What is the Main Difference between Centerfire and Rimfire Ammunition?


Ammunition serves as the lifeblood of firearms, and within the realm of ammunition, there are distinct types, each with its own unique characteristics. One of the most fundamental distinctions is between centerfire and rimfire ammunition. Understanding the core differences between these two types of cartridges is essential for any firearms enthusiast, whether you’re a seasoned shooter or new to the world of guns. In this extensive guide, we will explore the main differences between centerfire and rimfire ammunition, shedding light on their mechanics, applications, and advantages.

Understanding Ammunition Basics

Before we explore the differences between centerfire and rimfire ammunition, let’s establish some essential ammunition basics

Ammunition consists of four main components:

  • Case: The outer container that holds all the other components.
  • Primer: A small, sensitive explosive compound located at the base of the case.
  • Powder: The propellant that, when ignited, generates the pressure to propel the bullet.
  • Bullet: The projectile that is fired from the firearm’s barrel.

Understanding these components is crucial for comprehending the key differences between centerfire and rimfire ammunition.

Centerfire Ammunition: A Detailed Look

Centerfire ammunition represents the more prevalent and versatile of the two types. Key characteristics of centerfire ammunition include:

  • Primer Location: In centerfire cartridges, the primer is situated at the center of the cartridge base, hence the name “centerfire.” This primer is a separate, replaceable component that can be easily removed and replaced with a new one.
  • Reliability and Durability: Centerfire ammunition is celebrated for its reliability and durability. The centrally located primer is less susceptible to environmental factors, such as moisture, which can affect its performance. As a result, centerfire ammunition is the preferred choice for firearms intended for self-defense or critical situations.
  • Versatile Caliber Range: Centerfire cartridges are available in a wide range of calibers, making them suitable for various applications, from target shooting and hunting to self-defense.

Rimfire Ammunition: An In-Depth Exploration

Rimfire ammunition, while less common than centerfire, possesses its own unique attributes and applications. Key characteristics of rimfire ammunition include:

  • Primer Location: Rimfire cartridges derive their name from the location of the primer, which is distributed across the entire circumference of the cartridge’s rim. Unlike centerfire primers, rimfire primers are not replaceable; they are integral to the cartridge.
  • Limited Caliber Range: Rimfire cartridges are typically available in smaller calibers, such as .22 LR (Long Rifle). This limitation restricts their utility primarily to smaller game hunting, target shooting, and recreational plinking.
  • Economical Choice: Rimfire ammunition is often more budget-friendly than centerfire ammunition, making it an economical choice for recreational shooting and training.
  • Non-Reloadable: Due to the integral nature of rimfire primers, once a rimfire cartridge is fired, it cannot be reloaded. This contrasts with centerfire cartridges, which can be reloaded with a new primer.

Main Differences Summarized

 In essence, the primary difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition centers around the location and replaceability of the primer. Centerfire ammunition features a centrally located, replaceable primer, offering reliability, versatility in caliber selection, and enhanced durability. In contrast, rimfire ammunition boasts a primer situated within the cartridge’s rim, is predominantly available in smaller calibers, and is often more budget-friendly but non-reloadable.


Distinguishing between centerfire and rimfire ammunition is pivotal for anyone venturing into the world of firearms. Each ammunition type possesses its distinctive attributes, catering to diverse shooting preferences and requirements. Whether you’re a seasoned marksman or a newcomer, this knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions when selecting the ideal ammunition for your firearm and shooting endeavors, ultimately enhancing your shooting experience and accuracy.