Rimfire and Centrefire : What’s The Difference?


For those venturing into the world of shooting or recent firearm owners, the terms ‘rimfire’ and ‘centrefire’ ammunition might initially seem bewildering.

This article endeavours to shed light on the differences between these two types of ammunition, facilitating a deeper understanding of their mechanics.

Cartridge Operation

Before diving into the differences of rimfire and centrefire, it is essential to comprehend the basic functioning of a cartridge.

In its simplest form, an object, typically a striker or firing pin, strikes the back of a cartridge case, often mistakenly referred to as a bullet.

This action triggers a priming compound, a volatile self-oxidising powder, resulting in a small explosion.

The subsequent spark from this primer explosion then ignites a larger quantity of powder, known as the main propellant charge or gunpowder.

As the propellant combusts, exhaust gases are produced, propelling the bullet out of the cartridge, through the barrel, and towards the intended target.

Which is Which?

One of the key distinctions between rimfire and centerfire ammunition is how the primer is installed, affecting where the firing pin strikes.

Visually differentiating between centerfire and rimfire ammo is quite straightforward.

Centerfire cartridges feature a distinct circular primer in the middle of the cartridge, easily noticeable.

On the other hand, rimfire primers are not visibly apparent.

This distinction in installation method plays a significant role in the overall performance of the ammunition.

Recognising and understanding this difference is essential for making informed decisions when choosing ammunition for different shooting needs.

Why do you need rimfire and centerfire cartridges? - Quora


In the case of rimfire rounds, exemplified by widely recognised .22LR cartridges, a distinctive feature is observed in the construction.

The rim of the case possesses a narrow space, approximately as thin as a piece of paper, which accommodates the primer compound.

During the manufacturing process, a small quantity of wet primer compound is deposited into the base of the case.

Through a rotational movement, the primer compound is evenly distributed around the rim, filling the narrow space along the interior perimeter.

Subsequently, the remaining portion of the case is filled with powder, a bullet is seated atop it, and the entire assembly is crimped to secure its integrity.

When discharged, the firing pin of a firearm strikes the rim of the cartridge, initiating combustion and causing the round to discharge.

This distinctive construction method is the reason behind the term “rimfire.”


Centrefire cartridges operate under a distinct mechanism compared to rimfire cartridges.

The base of the cartridge case is equipped with a centrally located aperture, into which a primer cap containing a small quantity of primer compound is pressed.

Following the insertion of the primer cap, the remaining components of the cartridge are assembled.

This includes the placement of the propellant charge (gunpowder) into the case, seating the bullet, and crimping the entire assembly together.

When initiating the firing sequence of a centrefire round, a striker or firing pin strikes the primer cap positioned at the centre of the cartridge.

This action prompts the ignition of the primer compound, generating a spark that ignites the main propellant charge.

Consequently, the ensuing explosion propels the bullet through the barrel, executing the same sequence as previously described.

Thus, the cycle of combustion, gas expansion, and projectile propulsion is initiated, resulting in the discharge of the round.

Selecting the appropriate ammunition for your shooting endeavours can significantly impact your performance and experience.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of rimfire and centrefire cartridges is essential for making informed decisions tailored to your needs and preferences.

Rimfire Ammunition : Comfort, Affordable and Practical

Rimfire ammunition’s appeal transcends various shooting scenarios, making it a beloved option among shooters of all levels.

Its versatility and ease of use continue to drive its popularity, catering to a wide range of shooting needs.

One of the key advantages of rimfire ammunition lies in its suitability for training new shooters.

Instructors and experienced marksmen frequently turn to rimfire rifles and pistols as invaluable training tools for beginners.

The affordability and minimal recoil of .22 rimfire firearms make them ideal for introducing newcomers to the sport, fostering a comfortable and enjoyable learning experience.

Beyond training, rimfire ammunition offers unparalleled enjoyment in leisurely plinking and precise target shooting.

Whether it’s the satisfaction of hitting targets with pinpoint accuracy or the joy of casual shooting sessions, the cost-effectiveness of rimfire cartridges makes them a preferred choice for recreational shooters.

Moreover, rimfire ammunition proves its worth in the realm of hunting.

While it may lack the velocity and power of larger calibres, rimfire cartridges remain a practical option for pursuing smaller game and vermin.

From rabbits to squirrels and other rodent-sized animals, rimfire rifles prove their effectiveness in the field.

In the competitive arena, rimfire competitions are experiencing a notable surge in popularity.

Shooters from diverse backgrounds are drawn to various shooting disciplines centred around the .22 calibre round.

Whether it’s the prestigious Olympic events or local shooting clubs, rimfire competitions offer an inclusive and enjoyable platform for shooters of all ages to showcase their skills.

Additionally, the comfort factor plays a significant role in the preference for rimfire firearms.

With minimal recoil and lighter weight compared to centrefire alternatives, rimfire rifles ensure a comfortable shooting experience, appealing to shooters at all skill levels.

Whether it’s for training, recreational shooting, hunting, or competitive endeavours, rimfire cartridges offer a compelling blend of affordability, performance and comfort.

As enthusiasts continue to explore the world of firearms, rimfire ammunition stands as a steadfast companion, ready to deliver an enjoyable and satisfying shooting experience.

Centrefire Ammunition : Power and Precision

Centrefire ammunition boasts a myriad of benefits that make it a preferred option for shooters across various disciplines.

Its versatility, reliability, and performance capabilities make it a go-to choice for enthusiasts seeking precision and power in their shooting endeavours.

One of the key advantages of centrefire ammunition lies in its versatility across different shooting scenarios.

Whether it’s target shooting, hunting, or competitive sports, centrefire cartridges offer a wide range of options to suit diverse needs and preferences.

From long-range accuracy to stopping power, centrefire ammunition delivers consistent performance, making it a trusted companion for shooters of all levels.

Moreover, centrefire ammunition is renowned for its reliability and consistency.

Unlike rimfire cartridges, which may occasionally experience reliability issues, centrefire rounds offer enhanced dependability, ensuring smooth and trouble-free shooting experiences.

This reliability factor is particularly crucial in competitive shooting, where consistency and precision are paramount.

In terms of performance, centrefire ammunition excels in delivering higher muzzle velocities and greater energy upon impact compared to rimfire rounds.

This enhanced velocity and energy output make centrefire cartridges particularly well-suited for hunting larger game or engaging targets at extended ranges.

Whether it’s harvesting game animals or competing in long-range shooting competitions, centrefire ammunition offers the performance capabilities needed to achieve success.

Additionally, centrefire ammunition provides shooters with the flexibility to customise their loads and tailor their ammunition to specific shooting requirements.

The reloadability of centrefire cases allows shooters to experiment with different bullet weights, powder charges, and bullet styles, empowering them to optimise their ammunition for optimal performance and accuracy.

While some shooters may appreciate the minimal recoil of rimfire cartridges, others may prefer the additional power and stability offered by centrefire ammunition.

With proper technique and handling, centrefire rifles and pistols provide a comfortable shooting experience, allowing shooters to maintain accuracy and control shot after shot.

Whether it’s for hunting, competitive shooting, or recreational target practice, centrefire cartridges offer a winning combination of power, precision, and versatility. 

In summary, comprehending the distinct characteristics of rimfire and centrefire ammunition equips shooters with the knowledge to make informed decisions tailored to their shooting objectives and personal preferences.

Whether emphasising affordability, recoil mitigation, long-range precision, or customisation possibilities, both types of cartridges provide specific advantages suited to a variety of shooting requirements.

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