“Are Airsoft BBs Reusable” or “Should I reuse BBs” are probably fairly common questions with new Airsoft Players on a budget or those looking to clean up where they play.
To answer the question well, first, we’ll give a short breakdown of pellets for all of you who are unfamiliar with it. If you want to skip to the answer, use the table of contents below.
Since airsoft is a shooting sport, there are some consumable items involved. Regardless of the weapon type, whether that’s gas, electric or spring, all of them need ammo. Even those of you who don’t play Airsoft have probably seen some Airsoft BBs in the past. Airsoft BBs are always round, and almost always 6mm in diameter. However, they come in a variety of weights, colours and some posses special characteristics.
Different Airsoft BB Types
In terms of weight, the standard high-quality BBs for most AEGs is 0.2 g, and 0.25g are fairly common as well. Yellow BBs, usually included regularly with very cheap spring and low-power guns, are in most cases, 0.12g.
Most Regular BBs you will see on the field are white, and you may encounter tracers, markers, or non-traceable BBs.
Tracers are glow-in-the-dark BBs which get charged by a device built into the gun and glow on their way to the target.
Markers, however, are BBs coated in a powder that leaves a mark once it hits a hard surface.
Non-traceable BBs are usually just dark-coloured BBs which make spotting their origin, i.e. the shooter’s position.
Biodegradable BBs are just what the name suggests. They are designed to be broken down by the environment, and after a certain period, leave no trace on the field. Usually, they start degrading upon contact with water or sunlight. Studies have shown that, on average, they degrade fully within about one to two years, with the faster degrading BBs usually being a bit more expensive.
Non-degradable BBs are the traditional/original airsoft BBs. Nowadays, many fields require only biodegradable are used, but that wasn’t always the case. The problem with non-degradable BBs is that they can linger in the environment for decades and even centuries. This is not common, as most of us are aware of the slow decomposition rate of plastics.
Can you reuse Airsoft BBs?
The short answer is, you can, but you really shouldn’t. Whatever your motivation is, you need to consider the possible implications reusing already fired BBs can have on your weapon.
Regardless if you’re looking to save a few bucks by reusing ammo collected on the field, or if you’re environmentally conscious, there are plenty of things that can go wrong if you load the BB in for a second round.
Here are some things you should really consider:
Grime, Dust and Dirt can do real damage
Even if you already have a bucket of “perfectly intact” used BBs, it’s usually the small things your eye can’t see that will get your gun in the end. Even though the BB might appear perfectly fine and undamaged, some of them will have very small cracks and dents that keep dirt. Sure, one slightly dirty BB won’t hurt, but after a couple of thousand rounds pass through, it’s more than likely that a fair few will deposit all that dirt into your gun’s internals, and cause jams and sometimes even irreparable damage.
Due to the mentioned dents and grazes, used BBs are also less accurate. And no, washing them won’t help you either. Why? Well…
Cracked and Damaged BBs
If dirt doesn’t do the job, one slightly cracked BB just might. Airsoft BBs go through a fair amount of stress when fired, and even more when they hit a hard surface. As a result, BBs can slightly or completely crack, shatter, or weaken easily. Even though a BB may appear to be fine on the outside, it can be damaged and weakened both externally and internally, meaning you might not know until one finally breaks in the gun when you try to reuse it. This could lead to jamming in the best case, and hop-up system damage and even inner barrel damage in the worst-case scenario. In addition to the mentioned scenarios, a BB could also outright shatter in the weapon, which can also lead to serious irreparable damage.
Naturally, high-quality BBs will be more resistant to damage than very cheap low-quality ones, but neither of them are meant to be reused.
Using the wrong BB type
Another important point to consider is that, as mentioned, Airsoft BBs come in different weights.
Even though the vast majority of Airsoft Guns and BBs are 6mm, the recommended BB weight will depend on the weapon you are using. High FPS long-range weapons (such as snipers) achieve the best performance with 0.25 g BBs or even heavier ones. This is because the higher weight improves accuracy, and since the weapon is powerful enough, range is not an issue. On the other hand, cheaper, low-power guns for backyard games will usually use very light 0.12g BBs.
In conclusion, different weight BBs most likely will not break your gun. However, it’s just another small reason to avoid reusing fired BBs, while the main concern still is that you will end up damaging your weapon, maybe even beyond repair.
Now, to sum it up.
Should you reuse Airsoft BBs?
No, you most definitely should not. Even though you technically can reuse BBs, the dangers far outweigh the small savings you might get if you cut back a bit on buying new BBs.
Here are some ways to get similar benefits without the need to reuse spent ammo and potentially break your gun.
First of all, if your main concern is leaving the field cleaner than you found it, biodegradable BBs are the way to go. Sure, it does take from a few months to two years for the BBs to completely disintegrate, but compared to regular plastic BBs, it’s still a few centuries less.
This is especially true since cleaning up BBs on a field is not very convenient or practical. Thousands of BBs are fired every game, which would take hours, if not days to clean up completely. Cost is also not much of an issue, as biodegradable BBs are not all that much more expensive compared to regular ones. As already mentioned, the cheaper ones may decay a bit slower, but it’s still much better than non-degradable ones. That being said, do make sure to go for a solid quality, accurate BB, as your gun is only as accurate and reliable as the ammo you’re using.
Recycling a BB
Well, even though it might be possible in a lot of cases, it depends on the actual makeup of the BB you are using. Most non-degradable BBs are made from a plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). The thing is, this is not the usual plastic that’s used for things like plastic bottles. For example, plastic bottles are are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which means you can’t just go and dispose of them with your usual plastic waste.
There are some recycling centers which take ABS plastic as well, since they are used for other common items such as Lego bricks or certain car dashes. However, this makes it pretty unconvenient, as you would need to go out of your way and look for one, and as mentioned, those BBs are not going to collect themselves.
Therefore, the best and most convenient eco-friendly solution is to use biodegradable BBs instead of trying to clean up.
If you were looking to reuse BBs in order to save some cash, you should think about looking at budget BBs instead of trying to “recycle”.
Unless you’re using a $10 spring airsoft gun, the potential damage reusing a BB can cause means you will not be saving any money in the long run.
Even though BBs may seem very durable and sturdy, this is no good reason to try and reuse them. They are made to be hard and durable because weak BBs could shatter on impact, and this is something manufacturers and players want to avoid. This does not mean they are meant to be shot, collected and reused. As already outlined above, reusing already used BBs can, and most likely will, cause damage to your guns’ internals or your magazine. It’s just a matter of time until you loaded a slightly cracked or shattered one.
As a result, risking damaging your Airsoft gun, which may cost hundreds of dollars, for a potential to save a few dollars on ammo is not a very wise decision. We hope that you will also take a look at our other Airsoft Tips and Airsoft Rules articles and treat your weapon well on the field!