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If you’ve been following the Winter Olympics in Sochi, no doubt you’ve been watching Biathlon events. This combination of Nordic-style skiing and precision shooting is hugely popular in Europe. Biathlon requires great physical fitness levels, superior marksmanship skills, and of course, a very accurate .22 LR rifle.

This video shows biathletes at previous winter Olympics. Note how the straight-pull actions allow competitors to shoot rapidly without breaking their position (at the 1:00″ mark, the shooter takes five shots in ten seconds).





Biathlon rifles are sophisticated. The top competitors use rigs with slick, straight-pull actions, integrated magazine carriers, and ergonomic stock designs that work well for both prone and standing positions. The advanced slings use “bungee cords” to allow rapid deployment from on-the-back carry position (while skiing) to the shooting position.



One of the most popular Biathlon rifles is the Anschütz model 1827F Fortner. This features a straight-pull action with a two-stage trigger typically adjusted to 550 grams (19 ounces). The sprint version of the model 1827F weighs just 3.7 kg (8.16 pounds). Remarkably, even the magazines are optimized for “high-speed, low-drag” performance: “Shortened 5-shot magazines were laterally incorporated into the stock to reduce the surface on which the wind can act. Non-slip magazine bottoms make the handling of the loading process easier. An additional magazine release lever on the side makes an even faster exchange of the magazines possible.” (Anschütz brochure).











Credit Chris Cheng, Top Shot Season 4 Champion, for finding these photos of the model 1827F Fortner on the Anschütz website.
 

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A couple of other details:

This sport started as a friendly competition between the border guards of I think Norway and Sweden, where they patrol on skis and were armed. In the olden days it was done with 30 cal centerfire bolt action rifles, so the 22LR they use today is a sissy version. In some of those countries, biathlon stars rank as high as any NFL star does here, and everyone in the country knows their name. This sport is probably the ONLY way that you can be in to guns, and have chicks dig you for it.

The bolt is a short action bolt. This means you can cycle it without breaking the cheek weld, because it does not come back far enough to hit you in the face. I have not taken my bolt apart in a bunch of years, but recall that they use stacked bellville washers as a spring, in order to help reduce the travel. Bolt lock-up is achieved by the bolt having a bunch of steel balls that are held outward by a tapered pin that is in the center of the bolt. Kind of like a quick connect air line, but backwards (ie the balls are on the inside part, not the cuff). THe straight pull bolt handle withdraws the tapered pin, allows the balls to collapse inward, and the bolt pulls loose. To close it, you just push forward with your thumb on the back of the bolt, and the springlaoded pin pops back forward as the balls pass the locking collar. If you look close at the video, you see them pull back the bolt with their index finger, and it looks like it just snaps back forward, but if you look close, you can see it is actually pulled open with the index finger, and snapped forwards with the thumb.

In the vid, you can also see some of the paint fly from the bullet hits, but the target does not flip. That is because you are always shooting at a 5.25" black circle, but in standing you can hit any of the black and the target flips, while in prone you need to hit the center I think it was like 2.75" I forget the exact dimension, but there is a black donut steel plate in the target for prone, so even if you hit the black, if it does not go through the center of the donut, it will not knock down the target.

In the last picture, you notice the flip cover on the barrel, so you don't get snow in your sights. There is a rubber plug in the cover, just in front of the barrel. That's in case you forget to open it .... though it covers both barrel and sight, so one would think you'd notice a black sight ....

The extra bullets in the side of the rifle are because rules allow 5 shots in the magazine. They also allow extra rounds to be carried, in case of a dud, but the extra rounds may not be in the magazine.

The sling arrangement is made in 2 parts for speed. THere is a cuff that goes around your bicep that has a delta ring on it. You leave that in place. THe rifle has a short strap coming off the forestock, that has a steel hook on it. When you go to 'sling up' in prone, all you need to do is grab the hook, and hook it through the cuff that's above your bicep. The steel hook has a piece of elastic that runs to the back of the rifle, so it lays flat against the rifle when not being used, and has enough stretch that you can pull it over to your cuff without having to disconnect the elastic. Also, when you go to remove the sling, the elastic is strong enough that if you release tension on the sling, the elastic pulls the hook out of the sling.
 

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Thanks for posting, very interesting! Seeing them cycle the bolt like that and fire accurately while their hearts are pumping and heavy breathing like that is crazy.
 

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Nice Post!!!
 

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You fire between heartbeats.

You can lay the rifle on the target, and every beat, you see your front sights pop up, and then drop back down. So you line up your point of aim at the down position. After the sights pop up and down, you pull the trigger before you pop back up again.

I'm sure that was a lot easier for me than for these athletes, because when I did it, the up/down was a LOT for me; my fatass heart was pounding like a FN jackhammer (and I was also deciding if I should shoot, or barf). These guys are in really good shape, so the pounding won't be as pronounced.
 
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