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Centerfire Vs Rimfire Cartridges: What You Need to Know

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Ford or Chevy, Republican or Democrat, cat person or dog person, Team Edward or Team Jacob (forget that last one…), it is one of these great debates. Gun owners often debate the merits of centerfire vs. rimfire cartridges.

Both rounds have advantages and disadvantages, but do they cover all the facts? In this blog post, we’ll break down the key differences between these two cartridge types so you can make an informed decision. Stay safe and happy shooting!

Basic Gun Design

Basics of Gun Design
Basics of Gun Design

Overall, firearms are designed to chamber and fire rounds. Typically rounds are either centerfire or rimfire, with centerfire cartridges having the primer in the center of the cartridge. In contrast, rimfire cartridges have the primer located on the inside edge of the casing. This difference in primer location is what creates the critical distinction between these two types of cartridges.

Basic Firearm Function

A firearm functions by the primer detonation, causing a flame to travel down the cartridge and into the gunpowder. The gunpowder then causes a rapid chemical reaction, which in turn causes the bullet to be forcefully ejected from the gun’s barrel.

What’s the difference between Rimfire Cartridges and Centerfire Cartridges Functionality?

Parts of a Cartridge

Before we go any further, you must know what parts of a cartridge are.

Typically a single round of ammo is divided into four parts —bullet, propellant, primers, and cases.

1. Bullet: The bullet is the part of the cartridge fired from the gun. It is usually a metal projectile designed to inflict damage on the target.

2. Propellant: The propellant is the component of the cartridge that provides the energy to “fire” the bullet. It is typically a combustible material that burns rapidly to create gas pressure.

3. Primer: The primers are the components that contain the priming compound of the cartridge that ignites the propellant. They are typically small explosive charges located at the base of the cartridge that causes a flame to travel down the cartridge and into the gunpowder.

4. Cartridge Case: The cases are the cartridge’s components that hold all the other parts in place. They are typically brass or steel and are crimped shut at one end.

Different Ignition Systems

There are two gun ignition systems, the centerfire round and the rimfire cartridge.

Centerfire ammo is the most common type of ignition system. It uses a primer that is located in the center of the cartridge. When the trigger is pulled, the firing pin strikes the primer, and the primer compound detonates, igniting the propellant. This causes a flame to travel down the cartridge and into the gunpowder, which causes a rapid chemical reaction ejecting the bullet.

The rimfire cartridge is less standard than the centerfire system, but it is still used in some firearm calibers. It uses a primer that is located on the inside edge of the casing. For a rimfire cartridge, the firing pin strikes the rim of the cartridge to ignite the primer.

Pros of Centerfire Ammunition

There are many pros to using centerfire ammunition. Some of the key advantages of this type of ammunition are:

1. Greater Power and Penetration: Centerfire rounds have greater power and penetration than rimfire rounds, meaning they can inflict more damage on the target.

2. More Reliable: Centerfire rounds are more reliable than rimfire rounds.   

3. Wider Selection of Calibers: There is a wider selection of centerfire rounds available on the market, allowing you to choose the round that best suits your needs.

4. Reloadable: Centerfire rounds can be reloaded, meaning the same cartridge can be reused multiple times. This can save you money in the long run ( if you shoot a lot).

5. Longer distances: Centerfire rounds have a longer range than rimfire rounds, as rimfire rounds typically have lighter bullets.

Cons of Centerfire Ammunition

1. Greater Cost: Centerfire rounds are more expensive than rimfire rounds.

2. More recoil: Centerfire ammo generates more recoil than rimfire rounds because they have higher pressures during the firing process, meaning they can be more challenging to shoot accurately.

3. Heavier: Centerfire rounds are typically heavier than rimfire rounds, making them more challenging to carry around.

10 Examples of Centerfire Calibers:

  • .223 Remington
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .243 Winchester
  • 7mm-08 Remington
  • .357 magnum
  • 5.56x45mm NATO
  • .44 Magnum
  • 10mm Auto
  • 9mm Luger

Pros of Rimfire Ammo

1. Less expensive than centerfire rounds

2. Less recoil than centerfire rounds, making it easier to shoot accurately

3. Lighter than centerfire rounds, making it easier to carry around

Cons of Rimfire Ammo

1. Rimfire rounds are less powerful and have a shorter range than centerfire rounds.

2. Rimfire rounds can be less reliable than centerfire rounds.

3. Rimfire ammo has fewer variations in calibers than centerfire calibers.

4. It cannot be reloaded.

10 Examples of Rimfire Calibers:

  • .22 LR
  • .17 HMR
  • .22 WMR
  • 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum
  • .25 Stevens short
  • .25 Stevens
  • .32 rimfire
  • .38 rimfire
  • .41 short
  • .44 Henry

Comparison between Rimfire and Centerfire Ammo

The main difference between rimfire and centerfire ammunition is how they are ignited. Rimfire ammunition is generally cheaper than centerfire ammo and is typically less powerful. Historically rimfire ammunition is not as reliable in wet weather due to the manufacturing process. It can also be more prone to jamming than centerfire ammo.

