Airsoft vs. Paintball (Woodsball) comparison

This is a quick comparison. We have a group of friends that play woodsball as regular as possible and a comparison of cost and game play between the two activities.

‘, ‘So first, I\’m going to compare the cost. I\’m going to compare the prices of guns, paint/bbs, batteries/CO2 tanks, hoppers/magazines, masks/glasses, etc.

Also, keep in mind that this is a woodsball perspective. None of us play competitive paintball in bright red jumpsuits. This is strictly going to be a milsim comparison.

Cost
Let\’s start with cost. I\’ve read plenty of articles talking about $1,000 paintball guns vs $400 airsoft guns and how the cost of the gun directly reflects the players advantage for paintball, and how it doesn\’t with airsoft. In competitive play, that might be true, but in woodsball, it still comes down to the players abilities. I\’d say on average, most people we play with have spent around $150-$250 on a decent paintball gun. At the same time, I\’ve played with a $60 gun against people with $500 guns (when you count all the modifications they purchased) and felt only at a slight disadvantage. Of course, full auto at 10+ bps is going to have an advantage over a player that can only shoot 4bps, but in the woods, it might just mean he has to be a little more patient before he starts shooting.

Guns
Let\’s get started with the guns. I\’m going to try to be realistic with the comparison. You can buy an airsoft gun for $20 at Walmart, but it\’s not going to be something you want to run around in the woods with. But, a $60 paintball kit will get you on the field and having fun. It\’s a little more difficult to pick a decent airsoft gun and know you are getting something worthy of field play when your in the low end price range. When comparing airsoft guns, I look at the rated Muzzle velocity, Effective range, and Rate of fire.

— Entry/Mid Level

At this price point, I\’m going to compare an $80 VL Triton II Kit (which includes everything you need to run around the woods except the actual CO2 in the tank) vs an $80 Well R6E M4 A1 Airsoft Electric Rifle V2 which is listed as a mid level gun.

The VL Triton II comes with a 200 round hopper, 9oz tank, and a pair of goggles. Which means you\’d only need to carry around a single pod of balls because with 9oz, your lucky if you get 350 shots out of it. But, you\’d have to spend another $10 or so for the pod and harness. Going to a 20oz tank will run you around another $20 but will give you around 1,000 shots. That\’s half a case of paint. Of course, these are general numbers, not gun specific, it really depends on the efficiency of the gun. At the same time, the velocity can be adjusted so you should be able to set it to around 280 fps, but with the long trigger pull to fire it, i doubt you could get more than 4 bps out of it.

With the Well R6E M4, you\’ll need to buy protective eyewear, as it doesn\’t come with any, but you can get shooting glasses for $6, so it\’s not bad. It comes with a battery and charger, so you don\’t need to get a tank filled before you can start playing, but you do need to wait for the battery to charge. This gun shoots 370 fps with .2g BBs and will shoot about 150-200 feet and around 400 rounds per minute (rpm) which would be a little over 6 rounds per second. It comes with a 350 round hi capacity magazine.

— Mid/High Level

Now, this could be biased, but I\’m going to use the Tippmann A-5 paintball gun because it is what I purchased when I decided to upgrade. This gun cost $190 brand new without any upgrades and is a decent mid level gun. It has a ton of upgrades available and can be converted to look like an M16 or AK47 if you are into that kind of thing. At the same time, it comes with a cyclone feed system and is listed as capable of shooting 8 bps out of the box. Add a $60 response trigger or $120 egrip and you should be able to get 15 bps out of the box. Not including upgrading the cyclone parts. If you go all out, you can get 23 bps out of this gun. But, your going to pay for it. So, let\’s look at an A-5 with egrip set to 15 bps at full auto. That\’ll run you around $310.

On the airsoft side, it\’s really hard to say. There are so many options available. I\’m just going to pick one, but keep in mind, there are as many styles and types (gas/electic) available as you can think of. The hardest part will be picking from the 50+ different M16s if you like that style. This is when YouTube.com comes in handy to watch reviews and teardowns of a gun prior to purchasing it. So, let\’s look at the $255 Classic Army Armalite M15 A4 Carbine AEG because I\’ve actually handled this one. It\’s more of a high end gun, but is really close to the real thing. You can get a airsoft gun for around $150 with equal (or even better) specs, but it might not be full metal like this one. This one has a full metal body, high grade plastic stock, grip, and barrel shroud. And the thing about the plastic, these are actually plastic on the real thing! Weighing in at 6lbs, it feels like the real thing.. and of course, being fully licensed from Armalite (including their trademark logos), it\’s probably as close to a real one most of us will ever get to hold. But, it doesn\’t come with a battery or charger. An 8.4 V 1100 mAH Ni-MH Small Battery will run you $20 and a decent (not awesome) charger will run you $20, so for a total of $295, your gun is ready to go. Now, compare this higher priced gun to the entry level. This one shoots 350 fps with a rpm of around 800. So, the fps is less, but it\’ll throw twice as many BBs at the enemy. Though, keep in mind that it only takes one BB to get someone out.

