A Dummy Guide to BB Guns

If you’re looking for something fun to toy around with and you’re into action and adventure, then you may be interested to check out a BB gun. BB guns offer the closest experience to firing real weapons and this means they can make great ornaments or be used in a number of fun activities.

But what exactly is a BB gun? What are the different types? How safe are they? Let’s find out!

What is a BB Gun?
A BB gun is a toy that is fun for children but which can still be dangerous. The letters ‘BB’ in this case don’t actually ‘stand’ for anything (and certainly not ball-bearing as is often assumed to be the case). Rather ‘bb’ simple refers to the size of the shot, which is somewhere between a ‘b’ and a ‘bbb’.

A BB gun is something that shoots rounds of pointed pellets made of metal in most cases. This can be used for hunting birds, or just for practicing your aim and your shot. BB guns are also sometimes sold as ‘toys’ for younger children who want to practice their aim. The Red Ryder 1938 is a very famous example of this.

BB guns are usually powered by gas. Here, the gas builds up to a particular pressure and then propels the pellet forward. In other cases, BB guns can be powered by motors (which push the pellet through) or by spring loaded mechanisms. There is no gun power and no ‘explosion’ unlike what you would find with a real gun and this makes them significantly safer.

Airsoft Guns, BB Guns and the Confusion
The term ‘BB gun’ does not really refer to toys then, seeing as these are sharp metal pellets that can actually do a lot of damage. However, there are some BB guns that are sold explicitly as toys and the term is often used quite broadly. It’s important to make sure you get the right type of gun for the use case scenario you’re considering!

Airsoft guns meanwhile are guns that are operate like BB guns. However, while BB guns are usually generic rifles and pistols, airsoft guns are designed to mimic real-world weapons as closely as possible. That means they look an awful lot like replicas of real weapons and usually involve the same steps to load, take apart and fire. This makes them very popular among hobbyists who want to build a large collection but also useful for the military and special forces who can use them in training exercises.

Airsoft guns use plastic pellets and are designed to be used in training exercises. Thus they are technically ‘safer’ though many parents wouldn’t feel happy giving such life-like weapons to children or as a toy.

Uses and Power
If you’re interested in military paraphernalia and want a great collection of life-like guns to display in a cabinet, then airsoft is the best option. Likewise, if you want to take part in group activities or start training for service, then airsoft can also be a great choice.

BB guns meanwhile can be useful for hunting birds and if you want something with a little more kick. Use should involve tight safety measures and caution. Toy BB guns on the other hand can be appropriate for a broader range of people. Make sure to do your research and find the right type of gun for your intended use. Note that the power of an air weapon is denoted by its ‘muzzle energy’. Anything with muzzle energies over 6 foot pounds are considered prohibited weapons.


David is an expert on BB Guns and is passionate about helping how BB Guns work. He regularly writes for Skirmish, airsoft and BB guns websites and is a key writer for onlybbguns.co.uk, a company that sells BB Guns and Airsoft BB.

2 thoughts on “A Dummy Guide to BB Guns

  1. I always thought a BB gun shot actual BBs, round pellets.
    The article describes “sharp metal pellets” which I always associated with pellet guns, usually .17 or .22 caliber.
    Have I been wrong, and are BB guns and pellet guns collectively called BB guns?

  2. That wasn’t really much of a guide. I just ‘inherited’ 2 bb guns and know nothing about them. After over 3 straight hours of articles like this, I now know that one is ‘break action’, and I don’t really know what that means either. If you ever get really bored, maybe an article on the different types of bb guns and how to identify each would be an idea. Maybe the “Dumber-Than-Dummy’s Guide to BB Guns”.

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