Difference Between Rimfire and Centerfire

People who are fond of rifles and hunt with them will be most accustomed to the terms Rimfire and Centerfire.

Rimfire and Centerfire are a type of ammunition cartridges or the ignition mechanisms for cartridges. Both these concepts are distinct from having spring differences.

Rimfire vs Centerfire

The main difference between Rimfire and Centerfire is that Rimfire ammunition rounds will contain the primer in the rim, while Centerfire ammunition rounds will contain the primer in the center of the cartridge.

Rimfire vs Centerfire

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between Rimfire and Centerfire (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonRimfireCenterfire
MeaningMeans or relates to guns or rifles whose cartridges have the primer around the edge(rim) of the baseMeans or relates to guns or rifles whose cartridges have the primer in the center of the base
Where is the primer contained in the cartridge?In the rim of the cartridgeIn the center of the cartridge
When does the power ignite?Ignites when the pin of the arm/rifle strikes the rim of the cartridgeIgnites when the pin of the arm/rifle strikes the middle or center of the cartridge
Most common rounds or calibers.22 Short, .22 LR9mm, .40, 5.56,
When invented or since used from?18451810
Which is more reliableLess reliable than CenterfireMore reliable than Rimfire ammunition
Suitability or used byHunting, sportsMilitary or Police, self-defense
From the perspective of the thickness of cartridge wallsLess thickMore thick cartridge walls
From a size perspectiveRimfire is smaller in sizeCenterfire is larger
Which is expensive?Less expensiveMore expensive
From a complexity perspectiveLess complexComplex
Can the spent casings be reloaded?NoYes
Is recoil possible?NoYes
Can it be stored in large quantities?Yes, compared to CenterfireYes, but less as compared to Rimfire
Is it light to transport from one place to another?YesNo
From the perspective of having more rounds at the disposalRimfire will provide more roundsCenterfire will provide fewer rounds
From a distance perspectiveSuited for short rangesIdeally suited for longer distances
From a speed and power perspectiveLessMore speed and power
Current TrendsRimfire is less used in modern times compared to CenterfireCenterfire is mostly used in modern times


What is Rimfire?

Rimfire means in simple terms ammunition where the firing pin hits the rim or the base of the cartridge to ignite the primer(cap).

Rimfire is said to have originated in France in 1845. The most common Rimfire types are .22 practice, .44 caliber, or hunting ammunition.

Rimfire works on the basis that the firing pin of a gun will strike the rim base to ignite the primer. The cartridges under Rimfire are subject to low pressure due to the thin nature of the case.

Rimfire has certain advantages such as it is not expensive because of low manufacturing costs as cartridges are not so thick. Rimfire can be considered a great option for hunters or whose budget is tight.

Rimfire is also ideally suited for beginners shooters because the pullback experienced during the ignition is less.

Rimfire comes with certain disadvantages such as the primer cannot be reloaded (as once the firing is done the ammunition is over), reliability issues due to a high number of failures such as misfires or break down.

Rimfire is not suggested in defense options including military or even self-defense. Rimfire also consists of small calibers or small guns/rifles only.

Rimfire also has speed and accuracy issues hence not suitable for long distances as it is lightweight.

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What is Centerfire?

Centerfire means in simple terms the ammunition in which the firing pin hits the center of the cartridge which results in the ignition.

Centerfire is said to have originated in 1810. The common types of Centerfire cartridge primers are Berdan and Boxer. Both the primers look almost the same but Boxer is expensive.

Centerfire offers multiple advantages such as power and speed. Further, better design makes it an apt choice for defense or big hunting purposes.

Centerfire is multi-purpose ammunition in the sense that it can fit into all calibers (large or small). Centerfire is also ideal for shooting when long distance is in scope due to its accuracy feature.

Centerfire is considered reliable and hence in use for most important defense purposes. Centerfire is expensive however this disadvantage can be offset due to its feature wherein the casings can be reloaded again after firing.

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Main Differences Between Rimfire and Centerfire

  1. Rimfire works on the principle that power will be ignited once the firing pin hits the outer rim of the cartridge. Centerfire works on the principle that power will be ignited once the firing pin of the firearm/rifle strikes the cartridge center.
  2. Rimfire accommodates primer in the cartridge rim. Centerfire ammunition contains the primer in the cartridge center.
  3. Rimfire is in vogue since 1845 hence new compared to Centerfire which is in practice since 1810.
  4. Rimfire is commonly used for hunting small animals and for sports shooting or use in short distance shooting. Centerfire is used by police, self-defense, or hunting of large animals and commonly adopted for long-distance shooting.
  5. Rimfire is less reliable and also less expensive. Centerfire is more reliable but more expensive.
  6. Rimfire rounds cannot be reloaded. Centerfire rounds can be reloaded.
Difference Between Rimfire and Centerfire



Rimfire and Centerfire have both pros and cons so considering which one to choose will be dependent on multiple factors such as the use to which the arms/rifles will be put, the cost factors, the storage aspect.

For those on police or self-defense perspective, Centerfire could be considered an ideal choice as it provides the features of speed and reliability.

At the same point in time, one has to consider the cost perspective and lightweight nature for which Rimfire seems a great choice.

A prudent course would be to obtain thorough practical understanding and seek advice, especially from ammunition specialists to reap the full benefits of either Rimfire or Centerfire deployment.

A prudent and ideal course may be to have both the options available at the disposal with each of them being utilized in the appropriate scenarios for gaining maximum advantage.

Key Differences Between Rimfire and Centerfire (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Rimfire and Centerfire



  1. https://science.peregrinefund.org/legacy-sites/conference-lead/PDF/0305%20Oltrogge.pdf
  2. https://journals.lww.com/amjforensicmedicine/Fulltext/1998/12000/Centerfire_Frangible_Ammunition__Wounding.1.aspx
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Last update on 2022-10-01 / Amazon Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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