What is the Different Between Rimfire vs Centerfire?
One of the more common questions asked by new shooters is this: What is the difference between rimfire vs. centerfire?
And, beyond that, why should I choose one over the other? Today we are going to dissect these two types of ammo and determine which one is better for your specific situation.
I personally prefer centerfire based on my shooting style, technique, and hobbies, but there are still small-cartridge situations where rimfire is better. Let’s take a look.
Rimfire vs. Centerfire: What the hell are they?
Rimfire and centerfire refer to the categories of primer ignition systems, basically, what gets the whole process of firing the bullet going.
The explosion caused by the lighting of the primer causes the gunpowder to react and project the bullet forward out of the barrel of the gun. Every single time a gun is fired, this is what happens, regardless of whether a rimfire or centerfire cartridge is being used.
With centerfire cartridges, the explosion is concentrated more centrally in the middle of the cartridge. This creates a more consistent firing of the bullet. Because of this increase in performance, the professionals in the police and military are preferring centerfire cartridges.
Rimfire cartridges see the explosion overtaking more of the cartridge as it is tripped at the rim. The pressure on the bullet isn’t as concentrated on the center of it, and I’ve heard tale of rimfire cartridges not firing with the power of their centerfire counterparts.
Rimfire vs Centerfire: How to they work?
Centerfire cartridges locate the primer in the center of the cartridge case head. These are much more common these days as cartridge size preference trends towards larger sizes. You really won’t find anything other than centerfire cartridges in larger or even medium sizes these days.
The move towards centerfire cartridges is based largely on the fact that they are more reliable in heavy duty situations. Police, military, and serious hunters and shooters have pretty much switched entirely to centerfire cartridges based on their dependability, consistency, and reliability.
Because of this, and because of the fact that so many shooters want to emulate the pros, most shops will stock a wide variety of centerfire cartridges while only stocking a minimal amount of rimfire cartridges.
Rimfire cartridges are pretty much a thing of the past, except for certain gun models. A rimfire cartridge works like this: the firing pin ignites the primer by striking the cartridge’s rim, causing friction and igniting the blast.
What is the difference between Rimfire vs Centerfire?
Basically, the difference starts with the power issues that we’ve discussed above. Rimfire cartridges are cheaper, for sure, and have lower recoil than centerfire cartridges.
One of the biggest drawbacks of rimfire cartridges is how hard they are to find. The older guys that I grew up with have been buying all the stock they can for fear of it no longer being available anywhere that they shop. As a result of this, hardly any new shooters are using rimfire cartridges.
Centerfire cartridges have higher recoil and are more expensive. But, because they are so widely available and there is no fear of them all being bought out or discontinued, the market price will probably eventually drop significantly just based on supply and demand.
So what is the better between Rimfire vs Centerfire?
I highly urge you, even if you are a long-time shooter, to make the switch to centerfire cartridges. The long term sustainability is much better and you’ll find that you spend less money over time because of:
- Higher amounts of fittings
- More ability to share and match with other shooters
Who fits rimfire cartridges and who fits centerfire cartridges?
Rimfire cartridges are certainly not as prominent as they once were. Right now, 17 caliber and .22 caliber pistol and rifle cartridges can be found in rimfire variety, along with some shotgun cartridges that are small-bore.
You won’t find any game hunting cartridges using rimfire anymore. Beyond that, mostly just collectors’ items will fit rimfire cartridges. .22LR are the most frequently used rimfire cartridge fittings. You’ll also see them in WMR, Winchester Magnum, Hornady Mach 2, and Hornady Magnum. Not a ton of variety offered here!
For today’s pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition, most of what is commonly used will be centerfire. If you are looking for a specific rimfire cartridge, your best bet is going to be to shop online on a store’s website first before visiting in person just to make sure that they will stock it before you head out.
I hope you have gained a solid understanding of the differences between rimfire and centerfire cartridges.
Centerfire is the way of the future. Rimfire will likely continue on its slow and miserable decline.
What the high-impact shooters of the world prefer is what goes, and you’ll be better off siding with them. I started using centerfire cartridges years ago because I predicted this trend after spending years in the military serving my country.
If you have enjoyed this article, please share on social media so that we can increase awareness of the differences between rimfire and centerfire cartridges and get more people switched over.
Feel free to share your comments in the section below and we’ll get a conversation going. Take care!