Centerfire vs Rimfire – What Is The Difference And Which Is Best?

What is the difference between centerfire vs rimfire?

Basically, when we talk about centerfire vs rimfire, we are talking about types of ammo. More specifically we are referring to the two categories of ignition systems for ammo cartridges. Centerfire vs rimfire is all in the name – with centerfire the firing pin strikes a center primer, while with rimfire the firing pin strikes the rim of the cartridge base to ignite the primer.



Rimfire Ammunition

The rim of the rimfire cartridge is essentially an extended and widened percussion cap which contains the priming compound, while the cartridge case itself contains the propellant powder and the projectile (bullet). Once the rim of the cartridge has been struck and the bullet discharged, the cartridge cannot be reloaded, because the head has been deformed by the firing pin impact.

Centerfire Ammunition

Unlike rimfire cartridges, the primer is a separate and replaceable component. Centerfire cartridges have supplanted the rimfire variety in all but the smallest cartridge sizes. With the exception of a few .17 caliber and .22 caliber pistol and rifle cartridges, small-bore shotgun cartridges (intended for pest-control), and a handful of antique, mostly obsolete cartridges, almost all pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition used today is centerfire.

Which Is Best – centerfire vs rimfire

Due to the thin casing of rimfire ammo, it is mostly limited to smaller calibers (commonly the .22 Long Rifle caliber). This also means that rimfire ammo is usually pretty cheap since it is easier to manufacture. The small caliber and cheapness of the rimfire ammo make it perfect for beginners or people who want to train a lot.

Centerfire ammo has a much thicker casing, which allows for larger calibers. The thicker casing also makes it more reliable when handled in rough situations. The manufacturing of centerfire ammo is much more complicated and expensive compared to rimfire ammo. Economies of scale are achieved through interchangeable primers for a wide variety of centerfire cartridge calibers. The expensive individual brass cases can be reused after replacing the primer, gunpowder and projectile. Handloading reuse is an advantage for rifles using obsolete or hard-to-find centerfire cartridges. Centerfire ammo is more suited for the serious shooters who want a more reliable and larger caliber ammo.

The video below gives a nice overview of centerfire vs rimfire ammo, plus some interesting history too!

Wrapping Up

The big difference between centerfire vs rimfire ammo is the way in which the firing pin strikes the primer. With centerfire a center primer is struck, while with rimfire the rim of the cartridge is struck. Rimfire ammo is typically smaller caliber ammo with thin cartridge walls, which make them cheap ammo perfect for beginners or for practising shooting. Centerfire ammo is larger ammo with thicker cartridge walls, which make it more expensive to manufacture but also more reliable and possible to reuse cartridges. So on whether you should use centerfire vs rimfire ammo comes down to what your needs are.

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