What is Rimfire Rifle?

what is rimfire rifle

For having a good shooting experience, you must choose your cartridge wisely. There are so many cartridges available in the market that shooters are spoilt for choice. One such category of cartridges is a rimfire cartridge. 

Rimfire is a type of ammunition cartridge that, like all modern cartridges, uses a primer ignition system. In this system, the cartridge fires the bullet when the firing pin strikes it.

In a rimfire cartridge, the firing pin strikes the primer in the rim of the cartridge. The position at which it hits separates a rimfire cartridge from others, such as a centerfire cartridge.

This article will elaborate on what a rimfire is, it’s working, and its pros and cons. 

History of Rimfire

 In 1845, a Frenchman named Louis-Nicolas Flobert invented the first rimfire cartridge. It was a .22 caliber and was used for target shooting at home. The cartridge did not use powder and relied on primer for the thrust. Later, Benjamin Houllier improved this cartridge.

In 1857 a second rimfire cartridge, which was .22 short, was made. It had a longer case and also used 4 grains of black powder as a propellant.

Then, in 1871, .22 Long came. It has the same bullet size as the .22 short but has a longer case. It used 5 grains of black powder instead of 4.

In 1880, .22 Extra long was made. It had both an increased case length and heavier bullets than a .22 Long.

Finally, in 1887, Arms and tool company combined the case length of .22 Long and the bullet weight of .22 Extra Long and founded the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. With its high muzzle velocity and outstanding performance on the field, it became a popular cartridge, accepted by a large variety of rifles and handguns.

Today, .22 caliber versions are the only early rimfire cartridges that have survived as the centerfire round replaced the large-caliber rimfires.

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Rimfire cartridge working

To understand the working of rimfire cartridges, we would first know how cartridges work in general. A cartridge has four main parts: a projectile, a casing, a propellant, and a primer. When your gun’s firing pin hits the primer in the cartridge, it ignites the primer and creates an explosion. The explosion then pushes the bullet out of the barrel.

Both rimfire and centerfire ammunition follow this principle. The difference is in the location of the primer.

In a rimfire cartridge, the rim contains the primer compound, and it is not externally visible. The primer is distributed to the inside of the hollow rim case. If you compare this design to centerfire cartridges, you will see an externally visible primer compound in the center of the cartridge.

Hence, a rimfire is ignited when the firing pin strikes the rim of the cartridge.

Commonly used Rimfire Ammunition

Some common rimfire cartridges are .22 short, .22 LR, .17 HMR, .22 Winchester automatic. All of these are small-caliber ammunition. There is some large caliber rimfire ammos, but they are rare. 

The .22 LR is the most popular round in the world. Many shooters begin their shooting journey with it.  

And the .17 is the newer round. Compared to a .22 LR, it is more powerful and also shoots flatter.

Pros and Cons of Rimfire

Listed below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a rimfire cartridge:


Low Price:

Rimfire ammunition is cheaper than centerfire ammunition. You can get a 22LR for as cheap as 5-10 cents. A rimfire vs. centerfire comparison shows that rimfire ammo is cheaper as centerfire ammo can cost you 25-40 cents.

Such low prices are because it is easier to manufacture a thin-walled cartridge with a flat bottom. So, with a rimfire, you can shoot over 100 rounds without breaking the bank.

Less Recoil:

Another advantage of rimfire ammo is that it has less recoil. The reason for this is that it uses small-caliber bullets and uses less propellant. Less recoil makes it perfect for new shooters.

If you compare the recoil of rimfire ammo with a centerfire rifle, then the former kicks less. More so, the centerfire handgun recoil can become unmanageable for some shooters.

Less Noisy and lightweight:

Rimfire firearms are also less noisy when you compare them to centerfire rounds. You can use them without damaging your hearing and disturbing your neighbors. Also, they are lightweight; due to this, they are easy to transport and also easy to store.

Perfect for Training:

A rimfire cartridge has less recoil and thus is more manageable for young shooters. It also costs less, so if you want to practice shooting, you can shoot several hundred rounds with your rimfire gun. As shooters waste a lot of ammunition when they begin, thus cheaper ammo is a better option for training.

Moreover, because of its low price, many shooters who use centerfire cartridges on the field also use rimfire cartridges for training purposes. 


