Differences Between Rimfire and Centerfire Scope

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I’ve always heard hunters discussing with animation the best option in  rifle scopes for hunting. Watching Pa James, my neighbor, going out to hunt with friends, made me curious enough to ask him about the rifles used while hunting and which rifle scope was the better option. With the information I got from Pa James, I would say that you need to look at the design and the mechanism differences between the rimfire and centerfire scope  to know which one is preferable.

It goes without saying that before you choose a scope, you need to have the right rifle to mount it on.  Knowing where  and what will you will be hunting is a good start.  You do not want to invest in a rifle that does not suit your needs, or is more costly than necessary.  Fortunately, sporting goods stores that sell rifles will have knowledgeable staff to guide you through the process.  You could also gain valuable information from friends that hunt, just like I did with Pa James.

Once you have the perfect rifle, you can decide what type of scope you would want on it.  There are two major scopes to consider…the rimfire and the centerfire scope.

In this article we will explain the differences between the two scopes, to assist you with deciding which would be best for you.

What is the Rimfire scope? 

A rimfire scope is used mainly for short ranges with a parallax setting of about 50 yards. The parallax setting on a scope is the range that, if moving your eye around behind the scope, it will not affect the position of the crosshairs on the target. If your eye is perfectly centered, the parallax does not have any effect.  But it can matter when using higher magnifications and smaller targets.  A rimfire scope is not capable of withstanding a high level recoil when it’s at full force, so for this reason, they are designed for rifles with lower recoil.  Please note that rifle scopes should not be used with airguns,  Airguns have a  high level of recoil and that can damage your scope.

What is the Centerfire scope?

Centerfire scopes, on the other hand, have a parallax setting of about 100 yards. Their parallax adjustments are more manageable as they have an excellent adjustable lens with greater eye relief. Range finders, an instrument for estimating the distance of an object,  find the scope preferable because they are mil-dotted. (Mils are used in adjustment of firearm sights by adjusting the angle of thesight compared to the barrel (up, down, left or right).

The reticle of a scope is the pattern of lines or marking that are built into the eyepiece.

Using the reticle of the scope, one can attain an approximate summation for the target distance and vice versa.

Differences between rimfire and centerfire scope

Now, to note the differences between Rimfire vs. centerfire scopes, we would like to recognize various factors.

Firstly, eye relief and parallax adjustments are one of the significant differences between Rimfire and centerfire scopes.

Eye relief  is the distance from the last surface of an eyepiece within which the user’s eye can obtain the full viewing angle. And we know from mentioning it before that the parallax setting on a scope is the range that, if moving your eye around behind the scope, it will not affect the position of the crosshairs on the target.

When it’s in cases of shorter distances and proper lighting settings, their differences become difficult to compare. But in cases where a more precise shot is required, a centerfire scope is preferable because of its quality in comparison to the rimfire scope. The centerfire scopes are highly powered, giving a clean shot of about or beyond 300 yards, whereas the rimfire can only provide a shooting range of about 50 yards or little.

Secondly, another difference between rimfire and centerfire scopes are the accuracy they provide when using them on a rifle. Rimfire scopes are mainly used with rifles that have a low recoil. The presence of higher recoils can make one miss the target and can cause perpetual misalignment when trying to take a shot. This needs to be taken into consideration, as it is inherent in the scope and not a situation that can be rectified with practice or experience.

Taking that into consideration, when it comes to shorter-range shot, a rimfire scopes becomes a better option as it can enable you to use bullets with lighter weight. Just know that  trying to make a shot of about 100 yards or beyond will not be feasible because of crosswind. The slightest breeze will quickly sway your target out of your sight.

Therefore, in cases of the shooting distance between rimfire versus centerfire scopes, the rimfire scopes are ideal for shooting small moving target, while centerfire scopes are more ideal for shooting larger moving targets.

In addition, the magnification between both scopes is different.   The numbers on a scope will tell you its magnification power.  The first number on a scope is its magnification power. Some scopes have variable magnifications.  The second number on a scope will indicate the in millimeters of the objective lens. (that is the lens closest to the end of the barrel of the rifle).  For example, a 4 X 32 sight will magnify the image four times, and the size of the objective lens is 32 mm.   A scope that has a 4 – 12 X 32 will magnify between four and twelve times with an objective lens size of 32 mm.

The magnification range for the centerfire scope is greater when compared to the rimfire scope. Rimfire scopes could be having a magnification range of 2-7X or 3-9X compared to centerfire with a magnification of 4-14X.

Another consideration is that a centerfire scope will cost more than the rimfire scope. The centerfire scope is sold around $400 and above. The rimfire scope is sold around $100 and above.

The centerfire scope can be used with any rifle. They are very difficult to be damaged, making them a good investment. Centerfire scopes provides better quality, which provides a superb light transmission and penetration.

To clarify, either scope, whether it be a rimfire scope or a centerfire scope, can be used on your rifle.  However, the extremely important difference to note is that if a rimfire scope is placed on a rifle that has a heavy recoil, it will ruin the scope. Rimfire scopes cannot withstand a heavy recoil.

Centerfire scopes, on the other hand, can be placed on a rifle that has a light or a heavy recoil.  The higher quality of a centerfire scopes enables it to withstand both types of recoil.


We have touched on several different factors that will, hopefully, help you to determine what type of scope that will be best suited for the rifle that you already own, or intend to purchase.

The differences between rimfire and centerfire scopes has led us to conclude that for those serious and committed shooters, the centerfire scope is better because of its durability.

However, the rimfire scope is not to be discounted as it would be very well suited for smaller game and closer range shots.  It is also the least expensive option, which might be a good starting point.

That being said, a centerfire scope would work well on a rifle with light or heavy recoil.

Although they are more expensive, they suit a wider purpose and will serve you well.

Andrew Garfield

Andrew is an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He has years of experience in hunting with expert knowledge in hunting tactics, rifle scopes and all types of hunting gear.

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