Winter Olympics Anatomy Of A Biathlon Rifle

    Shooter shooting a biathlon rifle

    The Winter Olympics are here again, and this time it is held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The only sport in the Winter Olympics that uses a firearm is Biathlon. The rifles used in the sport are purpose built for this type of competition. Here is are two videos about the anatomy of these race guns.

    In the Fox News video, Biathlon coach Kris Cheney Seymour discusses the basic anatomy of the Biathlon rifle. I cringe when he uses the word “clips” immediately after saying “magazine holder”. I am intrigued by the Fortner Bolt and wish the PWS/Volquartsen Summit bolt was like a Fortner.

    NBC also produced their own Biathlon Anatomy video which highlights some different areas.

    I was very surprised at price of the Fortner Action. Sure, $1,000+ for a customized build stock is average. Long range rifle chassis cost that much and they are not even customized to your body. But a few thousand dollars for a Fortner action? Craziness. Just a quick search found this rifle with a Fortner pull action and they want $3,400 for a rimfire gun.

    According to the Olympics website here are some details about the rifle inspection.

    A biathlete’s rifle has two sights: a fore sight, which sits atop the end of the barrel and a rear sight, the one nearest the eye of the athlete, directly above the trigger. Neither of the sights are magnified.

    Try to imagine looking down the barrel of your biathlon rifle at a circular target – 4.5 inches diameter for standing, 1.77 inches diameter for prone – at just over 50 yard away, while gasping for air. To put it in perspective, it’s like trying to shoot a softball (when standing) and a golf ball (when prone) from 50 yards away, with no sight magnification.

    Rifle Weight
    Biathlon rifles can weight no less than 3.5kg, which is about 8 lbs. Each athlete has their rifle stock ergonomically fitted for their body. Magazines holding five bullets, one for each shooting bout, and three spare loose rounds in relay events, are all carried on the rifle itself. Magazines magnetically click into the stock of the rifle.

    Apparently the athletes are restricted to only five round magazines but they are allowed up to eight shots per stage. The extra three rounds must be hand loaded.

    I wonder why they do not have a different divisions. An open division with magnified optics and high capacity magazines would be interesting to see how fast someone could really by when they are not limited by the equipment.

    Check out this video promoting the sport. The crowd reaction boggles my mind. I just cannot see what is so exciting about watching this sport. The shooting is not that exciting. Sure it is challenging to hit such small targets at 50 yards without magnification, but the sport does not seem that dynamic. I would like to see more running and gunning like USPSA, IPSC or 3Gun at the Olympics.

    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]