Rimfire vs Centerfire Ammunition: Key Differences

Regardless of the gun that you use for practice, you will have to select the correct type of ammunition at one time or another.

Experts will also tell you that the ammunition type can make or break your experience with your firearm. Rimfire ammunition and Centerfire ammunition are two major ammo types you would have come across and chosen from.

If you are new to guns, ammunition, and management, the rimfire-vs-centerfire debate may confuse you a little. However, at the very core, the concepts behind rimfire and centerfire ammunition are straightforward for the most part.

We have explained the key differences between rimfire and centerfire ammunition in the following guide. Therefore, before you make your final purchase, you can know which ammo type suits you.

Is Rimfire or Centerfire Better?

As you can guess, we cannot say one of these cartridge priming methods is always better than the other.

Since the first use in the gun-manufacturing industry, both Rimfire and Centerfire ammunition have had their advantages and disadvantages. Rimfire cartridges were introduced early, and centerfire cartridges followed suit.

Even though the industry saw the rise of many other cartridge priming technologies in later years, none could beat these two priming methods’ efficiency. It is worth noting that the first models of rimfire and centerfire ammunition were seen in the nineteenth century, which says a lot about its age.

Even in 2021, gun enthusiasts have to talk about these priming methods, you know. More importantly, they have to understand which one is more suited. Now, as to which ammunition type is the right choice, the honest answer depends on the kind of gun you use and the kind of gun owner you are.

We will go through the common advantages and disadvantages of rimfire and centerfire ammunition in the following parts of this guide. We hope you can make an informed decision about this topic by then.

The History behind Rimfire and Centerfire

We will now look at the historical journey of the rimfire and centerfire cartridge priming methods.

Rimfire Ammunition

Rimfire ammunition refers to the type of firearm cartridges that would place the primer in a circumferential rim at the bottom part of the casing. When you fire the gun, its firing pin will contact the rim of the cartridge base.

This contact will engage the primer, leading to the release of the projectile. If we look at the history, rimfire ammunition goes back to 1845, when Louis-Nicolas Flobert invented the priming tech. .22 BB Cap, also known as the 6mm Flobert, was the first cartridge to use the rimfire method. Over time, we saw the rise of more powerful rimfire cartridges.

For instance, the American Civil War had used rimfire ammo in weapons like the Spencer repeating rifle and the Frank Wesson carbine. Since the early 2000s, the market included a few powerful rimfire cartridges that do not cost a fortune.

Centerfire Ammunition

Centerfire ammunition refers to the type of firearm cartridges that place the primer in a separate container at the center part of the casing. When you fire the gun, its firing pin will strike at the middle of the cartridge, thereby releasing the power.

Because of the extra space it uses, centerfire ammunition casings are relatively more significant. Jean Samuel Pauly is known as the person behind centerfire ammunition, which happened between 1808 and 1812. Since then, different people have come up with their versions of centerfire ammunition. Most of these models retained the primary designs while improving efficiency.

By the way, we also have different types of centerfire ammunition. Because they contain a variety of components, centerfire ammunition is relatively expensive. Nowadays, many handguns, shotguns, and rifles use centerfire ammunition.

As you can see, both rimfire ammunition and centerfire ammunition had their start at a similar time. More importantly, these two cartridge priming methods managed to stand the test of time. When you think about it, you can take rimfire/centerfire ammunition from the nineteenth century and another from the twenty-first century and spot many similarities.

It is safe to say that the technology has kept itself impressive enough. However, the differences between rimfire and centerfire ammunition are not ignorable.

Cartridge Differences

The most efficient way to understand the difference between rimfire and centerfire ammunition is to look at the cartridge.

You can see that these ammunitions use a different kind of design for the cartridges. As you can guess, the design will impact the overall performance of the priming method.

In the case of rimfire ammunition, cartridges can be relatively thinner. As we mentioned earlier, the system wants the firing pin to strike on the bottom part of the cartridge. It will start the explosion, which sets off the projectile, which is, in this case, the bullet. Rimfire ammunition keeps the primer at the bottom part, and it takes up a considerable amount of space as well.

