I get the most questions about rifles.
A biathlon rifle is a .22 caliber rifle, with mechanical
sights, five shot magazines, and a form of bolt action. No optical
sights are allowed. Often
biathlon rifles will also have snow covers for sights and the
end of the barrel, to keep snow out. Rifles are outfitted with
a hand stop and sling for shooting prone, and a backpack harness
for wearing the rifle while skiing. Trigger weight must be more
than 500 grams, and the rifle must be heavier than 3.5 kilograms.
Currently I divide rifles I see at races into three groups
based on price range: entry, amateur, and olympic. Often
clubs already have rifles that you can use, find a club near
you and ask. The downside of using a club rifle is that it
may not fit you well (especially if you're left handed) and
might not be sighted for you during a race.
The common entry market rifle is
the marlin 2000 modified for biathlon. There is a kit which
adds a backpack sling and magazine carrier. I'm not sure if
Marlin is still selling the 2000 model. Find a dealer from
their web site. If not, it's likely you could find one from the biathlon
The most common amateur rifle that I've
seen lately is the
made by Ishmash in Russia. This rifle has been selling in the US
for about $1000 US. If has a quick level bolt for fast reloading.
Compared to the olympic rifles this one is a great value.
sells a 1451 model biathlon rifle in this price range as well,
though I haven't seen any at events. Let me know if you have any
experience with them.
The king of the olympic rifles is the
Anshutz Fortner biathlon rifle. By far the majority of the
world class athletes use this rifle or the barrel from this rifle
with another action like the Baikal. Unfortunately this will cost you about $4000 US
with the basic accessories. I noticed a few athletes on the German team using lever
action rifles from Krico or Suhl as well. The lever action rotates the grip
Dealers for these rifles:
Champion Shooters in Ohio
Larson in Norway
Accessories and Ammunition
Rifles don't always come with all the necesssary accessories, make sure
to ask what you're getting. Anshutz rifles don't usually come with a rear sight for example and
you'll need to buy that separately.
Biathlon magazines hold five rounds, and most will have additional
space for carrying three more rounds which can be removed manually from the bottom. The
five round limit is important for safety, so an athlete doesn't accidentally ski with a
loaded magazine. The extra rounds can be removed manually and are in case of a misfire
and as extra shots in the relay format race.
Biathletes buy expensive ammunition, though there's no rule for which
manufacturer is best. Common mythology is that certain rifles shoot certain brands of
ammunition better than others, so you should try different types and see what works for
you. I recommend ammunition from
Do not buy super-sonic ammunition,
as you'll damage the metal targets. Super-sonic is actually less accurate at the
biathlon shooting distances anyway. Make sure to buy sub-sonic. Expect to pay between
10 cents to 25 cents US per round for competition quality ammunition. I train
with middle of the road quality ammunition as a result, and save the good stuff for
Skis and Poles
Biathletes use standard cross-country skating skis, but world class
athletes will have a complement of different stiffness skis and multiple pairs of each to
try different waxes before the race. I just have one pair of racing skis and high end
race skis cost up to $800 with bindings. Poles are getting super light thanks to carbon fiber
and the ultra light weight poles cost up to $600 US but amateurs can get by with heavier.
No need for special pole straps, the regular loop kind are fine
to get in and out of during the race, though alternatives are offered.
Boot manufacturers match their boots with bindings for the skis. Once
you buy a particular binding you're stuck with those brand of boots. Figure out which
boot fits best for you before picking a binding. Some folks like the new Pilot boots which
have an additional connection to the binding but I can't vouch for them personally. If your
ankles pronate, you can have a small shim installed when the binding is bolted to
the ski to compensate for that. You can also get custom inserts made for your boots.
Boots and bindings are up to $600 US.
Wax is a whole web site topic to itself. You can really get into custom grinds,
wax technique, and types of waxes. When you're ready for that, check out some of the cross country
ski web sites for further research. Good luck.
During a race I generate a lot of heat, but some races occur just above freezing
temperatures. Race clothing is usually designed with lycra and spandex to ensure you look like a
ski geek... and so you're wind efficient. You can buy a separate top and pants or a one piece suit. Don't
forget the matching jacket and warmup pants to look cool before the start of the race.
Pick gloves wisely. During
a biathlon race you'll need to remove your poles, load your rifle, and pull a trigger. You may also
adjust sights and open and close snow covers. Pick a pair of gloves that will let you do all these
things easily but still stay warm. Some athletes cut a small hole in one glove so they can pull
their trigger finger out for shooting. The extra sensitivety of having their finger exposed is
important to them. If you watch world cup races you'll see them do this as they ski into the
range, one by one biting down on a finger of one glove to pull out the finger.
Goggles are handy for sunny days but you'll want a pair which you
can slide up onto your forehead to get out of the way while shooting. The goggles which have
elastic headbands seem to work well for this, since they'll hold them in place against your forehead.
Regular sunglasses are a pain since there's no good place to put them while shooting.
Expect to pay a couple hundred dollars US for all of this, plus some for
good polypro socks and thin long underwear if you don't already have those.
Summer biathlon is much easier on a budget, since you probably already own
a pair of running shoes. The rifles don't require a backpack harness, since summer biathlon never
carries them on the back. Snow covers are not needed either, but those usually come with the