Everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re new to guns, learning the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition is important.
Let me backtrack a moment. The first time I went out on the gun range, I had zero idea that there were different types of ammo for different types of weapons. All I knew at that point was that you put these little metal things in a gun and it makes it go pew pew. But there’s much more to it.
That said, learning about the various types of ammunition is important. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition.
Table of Contents
How a Gun Works – The Basics
Before we can talk about the difference between the two, we really need to go over basic mechanics of how a gun operates. If you weren’t already aware, the way shooting a gun works is that you pull the trigger and the firing pin inside the gun hits the primer, which creates a mini-explosion that ignites the gunpowder, sending the actual bullet itself forward out of the gun.
Why is it important to know this? The difference between centerfire and rimfire ammunition takes this chain of events into account, so it is highly important to remember as we continue on in this discussion.
The Difference Between Centerfire and Rimfire Ammo
Now, there are two types of ammunition that you’ll come across: centerfire and rimfire. According to this simple description from Hunter Ed, centerfire ammunition is most commonly used in rifles, handguns, and shotguns. The primer in this type of ammunition is located in the center of the casing base. This is usually ideal because it creates a bigger explosion, making it easier to shoot larger sized bullets from the casing with much higher accuracy.
With rimfire ammunition, the primer is located in the rim of the shell casing. Some people prefer this type of ammo as it does not have the same level of recoil as the centerfire variety. For those who have a tendency to flinch in anticipation, this can be a better alternative.
You can easily tell the difference between centerfire and rimfire by looking at the bottom of the casing. Centerfire will have a small circle in the middle, showing the location of the primer. (Hence the name.) In contrast, rimfire ammo will not have this circle.
What Calibers Are Centerfire and Rimfire?
Both centerfire and rimfire ammunition come in a wide range of calibers designed for use with various kinds of guns.
Rimfire ammo is available in numerous sizes, but the most popular varieties are the .22 Long Rifle and .22 Short.
There are many different calibers of centerfire ammo available on the market today. Most modern shotgun shells are centerfire and nearly all ammunition with the following calibers are considered centerfire:
Which Type of Ammunition Can Be Reloaded?
The only type of ammunition that can be reloaded is centerfire. Rimfire ammo creates too much of an explosive reaction during shooting, which can damage the outside case and make it less reliable. Thus, it cannot be reloaded.
Due to where the primer is placed in centerfire ammo, it can often be reloaded and used again. For avid hunting enthusiasts or those who like to go to the gun range fairly often, this is a benefit. Although centerfire ammunition is more expensive than rimfire, the reloaded ammunition is often less costly than new rounds making it easier to get more (pardon the pun) bang for your buck.
Are Rimfire and Centerfire Interchangeable?
While each type of ammo has a specific use, rimfire and centerfire ammo are not interchangeable. In fact, inserting one type into a weapon that isn’t designed to handle it is a good way to cause problems. And that’s assuming that you can even get it to fit.
Instead, make sure to read the manual of your gun to determine the type of ammo it takes. If no manual is available, such as in the case of older firearms, do a bit of research online. Most centerfire weapons were manufactured within the last hundred years, so if yours is older than that there is a chance that it might be rimfire.
Which Types of Ammo Are Better?
Really, the difference between rimfire and centerfire ammunition comes down to personal preference and the type of gun you already own.
However, if you’re looking to purchase a new gun and are trying to decide between the two types, centerfire is usually the preferred option. Not only does it hold up better to rough handling, such as in hunting or military applications, but it is less prone to manufacturer defects.
Pros and Cons – Centerfire vs. Rimfire Ammunition
Taking all of what you’ve just read into consideration, let’s take a look at some of the basic pros and cons of centerfire versus rimfire ammunition.
Pros – Centerfire Ammo
- Can be reloaded.
- Much more reliable.
- Most modern guns use this type of ammo.
- Higher velocity due to location of the primer.
Cons – Centerfire Ammo
- More expensive when purchased new.
- Not available for some older gun models.
Pros – Rimfire Ammo
- Lower in initial cost.
- Better for target practice or small game.
- Fits a lot of older or antique weapons.
- Less recoil.
Cons – Centerfire Ammo
- Cannot be reloaded.
- Much more prone to firing problems.
While the decision of which ammunition to use is ultimately up to you, this list of pros and cons should help you determine the difference between the two types and make a solid decision for yourself.
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