Rimfire ammunition isn’t as popular as it once was, but despite its shortcomings, it still serves a purpose. Compared to centerfire, it’s less accurate and less versatile; but it’s also cheaper for target practice and minimizes recoil, making it more manageable for beginners and more accurate for small game hunting. If you’re new to shooting, here are three simple points to help you understand how rimfire ammunition works and why it deserves a second look.
Rimfire is just another type of cartridge.
Both centerfire and rimfire cartridges consist of a bullet, gunpowder and primer wrapped in a brass casing. When a gun is fired, the firing pin strikes the primer, causing the powder to explode and the subsequent pressure created propels the bullet forward.
The difference between the two types of ammunition lies in where the primer is located. Centerfire rounds have recessed primer compartments in the center of the base. Rimfire rounds have liquid primer that’s spun into the rim using a centrifuge. Both have their advantages.
Rimfire ammunition isn’t for self-defense or big game hunting.
Centerfire ammunition is costly to make because primer placement is an exacting process, but it results in rounds that are more powerful, reliable and reloadable. Rimfire is cheap to manufacture, but rounds fail more often because unevenly distributed primer in the rim increases the probability that a firing pin will strike an area with an amount that’s insufficient to ignite the powder, making it less dependable than centerfire ammunition for critical applications like self-defense.
And because rimfire casings need to be thin enough for the firing pin to crush the rim and ignite the primer, powder loads are limited to modest amounts that won’t blow weak casings apart. This means that with few exceptions, rimfire rounds carry low-pressure loads that aren’t powerful or fast enough to take down large game accurately.
Rimfire is perfect for beginners, target practice and varmint hunting.
For varmint hunters, low-recoil rimfire ammunition improves accuracy at short distances. It’s also cheap. For calibers like .22LR, it costs as little as a quarter of the price of similar centerfire ammunition and although it’s not reloadable, it still significantly more cost-effective for small game hunting and target practice.
For beginners, the low cost and soft recoil is a comfortable way to get started without skimping on training rounds and shots tend to be quieter and a little more neighbor-friendly.
Rimfire ammunition isn’t for every purpose, but what it does, it does well. If every shot counts, stick with centerfire, but if you’re counting the price of every shot, rimfire does the job without breaking the bank.