5 Differences Between Centerfire And Rimfire Ammo

Centerfire and Rimfire ammunition have their unique differences. In centerfire ammo, the center of the base casing is filled with primer. Centerfire ammunition is used in shotguns, handguns, and rifles. The majority of centerfire ammunition is reloadable. In comparison to centerfire ammo, Rimfire is smaller in size. In Rimfire ammo, the primer is contained in the rim of the ammunition casing.

You can only use it in low-pressure loads. You cannot reload rimfire cartridges. Rimfire and Centerfire are two types of primer ignition systems for ammunition cartridges.

The significant difference between a centerfire and a rimfire is within the firing mechanism and firing arrangement.

Shooting the ammo leaves an indentation mark on each bullet. You can tell the difference by seeing where the impact is left. In a centerfire, the mark is left in the center of the bullet, whereas in a rimfire, it is left at the five o’clock mark on the cartridge rim.

The patterns are used to distinguish a centerfire from a rimfire, but these marks can only be seen once the shots are fired.

Rimfire cartridges are dry and clean-cut. The firing pin hits the rim, which activates the propellant and primer, pushing the bullet out.

Centerfire cartridges are a bit more complex. They can be bought in two primary options – Centerfire Release Primer and Centerfire Boxer Primer. Even though the two look alike, the centerfire boxer primer is more expensive.

Rimfire ammo is used for short-range shooting. It is much more suitable for sports and hunting. On the other hand, Centerfire ammo is used for long-range shooting.

It is best used in self-defense. Police and Military also use centerfire ammo. Rimfire ammo is lightweight and provides more rounds, whereas Centrefire is much heavier.

It also offers fewer rounds than a rimfire. Rimfire is less likely to provide good speed and power. In comparison, Centrefire promises high speed and power. It is essential to consider these attributes when you are buying ammo.

Now that we have seen the primary difference between a centerfire and a rimfire, let’s dig deeper into its other aspects.

#1 Centerfire vs Rimfire: Cartridge

Centerfire vs Rimfire CartridgesIn rimfire ammo, the gun’s firing pin strikes the outer edge of the cartridge’s rim. It is where the ammunition gets its name from. The primer in centerfire ammunition is contained in the center of the cartridge.

That is why it is called centerfire ammo. The centerfire ammo can be reloaded and is much more reliable than rimfire ammo. Since the primer is located in the center, the centerfire ammo has a higher velocity than rimfire ammo.

The pre-assembled firearm ammo is known as a cartridge or around. Each cartridge comprises four parts – a metal case, first, propellant, and the bullet. People often confuse a bullet with a cartridge.

It is essential to know that they are not the same. A bullet is a part of a cartridge. The two words are not interchangeable.

Ensure you know the difference between the two before deciding to purchase ammunition. It is best to study all the aspects of a cartridge in detail before investing in it. Most people miss the minute mechanisms of a cartridge.

You can reload centerfire cartridges, thus decreasing the cost of a single round.

You cannot reload rimfire cartridges. You need to purchase new rounds each time you wish to use your rimfire firearm. Even though it is small, a cartridge is quite powerful. Manufacturers spend hours perfecting the mechanics of a cartridge.

It is responsible for the smooth trajectory and ballistics of a firearm.

The cartridge is the heart of a gun. You cannot shoot a gun without a well-designed cartridge. Most new-age firearms use centerfire ammo. Although it is more expensive than Rimfire, it is also more dependable.

The price will be high if you purchase brand new cartridges. Since Centrefire is reloadable, you can use the same ones. Centerfire ammo is highly advanced, so you cannot use it with older gun models.

Rimfire cartridges create less recoil. You can use it with antique or old-timey guns. Since it isn’t as advanced as Centerfire, Rimfire costs a lot less.

Rimfire is perfect for small games or target practice. Unlike Centerfire, Rimfire cannot be reloaded. Meaning, you need to purchase a new round every time you wish to use your gun. Rimfire also causes more firing problems than Centerfire. In a rimfire, the power is ignited when the pin of the firearm strikes the rim of the cartridge.

In comparison, the power in a centerfire is ignited when the rifle pin strikes the center or middle of the cartridge. The Rimfire was invented and used in 1845, whereas the Centrefire was invented and used in 1810.

The thickness of the cartridge walls of a rimfire is less. At the same time, the thickness of the cartridge walls in Centrefire is far more.

From a size perspective, Centrefire is larger, whereas the Rimfire is smaller. Rimfire provides more rounds, while its counterpart, the Centrefire, provides fewer rounds. Rimfire provides no recoil, whereas Centrefire does have a recoil.

Now that we have a clear picture of the centerfire and rimfire cartridges let’s move on to the ignition system.

#2 Centerfire vs Rimfire: Ignition System

Centerfire vs Rimfire: Ignition System

The critical difference between the Centerfire and the Rimfire is their ignition system. Both of them are primer-ignited cartridges. What sets them apart is how the firing pin ignites the primer.

In a centerfire cartridge, the firing pin strikes the center of the cartridge. The primer is then pressed into the casing. Whereas in a rimfire, the gun’s firing pin strikes the outer edge of the cartridge’s rim. This action ignites the gunpowder, propels the bullet down the barrel.

Rimfire is often found in a smaller caliber. The best examples are the .22 Long Rifle and .17 Hornady Magnum Rifle.

Beginners often use Rimfire. Entry-level firearm users use the Rimfire because it provides less recoil. It is easier for first-time users to use guns that provide less recoil. A centerfire provides more recoil and should only be used by advanced shooters.

