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Rimfire vs Centerfire Ammunition – What’s the Difference?

Is your mind debating over centerfire ammunition vs. rimfire ammunition? The question is, do you know the difference between the two? 

You wouldn’t be confused with which one better suits you if you know what rimfire ammunition has that centerfire ammo lacks, right? So let’s dissect this topic and get inside the gun shell.

DIFFERENCE

The primary difference between centerfire ammo and rimfire ammo starts with its primer location. 

For the benefit of those unaware, primers are the cartridge area that initiates the combustion of the gunpowder, which then sends the bullet to speed forward out. 

Rimfire cartridges have these devices at the base of the case, while centerfire cartridges have them in the center of the casing. 

While centerfire ammunition is reloadable, rimfire cartridges are not because reloading might cause damage to the outer case.

The manufacturing process of the two significantly differs as the compatibility varies. Below you will see the broad comparison between rimfire vs. centerfire ammunition.

Centerfire

PROS

CONS

Rimfire

PROS

CONS

A Closer Look At The Differences

Appearance

APPEARANCE

Centerfire

Rimfire and centerfire cartridges differ obviously on the outside. Centerfire has its circular primer located in the center part of the casing. 

Like its name, the firing pin strikes the center part to ignite the black powder, which sends the bullet out of the gun towards its targets like any centerfire handgun or centerfire rifle.

Usually, this ammunition is more significant in size, making it easier to fire with accuracy. In addition, some of these types of cartridges use center primer along with smokeless powder to propel the bullet.

At the bottom of the cartridge case can either have a single flash hole or double.

Rimfire

Rimfire rounds, on the other hand, have a different outside appearance. The priming compound is at the rim of the cartridge, which looks like an extended percussion cap, widened.

Typically, the sizes of this rimfire ammo are small, created for small caliber rimfire firearms. 

Since rimfire ammo is smaller, it uses a small amount of gunpowder which means lesser drawbacks.

The bottom part of the casing does not have any holes but a flat, wide surface.

There are a lot of gun deals on these cartridges therefore you can get ready to hunt vermin if your gun requires this type.

Ignition Systems

ignition System

Centerfire

The ignition system’s core is in the center of it where the primer is. 

Whether the centerfire firearm uses Boxer primer compound or Berdan Primer compound, it uses the exact mechanism. 

Once the firing pin inside the gun hits the primer, it creates a mini explosion which ignites the gunpowder and sends the projectile outward. 

Centerfire ammo is more reliable when it comes to ignition since the walls are thinner.

Rimfire

Rimfire cartridges react a little bit differently to centerfire because of the low pressure loads.

While it follows the same mechanism where the firing pin strikes the primer, this time, it hits the cartridge base. 

As per Hunter Ed, these are non-reloadable as it gets crushed upon the explosion of the primer at its base. 

This ammunition cartridge may not have an easy contact with the firing pin at times, the reason for its unreliability, based on the feedback of those who tried using them.

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Usage

Usage

Centerfire

The versatility of centerfire cartridges is often the reason why it is popular with many. The first reason is that modern guns use centerfire rounds, especially in the military.

Centerfire pistol is also less costly if you look at it as a whole despite the price upon purchase of centerfire cartridge cases since these are reloadable. 

Thus, these are perfect for shooting activities, practice firing, big game hunting, among others. 

Target shooters are mostly to benefit as it would be costly to buy new centerfire ammunition each time they are on the shooting range.

Rimfire

On the other hand, rimfire has its practical usage even if some say its cartridge walls have their disadvantages.

Because it creates a tiny explosion on its primer, it has low recoil.

As a result, new shooters are the most to benefit from rimfire ammo. 

Everyone has a starting point and can use this to get accustomed to the firearm’s jerk each time they pull the trigger during target practice. Most owners use it for hunting vermin.

Common Types

Common Types

Centerfire

As we have mentioned before, the main difference between rimfire and centerfire ammunition is its versatility. Centerfire rounds are for either small types or larger calibers(1). There is a centerfire round available for standard small pistols like the 38 special or a magnum 357, or you can also find something for the likes of a 223 Remington rifle.

If you are comfortable using more extensive firearms like a Magnum 44, 308 Winchester, or the not the most often used 45 ACP standard Pistol, these also work. 

If you look at the types more closely, these types of ammunition are for the more modern rifle and types.

Rimfire

We are not pointing out that the rimfire cartridges are not a good choice because many shooters own rimfire guns who prefer using them in small game hunting and the varmint hunters. The fact that it has lower recoil makes it preferable, by starters.

The common types of a rimfire cartridge are for the small caliber like .22 Winchester Automatic, 17 Winchester Super Magnum, 5MM Remington Rimfire Magnum, and 50 Remington Navy.

All these have primers placed at the rim of the cartridge on each round, which many users pointed to have reliability issues.

Which is Better, Rimfire or Centerfire?

Centerfire and rimfire ammunition have their uses on a firearm. Rimfire ammo will be the preference of those who use the older type of firearm or rifle.

Undoubtedly, those with newer centerfire rifles will appreciate the flexibility of the centerfire cartridge.

Price-wise, rimfire vs. centerfire is a close battle despite centerfire ammo being costly since these are reloadable, unlike a rimfire cartridge.

For big game hunting, target shooting, or even ammunition for self-defense, rimfire vs centerfire, we would pick the centerfire ammo rather than the rimfire ammo. 

Between rimfire vs. centerfire, we would go with centerfire ammo. Again, versatility with impact is vital.

References:

  1. https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/g853/10-largest-caliber-weapons-ever/

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