Limited power:

The rimfire designs use only small-caliber cartridges. Due to this, they have less internal pressure, velocity, and muzzle energy. Hence, the power of rimfire ammos is limited, so they are not suitable for large game animals and self-defense.

Not reloadable:

Another disadvantage of a rimfire is that it is not reloadable. The firing pin hits the rim of the cartridge, due to which its brass gets crimped. Due to the deformed rim, you cannot reload a rimfire. It might not be a problem for everyone but for those who reload guns on their own.

Limited to small caliber:

The design of a rimfire itself makes it limited to small-caliber cartridges. For igniting the powder in rimfire ammo, a firing pin crushes the case from a particular point. So, rimfire cartridges need a thin case that the firing pin can easily crush.

As a rimfire design uses a thin case, you cannot use it with larger cartridges. Therefore, the modern rimfire cartridges are .22 and .17 caliber cartridges. 

Reliability Issues:

There are more reliability issues when you use a rimfire cartridge. Sometimes, the primer compound fails to make complete contact with the rim. Due to this, you can have firing failures with a rimfire round.

Less accuracy at long distance:

We already know that rimfire ammo is lightweight, so when a lightweight bullet travels, external factors affect its accuracy more than a heavy-weight bullet. Hence, a rimfire cartridge is not recommended for long-range shooting.

When to use a Rimfire Cartridge?

Shooters prefer using rimfire rounds for small game animals, varmint hunting, and plinking.

The Rimfire rifle is perfect for hunting rabbits and squirrels and shooting at a low range. So, it is highly recommended to buy the Rimfire rifle if you want to practice your target.

Due to their less power, rimfire cartridges are not preferred for home defense. Generally, people prefer a centerfire pistol over a rimfire one for this purpose.

Also, due to its lightweight, the accuracy of the cartridge is affected at longer ranges. So, it is not suitable for long-range shooting. 

So, if you want to experience small game hunting with less noise and recoil, use a rimfire cartridge.


The rimfire design has its primer in the rim of the case. At this spot, it gets hit by the firing pin and ignites the powder.

A rimfire designed round has less recoil, is cheap, and is less noisy, making it ideal for training. But it is limited to only small-caliber cartridges, which also caps its power.

You can use your rimfire ammunition for short-range, small game hunting and training. But it is not the best-suited cartridge for large game animals and self-defense.


What is the difference between a rimfire and a centerfire rifle?

A rimfire rifle uses a rimfire cartridge. In this cartridge, the primer is located in the rim of the case. The firing pin of the gun hits the case to ignite the fire in the prepollent. For this purpose, the case is intentionally made thin. A thin case cannot handle the high pressure of large-caliber cartridges, so it’s limited to small-caliber. So, you can not use a rimfire rifle for large game hunting and self-defense.

Contrary to this, a centerfire rifle has a centerfire cartridge. In this cartridge, the primer is present in the center of the cartridge. They are more reliable than a rimfire cartridge and more accurate at longer distances. They are used by the military and police and also by civilians for self-defense purposes.

Can the Rimfire Rifle Reload?

No, you cannot reload the rimfire rifle as it has no separate box of primer. The rimfire ammunition gives a huge explosion that damages the ammo’s outer case, making it less reliable and cannot be used or reloaded.

What is better, centerfire or rimfire?

Both centerfire and rimfire ammunition have their pros and cons. A rimfire is inexpensive, with less noise and less recoil. These features make the cartridge perfect for training. However, it is limited to small-caliber cartridges and has less power and accuracy. Shooters also doubt its reliability.

On the other hand, a centerfire gives more accuracy at long ranges and is more reliable, making it ideal for large game hunting and self-defense. However, it has more recoil and is expensive.

Is it a 9mm centerfire or rimfire?

9mm is a centerfire round.

Is it an AR-15 rimfire or centerfire?

Due to the low cost of rimfire ammo, shooters who use centerfire firearms use rimfire firearms for training. For this purpose, some manufacturers have made variants of rimfire for an AR-15. They cost much less than the .223 ammunition, which is the standard cartridge used in an AR-15.

What caliber bullets are rimfire?

Earlier, when rimfire used black powder as its propellant, there used to be rimfire cartridges up to 56 caliber. However, modern rimfire ammos use smokeless powder and are of .22 caliber.

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