Centerfire vs. Rimfire Ammunition: A Comprehensive Comparison

Rimfire and centerfire are mainly primer ignition systems that are used in ammunition cartridges.

When it comes to buying ammunition, every shooter faces whether to use centerfire or rimfire ammunition.

So, you need to understand the difference before making a choice.

Centerfire vs. Rimfire Ammunition

There are many differences between both cartridges.

In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between centerfire vs rimfire. We will differentiate cartridges by its uses, characteristics & pros & cons.

Hope this will be helpful to make an informed decision before buying.

What is Centerfire Ammunition?

Centerfire Cartridge

Centerfire ammunition is a type of firearm cartridge that comes with the center location of the primer. In these types of cartridges primer is situated in the center of the base of the cartridge casing. That's the reason it's called Centerfire.

In the Centerfire cartridge, when the firing pin of the firearm strikes the primer, it ignites a small amount of explosive material, igniting the main propellant charge in the cartridge. This causes the bullet to be propelled out of the firearm's barrel.

Centerfire cartridges come with two types of centerfire primers: Boxer and Berdan. These both types of primers are interchangeable for most shooters, so you can use both types of primers in your centerfire firearm.

Centerfire ammunition is the most common type of ammunition used in firearms today, and it is available in a wide variety of calibers and bullet types.

Key Features:

  • The primer is located in the center of the cartridge base.
  • Versatile, available in a wide range of calibers.
  • Reliable ignition and less prone to misfires.
  • Suitable for various firearm types and applications.
  • Capable of handling high pressures and power.
  • Often reloadable for cost-effective use.

What is Rimfire Ammunition?

Rimfire Ammunition

Rimfire ammunition is the type where no external primer is visible because the primer compound is completely contained inside the cartridge's rim.

When the firing pin strikes anywhere on the thin, exposed rim, it crushes the rim against the cartridge's interior, causing ignition. This design is what gives rimfire ammunition its name.

Rimfire ammo typically comes in small caliber rifles and pistols appropriate for small game hunting or target practice.

Key Features:

  • Primer in the rim of the cartridge.
  • Typically limited to smaller calibers like .22 LR.
  • Less reliable ignition compared to centerfire.
  • Commonly used for recreational shooting and plinking.
  • Generally less expensive and widely available.
  • Rimfire cartridges usually are not reloadable.

Centerfire Vs. Rimfire : Appearance

Centerfire Vs. Rimfire Appearance

The easiest way to tell the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition is to look at the base of the cartridge casing.

Centerfire cartridges have a visible primer in the center of the casing, while rimfire cartridges do not.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences in appearance between centerfire and rimfire ammunition:

Feature Centerfire Rimfire
Primer Location Center of the casing base Rim of the casing
Primer Visibility Visible Not visible
Case Thickness Thicker Thinner
Caliber Range Wide range of calibers available Limited range of calibers available

Key Differences Between Centerfire Vs. Rimfire Ammunition

Key Differences Between Centerfire Vs. Rimfire Ammunition

There are huge differences between centerfire and—rimfire ammunition. Let's discuss one by one.

Caliber case design & primer location

The main difference between centerfire & rimfire ammunition is location of the primer.

Centerfire rounds come with a separate, removable primer that is inserted into the external center of the cartridge base. On the other hand rimfire rounds don’t have a separate primer, but their priming compound is located internally in the rim of the cartridge base.

Brass Thickness & Power

Rimfire cartridges have thin brass cases that are easily damaged when struck by the firing mechanism. This is because they are made using the stamped or foil method. Due to this thin structure, rimfire cartridges cannot withstand as high pressure as centerfire cartridges.

On the other hand, Centerfire cartridges have thicker bases and rims, as well as thicker case walls. That is helpful in making these bullets capable of handling more power.

So, we can say that centerfire cartridges are more powerful than rimfire cartridges.

That's the reason that in some places medium or large game hunting with rimfire weapons is not allowed. These bullets are not considered powerful enough to ethically kill animals.

Recoil Difference

There is a huge difference in recoil when we compare centerfire & rimfire cartridges.

Modern rimfire cartridges range in diameter from .172” and .228” & weight between 17 and 50 grains.

So, the amount of gunpowder used in rimfire cartridges is less than the gunpowder used in centerfire cartridges. It results in very less recoil when shooting rimfire bullets.

That's why the rimfire is a great choice for new shooters, older shooters; who dislike recoil, or anyone who enjoys shooting without dealing with a strong kick.

While some rimfire guns can still be noisy, especially .22 Magnum pistols. These types of guns do not produce the muzzle blast that many centerfire weapons produce due to the smaller amount of expanding gas.

This can be important if you shoot indoors or around other people.

Caliber Range

When it comes to caliber range, centerfire ammunition is available in a wider range of popular calibers. Popular centerfire calibers are: 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, 223, 5.56, .308 Winchester & many more.

Rimfire ammo typically comes in small caliber but not so widely available as compared to centerfire.

Some popular rimfire ammunition cartridges are: .22LR, 22 WMR, 17 HMR.


As per price comparison, Rimfire ammunition is relatively inexpensive when compared to centerfire ammo. Typically, rimfire ammo is about 1/10th the cost per round, allowing you to shoot through well over a hundred rounds and not break the bank.

On the other hand, centerfire ammunition is costly as per rimfire bullets. Although centerfire cartridge cases can be reloaded, you still cannot achieve the price point per round that a rimfire cartridge affords you.