What’s the difference between Rimfire vs. Centerfire for Hunting?

How to zero a scope
Rimfire vs. Centerfire for Hunting

Rimfire ammunition and centerfire ammo are the two main types of ammunition used in firearms. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but which is better for hunting?

Here’s a look at the critical differences between rimfire vs. centerfire for hunting.

Small Game Hunting Typically Means Rimfire

Small game hunting, such as small varmints, is typically done with rimfire cartridges. Rimfire ammunition is less potent than centerfire cartridges, but they are more than adequate for shooting small game.

A great example is using a .22 caliber for hunting squirrels.

Big Game Hunting Typically Means Centerfire

While rimfire cartridges are typically used for small game hunting, centerfire cartridges are more commonly used for big game hunting. Centerfire cartridges are more potent than rimfire cartridges, making them better suited for shooting larger animals.

A good example is using a .308 caliber for hunting whitetail deer.

Rimfire vs. Centerfire Scope

A rimfire and centerfire gun can be outfitted with a scope, though there are some differences between the two types.

Rimfire scopes are generally less expensive than centerfire scopes and tend to be smaller and lighter. However, rimfire scopes are not as durable as centerfire scopes, and they may not hold up as well to recoil.

Centerfire scopes are typically more expensive than rimfire scopes, but they offer outstanding durability and can handle more recoil. They typically also have a greater range of visibility for shooters.

Rimfire vs. Centerfire History

The gun cartridge has a long history, with both rimfire and centerfire styles of ammo playing essential roles in the development of the modern cartridge.

Rimfire ammunition is one the earliest cartridges ever developed and was first created in the mid-1800s. These cartridges were simple and effective and quickly became popular due to their reliability and ease of use.

Centerfire ammo came about before rimfire ammo in the early 19th century. This cartridge had different advantages to the rimfire. Notably, centerfire cartridges could hold more gunpowder, resulting in a more powerful shot.

Which is Better, Rimfire or Centerfire?

There is no definitive answer regarding which is better, rimfire or centerfire ammunition.

In general, centerfire ammunition is more potent than rimfire cartridges. However, this comparison needs to consider many factors, such as the specific calibers, types of firearms involved, and what you will do with the gun.

Ultimately, it is up to shooters to decide which type of cartridge is best for them.

FAQ Rimfire vs Centerfire 

Is the .22 caliber a rimfire or centerfire?

The .22 caliber is a rimfire cartridge. Rimfire

What about the AR 15? Is it a rimfire or centerfire?

An AR-15 gun uses centerfire ammo even though the bullet is smaller than a .22 bullet.

How can you tell the difference between centerfire and rimfire?

The easiest way to tell the difference between centerfire and rimfire cartridges is to look at the base of the cartridge. A centerfire cartridge has the primer visible in the middle of the bottom of the cartridge, while the priming compound is at the rim of the cartridge at the base.

What is the most common caliber that uses rimfire ammo?

The most common caliber that uses rimfire ammo is the .22 caliber.

What is the point of rimfire ammo?

Rimfire ammunition is most commonly used for target shooting because the rimfire cartridge is less expensive to produce than centerfire cartridges. Additionally, the rimfire cartridge has less recoil than centerfire cartridges, making it easier for new shooters to learn how to accurately shoot a firearm.

Rimfire ammo can also be used for self-defense

Is rimfire reliable?

Rimfire cartridges are generally reliable, but there can be some issues with older or fouled firearms. Centerfire cartridges are generally more reliable, but they can also be some issues. Ultimately, it is up to shooters to decide which type of cartridge is best for them.

Is 9mm a rimfire or centerfire?

The 9mm caliber uses centerfire ammunition.

Is centerfire or rimfire ammo better for self-defense?

There is no definitive answer regarding whether centerfire or rimfire ammo is better for self-defense. In general, centerfire ammo is more potent than rimfire cartridges. However, this comparison needs to consider many factors, such as the specific calibers, types of firearms involved, and what you will do with the gun. Ultimately, it is up to shooters to decide which type of cartridge is best for them.

Summary of Rimfire vs. Centerfire

Rimfire and centerfire cartridges are two of the most popular types of ammunition available. While both types of ammo have their own advantages and disadvantages, it is ultimately up to shooters to decide which type of cartridge is best for them.

For new shooters, rimfire ammo can be a great option because it produces less recoil than centerfire cartridges. Rimfire ammo can also be used for self-defense and is generally reliable.

Centerfire ammo is more potent than rimfire ammo, making it a good choice for hunting big game or other activities that require more firepower.

What do you think about the pros and cons of rimfire vs. centerfire ammo? Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

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