Rimfire vs Centerfire: Which One Is Better?

Rimfire vs Centerfire: Various Ammunition Types

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Guns have operated the same way for about the last 600 to 700 years. Using a pipe-like chamber that is sealed on one end, an explosive powder is used to launch a projectile out of an opening on the other end and toward an intended target. Over the years the details of this design has changed, but the overall concept has stayed the same. In the 1850s, different types of primer ignition systems came about that would revolutionize the gun industry. So, what is the difference in rimfire vs centerfire cartridges?

There are more differences between rimfire vs centerfire than one might initially guess. Their purposes have shifted over the year, as have designs. Rimfire are at the easier-to-handle, lighter-power end of the spectrum. Centerfire cartridges are on the heavier, more powerful side of and are used for big game hunting, personal protection, and by the military and police.

What Is Rimfire vs Centerfire?

The most obvious difference rimfire vs centerfire is the location on the cartridge where the gun’s firing pin hits. The firing pin strikes rimfire cartridge on the rim and centerfire cartridge in the center.

Rimfire rounds started out as small size ammunition only (.22 caliber or less), but nowadays you might find larger caliber rimfire ammunition if you look hard enough. Centerfire cartridges are available in sizes bigger than .22 calibers.

Brief History on Rimfire


The first rimfire cartridge was designed as a .22 caliber and used in 1845. However, it didn’t contain any powder and seemed to be intended for play shooting. It was even used indoors. The first powder cartridge wasn’t designed until 1857.

Some larger rimfire rounds were made during its heyday, including for the .52 caliber Spencer rifle. However, shortly after the American Civil War, the larger rimfires lost popularity as the powerful and more reliable centerfire cartridges became popular.

Brief History on Centerfire


The centerfire cartridge as we know it was designed sometime during the 1870s. However, there are several primitive designs that came about before rimfire cartridges; some as early as 1808.

Casings grew more complicated and more reliable. The single-piece, thick, reusable casings developed for centerfire catridges proved more economical over the years, knocking rimfire cartridges down to smaller calibers only.

How They Are Made

Whether they are rimfire or centerfire, the basic components of cartridges are the same; but with a few innovational twists added to the centerfire. Making cartridges (both by-hand or in the factory) is dangerous work. Knowing how rimfire vs centerfire cartridges are made will help you better understand and appreciate the powerful tools we sometimes take for granted, along with knowing what type is right for your next hunting trip or visit to the shooting range.

The Parts of a Cartridge


The basic components of a cartridge (or round) are as follows: the bullet, the propellant, the primer, and finally the casing. Each can be made in many different ways, depending on the manufacturing process.

Manufacturing Rimfire vs Centerfire Cartridges

rifle bullets

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A very thin brass (sometimes steel, but usually brass) casing is used for rimfire vs centerfire cartridges. The cartridges also have more of an edge on the bottom rim, where the firing pin will strike. This is where the primer is placed using centrifugal force. Both rimfire and centerfire casings need to be within 0.001 inches of a standard caliber in order to properly function and not jam a gun. Even if it feeds into the magazine properly, it can have problems moving from the magazine into the chamber.

In centerfire cartridges, the casing has to be be a lot thicker for the heavier bullets and greater amount of powder, providing a lot more fire power. In this case, the primer bead is separate from the casing. During the manufacturing process, the bead is placed in the primer hole of the casing, and, at the same time, the top of the casing is slightly expanded to make room for packing in the powder and to make placing the bullet easier.

When packing black powder, a precise, and carefully measured amount must be used or there is a risk of inaccuracy from not enough power. Too much powder in a cartridge can be very dangerous and even cause a firearm to explode. When comparing rimfire vs centerfire cartridges, one detail really stands out. Since rimfire cartridges are limited to smaller calibers, less powder can be used; thus there is less power provided to the bullet when fired.

The next and final step in the manufacturing of cartridges is setting the bullet, which is usually covered in a lubricant to make things easier. Once the bullet is seated, the casing is crimped down to meet the proper length standards as well as reduce the diameter and secure the bullet. Special dies are used to seal the entire circumference of the cartridge so no moisture can affect the powder inside. If it even becomes damp, it won’t fire.

Rimfire vs Centerfire: Which Is Better?

Many would guess that centerfire cartridges are the best since the design is an obvious improvement on the rimfire design. The truth is that rimfire very much still has its place. Many hunters and gun enthusiasts start out with a .22 long rifle: a rimfire.

Ignition Systems

Durability

Recoil

Safety

Reloadable

Conclusion

It’s obvious who wins the rimfire vs centerfire argument: centerfire! With lack of availability, accuracy, and variety of calibers, rimfire has many reasons for losing favorability. Rimfire may still have a place in the hearts of gun history buffs and true gun enthusiasts, and many beginners will be thankful for how little recoil it produces and the cheap cartridges. Most hunters, professionals, and military personnel will continue to use centerfire ammunition for years to come until a new, more efficient technology takes its place.

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