The boffins behind all our airsoft guns and gear are always coming up with new stuff to improve the sport and make our experience more enjoyable.
As such, there’s a wealth of products to choose from, but sometimes – picking the right stuff can be more than a little daunting.
But fear not, as we’ve done the hard work for you.
In this article, we explore the different types of airsoft BBs. Sizes, colors, weights…it’s all here.
Which type do you shoot? Which type should you be shooting? Which type should you avoid?
Read on to find out.
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- Types of Airsoft Pellets – The Short Version
- Airsoft Ammo – What is It?
- How Are Airsoft BBs Made?
- Airsoft BB Types
- What Kind of BB Should I Use?
- A Word on Safety
Types of Airsoft Pellets – The Short Version
To keep things snappy, here’s a brief summary of this article, and the types of airsoft pellets you can expect to find on the market today:
- Standard plastic pellets. (with varying degrees of quality).
- Biodegradable pellets.
- Tracer pellets.
- Non-tracer pellets.
- Marker/paint pellets.
A more in-depth explanation of each is coming up, so why go anywhere? Stay with us, and read on…
Airsoft Ammo – What is It?
As a baseline, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what airsoft ammunition actually is. From there, we can better understand the different types available.
Airsoft ammunition is most commonly referred to as “BBs,” which in actual fact stands for ball bearings.
However, the ammo used in airsoft are not actually ball bearings at all – thankfully.
This article on using genuine metal ball bearings in airsoft will explain why that’s not a good idea.
So, what are airsoft BBs made of?
They’re predominantly made from plastic, and are also called “airsoft pellets,” as a result.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be using “airsoft BBs” and “pellets” interchangeably, unless specifically referring to metal ball bearings.
Poor quality, cheap ammo will have obvious flaws, such as misshapen pellets, cosmetic blemishes, and/or brittle, low grade materials.
Even if you’re choosing a more budget-friendly airsoft gun (follow that link for more), you should always try to shoot the best quality BBs you can afford.
Size and Weight
When it comes to airsoft BB sizes, the most popular diameter is six millimeters, although some airsoft guns use BBs that are eight millimeters.
As for airsoft BB weight, expect to find 0.12 and 0.20 grams as the most commonplace figures. However, pellets up to 0.40 grams are also available.
And, in fact, 0.25 is considered the best choice for indoor shooting, while 0.28 is optimal for outdoor play.
Either way, you need to select the compatible BB for the size of the bore of your gun.
When it comes to weight, heavier BBs will need a gun with a higher FPS velocity – in order to shoot accurately.
Remember, though, airsoft fields have FPS limits, and BBs that weigh upwards of 0.28 grams are generally only suitable for higher-powered guns – such as sniper rifles.
You should make sure that’s permitted at your local field, but most fields have an additional allowance for snipers.
Take a look at this article on the best airsoft sniper rifles on the market for some awesome examples of distance death dealers.
How Are Airsoft BBs Made?
Airsoft BBs are made from injection plastic molds, and the best quality ammo will be engineered to be seamless, and “double-polished” almost until you can see your face in them.
If you’ve got a seam on your BBs, they’re not completely spherical, or they have any other imperfections – then you can best promote the life of your airsoft gun by throwing them out (responsibly, of course).
Rather than exploring the whole manufacturing process in text, I’ll let pro airsofter Novritsch explain how his high-quality airsoft BBs are made in this fascinating video:
Airsoft BB Types
Below, you’ll find a list of the most common types of airsoft pellets available, that can be legally used at most airsoft fields and arenas.
Metal, ceramic, and other heavyweight BBs that are not suitable for shooting at human targets have not been included.
Standard Airsoft BBs
Regular, white, plastic BBs that are the backbone of the sport. Available in a wide variety of quantities and qualities, there’s a strong chance using basic BBs is how you will get started in the sport.
And speaking of starting in the sport, check out this in-depth article which explores everything you need to know on airsoft for beginners.
Standard airsoft BBs are also available in a variety of colors, but for the most part, that’s largely just for aesthetic purposes/personal preference, and won’t give you much of an advantage on the field, either way.
If you’re running one of these excellent AEGS, with standard airsoft BBs, it’s not really going to matter what color they are – so long as they’re good quality.
Give your gun the respect it deserves.
Ahhh, the environmentally-friendly choice. Biodegradable BBs have a shelf life and will eventually expire – much like paintballs.
In the outdoors, bio BBs will break down over time, and after contact with rain. Eventually, there will be no trace they ever existed.
Bio BBs are a little more expensive than standard versions (but not by much) and you should always try to choose them whenever you can.
However, some indoor arenas actually prohibit players from running bio BBs, so the standard type is not obsolete just yet.
