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A centerfire cartridge is a firearm metallic cartridge whose primer is located at the center of the base of its casing (i.e. “case head”). Unlike rimfire cartridges, the centerfire primer is typically a separate component seat into a recessed cavity (known as the primer pocket) in the case head, and is replaceable by reloading.
Centerfire cartridges have supplanted the rimfire variety in all but the smallest cartridge sizes. The majority of today’s handguns, rifles, and shotguns use centerfire guns, with the exception of a few .17 caliber, .20 caliber, and .22 caliber handgun and rifle cartridges, small-bore shotgun shells (intended for pest control), and a handful of antique (and generally obsolete) cartridges.
Centerfire cartridges are more reliable for military purposes because the thicker metal cartridge cases can withstand rougher handling without damage, and safer to handle because explosive priming compound in a protruding rim is more likely to be trigger by impact if a rimfire cartridge is drop or pinch. The stronger base of a centerfire cartridge is able to withstand higher pressures which in turn give a bullet greater velocity and energy. While centerfire cartridge cases require a complex and expensive manufacturing process, explosive handling is simplify by avoiding the spinning process requires to uniformly distribute priming explosive into the rim because of uncertainty about which angular segment of a rimfire cartridge rim will be struck by the firing pin. Larger caliber rimfire cartridges require greater volumes of priming explosive than centerfire cartridges, and the require volume may cause an undesirably high pressure during ignition. Reducing the amount of priming explosive would reduce the reliability of rimfire cartridge ignition, and increase the probability of misfire or failure cartridges.