Centerfire vs. Rimfire

What's the Difference?

Centerfire and rimfire are two types of ammunition used in firearms. The main difference between the two lies in the location of the primer, which is responsible for igniting the gunpowder and propelling the bullet. In centerfire ammunition, the primer is located in the center of the cartridge base, making it more reliable and easier to manufacture. Rimfire ammunition, on the other hand, has the primer located in the rim of the cartridge, which is struck by the firing pin. While rimfire ammunition is generally less powerful and less accurate than centerfire, it is often used in smaller caliber firearms and is more affordable. Overall, the choice between centerfire and rimfire ammunition depends on the specific firearm and its intended use.


Primer LocationCenter of the cartridge baseInside the rim of the cartridge base
Primer IgnitionImpact from a firing pinImpact from the firing pin on the rim
Caliber RangeWide range of calibers availablePrimarily limited to smaller calibers
Ammunition CostGenerally more expensiveGenerally less expensive
Firearm TypesUsed in rifles, handguns, and shotgunsPrimarily used in handguns and rifles
AccuracyGenerally more accurateGenerally less accurate
RecoilHigher recoilLower recoil
ReloadingCommonly reloaded by shootersNot commonly reloaded

Further Detail


When it comes to firearms, there are various types of ammunition available, each with its own unique characteristics and applications. Two popular types of ammunition are centerfire and rimfire. While both serve the same purpose of propelling a projectile out of a firearm, they differ in terms of design, performance, and usage. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of centerfire and rimfire ammunition, exploring their differences and highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Design and Construction

One of the primary distinctions between centerfire and rimfire ammunition lies in their design and construction. Centerfire cartridges feature a centrally located primer, which is a small explosive charge that ignites the propellant powder upon impact. This primer is separate from the cartridge case and can be easily replaced. On the other hand, rimfire cartridges have the primer located within the rim of the cartridge case itself. When the firing pin strikes the rim, it crushes the rim and ignites the primer, initiating the firing process.

The design of centerfire ammunition allows for higher pressures and more reliable ignition compared to rimfire ammunition. The separate primer in centerfire cartridges can be replaced, making it more convenient and cost-effective for shooters who reload their own ammunition. Rimfire cartridges, on the other hand, cannot have their primers replaced, as the primer is an integral part of the cartridge case. This makes rimfire ammunition less suitable for reloading purposes.

Caliber and Power

Another significant difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition is the range of calibers available and the power they deliver. Centerfire cartridges are commonly used in larger calibers, ranging from small pistol rounds to high-powered rifle cartridges. The design of centerfire ammunition allows for greater versatility in terms of power and bullet weight, making it suitable for a wide range of applications, including self-defense, hunting, and long-range shooting.

Rimfire ammunition, on the other hand, is typically limited to smaller calibers, such as .22 Long Rifle (LR). These cartridges are commonly used for plinking, target shooting, and small game hunting. Due to their limited power and smaller bullet sizes, rimfire ammunition is not suitable for long-range shooting or larger game hunting.

Reliability and Consistency

Reliability and consistency are crucial factors to consider when comparing centerfire and rimfire ammunition. Centerfire cartridges are known for their high reliability, as the separate primer ensures consistent ignition and reliable performance. This reliability is particularly important in critical situations, such as self-defense or military applications, where a misfire can have severe consequences.

Rimfire ammunition, while generally reliable, is more prone to misfires compared to centerfire ammunition. The design of rimfire cartridges makes them more susceptible to manufacturing defects or damage to the rim, which can result in misfires or failure to ignite. However, it is worth noting that advancements in rimfire technology have significantly improved the reliability of rimfire ammunition in recent years.

Ammunition Cost and Availability

Cost and availability are practical considerations for shooters when choosing between centerfire and rimfire ammunition. Centerfire ammunition, due to its larger calibers and versatility, tends to be more expensive compared to rimfire ammunition. The cost of centerfire ammunition can vary significantly depending on the caliber, brand, and specific load. Additionally, the availability of centerfire ammunition may be affected by factors such as market demand and supply chain disruptions.

Rimfire ammunition, particularly .22 LR, is generally more affordable and widely available compared to centerfire ammunition. The popularity of .22 LR ammunition makes it easily accessible for plinking and target shooting enthusiasts. However, during periods of high demand or scarcity, rimfire ammunition can also become harder to find and more expensive.

Applications and Usage

Centerfire and rimfire ammunition find their applications in different shooting scenarios. Centerfire cartridges, with their higher power and versatility, are commonly used for self-defense, hunting, precision shooting, and competition shooting. The ability to handle larger calibers and heavier bullets makes centerfire ammunition suitable for long-range shooting and taking down larger game.

Rimfire ammunition, on the other hand, is primarily used for recreational shooting, plinking, and small game hunting. The lower power and smaller bullet sizes make rimfire ammunition ideal for target practice and honing shooting skills. Additionally, rimfire firearms are often more affordable and easier to handle, making them popular choices for beginners and young shooters.


In conclusion, centerfire and rimfire ammunition have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different shooting purposes. Centerfire cartridges offer greater power, versatility, and reliability, making them ideal for self-defense, hunting, and long-range shooting. On the other hand, rimfire ammunition is more affordable, widely available, and suitable for recreational shooting and small game hunting. Understanding the differences between centerfire and rimfire ammunition allows shooters to make informed decisions based on their specific needs and shooting preferences.

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