Anatomy of a Rifle or Pistol Cartridge

Shotshell Graphic Cutaway Diagram
After looking at a cartridge do you ever wonder how this little piece of metal can cause so much damage? The anatomy of a rifle or pistol cartridge is far more complex than it may appear. Each tiny element plays a big role in making your firearm function properly, accurately and safely. The case, bullet, powder, primer and rim all contribute in their own unique way to this almost magical process. Learn more about each element of a cartridge by clicking on a part below.
Shotgun Case

Case (a.k.a. Brass) – Cases can be called brass, empties, shells, reloading brass, spent cases or brass cases. The case is generally made of brass, steel or aluminum designed to contain the powder charge and the primer. Centerfire cases include all pistol and rifle cartridges that have primers in the center of the cartridge base. Rimfire cases have the primer located in the rim of the case. Brass- and nickel-plated brass are reloadable while rimfire, steel and aluminum cases that are not reloadable.