What is the Difference Between Airsoft Rifles and Air Rifles

The term "air rifle" seems to be used for all types of guns that shoot compressed gas, including paintball markers, pellet guns, etc. However, some people also refer to airsoft rifles as air rifles. So, what is the difference between airsoft rifles and air rifles?

An air rifle is a type of gun that utilizes an expanding gaseous propellant rather than explosive powder or pellets to propel a projectile at speeds up to about 120 m/s (280 fps). Airsoft guns are similar to conventional firearms in that they use compressed gas to discharge projectiles.

Factors That Differentiate Airsoft Rifles and Air Rifles

1. Power Source

While air rifles use pneumatic power from an external compressor, airsoft guns use electricity or battery power. They are differentiated from airsoft in that they are not designed to fire a projectile (bullet) but rather shoot small pellets of paint called BBs; the pellets also are denser than those used in airsoft. As with all other firearms, there is no legal definition for what constitutes a firearm. Thus, it varies greatly in size, shape, firing mechanism, barrel length, type of ammunition, etc. Most airsoft guns on the market today operate using an electric motor connected to compressed air, although some models also use batteries. Do check out our more comprehensive post about gas vs electric airsoft guns.

Electric powered gas guns may be classified as either "pistol" or "rifle"-style guns depending on how the user controls their firing operations. The pistol-style trigger is very common since most airsoft pistols have simple triggers. Rifle-like designs have mechanical cocking systems, usually found on high-power or fully automatic machine guns. These two styles are comparable in terms of safety: the pistol design has a single safety catch. Before each shot, you must disassemble the rifle design and then reassemble it when loading a new magazine cartridge. Other designs employ both styles concurrently. 

2. Method of Propulsion

Air rifles propel projectiles using internal energy stored in compressed air. This power source is provided through a supply of pressurized air, typically supplied by an external compressor system. This method of propulsion does not require any direct connection to an ignition system, making it safe even if the power source becomes disconnected. On the downside, the amount of power available tends to vary widely between individual models. Another disadvantage of this type of gun is that the gun is sensitive to environmental conditions such as dirt, moisture, and temperature. You can fire it only after calibration.

On the other hand, airsoft rifles utilize propulsive force from a fuel contained within the weapon's barrel. Gas guns provide greater accuracy because they deliver consistent performance regardless of weather or time of day. Airsoft guns also offer additional benefits over traditional spring-powered airguns — notably longer operating times and higher reliability. Many modern airsoft guns feature electronic control circuits that allow users to program various shooting modes and settings.

3. Size & Accuracy

Airsoft guns tend to be smaller when compared to air rifles. However, most airsoft weapons are larger than conventional sporting guns due to the need to store large amounts of powder in the casing and the requirement for faster recoil rates.

High-quality airsoft guns can still produce exceptional accuracy; however, their rate of fire will often be slower than standard air rifles. High-quality airsoft guns use proprietary magazines loaded with specially produced cartridges filled with solid plastic BBs. These are ideal for creating realistic games and training scenarios. Some airsoft manufacturers also make replicas of specific military weaponry. These guns may include features similar to real versions, such as flash suppressors and laser sights.

4. Cost & Availability

Rifles cost more money, but airsoft guns are cheaper than real firearms. While some airsoft guns can cost less than $100, others reach prices of up to several hundred dollars. Low-end airsoft guns are commonly sold at retail stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Aspiring players can buy entry-level guns from various online retailers.

5. Shooting Style

Airsoft guns are designed specifically for indoor usage, where there aren't any laws restricting the handling of real firearms. They're more convenient for gameplay purposes and can be used to practice different techniques (such as reloading) without worrying about hurting anyone else.

However, airsoft rifles do come in handy outdoors. The biggest drawback is that airsoft lacks a powerful sound signature, which can easily get lost among all other sounds around you while playing outside.


Airsoft guns have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They offer a fun alternative to standard air rifle usage without the need to comply with complicated federal regulations. In addition, airsoft guns are perfect for people who want to practice safety rules without actually harming themselves or others.