Gel Blasters vs. Paintball Guns: The Differences Explained


Paintball guns; most of us already know what it is and how fun this sport can get. But there’s another similar toy firearm that has grown in popularity called gel blaster. Now, you’re probably wondering how these two toy firearms compare, right?

Some of gel blasters and paintball guns’ differences are ammunition, firing mechanism, accuracy, range, and velocity. It’s illegal to use gel blasters in a field when paintball guns are in use. Gel blasters and paintball guns may have many similarities, but they’re very different from each other.

These may seem negligible, but each of these differences can change how you play CQB-style (Close Quarter Battle) shooting skirmishes. Stick around because we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about both of them. By the end of this article, you’ll have a very different perspective on using both.

What Is a Paintball Gun?

Paintball guns are exactly what the name suggests; toy guns capable of shooting paint-filled projectiles. They use expanding gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or compressed air capable of propelling bullets through the barrel. These gases are stored in tanks that these guns need to operate. It’s also the reason why paintball guns are very distinct from other toy guns that you can use for CQB-style shooting skirmishes.

It uses paintballs that break upon impact, leaving a mark on the target or areas where the bullet hits. In the early days, almost everyone calls these devices paintball guns—it’s a gun that uses air to shoot paint-filled projectiles, nothing more, nothing less. Over time, many areas start to call these devices paintball markers. There are two reasons for this shift in the naming convention:

  • Forestry personnel use them to mark certain spots, therefore calling them “markers.”

Whether you refer to them as paintball guns or paintball markers, it refers to the same thing—a device that can shoot projectiles.

It won’t take a lot of pressure for these paint-filled projectiles (paintballs) to break, but it’s still capable of causing injuries and bruises, especially when the bullet directly hits the skin. The damage that paintball guns can cause depends on various factors, including the distance, velocity, impact angle, and if the paintball breaks on impact.

Due to the varying degree of damages that it can cause, experts advise players to wear proper protective gear whenever they participate in this sport. Additionally, it’s not something that you should let your kids play with.

What Is a Gel Blaster?

YouTube: Accuracy and showcase of a gel blaster.

Gel blasters, sometimes referred to as gel-guns or hydro blasters, are toy guns capable of shooting super-absorbent polymer water beads. Instead of using expanding gas, it uses a battery-powered motor gearbox that shoots projectiles. You can also find some that use single-shot springs.

Gel blaster is a device that can shoot water pellets, making it relatively safe.

We can categorize it between airsoft and paintball guns when it comes to the safety of ammunition. Additionally, these guns’ power may vary from very weak (short distance targets) to strong enough for CQB-style shooting skirmishes.

The appearance of gel blasters varies, from looking very much like a toy to realistic designs comparable to real guns, including CZ Scorpion, Desert Eagle, Glock, HK 416, MP 5, Sig Square 226, Steyr Aug, USP, and more. However, if you prefer to have gel blasters that look like real guns, you’ll have to check existing laws regarding firearms possession before you start looking for retailers.

Some gel blasters come in clear plastic designs with metal components that require assembly. Some parts are also upgradeable to give the user better features, such as accuracy, firing distance, and velocity. Many people prefer this option because it gives them more room for customizing their toy guns. It’s also ideal for enthusiasts who want to play CQB-style games without OEM designs’ restrictions.

The beads you need for these toy guns are very small, but unlike paintballs, they’re not usable upon arrival. You still have to soak them in water for at least four hours or until they reach their full form (7-8mm).

Since it’s comparable to shooting water, it doesn’t cause as much damage. There’s also a limitation to the pressure output that gel blasters have due to these water beads’ fragility. Simply put, the stronger the gun gets, the more likely it is for the beads to break before it shoots. However, there are high-end gel blasters in the market that pack enough power to cause injuries.

Although getting hit by water beads doesn’t hurt as much as getting hit by paintballs, it’s still capable of causing injuries. That’s why, despite being a toy, there are certain restrictions in place for enthusiasts. Even if you’re using gel blasters, you still need to wear proper protective gear whenever you participate in shooting skirmishes.

