Can I Reuse Airsoft BBs?

A question almost every airsoft player has probably asked at some point is “Can I reuse Airsoft BBs?” It makes perfect sense to collect ammo after shooting it out with your friends, repackaging it, and using it the next time you’re on the field. Heck, you might even be forced to recycle pellets in battle if a teammate isn’t close by to give you a spare mag. 

But should you really reuse BBs on your Airsoft rifle? Well, according to folks who’ve been playing Airsoft for a really long time, you shouldn’t. Reusing BBs in your AEG gas-powered, or spring Airsoft gun will ruin it. Here’s why.  

Reusing Airsoft BBs Ruins Your Gun

 The biggest reason why you shouldn’t be recycling BBs is, they’ll damage your gun. Used BBs will damage everything between the barrel and the hop-up system. 

The typical Airsoft gun expels a projectile at speeds between 30 m/s to 200 m/s and a little physics tells us the projectile will impact on the target with a force of half a pound per every inch. That might not seem like a lot, but it is sufficient to tear through a soda can like it made out of butter.

Now, if a BB can rip through a soda can, you can probably imagine the kind of forces it experiences after leaving the nozzle. Yep, that small little pellet undergoes all kinds of stresses. So much so that most BBs crack after impacting a surface.  When you rechamber your Airsoft rifle with a magazine filled with used and broken BBs, chances are that the BBs will either explode in the magazine well, ricochet around in the barrel, or simply break up and jam your gun.  

BBs Come in Different Shapes and Weights

 Airsoft BBs come in different colors and weights. You have your 6mm and 8mm variations as well as .12g and .20g weights. Why should you be concerned about this? Well, if you’re planning on scavenging for expelled BBs, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference by sight alone. Equally difficult is determining the weight of the BBs by feel alone.  Using the wrong weight or caliber in your Airsoft gun is disastrous in that it reduces your gun’s accuracy. At the same time, your gun wears down quicker. If you’re going to recycle BBs, make a point of budgeting for a new gun every so often because you’ll run through them quicker than a hot knife cutting through butter. Those are the major reasons why you should never reuse BBs, even when folks tell you there are ways to safely recycling Airsoft BBs. In fact, let’s take a look at some common, though misleading, myths encouraging reuse of BBs.  

You Can’t Reuse BBs Even with the Right Target Set Up

 You’ll meet folks out there swearing that the right target makes it right to reuse BBs. They’ll tell you that using the right material for Airsoft targets keeps BBs from deforming or shattering on impact. How true is this? Can a cardboard box keep BBs from shattering or developing cracks? A little rudimentary physics should help clear things up.  Most Airsoft guns, with muzzle velocities of more than 90 m/s will shoot clean through a cardboard box. Since a target that lets projectiles go clean through isn’t the best for BB recycling, folks always say you should have several cardboard box layers to trap pellets.  What they probably don’t know is, having BBs strike several layers of cardboard boxes is pretty much like shooting at a concrete wall. The more layers of cardboard you have on your target, the harder it gets. On such a target, BBs are no longer striking a soft, cushy surface. Rather, they’re trying to punch through a wall, which inevitable disfigures them and makes them unfit for reuse.  

You can make a target that allows you to harvest and reuse BBs though, although that means you’re going to run into operational issues with your Airsoft gun. A blanket sandwiched between two cardboard boxes is your best option for preserving the shape and structure of your BBs. It is not a guarantee, but you’ll collect dozens of BBs in good condition. It’s not guaranteed that the collected BBs will be fit for reuse though. 

The Only Safe Way to Reuse Airsoft BBs

 If you can’t stand the site of the thousands of BBs littering the environment after a battle and you’re looking for acceptable ways to reuse them, cramming them in mines and other nifty booby traps are the best option.  Unlike Airsoft guns, mines and booby traps have a pretty study operational mechanism. They’re not too finicky about deformed BBs so reusing BBs on them has little effect on performance. Mines expel BBs through a spring mechanism that propels BBs outwards when triggered making them the best candidate for recycled BBs.  If you’re yet to add mines to your gear, home-made booby traps are excellent alternatives. Most of these booby traps are easy to make with everyday materials. With a mouse trap, some duct tape, and a disposable coffee cup, you can make a pretty effective and reusable booby trap for all those BBs you’ll collect.  

Things to Remember If You’re Going to Reuse BBs

 If you must reuse BBs, make sure they go into your booby traps or mines. Spent BBs are almost always damaged. Wash all recycled BBs in water to clear debris and dirt, check for any visible damage, and mark them as reused BBs. In fact, always make a point of washing all your BBs, whether new or used. Washing removes any residue from the manufacturing process that might have otherwise caused your gun to jam.  To wrap things up, never reuse BBs in your Airsoft gun. They’ll probably wreck it, and the time you’ll spend collecting individual BBs is simply not economical. For a few dollars, you can get a bag with tens of thousands of perfectly functioning BBs. Why put yourself through the hustle of collecting, cleaning, measuring BBs for reuse only to end up hoping that your gun doesn’t jam during a battle? It’s simply not worth it.