Here at Riflepal, we’re dedicated to bringing you the best from the world of paintball and airsoft.

And we’re also prepared to answer the BIG questions when it comes to these awesome tactical combat sports.

So, it’s time to settle this debate once and for all – which hurts more, paintball vs airsoft pain?!

While we’ve not actually gone all Jackass and lined up naked to take pellets and paint to the gonads, we’ve still drawn from extensive experience and done our research to bring you the definitive final answer.

Without further ado, let’s find out which sport takes away the pain bragging rights.

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Airsoft vs Paintball – Which Hurts More? Too Long, Didn’t Read

If you’re keen to find out the answer without wading through a bunch of text, we’ve got it for you right here.

And the answer is…drumroll, please…


In fact, it’s not even close.

Why, you may ask? Diehard airsofters might be shaking their heads in dismay, or turning away in disgust.

Some may even be pointing to hundreds of stinging bruises from their last encounter with a CQB psycho.

But the fact remains, paintballs will smart much more than airsoft pellets.

Let’s explore this fascinating subject in more detail, below, and you can find out exactly what puts the PAIN into PAINtball.

paintball players in goggle masks aiming with marker guns

Paintball vs Airsoft Pain – Explained

Paintball Guns and Ammo

First, let’s take a look at the paintball gun and its ammunition.

Paintball hardware comes in three distinct types – pump action, mechanical, and electronic markers. You can follow this link and find out more about the different types of paintball guns.

They commonly use a ‘hopper’ that contains around 200 paintballs, which is fixed somewhere on the frame of the weapon. However, mag-fed paintball guns are becoming more popular and readily available.

For propulsion, paintball markers use compressed air or carbon dioxide to fire a paintball downrange.

For ammunition, paintball guns use spherical pellets made out of gelatin, polyethylene glycol, a bunch of other water-based substances and a colorful dye. They are designed to explode on impact, “marking” a hit.

Each pellet is around 16-18 millimeters in diameter, and weighs about three grams. For a box of 1000 paintballs, expect to pay around $40 – depending on the quality.

If in doubt, you can head to this link and follow some of the best paintball brands in the business – all of whom will advise you not to use cheap paint in your guns.

And head over here to take a look at the best paintball guns currently on the market.

When it comes to accuracy, paintball markers aren’t close to airsoft weapons, but they can still hit their mark consistently with practice and drills.

Before going on! You might be interested in this article on the history of paintball too.

Airsoft Guns and Ammo

airsoft military game players with assault rifles

Airsoft guns are available in an eclectic array of replicas, some looking frighteningly realistic when compared with real firearms.

A quick glance at these top airsoft brands will tell you just how varied and widespread the community is, and give you a glimpse into what’s out there.

AEGs (Automatic Electric Guns) are the most popular, but shotguns, sniper rifles, pistols, and SMGs are also available.

You can take a look at this article to see some of the best AEGs currently on the market, or head over here if airsoft sniper rifles are more your style.

Ammunition is held in magazines, almost identical to that of the real thing, with a capacity of anywhere from 50 to 2500 pellets, not counting for extended mags and/or customizations.

The pellets are propelled by either a spring-loaded hammer action, electric battery boxes, or small gas canisters. On average, they cost around five bucks for 1000 pieces.

The pellets themselves are small and made of plastic, coming in around six millimeters in diameter, but some guns take eight millimeter pellets.

Weights vary, but the most common will be around 0.20 grams, and no more than 0.40 grams, or thereabouts.

Airsoft guns can be highly accurate weapons – providing you have a quality piece of hardware, that is. You can consistently hit a relatively pinpoint target if you so choose (and if you have the skill, of course).

Feet Per Second

We’ve explored the guns and ammo, now let’s take a look at the velocity of each weapon. Surely this is important when it comes to finding out if airsoft hurts more than paintball?

And when it comes to feet per second (FPS) there’s not much in it.

Most paintball markers will be capable of around 250-300 fps, while their airsoft counterparts kick things up a little, and can reach up to 600 fps – and maybe more with modifications.

