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Centerfire vs Rimfire

Centerfire vs Rimfire

Table of Contents

Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy want to go over the differences between centerfire and rimfire ammunition. These two forms of cartridges are common on the market today and are widely available. Our goal with this blog post is to provide an overview of and highlight the differences between these two ammunition types and explore their traits. Without further ado, let’s get into it.


What is Centerfire Ammunition?

Like the name suggests, centerfire ammunition relies upon a primer located at the rear of the cartridge for ignition. These primers are centered at the rear of the cartridge and are struck directly by firing pins, acting as a primary explosive and propelling the projectile. Cartridges of this type have been around in one form or another since the 19th century and have evolved over time as technology has advanced.


What is Rimfire Ammunition?

Also aptly named, rimfire ammunition is ignited when the rim of the cartridge is struck. This is due to the primer being imbedded within the rim of the case. Because of this, there is no single point which must be struck with a firing pin to achieve ignition. The cartridge simply needs to be chambered in the firearm and can be impacted at any point on the rim. Like centerfire ammunition, rimfire ammunition has also been around since the 19th century. While rimfire ammunition in today’s context generally connotes a smallbore cartridge, earlier examples of rimfire cartridges featured large projectiles. Notable examples are the .44 Henry and .56-56 Spencer rimfire cartridges.

.22 Long Rifle and 9mm Luger
.22 Long Rifle and 9mm Luger

Typical Centerfire Cartridges

Today, a majority of cartridges on the market are going to be of the centerfire variety. Pistol, rifle, and shotgun loadings are available in centerfire form. Popular centerfire pistol cartridges include 9mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson, .45 ACP, and .357 Magnum to name a few. Contemporary centerfire rifle cartridges are 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62×39, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield among others. Some of the popular centerfire shotgun shells include 12 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and 410 gauge. At the end of the day, a majority of the cartridges one will encounter these days will be of the centerfire variety.


Typical Rimfire Cartridges

While there are more different centerfire cartridges on the market today, one will find a considerable amount of rimfire ammunition as well. These will often be of the .22 caliber variety in the form of .22 Short, .22 Long Rifle, and .22 Magnum. Hornady’s .17 HMR is another popular rimfire cartridge on the market. The most common rimfire cartridge in the United States is the .22 Long Rifle, a chambering common in pistol and rifle form.


Can You Reload Centerfire Ammunition?

In most cases, centerfire ammunition can be reloaded. In some cases, such as steel cased ammunition or some staked primers, reloading is not possible. One can find reloading components for a variety of cartridges in both big box stores and online quite easily. Pistol and rifle calibers are supported by a variety of well-known reloading companies such as Dillon Precision and RCBS. Shotgun shells can also often be reloaded. Certain calibers are more practical to reload than others in terms of money saved and effort needed. One may decide to just buy more ammo rather than get invested in a reloading setup an affordable round. If one wanted to reload something specific to their use cases or firearm, this is easily done with centerfire cartridges.


Can You Reload Rimfire Ammunition?

Contrary to popular belief, rimfire ammunition such as .22 Long Rifle can be reloaded. The practicality of reloading this cartridge is questionable, however. The process of reloading rimfire ammunition is a departure from the standard reloading process. This means that standard components one may have on hand are potentially unusable for this case. Standard practices also will not apply, such as removing and installing a new primer.

Kits specifically made for reloading rimfire cartridges such as .22 Long Rifle are available to aid in this task. These kits will come with purpose-built tools to best work with rimfire ammunition. Going back to practicality, one should consider if it is cheaper to just buy more rimfire ammunition instead of purchasing specific tooling to reload ammunition of this type. People generally get into reloading to save money or make their own loads for specific use cases. With .22 Long Rifle in particular being common and affordable, one must question if money is really saved when reloading this caliber. Then one must consider if it is even worth the time and effort to roll their own rimfire ammunition when they could just buy another brick of affordable ammunition.

.22 Long Rifle and 9mm Luger
.22 Long Rifle and 9mm Luger


Despite their obvious fundamental differences, rimfire and centerfire ammunition do share some similarities. The two types of ammunition similarly use casings to contain propellants and house primers. With the exception of shotgun shells, both centerfire and rimfire cartridges use traditional style projectiles. These projectiles can range from full metal jacket (FMJ), jacketed hollow point (JHP), and soft point (SP) varieties to name a few. Rimfire loadings of today generally feature smaller projectiles than their centerfire counterparts.



All in all, we hope this blog has effectively provided information on what centerfire and rimfire cartridges are. One will encounter multiple examples of both cartridge types wherever they go in their shooting journey so it does help to know the difference. We here at True Shot offer rimfire and centerfire cartridges of many types. Pistol ammunition, rifle ammunition, and shotgun ammunition are our business and would love to help you get stocked up for your next outing. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


View some of our other blog posts about specific types of ammunition:

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