The guns and milsim. It doesn\’t take a genius to realize that paintball guns don\’t look anything like a real gun. Even when you spend a lot more money and even when you buy a U.S. Army branded paintball gun, when you slap a 200 round hopper on top, and a 20oz tank on the back (or even when using a remote) it\’s not going to look like a real gun. With airsoft, on the other hand, it looks like a real gun (aside from the orang tip) and higher end models will feel like a real gun.

Now, when hitting a player, paintballs will leave paint on their clothes and show they were hit. BBs on the other hand, will not. With airsoft, it uses the honour system. But, if you don\’t trust the people you are playing with to call themselves out, then you shouldn\’t be playing with them. It\’s not like you are playing for money or a trophy.. it\’s just for fun. And the nice thing there, is a head shot doesn\’t hinder your already poor vision nor make a mess of your clothes.

Some general notes to compare. With paintball, anything over 300 fps is usually considered “illegal” on a regulation field. At the same time, most require you to be under 15 bps as well. So here is a quick comparison so you don\’t have to do the math:
15 bps is equal to 900 rpm
10 bps is equal to 600 rpm
5 bps is equal to 300 rpm

For milsim, airsoft wins hands down. Just the amount of options available are ridiculous. With or without bolt action, pistols with and without blow back, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, you name it.. They are all available. it\’s just crazy!

Ammo
First, I\’ll compare a cheap case of paint ($25) for 2000 rounds vs a cheap bag of .12g BBs ($5) for 2000 rounds. Of course, the paint balls are practice grade, which is the bottom of the line, and in the woods, I don\’t think anyone uses .12g BBs. So, let\’s be realistic and compare a case of recreation paint ($40) for 2000 rounds vs a bag of biodegradable .2g BBs ($6) the comparison is ridiculous. Now, normally I would say you will go through a lot more BBs than paint, but when you set an A-5 to 15 bps, you go through paint.. and I mean fast! I had mine set to 5 bps and in one outing (around 4 hours) went through over 1000 rounds. That\’s a lot of paint.

And you can get 5,000 rounds of biodegradable .2g BBs for $12 which is extremely cheap. Even if you go with high polished, seemless, biodegradable .2g BBs, 3,000 of them are only $15

And I almost forgot to mention… storage. Paintballs need to be rotated often to keep the paint from settling. They also need to be kept at room temperature. Anyone that has ever left paintballs for a while have see how they begin to wrinkle and deform. Also, even if they aren\’t deformed, if the paint sits on one side for a while, the balls will spiral through the air making them useless anyway.

Power
This one should be fun.. This is going to be comparing CO2 tanks and batteries/chargers. Since, we don\’t really care what is powering the gun, we just want to get out there and play.

Many people have a few CO2 tanks so that they don\’t have to keep running back to the filling station. My last 20oz tank sprung a leak at the valve and I purchased a replacement for $16.50. Not bad. Like I said earlier, you should be able to get around 1,000 rounds of of a single 20oz tank so you can go through a half a case of paint on a single tank (although, this number seems high to me)

The airsoft equal to CO2 is a battery.Depending on your gun, you can spend as little as $20 on a battery and $10 on a wall wart style charger, or even buy an accessory package for $27 that comes with a 9.6v 1400 mAH battery and charger, along with 5,000 .2g BBs for free.

Or, you could spend $50 for a battery and $140 on a charger.

Now, how many you need depends on your style. But, from what I have read, they last quite a long time (like 2 hours), even when using full auto. So in a 5 hour day, you wouldn\’t need more than 3 batteries. And that\’s if you didn\’t have a field charger.

Eye Protection
Oh man, oh man… Full face masks fogging up left and right, you can\’t see anything, running around in the woods, sweat pouring down your face and the inside of your mask… It doesn\’t take much to be better than that! Even my thermal lenses have made seeing impossible. Not because they fogged up (because they didn\’t) but because of the sweat dripping down them. Compare that to a pair of safety glasses? Gee.. That\’s a hard one..

Now, lets look at the cost. Even a cheap pair of goggles are $25. Add a fan, thermal lenses, etc. and you can easily spend $60 just on goggles.

If a pair of safety glasses aren\’t enough for you, you can get goggles for $18 and a face mask for $15.

Now, take it to the milsim theme and it\’s a no brainer. If I want to wear a full mask, I can. If not, I don\’t have to. If I want to wear a helmet, I can, because it\’ll fit over the safety glasses. If you want to wear a helmet with paintball, you have to mod your goggles.

And don\’t get me started on how many times I have seen people lifting their mask in the middle of a game to try to clean them, because they can\’t see anything. So, from that point. safety glasses are going to be a lot safer in the long run.

Gear
Now let\’s take a look at accessories. With paintball you need to carry pods of paint around with you, and with airsoft, you need to carry around extra magazines. Pods are cheap. $1 will get you a 150 round pod. The problem is they take up a lot of room, and everyone loves the rattling sound you make when you are running through the woods.

