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.


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

Key Takeaways

  1. Rimfire cartridges ignite the primer by striking the rim of the cartridge base, while centerfire cartridges have a separate primer in the center of the cartridge base.
  2. Rimfire ammunition is generally less expensive and used for small-caliber firearms, while centerfire ammunition is more powerful and available in a wide range of calibers.
  3. Centerfire cartridges can be reloaded after use by replacing the primer, powder, and projectile, while rimfire cartridges are not reloadable due to their design.

Rimfire vs Centerfire

Rimfire cartridges are a type of firearm ammunition that ignites when the firing pin of a gun strikes the rim of the cartridge base. Centerfire ammunition has a centrally located primer that ignites when struck by the firing pin, generally offering more power and reliability.

Rimfire vs Centerfire

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


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonRimfireCenterfire
MeaningThis means or relates to guns or rifles whose cartridges have the primer around the edge(rim) of the base.This refers to guns or rifles whose cartridges have the primer in the centre of the base.
Where is the primer contained in the cartridge?In the rim of the cartridgeIn the centre 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 centre of the cartridge
Most common rounds or calibres.22 Short, .22 LR9mm, .40, 5.56,
When invented or since used?18451810
Which is more reliableLess reliable than CenterfireMore reliable than Rimfire ammunition
Suitability or use byHunting, sportsMilitary or Police, self-defence
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 primarily used in modern times


What is Rimfire?

Rimfire means 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 calibre, or hunting ammunition.

Rimfire works because 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 delicate nature of the case.

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

Rimfire is also ideally suited for beginner 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) and reliability issues due to a high number of failures such as misfires or break down.

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

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


What is Centerfire?

Centerfire means, in simple terms, the ammunition in which the firing pin hits the centre 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 apt for defence or significant hunting purposes.

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

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


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 passion will be ignited once the firing pin of the firearm/rifle strikes the cartridge centre.
  2. Rimfire accommodates primer in the cartridge rim. Centerfire ammunition contains the primer in the cartridge centre.
  3. Rimfire has been in vogue since 1845 hence new compared to Centerfire, which has been in practice since 1810.
  4. Rimfire is commonly used for hunting small animals, sports shooting, or short-distance shooting. Centerfire is used by Police self-defence, or hunting of large animals and is 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
  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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