Airsoft wouldn't be any fun without ammo! Players can go through anywhere between 100 and 3,000 BBs a day. Between sweepings, the floors in indoor arenas have these little plastic balls all over. Tracer BBs are often used in indoor fields, and there may be no restrictions on if you must use biodegradable.
However, when you visit an outdoor arena, you will find that they usually require biodegradable BBs. With all these BBs everywhere, and with the variety at hand, you may find yourself asking what are these Airsoft BBs made of.
Biodegradable Airsoft BBs are made from polylactide (PLA). Non-biodegradable Airsoft BBs are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).
As these 2 types of BBs are made of different materials, you may be wondering if there is any difference in performance. These different BBs have uses they are best suited for, so let’s delve into when and where you should use them!
Non-biodegradable BBs used to be the standard BB used for airsoft. These are made from ABS, meaning they are incredibly cheap to produce.
Most of us all come into contact with items made of ABS every day. Computer components, car parts, protective equipment, appliances, and toys are made with ABS. Because ABS is petroleum-based and non-biodegradable, it is considered to be toxic. (GameFace Premier Amo, find on Amazon)
This toxicity is why proper ventilation is needed when forming these plastic BBs (or printing, for those who are into 3D printing). With modern manufacturing, the vast majority of these BBs are “seamless.”
Being seamless is the result of injection molding, allowing for a smooth spherical surface. These spheres are then usually polished to set their sizes within a specified tolerance. (GameFace Crosman, Ammo, 12g, find on Amazon)
Over time, the impact these BBs have on the environment started to become more apparent. As these are non-biodegradable, they can stay on the field for countless years.
For areas only open three days out of the week, the amount of BBs players can leave on the ground can be staggering.
For those open more, the amount of waste is only magnified. The effects it has on the environment is why indoor areas are some of the only fields allowing the use of ABS BBs.
The rise of biodegradable BBs has helped bring the cost down. Although they are still more expensive than their non-biodegradable counterparts, the price is usually not a big concern for players. (MetalTac Airsoft Bio-Degradable .20b BBS)
Biodegradable BBs are made of PLA, which uses various renewable materials in manufacturing. A few of these renewable materials include sugar cane and corn starch!
In addition to the PLA, biodegradable BBs typically use some sort of binder. With most BBs, the binder generally refers to a barium sulfate powder. Due to their biodegradable nature, the community can take solace because these typically break down within a year. (Elite Force Premium Biodegradable .20g BBS)
Depending on the environmental conditions, biodegradable BBs can break down in as little as seven weeks. This amount of time is magnitudes smaller than non-biodegradable BBs, which have been found to leave small traces in almost a decade of breaking down.
While biodegradable BBs are generally more expensive, prices vary on brand and weight. You may find biodegradable that are sold 60% more than their non-biodegradable counterparts. (GameFace Biodegradable White BBs)
However, most brands tend to sell their own biodegradable BBs for 5% - 30% more than their non-biodegradable BBs. Buying in bulk helps offset this cost, and brands such as G&G, BLS, EMG, and HPA all offer good BBs with varying weights and counts.
Tracer BBs can be either biodegradable or non-biodegradable. These deserve their own category because they include one more material when being manufactured. (AceTech Glow in the Dark Tracer BBS)
Tracer BBs are coated in phosphor, which gives it the bright green glow. To be "activated," the tracer BBs must pass through the tracer unit to work. This tracer unit may be in the form of a faux suppressor or a unit inside the magazine.
The tracer unit flashes the BBs, exciting the phosphor coating and giving it its luminescence. Tracer BBs also have a variety of weights offered. (BioShot Biodegradable Green Tracer BBS)
These BBs come in .2g to .32g weights, but their cost is noticeably higher. Where biodegradable BBs cost 5% - 30% higher than non-biodegradable, tracer BBs cost 60% - 80% higher than non-tracer ammo.
Since biodegradable BBs are made with different weights than non-biodegradable BBs, some may question if the performance is the same. Thankfully, there is no downside to using biodegradable BBs over non-biodegradable when it comes to performance. (GameFace .25g Max Precision Heavy Weight BBS)
If you compare a .28g G&G biodegradable BB with a .28g G&G non-biodegradable BB, you’ll see no difference in accuracy or range.
When it comes to getting great consistency and range, the gun is just as crucial as the type of BB you are using. Suppose your weapon has good compression and an excellent hopup setup.
In that case, your BB weight choice will come down to the environment you are playing in. For those playing indoors, heavier BBs are not necessary.
Seeing as heavier BBs are more expensive, most players choose .2g or .25g BBs indoors. While playing outdoors, wind becomes a significant factor in getting accurate shots. (Elite Force Premium Biodegradable .32g BBS)
Air interference is why heavier BBs, such as those ranging from .28g to .32g, are more popular for outdoors. (Elite Force, Premium .32g Airsoft BB)
Thankfully, all these weights offer biodegradable and non-biodegradable options.
Non-biodegradable airsoft BBs are still a viable option when playing indoors. Although, if you are buying in bulk, there's no harm in using biodegradable indoors! Biodegradable BBs are not only a responsible choice for playing outdoors but a required one for most fields.
Whether you are playing at night or indoors, there are thankfully options for tracer BBs as well.
Rest assured, no matter if you are shooting with PLA or ABS; your performance will not diminish. So go out there and remember to call your hits!