So, the thought may have crossed your mind — can I reuse my BBs?
After all, saving a little bit of money is always nice, and cleaning up stray bits of plastic will help reduce your ecological impact. But before you load up your magazine with a bunch of scavenged BBs — listen up.
So, are BBs reusable?
Pretty much, no.
Why not? Well, we’ll tell you. Here are some of the factors that affect a BB’s reusability.
When a BB is fired, it goes through a huge amount of pressure and stress, which can compromise its integrity, even if it looks fine on the outside. It’s a major bummer when a BB shatters in your gun, especially since it can screw up your gearbox and hop up, or damage your barrel and hurt your accuracy.
Not to mention, these BBs have already hit something, whether it’s a soft player or a hard barrier. They may not look it, but those BBs on the ground are probably toast.
Even if they look okay, plastic BBs may have internal cracks or microscopic damage that you can’t see. Don’t chance it.
BB Sizes and Weights
So, if you didn’t already know, airsoft BBs come in a variety of sizes and weights. Can you spot the differences between a 6mm and an 8mm BB while under fire? How about accurately judging the weight of a .12g BB versus a .20g BB?
We’re betting you can’t, because we can’t.
Different sizes and weights of BBs fire differently, and you can have some pretty significant issues if you use the wrong type for your gun. Just think about how bad it would be to put an overweight BB into your high FPS gun and actually hurt someone when you thought the shot was safe, all because you scavenged used BBs.
Dirt and Debris
Even if you’re playing indoors, the floor’s not clean. BBs can pick of dirt or debris, and transfer it into your magazine and the inner workings of your gun. Over time, this will lead to damage, jams, or other unhappy issues that you’ll need to shell out money to fix.
Some BBs are made of ABS plastic, a non-biodegradable plastic. Others are made of PLA plastic, which is biodegradable and will compost into the soil. These BBs are also somewhat water-soluble.
Biodegradable BBs can splinter or shatter more easily inside your gun, especially when reusing them. There’s also a chance you may pick up BBs that have already begun to decompose.
What Can I Do to Reuse BBs?
If you really want to reuse BBs, there are ways. Rather than using them in your gun, scavenged BBs are great for loading into grenades, claymores, and booby traps.
These devices don’t run the same risk of a bad BB damaging them, but they can get expensive to load up with brand new BBs each time you want to use one. When a single claymore can hold up to 700 BBs, you can definitely save a penny or two by reusing BBs.
You can also reuse your BBs after target practice by building a thickly padded target box to catch BBs. This can be done with little more than a thick pillow, a cardboard box, and a paper target to cover the opening of the box. As you shoot through the target, the pillow cushions and slows the BBs, which remain trapped inside the box for easy collection.
Some indoor arenas use old BBs to fill sandbags. After sweeping up the arena, old BBs are emptied into sacks, which can be used to build cover and obstacles–a great way to keep BBs out of the trash while also saving airsoft guns! Nothing says you can’t do the same with your old BBs, as well.
How Can I Reduce My Footprint?
There’s no denying that airsoft can be rough on the environment, especially outdoor fields. We’re learning a lot more about microplastics and how they affect the environment, and plastic airsoft BBs are certainly a great candidate for some serious litter.
If you’re worried about reducing your impact on the environment, you do have the option of using biodegradable BBs. Advancements in BB making have made PLA BBs virtually indistinguishable from ABS BBs with one exception–they break down in about 90 days under the right conditions and don’t leech harmful chemicals into the environment.
Most outdoor ranges already require you to use biodegradable BBs to play, which is great! They can cost slightly more than ABS BBs, but, since they’re already required by many fields, they’re well worth the investment.
And in case you were thinking about turning your ABS BBs into your local recycling center — don’t. They’re a class 7 plastic, and generally won’t be recycled since they can be difficult or release toxic chemicals. They’re just going to go to the landfill anyway, so see if you can come up with a better way to repurpose them, such as for target practice indoors or grenades.
To Wrap It Up
It’s important that we consider the environmental impact of airsoft, as well as the cost of purchasing consumables, such as batteries, gas canisters, and, of course, BBs.
While reusing BBs can seem like a great solution, be careful about how you choose to go about it. Your gun will thank you.
Have a favorite brand of biodegradable BBs? What about a hookup for low-cost BBs? Tell us all about it in the comments! For more on the different types of BB, check out our Guide.