Magazines.. again, this is going to depend on your gun, but we\’ll take a general look at their cost. You can get them from $5 (30 rounds) to $50 (5,000 rounds) with an average cost of around $10 for 350 to 2,000 rounds depending on your guns magazine type. And with these, you can carry quite a few of them in vest pouches compared to the huge 150 ball pods I have strapped to my waste.

Other Stuff
So, I started writing this from an open view and from a woodsballer perspective.. I\’m guessing by now, it\’s coming off as an airsoft fanboy article. I don\’t even own an airsoft gun. 🙁

But, looking at the cost comparison, the real milsim difference being huge, the fact that you don\’t have to clean paint off your mask, clothes, inside the gun, etc… You don\’t have to lug around a 20oz CO2 tank and 4+ pods full of balls in bright colors. You don\’t have to wear a full mask making it damn near impossible to see. For milsim, it seems funny to even compare paintball to airsoft when you look at it like this.

Summery

Guns – Dollar for dollar, from my perspective, they are comparable. You can get cheaper and more expensive of both. From what I read, you can get away with a cheaper airsoft gun if you are just getting in to it, or don\’t care about the milsim side of things. For paintball, if you really plan to play, $150 is the minimum.

Ammo – Airsoft is cheaper by far! 5,000 rounds for $12? Really? Wow.. that\’s cheap. And if you end up investing in a single shot sniper rifle that can hit a quarter 100 yards away.. something tells me those 5,000 rounds are going to last a very long time. Though, sniper rifles normally need high polished balls and a heavier BB, so you can\’t compare it to the $12 bags.

Power – CO2 is cheaper for an end user, but that doesn\’t take into account if you are playing on somone\’s property (vs at a field) and they have to lease a CO2 tank for $85/year and pay $35 per fill. And, even worse, if they run out of CO2 to refill your tank! It is only based on buying the cheapest $16.50 per 20oz CO2 tank and assuming you have access to unlimited refills for “free”.

Eye Protection – You can\’t beat $6 for a pair of safety glasses.

Gear – Pods are cheaper, but bulkier. If you add the price of a vest or harness for the pods, magazines may be cheaper, again, depending on your gun. If your gun takes $10 magazines your all set, as you\’d be able to buy 4 of them for about the same price as a harness with pods.

So, overall:

Upfront costs in general terms:
— Paintball = $180 for a gun, $60 for a response trigger, $40 for tanks, $25 for vest/pods, $25 for thermal mask = $330
— Airsoft = $255 for gun, $40 for 2 batteries, $20 for charger, $20 for 2 magazines, $6 for safety glasses = $341

And that is a comparison with a high level milsim airsoft gun. You can get an AK-47 style gun for $150 that is also mostly metal, weighing 7 lbs, shoots 370fps with .2g BBs and 800 rpm that comes with two 500 round metal magazines.

Ongoing costs for 3 months based on playing once every 3 weeks (4 sessions):
— Paintball = Let\’s say 3 cases of 2,000 rounds at $40/case = $120 in paint.
— Airsoft = Let\’s say 4 bags of 5,000 rounds at $12/bag = $48

And that doesn\’t include the cost of CO2, which we know isn\’t free. So, in a few seasons, switching to airsoft will pay for itself and seasons after that, will save us money.

Note: Also, as airsoft isn\’t affected by the weather, the playing season can be extended past the 4 month example here. Paintball guns, on the other hand, don\’t work for crap (if at all) in the winter.

Now, I\’m just going to give a quick overview of some guns available for airsoft to show the main three things I look at besides price:

AEG (Airsoft Electric Gun):
– $140 UTG AK-47
— Muzzle velocity: 260 fps w/ .2g
— Effective range: 150 feet
— Rate of fire: 900 RPM

– $160 ECHO 1 STAG ARMS MOD16
— Muzzle velocity: 380 fps w/ .2g
— Effective range: 150 feet
— Rate of fire: 900 RPM

– $299 KWA Full Metal KM4A1 Carbine
— Muzzle velocity: 400 fps w/ .2g
— Effective range: 150 feet
— Rate of fire: 950 RPM

As you can see, 380 fps vs 400 fps and 50 more rpm probably isn\’t worth the $140 more.

Spring Guns (Sniper Rifles):

– $100 Swiss Arms SA1 Spring Sniper
— Fire mode/s: Manual cocking
— Muzzle velocity: 440 fps w/ .2g
— Effective range: 200-220 feet

– $165 UTG MK96 Shadow Ops Spring Sniper
— Fire mode/s: Manual cocking
— Muzzle velocity: 480 fps w/ .2g, 395 fps w/ .28g, 350 fps w/ .36g, 340 fps w/ .4g, 320 fps w/ .43g
— Effective range: 200-230 feet

– $200 Mauser SR Pro-Tactical Spring Sniper
— Fire mode/s: Manual cocking
— Muzzle velocity: 450 fps w/ .2g, 390 fps w/ .3g
— Effective range: 180-200 feet