBs contain a small amount of flammable material that ignites upon firing, creating a visible trail in the air. This allows players to track their shots, making them useful for target practice and adjusting hop-up settings.

4. Bio Airsoft BBs: Bio BBs are made from biodegradable materials, such as starch or plant-based polymers. They are designed to break down naturally and are environmentally friendly, making them a popular choice for players concerned about the impact of airsoft on the environment.

5. Heavyweight Airsoft BBs: Heavyweight BBs are heavier than standard BBs, typically weighing between 0.30 grams and 0.48 grams. They are used in high-powered airsoft guns to increase range and accuracy, but their heavier weight can also cause more damage to targets.

Airsoft Gun Mechanisms

Airsoft guns use various mechanisms to propel the BBs, each with its unique characteristics and performance:

1. Spring-powered Airsoft Guns: Spring-powered airsoft guns, also known as “springers,” use a spring-loaded mechanism to launch the BBs. When the trigger is pulled, the spring compresses and then releases, providing the necessary force to push the BB down the barrel. Springers are typically the most affordable and simplest type of airsoft gun, but they have a lower muzzle velocity and require manual cocking between shots.

2. Gas-powered Airsoft Guns: Gas-powered airsoft guns, often referred to as “Gas Blowback” (GBB) or “Non-Blowback” (NBB) guns, use compressed gas (typically green gas or CO2) to propel the BBs. These guns provide a more realistic recoil and blowback action, simulating the experience of firing a real firearm. Gas-powered guns can be semi-automatic or fully automatic and offer a higher muzzle velocity compared to spring-powered guns.

3. Airsoft Electric Guns (AEGs): Airsoft Electric Guns (AEGs) are the most popular type of airsoft gun. They use a battery-powered motor to drive a gearbox that compresses and releases a piston, launching the BBs down the barrel. AEGs can be semi-automatic or fully automatic, offering a high fire rate and consistent performance. They are also relatively easy to maintain and upgrade.

4. Airsoft Bolt-Action Sniper Rifles: Bolt-action sniper rifles are a type of spring-powered airsoft gun designed for long-range accuracy. They typically feature a longer barrel and adjustable components, such as a hop-up system and precision inner barrel, to improve range and accuracy. Bolt-action sniper rifles are popular among players who enjoy the challenge of long-range shooting and stealth gameplay.

Hop-Up Systems

Most modern airsoft guns incorporate a hop-up system, which is a crucial component in determining the accuracy and range of the gun. The hop-up system applies backspin to the BB, which creates lift and stabilizes its trajectory, resulting in improved accuracy and distance.

The hop-up system works by applying pressure to the top of the BB, causing it to spin as it travels down the barrel. This backspin creates a Magnus effect, which lifts the BB and helps counteract the natural downward trajectory caused by gravity.

There are different types of hop-up systems, including:

1. Adjustable Hop-Up: This type of hop-up allows players to adjust the amount of backspin applied to the BB, enabling them to fine-tune the gun’s performance based on factors like BB weight, barrel length, and environmental conditions.

2. Fixed Hop-Up: Fixed hop-up systems have a predetermined amount of backspin applied to the BB, which the manufacturer sets. These systems are simpler and require less maintenance, but they don’t offer the same level of customization as adjustable hop-ups.

3. Dual Hop-Up: Dual hop-up systems use two separate hop-up components to apply backspin to the BB. This can result in even better accuracy and range, but it also adds complexity to the system and requires more maintenance.

Maintaining and Caring for Airsoft BBs

Proper care and maintenance of airsoft BBs are crucial to ensure consistent performance and prevent damage to your airsoft gun. Here are some tips for maintaining your airsoft BBs:

1. Storage: Store your airsoft BBs in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture. BBs can absorb moisture from the air, which can cause them to swell and potentially jam your airsoft gun.

2. Cleaning: Regularly clean your airsoft BBs by passing them through a BB sorter or using a lint-free cloth to remove any dust or debris. This will help prevent jams and ensure consistent flight paths.

3. Avoiding Damage: Be careful not to drop or mishandle your airsoft BBs, as this can cause deformation or damage, leading to inconsistent performance and potential jams.

4. Compatibility: Always use the correct size and weight of BBs recommended for your specific airsoft gun. Using the wrong BBs can cause damage to internal components and potentially void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Do airsoft guns shoot like real guns?

No, airsoft guns do not shoot or function exactly like real firearms. There are some key differences:

1. Ammunition: Airsoft guns shoot plastic or biodegradable BBs, not metal bullets propelled by gunpowder like real guns.

2. Propulsion: Airsoft guns use mechanisms like springs, compressed gas, or electric motors to launch the BBs, not the explosive force of gunpowder.

3. Muzzle Velocity: Airsoft guns have much lower muzzle velocities, usually under 500 feet per second, compared to thousands of feet per second for real firearms.

4. Range: The effective range of airsoft guns is much shorter, typically under 200 feet. Real firearms can have effective ranges over 1000 feet.

5. Recoil: Airsoft guns have very little to no recoil compared to the powerful blowback of real guns firing bullets.

6. Sound: The firing sound of airsoft guns is much quieter without the explosive gunpowder blast.

So while airsoft guns are modeled after and have cosmetic similarities to real firearms, the internal mechanisms, projectiles, power, and performance characteristics are completely different for safety reasons. Airsoft replicates some aspects of real firearms but does not truly replicate the full power and abilities.

What bullets do airsoft guns shoot?

Airsoft guns shoot small plastic BBs, typically made of a plastic material like ABS or PLA. The BBs are spherical in shape and have a diameter of around 6mm for standard airsoft guns.

They are propelled out of the airsoft gun’s barrel by compressed air, gas (like CO2 or “green gas”), or a spring mechanism. The BBs are lightweight and non-metallic, designed to eliminate the risk of serious injury when striking a person at typical airsoft engagement ranges and velocities.

The mass of standard 6mm airsoft BBs is quite low, usually between 0.12-0.40 grams per BB. This allows them to shoot at relatively high velocities, often in the 250-400 fps range, while still being lightweight enough to minimize impact force and provide a safe projectile for airsoft target games and training.


Understanding what airsoft guns shoot and how they work is essential for any serious airsoft player. By familiarizing yourself with the different types of airsoft BBs, gun mechanisms, hop-up systems, and proper maintenance techniques, you can improve your gameplay, enhance your accuracy, and prolong the life of your airsoft equipment. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, this comprehensive guide should provide you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and get the most out of your airsoft experience.

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