Gel Blasters vs. Paintball Guns: The Comparison

Paintball guns and gel blasters — you can use both of them for CQB-style shooting skirmishes. In fact, paintball fields often host games for both toy firearms. Some people may think they’re similar, but there are very significant differences between them. These differences often dictate how you play the sport, the strategies you can use, and even determines the safety of using them.

Ammunition

The biggest difference between gel blasters and paintball guns is the ammunition. It’s so significant that it affects the other three differences that we’ll discuss below. We can also divide this into three parts: type, size and weight, and fragility.

Ammunition Type

Paintball and water beads are two very different ammunition types that require very different firing mechanisms. Paintball guns use paint-filled projectiles or paintballs, while gel blasters use super-absorbent beads or water beads.

Paintballs can withstand more pressure, they’re more expensive, and you can’t reuse the ammunition. Water beads are softer; mostly, made of water, and cheaper.

The typical cost for paintballs is around $40 to $75 for a 2000-round bag or $0.0225 per round. High-quality water beads only cost around $10 for 10,000 pieces or $0.001 per round. Although you can’t use water beads right away, that’s still 22.5 times cheaper!

gel blaster beads
That is how gel blaster water beads will look after they have been soaked in the water for a few hours.

Ammunition Size and Weight

Despite having different sizes for the ammunition, paintballs are still larger and heavier than what you’d get from water beads. The common size for paintballs is .68 caliber (17.3mm), but it can be anywhere from .43 caliber to .71 caliber (17mm to 18mm). Remember, these are paint-filled projectiles that should leave a mark large enough to be visible from a distance.

A .68 caliber paintball weighs 3.00 grams, while a .50 caliber only weighs 1.25 grams.

On the other hand, water beads are very small beads that you soak in water for hours to reach their full size. It can be anywhere from 7mm to 8mm, and is also lighter, weighing only 0.21 grams. Judging from the weight, it’ll require at least 15 times more power for paintballs to reach the same distance as gel blasters.

Ammunition Fragility

Finally, we have the fragility of ammunition or the force it’ll take to break the projectile. Paintballs require more force to break, and there are even some instances where the bullets don’t break even after contact. This durability makes it possible to have better firing mechanisms capable of shooting projectiles from a distance.

Water beads are very fragile, limiting the amount of pressure that these beads can take. It’s one of the reasons why gel blasters are generally weaker than paintball guns. However, it doesn’t necessarily make gel blasters less ideal for CQB-style shooting skirmishes. Remember, water beads are smaller and lighter, requiring less force to achieve the same velocity.

Firing Mechanism

The firing mechanism that we use for gel blasters differs from the one we use for paintball guns. Aside from the mechanism, it also determines the designs that we can have for these toy firearms. Gel blasters use a manual single-shot spring or automatic battery-powered gearbox. On the other hand, paintball guns have tanks filled with expanding gas that shoots projectiles.

If you compare both firing mechanisms’ raw power, we can say that paintball guns are stronger. After all, it’s using compressed air, creating more pressure to shoot projectiles, right? That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily make paintball guns stronger. Remember, they use much bigger and heavier ammunition; it’ll take a lot more force to shoot a 3-gram .68 caliber than a pellet that only measures 7mm and weighs 0.21 grams.

Aside from this, there are a lot of other things that you can do to upgrade both toy firearms. Gel blasters may be weaker out of the box, but with several upgradability options, it will be easy for anyone to improve the firing mechanism and its force. So, even if paintball guns have more power, it doesn’t make them stronger than gel blasters. 

Accuracy

When participating in CQB-style shooting skirmishes, you want to shoot accurately, or at least hit the target that you want to hit. Although there’s a huge difference between gel blasters and paintball guns’ accuracy, a more important factor that you’d have to consider is consistency.

Some players rely on their toy guns’ accuracy, but often, they hit their targets because they know where to point the gun to hit the target. So, if you want to participate in CQB skirmishes, you’d have to focus more on consistency—hitting the same targets at the same angle when shooting.

However, if we’re only talking about accuracy, there’s no doubt that paintball guns are more accurate (check here for the list of most accurate paintball guns), especially for short-range. Fortunately, most paintball guns are suitable for short to medium-range shooting, making them the perfect choice for shooting targets a few yards away.

