Immunization with a T cell–dependent antigen elicits production of specific memory B cells and antibody-secreting cells (ASCs). The kinetic and developmental relationships between these populations and the phenotypic forms they and their precursors may take remain unclear. Therefore, we examined the early stages of a primary immune response, focusing on the appearance of antigen-specific B cells in blood. Within 1 wk, antigen-specific B cells appear in the blood with either a memory phenotype or as immunoglobulin (Ig)G1 ASCs expressing blimp-1. The memory cells have mutated VH genes; respond to the chemokine CXCL13 but not CXCL12, suggesting recirculation to secondary lymphoid organs; uniformly express B220; show limited differentiation potential unless stimulated by antigen; and develop independently of blimp-1 expression. The antigen-specific IgG1 ASCs in blood show affinity maturation paralleling that of bone marrow ASCs, raising the possibility that this compartment is established directly by blood-borne ASCs. We find no evidence for a blimp-1–expressing preplasma memory compartment, suggesting germinal center output is restricted to ASCs and B220+ memory B cells, and this is sufficient to account for the process of affinity maturation.