A lot of criminal defense attorneys are often asked whether a person who is legally prohibited from owning/possession a firearm is allowed to still own/possess guns such as BB or Airsoft guns. The person asking either has (1) a felony conviction, (2) a conviction for some other misdemeanor offense which nevertheless disqualifies them from gun ownership/possession, (3) a 5150 hold on their record, or (4) was adjudicated to be a mentally disordered sex offender, the most common reasons for the government to deny firearms access.
To understand why people in any of the above categories can own/possess airsoft or BB guns one need only look to the language of the law which defines what, exactly, a “firearm” is. Penal Code 1625 defines a “firearm” as “a device, designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.” While Airsoft and BB guns are often intentionally designed to look just like real firearms—and thus appeal to children and adults alike—they fire pellets via gas, spring, or electrical systems, and thus are not firearms.
(All of that said, be aware San Francisco outlaws Airsoft guns entirely.)
Other relevant facts:
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