If you are getting into the realm of firearms and rifles, the amount of information and choices available are probably overwhelming. Firearms can be used for various things (hunting, personal defense or just target shooting), so choosing the right firearm for you can be a tough choice. 

One of the first choices you need to make is whether you want a rimfire vs. centerfire gun. If you don’t know what these are or only know a little bit, we’re going to provide an introductory baseline for you to be able to make the right decision for your needs!

How a Cartridge Works

The first important thing to understand when discussing the firing systems and different cartridges of firearms is going to be how a cartridge actually works. There are four parts to a standard cartridge- the bullet, propellant, primer and case (jacket). Keep in mind that the bullet is only the projectile that is fired from the barrel, not the entire round. In short, the firing pin of a gun strikes the primer (located at the base of the cartridge), which causes a miniature explosion. 

The explosion ignites the propellant (gun powder) and that forces the bullet forward and through the barrel. The entire process is simple in theory, but for ammunition and firearm manufacturers to produce products that are extremely reliable in every situation is no small task. Now, let’s turn to the questions that you still have: What is rimfire and what is the difference between centerfire and rimfire?

Rimfire Rounds

First invented in 1845, the rimfire cartridge has remained a staple in the firearm industry for a variety of specific purpose firearms. Rimfire cartridges are going to be found on the smaller side of the spectrum. Due to the physical process of firing a rimfire round, the casings have to be designed so that the cartridge walls can be crushed by the firing pin to ignite the primer. Because of this, you won’t see many cartridges larger than .22 caliber since the pressures created would blow out the casing. 

Centerfire Rounds

Predating the rimfire round invention, centerfire rounds were invented by Frenchman Clement Pottet in 1829. Aside from the smaller calibers (.22 and below), almost all pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition produced and used today is going to be centerfire. Due to the primer ignition system used; centerfire casings are able to withstand much higher pressures allowing them to be used in the largest calibers available. 

Now the difference between rimfire vs. centerfire cartridges is where that primer is located. As you can probably guess by their names, the rimfire cartridge has the primer placed around the bottom rim and centerfire has the primer located, you guessed it, in the center of the bottom. There are significant differences between the two. 

Pros and Cons of Rimfire 


  • Pros
  • Economical – these rounds are very inexpensive because their casings are produced with thin brass. If you’re looking for a great choice for putting a lot of rounds down range and plinking targets
  • Introductory – because they are readily found in .22 caliber, it’s a great choice for introducing into the world of shooting. Very low recoil makes it easy and fun to shoot for all experience levels.
  • Small game hunting – rodent, varmint, small birds and other small species are great to target with rimfire rifles. The low energy and smaller projectile in the rounds help preserve the hides and meat of smaller animals.
  • Cons
  • Reliability – the design in the casing and primer ignition system, rimfire cartridges are inherently prone to misfires and other issues. Because they typically aren’t used in life or death situations like home defense, these issues aren’t a huge concern to fans of the ammunition.
  • Small – as mentioned above, the small and limited sizes available for rimfire make it a very niche selection.
  • Not reloadable – because the striker crushes part of the casing’s rim, once the round is fired they are not able to be reused. 

 what is rimfire


Pros and Cons of Centerfire


  • Pros
  • Reliable – the primer location and firing mechanism produce far more reliable performance. Military, police and other government agencies have tested centerfire weapons in extreme conditions and the reliability has held up fantastically well. Having a dependable round in the chamber when it matters most is important.
  • Variety of sizes and types – pistol, rifle, and shotgun rounds are all going to be centerfire.
  • Accurate – accuracy at longer ranges is a premium for hunting and centerfire rifle rounds are the only choice. 
  • Powerful – because the casing can withstand much higher pressures, centerfire rounds are much more powerful comparatively. 
  • Reloadable – one of the most appealing aspects of centerfire rounds for some individuals is the fact that they can be reloaded. This is a bonus for those looking to save money. 
  • Cons
  • More expensive – compared to rimfire rounds, centerfire rounds are going to be more expensive, but you get more power and reliability.
  • More recoil – this can decrease the accuracy of repeat shots but having more power and greater distance accuracy is a premium.

 what is a centerfire rifle


Hopefully, that information gives you a great understanding of the differences between centerfire vs. rimfire cartridges! Check out our large selection of ammunition that includes both rimfire and centerfire pistol, rifle and shotgun cartridges in the most popular types and volume!