How Do BB Guns Work

When it comes to understanding how BB guns work, let’s take a closer look at conventional guns first. The basic concept behind almost any firearm, whether it’s a pistol or a cannon, is to create a small explosion right behind a projectile that is positioned in a cylinder. This explosion is limited in its expansion because the edges of the cylinder are stronger than the force of expansion, preventing it from expanding in all directions. The only path available for expansion is down the cylinder, which is the barrel of the gun. If there is a projectile, such as a bullet, in its path, the expanding matter from the explosion will push the projectile forward as it travels down the barrel.

The principle behind BB guns is quite similar to that of firearms, but without the explosion. Instead, ordinary air, carbon dioxide, or some other gas is used as the expanding matter. Before firing the gun, the gas is compressed to a higher density and pressure than the air outside the gun. This compressed gas is stored in an airtight container until the trigger is pulled. Once the trigger is activated, the gas container opens, allowing the gas to flow into the barrel just behind the BB. Due to its higher compression, the gas behind the BB exerts greater force compared to the atmospheric air pushing in, propelling the BB forward at high speed. This principle applies to all gas-powered guns, including high-powered air rifles and paintball markers.

Various Designs of Air Guns

There are several different designs of air guns, primarily differing in the source of compressed air they use:

  1. Pneumatic Designs: In this type, a reservoir of compressed gas is built up manually by pumping air. The gun has a movable lever at the bottom that operates a small piston in a tube. Inside the tube, there is a check valve that allows air to flow in but not back out. With each pump, the amount of air in the reservoir increases, resulting in higher density and pressure as the volume remains constant.
  2. Spring Air Designs: This type of gun utilizes a spring mechanism. When the “pump” lever is pushed back, it compresses a spring located behind a small piston. As the piston slides back, it engages a latch called a sear, holding the piston in position and keeping the spring compressed. Pulling the trigger releases the sear, allowing the spring to expand rapidly, compressing the air in the chamber behind the BB and generating the pressure needed to propel it down the barrel.
  3. Pre-Compressed Air Designs: Some air guns store pre-compressed gas in cylinders, similar to the air in a scuba tank. To shoot the BB, the gun mechanism simply opens the pathway between this pre-compressed gas source and the chamber behind the BB or projectile. There are various designs that achieve this, including the “pump-action” design found in basic paintball guns.

Understanding How Electric Airsoft Guns Work

Although I’m not specifically familiar with BB guns, I can provide insights into how electric airsoft guns, which share similarities, function.

On an electric airsoft gun, also known as an Automatic Electric Gun (AEG), the trigger is connected to a battery. When the battery is powered, it activates an electric motor, which pulls back on a piston and spring mechanism. The magazine holds the BBs on a spring, feeding them into the gun. At the same time, the compressed air inside the cylinder, created by pulling the piston back against the spring, is released to shoot the BB out of the barrel.

In addition to the mechanical aspects, electric airsoft guns utilize a component called a hop-up. This hop-up applies spin to the BB by brushing it against a rubber piece, improving its stability and accuracy during flight.

The Genesis of Airsoft Guns and their Evolution

Airsoft guns have their origins primarily in East Asia, with Japan being the birthplace of airsoft in the 1970s. Initially, airsoft guns were powered by springs, which propelled 6 mm pellets, commonly known as BBs. However, as time progressed, these guns underwent modernization, leading to the development of electric airsoft guns.

Electric airsoft guns operate by harnessing the power of different components working in harmony to propel a BB through the barrel. Rechargeable battery packs provide the necessary power to an internal electric motor. The motor, in turn, drives the gearbox, compressing the spring responsible for launching the BBs.

Given the increasing popularity of electric airsoft guns, many enthusiasts are curious about the inner workings of these gun replicas. If you’re interested in understanding how electric airsoft guns function, read on as I delve into the details.

The Synergy of Energies in Electric Airsoft Guns

While airsoft guns share the common purpose of shooting BBs, they vary in terms of process and power. Rather than simply considering the act of shooting BBs, it’s crucial to understand the interplay between different energy types within an electric airsoft gun. This knowledge can be valuable in troubleshooting any issues that may arise.

Let’s explore the primary functions of each energy type involved in an airsoft gun:

  1. Electrical Energy: Electric airsoft guns utilize Lithium Polymer or Nickel-Metal batteries to deliver electric current and potential through an internal electrical circuit. These batteries power the motor and other electrical components of the gun.
  2. Mechanical Energy: Responsible for energizing the moving parts within airsoft guns. Gears and pistons play vital roles in the operation of the gun, necessitating the presence of mechanical energy.
  3. Pneumatic Energy: When the trigger is pulled, the electrical and mechanical energies come together to produce pneumatic energy. This energy revolves around the release of pressurized air when the piston propels forward from its cylinder, generating the force required to shoot a BB out of the nozzle.


Electric airsoft guns have revolutionized the airsoft industry, offering a more dynamic and efficient shooting experience. By harnessing electrical, mechanical, and pneumatic energies, these guns provide reliable power and performance on the field.

Understanding the inner workings of BB guns and electric airsoft guns can enhance your appreciation for the engineering behind these fascinating devices. Whether you’re a seasoned airsoft enthusiast or new to the world of airsoft, the knowledge of how these guns function adds depth to your shooting experience.

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