In the case of centerfire ammunition, cartridges can be very thick in some instances. It places the primer in the middle of the cartridge, and there is a container that receives the strike from the firing pin. Unlike rimfire ammunition, centerfire ammunition does not place the primer close to the casing. The use of a separate container improves the performance by a long shot.

As a result, there are a few differences between the appearance of centerfire and rimfire.

Appearance of Centerfire and Rimfire

The noticeable differences in rimfire vs. centerfire appearance are as follows.

Let’s take the case of rimfire cartridges first. Their design leaves enough space inside the rim. It needs to happen because the manufacturer has to keep the primer within the rim at the bottom part. Manufacturers may use a centrifuge or mechanical equipment to spin the cartridge and reorganize the primer into space to provide the expected performance.

However, because all these designs are within the case, the rimfire ammunition looks very compact and thin. You can use the terms slim and compact to characterize rimfire ammo on a holistic note.

On the other hand, centerfire cartridges can be huge and expansive at times. This design change occurs because the cartridge needs to place a separate container at the center. This separate container would be the place where you see the primer.

The construction of centerfire ammunition is relatively simple since the containers can be placed inside the cartridge and the propellent charge added later. As a result of the design, you can spot noticeable protrusions on the base part of the cartridge.

As opposed to rimfire cartridges, the bullets on centerfire cartridges stay in the topmost position.

Long story short, looking at the bottom part of the cartridge is the easiest way to tell centerfire and rimfire ammunition apart.

Different Ignition Systems

If you have noticed, the core designs of rimfire and centerfire ammunition remain the same. Of course, the designs are slightly different, but the way a bullet is fired is different. We will now look at the ignition systems found on these two ammunition types.

Note: You can understand why rimfire ammunition and centerfire ammunition got their names by looking at how the ignition works. The idea here is to understand where the firing pin hits to create fire, releasing the projectile.

In rimfire ammunition, the firing pin will hit the cartridge’s rim. Since the cartridge base is filled with the primer, this would ignite the firepower, thereby releasing the projectile. This chain reaction would lead to the bullet being fired.

However, in centerfire ammunition, the firing pin will hit the center of the cartridge. The entire force applied to the center can effectively ignite the firepower. As a result of this action, the cartridge will open the project, leading to the bullet getting fired.

As you can guess, the difference in the ignition system can determine the advantages and disadvantages of rimfire and centerfire cartridges. We will now take a look at them.

Common Types of Rimfire Ammo

common rimfire typesThis popular firearm cartridge type is used in some of the current production.

  • The powderless .22 Cap rounds
  • .22 Short, which finds its use in target shooting
  • .22 Long
  • .22 Stinger, which comes with a longer case
  • .22 Long Rifle, which is probably the most popular rimfire cartridge
  • .22 Winchester Rimfire
  • .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire
  • .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire
  • .17 Hornady Mach 2
  • 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum

Except for the 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum, which regained production status in recent years, most rimfire ammunition is either obsolete or archaic. However, because they have been active in the industry so far, customers would not have trouble getting some from non-conventional sources.

Pros and Cons of Rimfire Ammo

Let’s now look at the advantages and disadvantages of rimfire ammunition.

Pros of Rimfire Ammo

  • Cost-effective

As you may have noticed, manufacturing rimfire ammunition is not a big deal. It does not involve too much complexity from any perspective. As a result, manufacturers have to spend less time and raw materials to make a rimfire cartridge. As a customer, however, this translates to effective pricing.

For instance, if you want to use a lot of ammunition, rimfire ammunition becomes the easiest option. By spending a few cents on a bullet, you can get as many shots as you want for practice. This cheap pricing plan is one reason to pick rimfire ammo over centerfire ammo. We think cost-effectiveness could be one of the reasons why you may want to check out rimfire ammo even in 2021.

  • Best for Training

People who spend a lot of time training with their rifles are the ones who use rimfire ammo the most. There are a few reasons why. First, as we said, the ammunition is very cost-effective. Therefore, you do not have to worry about buying too many cartridges at any point. The second point is that rimfire ammunition works better on low-caliber weapons.