The ignition system plays a vital role in pushing the bullet out of the barrel. The accuracy and design of Rimfire and Centerfire are what sets them apart.

Although both are equally good, one is used for short-range and hunting while the armed forces and police use the other.

Centerfire ammunition has two distinct ignition systems – a Berdan primer and a boxer primer.

There is a stark difference between the two. In a Berdan ignition system, the firing pin strikes the primer against a small metal projection, igniting an explosion. The tiny metal projection is called an anvil.

The anvil is absent in the boxer ignition system. In a boxer primer ignition system, the firing pin strikes the primer and propels the ignition through a hole in the center of the cartridge.

Compared to the Berdan ignition system, the boxer ignition is far less sophisticated. But advanced systems come at a price, which is why the Berdan ignition system is far more expensive than the boxer ignition system. Of course, the two are called ammunition and not an ignition system. The ignition system is a part of the entire cartridge, making the ammunition.

Even though both the ammo are sturdy, Centrefire is more reliable than Rimfire. It is also more expensive but much more durable. Rimfire is flimsy and is far less dependable. That is one of the reasons it costs less than Centerfire.

#3 Centerfire vs Rimfire: Primers

Centerfire vs Rimfire PrimersIn centerfire ammunition, the primer is set in the center of the base casing. Whereas in rimfire ammunition, the primer is located in the rim of the ammunition casing.

The device or chemical responsible for creating propellant combustion is known as a primer. The primer initiates combustion, which pushes the bullet out of the gun’s barrel.

The main job of a primer is to push the bullet out. The priming chemicals are integrated inside the cartridge’s case in rimfire ammo.

The case is specially made with a hollow rim. This concave rim provides space for the chemicals. The priming compound is created with a mixture of antimony sulfide, barium nitrate, lead styphnate, and other chemicals.

Each combination is designed with specific measurements of each chemical.

Different manufacturers use different types of chemicals in their primers. When this chemical compound is struck with great force, it creates heat and gas.

The wet raw priming mix is placed directly in the hollow rim cavity. The prime is held in its place by something known as binders. Rimfire and Centerfire primers have different chemical compositions. Rimfire primers have an additional component called a fractionator.

The job of the fractionator is to help ignition in the rimfire system. These fractionators are made of ground glass.

Primer mixes contain dangerous combinations of chemical compounds. They have to be handled cautiously.

Instead of moving the primer mix to the cartridge facilities, manufacturers bring the cartridges to where the primer mixes are created. It reduces the risk of combustion. Primer mixes are made with remote control. Adding water reduces the risk of spontaneous combustion or other adverse effects the primer mix might have.

The earliest known priming compound was introduced in 1806. The mixture contained mercury fulminate. This combination wasn’t prevalent and required additional enhancement. Over the years, primers for both Centerfire and Rimfire ammunition have been created with consistent research and development. They are highly combustible and ignite when hit with a lot of force.

#4 Centerfire vs Rimfire: Calibers 

Centerfire vs Rimfire CalibersRimfire ammo works best with .22 caliber rifles and .17 caliber rifles. The most commonly used in .22 short revolvers. Although Rimfire firearms are losing popularity, they are still preferred by a few old-timers.

First-time users should start with a .22 Long Rifle. It has less recoil and makes less noise. Beginners need a rifle that does not create massive recoil.

If you are an advanced firearm shooter, then a .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire will be perfect for you. You can also use the .22LR, but it provides flat shots. So, pick one that feels the best to you.

A.17 Hornady Mach 2 is smaller than a .22 Rifle but promises excellent strength and agility. It is not a very popular model but is preferred by a few people.

If you are looking to hunt small animals with a rimfire gun, then a .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire is perfect for you. It also aids in eradicating vermin infestation.

A rimfire is impressive, but the most widely used firearms are ones with Centerfire. Centerfires can be used in shotguns, pistols, rifles, and air rifles.

The most popular calibers in centerfires are .380, .40, .45, and 9mm. Centerfire ammo is stronger and far more dependable than Rimfire.

You can also use firearms with other calibers that can be used with centerfire ammo. The .357, the .44, .223 and .270. Nowadays, most modern guns use centerfire ammo, which is why you will find a wide array of guns with different calibers. 

#5 Centerfire vs Rimfire: Reliability

Centerfire vs Rimfire ReliabilityCenterfire ammo is far more reliable than Rimfire. Centerfire is a comparatively new type of ammunition. It is made with much more precision and accuracy.

Centrefire is sturdier and more stable when shot out of a gun barrel. Rimfire ammo, on the other hand, isn’t as reliable. It is old ammunition and isn’t as sophisticated as a centerfire.

Although perfect for a beginner, you must use rimfire ammo with caution. You must understand the risks of using a rimfire before using it.


Please note that the rimfire and centerfire ammo are not interchangeable. Make sure you read the instruction manual of your gun before inserting the right ammo.

Rimfire ammo will never fit into a centerfire firearm and vice versa. But in case you have managed to push the wrong ammo in the wrong gun, then it can cause a significant issue.

Firearms have to be handled with the utmost care, which is why it is essential to take guidance from an expert or do your research.

Old guns do not come with a manual; in this case, make sure to research online and get the correct information about your firearm.

If your gun is over a century old, chances are it is a rimfire. Centerfire guns were only created ten decades ago. So which ammo is perfect for you?

Well, most gun owners prefer using centerfire ammo, but if you are a beginner or want to practice shooting, then Rimfire is for you! 

Either way, make sure you choose the right ammo for the right gun and always be safe while using firearms. It is essential to understand the safety measures and use a firearm accordingly.

And the most important thing is to have fun with your gun!

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