Winchester developed the centerfire rifle in 1873. The cartridge for a centerfire rifle is the .44 WCF (.44-40). Unlike other cartridges of the time, this one worked in rifles and in handguns. Introduced at the time that the western expansion was taking place, it is often referred to as the "cartridge that won the west."
The primer of the centerfire cartridge is what makes it different from the rimfire cartridge. The primer is a separate part of the rifle and can be replaced if damaged or worn, without replacing the entire rifle. A small cup, made of metal, contains the priming compound, which is sometimes called the primary explosive. This is inserted into the cartridge base. A spark is produced when the firing pin strikes the primer, which in turn, crushes it against an anvil.
Though Winchester was the first to introduce the centerfire cartridge, the Berdan and Boxer cartridges soon followed. The Berdan primer was patented in 1866 by Hiram Berdsan of New York. The Berdan primer can become corrosive and will eventually do damage if the barrel is not cleaned on a regular basis. The use of corrosive materials does lower the cost of the cartridge, making the Berdan primer the preferred choice for military-surplus ammunition that is not manufactured in the United States. In spite of the corrosive nature of the Berdan primer, it is reliable under most conditions. The Boxer primer is non-corrosive and was first offered in the 1920s but the reliability of the non-corrosive primer was inconsistent until manufactures in the United States began using military standards with in primer production. Regardless of the corrosive factor, the designs of the Berdan and Boxer cartridges are so similar that they are interchangeable.
During the 1990s lead free primers were developed. Prior to the 90s, small amounts of lead were released with each firing of a weapon. This was of particular concern with indoor shooting ranges which eventually forbid the firing of leaded primers. The lead free primers had a much shorter shelf life when they first appeared on the market, but fine tuning of the cartridges has resulted in their increased popularity.