What Are Airsoft BBs?

What are Airsoft BBs?

Airsoft BBs, also called Airsoft pellets, are plastic projectiles that are shot using Airsoft guns. They are spherical in shape and measure either 6mm or 8mm in diameter depending on the brand.
The weight of the pellets ranges between 0.12 and 0.40 grams. That being said, you will often see them weighing 0.12, 0.20, 0.25, 0.28, 0.30, or 0.40 grams and each weight class has its intended use.

Technically not BBs?

When people call them Airsoft “BBs”, that’s actually a misnomer because a BB sphere is a whole different kind of pellet.
A BB is a ball projectile usually made of lead or steel (coated with zinc or copper for protection against corrosion) to be used in a BB gun. So, right off the bat, they are made of different materials and shot from different guns.
A BB shot measures 4.3mm or 4.44mm. It weighs 0.33 to 0.35 grams if it is made of steel and 0.48 to 0.50 grams for the lead ones (although lead BBs tend to be larger in diameter than those made with steel). As you can see, actual BBs are smaller but heavier because they are made of metal while Airsoft “BBs” are made of plastic.
Although the calling them Airsoft BBs is technically incorrect, you can use the term because it is actually quite popular. If using an incorrect term bothers you, just refer to them as Airsoft pellets.

What are Airsoft BBs made of

As we’ve already mentioned, Airsoft BBs are mostly plastic but they are sometimes made from other materials. Here are some common materials:

ABS Plastic
Plastic is the most commonly used material. During the manufacturing process, the molten plastic is poured into a mold before it is later polished to give the perfect shape and texture. The core is petroleum based and the casing is made using ABS plastic.
For the standard Airsoft BBs, the plastic used is non-degradable.

PLA Plastic
This material is used to make biodegradable pellets. They are commonly used at outdoor shooting activities where littering would be undesirable because they degrade quickly naturally. They can even dissolve in water.

Ceramic
Ceramic BBs are made in the laboratory by growing crystals to form complex lattices that can be machined to match the required parameters.
As you can imagine, the complex manufacturing process makes them more expensive than ordinary plastic airsoft pellets.
Ceramic or porcelain BBs are heavier and denser than polymer BBs and should, therefore, not be shot at other players, particularly at close range. They can penetrate normal eye protection gear and also pierce the skin and cause fractures.

Silica
It is used to make marker pellets. It is denser and harder than plastic. It breaks a glass and perforates the eye-protective gear. For safety reasons, you should avoid shooting at your opponent’s exposed skin or head.

Types of Airsoft BBs

There are many types of ammo:

Standard
These are the normal plastic pellets we have already covered. They have a petroleum-based center encased in ABS plastic.
They can take as long as hundreds of years to decompose which explains their non-biodegradable label. They also have no special features. They are not environmentally friendly and are thus restricted to indoor use. This brings us to the next kind of Airsoft pellets:

Biodegradable
Biodegradable ammo is the nature-friendly alternative to the ABS plastic pellets. They are made from PLA plastic which is sourced from natural products like corn products and starches.
They decompose on their own rather quickly making them ideal for outdoor activities. In fact, many outdoor fields will only let you use these BBs because they won’t cause a littering menace.
PLA plastic can dissolve in water and it degrades into carbon dioxide and water when left in the open. In a recycling plant, it can be broken down faster in 47 to 90 days. Within this group of BBs, there are high-quality pellets and some not-so-high-quality ones. The better BBs are compostable while the low-quality ones take longer to degrade.
Top brands making the standard pellets usually have a biodegradable alternative. It is more expensive but when you buy it, you play your part in conserving the environment.

Marking Airsoft BBs
Marking BBs are coated in colorful powder to leave a mark when they strike a surface.
They are customarily used to test the accuracy of an Airsoft gun. Some people use the ammo during competitions to make it easier for referees to call “dead” players.
The caveat to using them during competitions is that the powder can be wiped off easily which beats their purpose (cheaters can just wipe off the powder instantly).
The more legitimate concern with regards to marking pellets is the fact that they can jam the gun with consistent use. Think about it; with every shot you take, a little powder scrapes off in the barrel as it goes out. After a couple more shots, the powder deposit will start building up in your gun’s barrel or storage unit. If you don’t clean it out, it will clog up the gun and jam it.
Finally, referencing what we mentioned earlier, this type of pellet is made of silica which is relatively injurious. Professional events don’t allow it because it can break the glass and breach eye protection gear.