However, bear in mind that most North American airsoft fields only allow a maximum of 350 fps with airsoft guns, and you’re more or less on an even keel.

Conditions on the day will also affect the fps of a paintball or airsoft gun – but more on this is coming up, so read on.

paintball team practicing shooting in the paintball game

The Science

Right, now that we know about the guns, the ammo, and the performance stats, let’s attempt a little bit of science.

On the surface, you might think that the higher the fps rate, the more damage the projectile is going to do. Well, yes, in general that’s true – but here there are caveats.

In this context, it’s less to do with the velocity, and more the size of the pellet – and the amount of energy released.

An airsoft pellet will offer somewhere between 0.80 and two Joules of energy, while a paintball can hit anywhere between 2-13 Joules, with the average being around 12.

As you can see, paintballs have significantly higher kinetic energy figures than that of airsoft pellets, sometimes over ten times more.

If you look at typical figures between both guns and ammo – paintballs are going to hurt a lot more than airsoft pellets, and we’ve not even mentioned their larger surface area.

The bigger the ball, the larger the welt it’s going to leave on your skin. But how much pain you’re going to feel is dependent on a number of other key factors.

Pain Influencers

How bad does a paintball hurt? Do airsoft pellets cause a lot of pain? Yes and no. The answer to both questions depends on the following outside influences.

These include:

Proximity to target – how close the weapon is to the “victim” when fired. In both sports, shooting close range is illegal, but it can and does happen.

The fps velocity of the gun.

The size and weight of the ammunition – it’s overall mass.

Wind and other weather conditions. Typically, Co2 cartridges take a dip in performance on colder days, meaning a less powerful shot, while shooting with a headwind or tailwind will affect power accordingly.

The amount and type of protection being worn – and the parts of the body it’s covering.

Where the projectile lands on the target, and at what angle (more on that, below).

Cover or objects that absorb the velocity before impact – such as bushes, walls, or your mates.

All of these factors can come together to create a perfect storm of pain, or, alternatively, to the point where you barely feel anything more than a tap on your clothing – if at all.

paintball player in protective uniform aiming marker

Where Not to Get Hit

As briefly mentioned above, where a projectile lands on your person will also have an effect on how painful it is.

There’s a huge difference between being kicked in the shins, and kicked in the nuts.

You might already know where the sensitive areas are on your body (and we’re all different), but the list below outlines the most painful places to get hit with both a paintball and an airsoft pellet.

  • The eyes.
  • The lips.
  • The ears.
  • The fingers.
  • The neck.
  • The back/top of the head.

As you can see, a large percentage of the area it hurts the most is the head, face, and neck. If you’re going into battle, at the very least, you want that area properly protected.

Which leads us nicely on to…

The Best Protection

All that said, it was not our intention to scare you off playing either sport. The fact of the matter is, firing any sort of projectile at any reasonable velocity onto the body will hurt.

But it will hurt much, much less if you’re wearing the right kind of protection.

First and foremost, you need to make sure the head, face, and neck is well covered. Check out this article on the best paintball masks, or go over here for the best airsoft goggles – if that’s more your bag.

Padding the body out is recommended – but not 100% necessary. I’ve seen dudes play paintball in T-shirts and shorts, but it’s up to you if you want to invite that kind of sting.

For more information, you can read about what to wear for paintball, and what to wear for airsoft, which will give you a more in-depth guide to the gear you need for both sports.

So long as you’re wearing a quality mask, everything else will fall into place.

The Verdict

When it comes to shooting pellets at each other and how much pain they cause, the clear winner for bringing the hurt is paintball.

And how much paintball hurts – and how much airsoft hurts – depends on a number of factors.

They both can sting and leave a mark, especially without protection, but the larger size of the paintballs are proven to hurt more.

Either way, both sports are still awesome, and we highly recommended getting into one or even both of them.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.


In the battle of paintball vs airsoft pain, we have a clear winner.

But with the right kind of protection, most of the time, it’ll barely even register.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments, and I’m particularly keen to hear about your pain experiences in either sport.

Stay safe out there – no matter what you’re playing!