Rimfire Ammo

Rimfire Ammo Check Price

Centerfire Ammo

Centerfire Ammo Check Price


Centerfire ammunition is more popular because of its applications for various purposes. Centerfire calibers are a popular choice among law enforcement, military personnel, self-defense, target shooting & big hunting games.

Rimfire has long been king of the small game hunt. These bullets are appropriate for small game hunting or target practice. The inexpensive rounds and the lack of recoil make them ideal for rabbits and squirrels.


When we talk about reloading rimfire or centerfire cartridges, we can’t reload rimfire bullets.

After shooting, Rimfire cases are permanently destroyed by the impact of the firing pin, striker, or hammer hitting the rim. This means rimfire cartridges can’t be reloaded. (Sometimes in the emergency, rimfire bullets are reloaded with some special tools and stuff but it's really hard and expensive, so almost nobody does it.)

On the other hand, fired centerfire cartridge cases can be fully reused or reloaded. You can use a tool to punch out the old primer and put in a new one. Many shooters love to reload their centerfire cartridge cases many times.

Rimfire Vs. Centerfire - Common Calibers

There are various types of calibers, but all calibers fall into two types. Either Rimfire or Centerfire.

Centerfire calibers are typically used for self-defense, target shooting & hunting including coyote hunting, deer hunting & more.

Don’t miss to check the best calibers for coyote hunting & best deer hunting calibers.

Rimfire calibers are typically used for plinking, small game hunting, and target shooting.

The following table lists some common rimfire and centerfire calibers:

Caliber Type Typical uses Price Range
.22 Long Rifle (LR) Rimfire Plinking, small game hunting, target shooting Check Price
.22 Short Rimfire Plinking Check Price
.22 Long Rimfire Plinking, small game hunting Check Price
.17 HMR Rimfire Varmint hunting, target shooting Check Price
.22 WMR Rimfire Small game hunting, target shooting Check Price
9mm Luger Centerfire Self-defense, target shooting, competition shooting Check Price
.45 ACP Centerfire Self-defense, hunting, competition shooting Check Price
.223 Remington Centerfire Hunting, varmint hunting, target shooting, military and law enforcement use Check Price
.308 Winchester Centerfire Hunting medium- to large-game animals, target shooting, competition shooting Check Price
12 gauge Centerfire Hunting a variety of game animals, home defense, clay pigeon shooting Check Price

Centerfire Vs. Rimfire: Pros & Cons

Both centerfire & rimfire calibers have its own pros & cons that make it good over others. Let's discuss them one by one.

Centerfire Ammo: Pros & Cons


  • Image Widely Available
  • Image Higher Pressure & Power
  • Image Reloadable
  • Image Good Choice for home defense
  • Image Reliability


  • Image Higher Recoil
  • Image Higher Cost
  • Image Not Ideal For Small Game Hunting

Rimfire Ammo: Pros & Cons


  • Image Low Cost
  • Image Lower Recoil
  • Image Lower Pressure
  • Image Ideal for Small Game Hunting


  • Image Reliability Issues
  • Image Can’t be Reloaded
  • Image Not an Idea Choice for Home Defense

Frequently Asked Questions About Centerfire Vs. Rimfire Cartridges

Q: What is the main difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition?
Ans: As there are many differences between rimfire vs centerfire. But the main difference between both calibers are primarily in their primer ignition systems. In rimfire cartridges, the primer is located within the rim of the casing, but in centerfire cartridges, the primer is situated in the center of the base of the casing.

Q: Rimfire Vs. centerfire : which is better?
Ans: Both calibers have its pros & cons, but centerfire cartridges are more popular in the industry. Because Centerfire ammunition is more powerful, it's a popular choice among law enforcement, military personnel, self-defense, target shooting & big hunting games.

Centerfire ammunition is available in a wider range of popular calibers including; 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, 223, 5.56, .308 Winchester & many more.

On the other hand, Rimfire ammunition is useful for small game huntings.

Q: Are rimfire and centerfire ammunition interchangeable?
Ans: No, these cartridges are not interchangeable. For every type of ammunition specific firearms are designed. Using the wrong type of ammunition can damage the firearm and may result in safety hazards.

Q: Which Type of Ammunition Is Widely Available in The Market?
Ans: Centerfire bullets are widely available because these types of bullets have wider availability across various calibers compared to rimfire.

Some popular rimfire ammunition like 22lr are widely available in the market.

Q: Centerfire Vs. Rimfire : Which Is Affordable?
Ans: As per the price comparison, rimfire bullets are very affordable over centerfire cartridges.

But people love to pay more for centerfire bullets because these bullets are more powerful, popular for various applications & widely available.


So, after a detailed comparison between centerfire Vs. rimfire, we can say that both rounds serve their purpose.

But centerfire is a better round.

Centerfire is more popular because of its design, reliability, accuracy, power, and reloadable. It is good for self-defense, military applications, & big game hunting.

On the other side, rimfire ammunition is a great choice for small game hunting. Its lower recoil & cheap price make these bullets popular choice for plinking & small game hunting.

In the end, choice between centerfire & rimfire ammunition depends on your personal preference & requirement.

Lisa Earnest

Lisa Earnest

Apr, 23, 2024

Lisa Earnest has been a part of the Bulk Cheap Ammo team since 2018 and serves as the editor of Bulk Cheap Ammo content.

With a flair for language and an unwavering dedication to shooting sports, Lisa's diverse expertise combines to create an unforgettable experience for our audience.

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