Tracer
Tracer pellets are also referred to as glow-in-the-dark pellets because they emit light during flight. To light up the ammo, the Airsoft gun is fitted with a tracer unit inside the hop-up unit or magazine. Alternatively, it can be disguised as the suppressor.
Tracer pellets are commonly used during events played out in the dark. They enable you to see where you are shooting, but the obvious downside is that your opponent will also spot you easily.

Non-Traceable
While normal pellets are usually brightly colored, the non-traceable ones are dark-colored to mask their trajectory. When you shoot your opponent with these pellets, they will not spot you quickly because they cannot trace you easily. This ammo is suited to sniper events or stealth missions.
The disadvantage of using them is that you will also have a hard time tracking your shots. On top of that, if your opponent lacks integrity, they may refuse to call a shot.

Metal
Some people use BBs meant for BB guns in their Airsoft guns. Such use is discouraged because the metal BBs cause injury and can damage your Airsoft gun.

Weight Classifications

As I mentioned before, the pellets come in different weight categories. The standard weight groups range from 0.11 grams to 0.99 grams. Bear in mind that the normal Airsoft guns can only use pellets weight up to 0.4 grams; beyond that, you need specialized equipment or actual BB guns.
The most common Airsoft BB weight classes are:

0.12 grams
They are the lightest of the lot. They are fired using spring guns and AEGs. You can use them to prank your friends and have a bit of fun. They are inappropriate for competitive action because they have very bad accuracy – the low weight shortens their range because it makes them susceptible to air resistance and gravity.

0.20 grams
Since they are slightly heavier than the .12 pellets, they have a longer range and better accuracy. They are most commonly used in indoor events for close to mid-range shooting. They work with most Airsoft guns.

0.23-0.25 grams
These pellets are better suited to outdoor activities because they can withstand the physical conditions and provide you with a proper range. You will need upgraded Gas guns and AEGs to shoot these. Snipers frequently go with the 0.25s for shorter ranges.

0.28-0.36 grams
Now we are in the heavy-pellet territory. You will see snipers using these because they are deadly accurate and have a respectable range. They are fired from modified AEGs that can provide enough thrust.

0.40 grams
Advanced snipers start at 0.36 grams and do up to 0.40 grams. You need expensive and advanced Airsoft gear to fire these pellets.

0.43 grams and above
These BBs are not normally fired using Airsoft guns because the weight is too much. Besides, they can cause injuries.

Pro tips to using Airsoft BBs

1. Always buy high-quality BBs
Low-quality pellets usually have defects arising from the manufacturing process. The imperfections affect the accuracy of your shots and when the material is weak, it is prone to breaking down in your gun; thus making it jam.
Low-quality pellets also shatter on impact and the shards can penetrate your opponent’s skin and eyes causing injuries.

2. Always test for quality
To know whether your pellets will potentially shatter on impact and injure someone, you can test your batch. Take out a few pellets as a sample and place them between two towels. Then strike them with a hammer. If they are good enough, they will withstand a great deal of pressure before they give in. And when they break, they will do so cleanly without disintegrating into many pieces.

3. Wash your pellets before use
It may seem unnecessary but washing can remove the residue left on the surface during manufacture. This residue tends to build up in your gun and may cause it to jam.

4. Store Biodegradable BBs in a cool dry place away from sunlight
That right there sounds like a line you see on chemical labels but it also applies to these pellets. The main idea is to keep them away from conditions that can degrade them over time. This ties in with the next tip…

5. Do not buy excess pellets if they are biodegradable if you can’t store them right
Quite self-explanatory

6. Do not reuse your pellets
Even when you are using high-quality pellets, do not reuse them even when they look fine on the surface. This is because the initial impact will have taken its toll on the structural integrity of the pellets; they may be deformed subtly thus affecting your accuracy or they may have become weaker and be more likely to shatter when you shoot them again.