Low-caliber weapons are the most popular choice when you want to do a lot of training and perfect your craft. Last but not least, these cartridges are tiny and easy to handle. As we mentioned earlier, rimfire ammunition is very small, and it makes a difference when you want to carry hundreds of cartridges, you know.

  • Lower Recoil

Recoil is something you should consider while choosing ammunition, you know. Fortunately, several rimfire ammunition options offer the advantage of lower recoil. These are mostly found with .17 and .22 caliber bullets. Of course, it means you are using these bullets in simple guns.

As an upcoming shooter, lower recoil will help you get things right in the grand scheme of things. However, you may face some difficulty if you move to larger weapons in the future. However, the problem has to deal with availability since rimfire ammunition is becoming low on stock.

Cons of Rimfire Ammo

  • No Reloading Option

While you can reload centerfire ammunition, that cannot be done in the case of rimfire ammo. It happens because the primer is placed at the bottom of the casing. Nevertheless, you do not have to worry about this issue while getting rimfire ammo. You can find the deal cost-effective, thanks to the low pricing. Therefore, it is not necessary to think about reloading.

  • Small Calibers

As you may have noticed from the list of available ammunition options, rimfire ammo is available in primarily low-caliber variants. While this is okay for the most part, you may face problems while trying to expand your gun collection. Since the beginning, we had seen some larger-caliber guns in the market, but they could not become popular.

  • Availability

As we mentioned, many rimfire ammunition models are not available in the market. Only a few models are up for production at this point. It creates a problematic situation for people who want to buy rimfire ammo in bulk. Also, some people have tried to hoard these cartridges as well. As a result, you may have trouble getting the specific rimfire ammo you need.

On top of these, there are some reliability issues with rimfire ammunition. They are not ideal for long-range shooting, either.

Common Types of Centerfire Ammo

Want to see the standard centerfire ammunition you can find on the market?

  • 38 Special
  • 357 Magnum
  • 45 ACP
  • 44 Magnum
  • 223 Remington
  • 308 Winchester
  • 270 WSM

You can notice that centerfire ammo is very versatile. You can find its use in handguns and rifles, and shotguns. This universal nature of the cartridge type has been one reason why it stays more popular and widely used in the twenty-first century.

Pros and Cons of Centerfire Ammo

Here are the common advantages and disadvantages worth taking note of.

Pros of Centerfire Ammo

  • Versatile

As we mentioned earlier, you can find compatible centerfire ammo for various firearms. Regardless of the caliber of the gun you are dealing with, you can find some ammo to begin with. As a result, you can buy centerfire ammo and use it for highly different needs like personal defense and adventurous hunting. It is freely available in the market as well.

  • Accuracy

Thanks to the centerfire cartridge system’s impressive design, they are more accurate and reliable. As we said in the bullet design section, the firing pin will strike the center of the casing and not on one of the sides. In the long run, this will improve the performance of the propellant release, thereby increasing the overall accuracy.

  • Reloadable

People are spending the extra amount on centerfire casing because of the reloadable nature of these casings. It means you can reload the casings even after firing them once. You can always pick up these casings and fill them with the necessary replacements. From the durability point of view, this characteristic talks a lot.

We should also mention that centerfire ammunition is more suited for long-range shooting. It happens due to its increased accuracy and better compatibility with a versatile set of calibers and gun types.

Cons of Centerfire Ammo

  • High Costs

The only problem with centerfire ammunition over rimfire ammunition is the high price of the first type. As we said in the previous sections, creating a centerfire cartridge requires a lot of work and design proficiency. It results in the manufacturer charging a lot more than a rimfire manufacturer. However, on the other side of things, you can always use centerfire ammo for reloading.

The Bottom Line

We will go through the significant points once again.

We stand true to the point that you cannot pick one from the rimfire vs. centerfire duel as the best choice. The honest answer depends on the type of hunting you are into.

As we said earlier, rimfire ammunition is cost-effective and suited for short-range shooting needs. However, these cartridges compromise the overall accuracy and reliability. You may also have trouble finding suitable cartridges at all times.

On the other hand, centerfire ammunition is performance-focused and has stood the test of time. From a reusability point of view, centerfire ammunition is the best, but you will have to pay a higher price.

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