On the other hand, gel blasters aren’t as accurate out of the box. Users may have to go through a learning curve to figure out where they should point the gun to hit their targets. The good thing about gel blasters is that you can easily customize and upgrade some of their parts to improve their accuracy. Aside from this, the pellets you use for gel blasters aren’t as expensive, so sometimes, it boils down to the quantity versus the quality of shots you take.

Range

The ideal range for gel blasters and paintball guns varies so much that you can’t use one against another.

In fact, it’s illegal to use gel blasters in a field with paintball guns and vice versa.

There’s so much difference in the range of both toy firearms that people use it as a deciding factor when choosing which sport they’d get into.

Short-range gel blasters can hit targets from 30 to 65 feet (9 to 20 meters), while high-end ones can hit targets up to 82 feet away (25 meters). On the other hand, average paintball guns have a range of 80 to 100 feet (24 meters to 30 meters). There are even high-end ones that can hit further targets.

Although there are options that will allow you to modify or upgrade your gel blasters, it’ll still be challenging to reach further distances because of the fragility of the ammunition that you’re using. If you’re aiming for a better range, your water beads may break before it even leaves the barrel, so you also need to be very careful when trying to upgrade it.

Velocity

There are two ways to measure toy firearms’ velocity: FPS (feet per second) or joules. FPS is a more common metric that we use because it measures the speed of the projectile. On the other hand, joules measures the force that the device generates to shoot bullets, making it a more accurate way of measuring velocity.

FPS depends on two factors: the force that the gun generates and the weight of the ammunition. It’s normal to see cheap paintball guns with high FPS and very expensive ones with lower FPS. One reason for it is the ammunition that it uses; the lighter the paintball, the less force it needs to reach a certain velocity. This variance is less with gel blasters because the water beads used for it are standard: 0.21 grams and 7-8mm in size.

Pistol gel blasters have anywhere between 100 to 150 FPS, while rifle blasters can go up to as high as 300 FPS. When it comes to paintball guns, the industry standard is 300 FPS. However, it’s important to note that FPS is a limitation and not a goal. It’s in place to keep the game safe for every player; a lower FPS doesn’t mean that you can’t participate in games with higher FPS.

Can You Shoot Paintballs Using Gel Blasters?

Yes, you can shoot paintball guns using gel blasters, but it doesn’t mean that you should. First, you’d have to find 7mm to 8mm paintballs. Although you can find stores selling paintballs of this size, it’s still not advisable to shoot them using gel blasters.

The second reason is that it’ll mess up your gun, maybe even permanently damage it. The firing mechanism of gel blasters is very different from paintball guns. So you may not be able to shoot projectiles properly, even if you have the right size.

Lastly, it’s illegal to use gel blasters in a field with people using paintball guns. It changes how you play the game and ruins the game for others. You can experiment on it at home, but I still wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Are Gel Blasters Safe?

One of the factors that contribute to the rise in popularity of gel blasters is safety. Compared to paintball guns, gel blasters are a lot safer for the following reasons:

  • They have lower velocity: As we’ve discussed, gel blasters are weaker than paintball guns and pose less danger to the user in the event of skin contact. Since you’re playing with people who are also using weaker toy firearms, it’s a much safer game to play.
  • Ammunitions are fragile: You’re shooting beads that are easy to break. Water beads are delicate, and stronger gel blasters can break them before they even go through the muzzle. It means that they have a lower probability of causing damage or injuries.
  • You’re shooting water beads: It’s comparable to using water blasters; how dangerous can it be? Although you’ll feel the impact of the beads hitting your skin, it breaks easily and doesn’t hurt as much as a direct hit from a paintball.

However, these things don’t mean that you can be careless when handling gel blasters. The ammunition you’re using is still too small that it can cause eye injury if you’re not wearing proper protective gear. So, even if they’re safer, you still need to be responsible enough when handling these toy firearms.

Conclusion

Paintball guns and gel blasters are toy firearms that you can use for CQB-style shooting skirmishes. Both can shoot projectiles from a distance, and both can be fun to play, but that’s where their similarities end.

There are significant differences between these two, and they can affect how you play. That’s why you can never play with those who are using gel blasters if you’re using paintball guns.

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