Want to feel like you’re in a space laser battle? Try using tracer BBs in your gun.
Tracers are basically glow-in-the-dark pellets that make your shots easier to see. To be truly effective, they need to be used with a device that “charges” them with light every time you pull the trigger.
This attaches to the barrel of your gun, and emits a flash of light to highlight the tracer BB and its trajectory.
It’s super cool when used indoors, or in low-light conditions, and can help you improve your accuracy, all while feeling like Han Solo.
And you can often change the color of your “laser,” to suit your preferences, loadout, style, and/or character.
Speaking of Han Solo, it would be particularly awesome to use the airsoft version of his blaster pistol with tracer rounds. And you can find it, and many other sweet movie-to-airsoft replicas, at that link.
As you might expect, non-tracer BBs are the opposite of tracers – when you don’t want your shots to potentially give away your position.
Non-tracer BBs are usually black, or some other dark color. Green is a popular choice for woodland play, for example.
However, they do have their limitations, as if it’s hard for the enemy to see your shots, it’s also going to be equally as hard for you.
Less popular – and sometimes illegal, depending on where you play – are the marker or paint BBs.
They operate similar to paintballs – in the sense they are filled with some kind of liquid or powder, which is supposed to “mark” a target when hit.
The advantage here is that they eliminate airsoft cheaters (which is one of the main plus points that paintball has over airsoft – follow that link for a more in-depth comparison between the two).
However, they are difficult to get right, and you run the risk of them exploding or breaking inside your weapon, potentially rendering it useless.
And there have been reports that some versions of this type of airsoft BB are capable of shooting through glass – which obviously makes them highly dangerous for shooting at humans.
Regardless, they’re not common, and unless the technology improves, it’s doubtful you’ll ever see them at all.
What Kind of BB Should I Use?
Now we come to the million-dollar question.
With all these airsoft ammo types – which do you actually choose?
First, you should know and learn the best weight and size of BB for the gun you’re using. If you’re unsure, check the manufacturer’s instructions, and/or look online to find that particular gun’s specifications.
The user instructions of a quality airsoft pistol, for example, should tell you all you need to know for using the right kind of compatible ammunition.
When in doubt, this is likely going to be a standard six-millimeter BB. Larger BBs are more commonly used with specialty airsoft guns – particularly for CQB (Close Quarter Battles) requiring a shorter range.
Always choose the best BBs you can afford – and biodegradable versions are highly recommended.
If you’re playing the sniper role (and you can follow that link for some top tips on how to do so like a pro), then you might want to choose heavier BBs for use with a more powerful gun.
For indoor play, I would seriously consider a tracer BBs with a tracer unit – as not only does it look so cool, but it ramps up the fun factor, and you can see exactly where you’re shooting every time.
Which can seriously help you improve your accuracy.
All that said, you can’t really go wrong so long as you have the right ammo for your gun, and you’re purchasing the best quality BBs you can afford.
A Word on Safety
Regardless of the type of BB you use for airsoft, you should be well-prepared and protected when firing any kind of projectile.
Even the best, professional-grade BBs can break and shatter, and the shrapnel has been known to compromise inferior-quality eye and face pro. Follow the links above for more suitable options.
This article will explain more about what FPS actually means – and why it’s important.
If you’re still concerned for yourself or a child, then consider using a paintball mask instead. They’re designed to take a much heavier impact and are more than enough for airsoft BB protection.
Are heavier or lighter BBs better?
It depends on the velocity of your gun. A high-powered rifle is going to need a heavier BB to be effective over greater distances, but heavier ammo might not be so productive for CQB.
Take a look at this article on the different types of airsoft guns for more information.
As a rule of thumb, and depending on the gun I’m using, I would choose a 0.28 gram BB for outdoors, and a 0.25 gram BB for inside arenas.
Can you reuse airsoft BBs?
You can, but you most certainly shouldn’t! Don’t even be tempted. I’ve written a full article on the subject, explaining all the reasons why this is a very bad idea.
Head over to find out why you shouldn’t reuse airsoft BBs – which includes some top tips on how to make your ammo last longer.
Do airsoft BBs hurt?
Yes and no. If you’re not wearing the right protection, they’re going to leave a mark. This article on the best plate carriers might help if you’re concerned about keeping your torso covered.
But the good news is that airsoft doesn’t hurt nearly as much as paintball. This article on comparing paintball and airsoft pain will tell you why!
There are many different types of airsoft BBs, and the type you choose can make a real difference to your performance, and the performance of your airsoft gun.
I hope this article has pointed you in the right direction and made the selection headache a little easier.
Let me know which airsoft BBs you run and why, or if I’ve missed anything important from the article.
Stay safe out there, call those hits and happy airsofting!