The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are almost here, and our eyes will be on the only event to feature shooting. The biathlon.

Biathlon rifles aren’t your typical off-the-shelf target shooter. They are specialized pieces of equipment designed for precision in harsh conditions. And they must do this under a strict set of rules.

Let’s take a look at what makes these rifles unique. This is the anatomy of a biathlon rifle.

What is biathlon?

Biathlon was developed into a sport by the Norwegian people and is rooted in the skiing traditions of Scandinavia. The sport combines cross country skiing and precision shooting with biathletes racing around a course.

The shooting part

The shooting rounds are at certain intervals, either two or four times. These rounds are divided into half prone, half standing shooting positions.

In each shooting round, biathletes must hit five targets at 50 m and are penalized for every target they miss. For the prone position, the targets are 45 mm and for the standing 115 mm. Penalties for missing a target are either extra time or distance added to the biathlete’s total distance/time.

The Rifle

Stock & Harness

Biathlon rife stocks are built for performance and are highly customized. The pistol grips are custom fitted to the shooter’s hand and ergonomically designed for prone and standing positions. They also feature a raiser block to help better stabilize the rifle in a standing position.

A special harness is attached to the stock’s forearm and butt, allowing the biathlete to wear the rifle like a backpack while skiing. The harness does not aid in stabilization and is streamlined for performance and comfort.

Action & Trigger

For faster reloading biathlon rifles, use a Fortner or strait-pull style action. Triggers are staged, meaning the first 80% is soft, and it’s not until that last 20% that the gun fires. Trigger pull weight must be at least 500 g (1.1 lb).

Ammunition & Magazines

Biathlon rifles are chambered in .22 LR, but they don’t use just any .22 ammunition. Temperatures below 0 °C can have a significant effect on reliability and accuracy. Because of this, biathletes use cold-tested ammunition that can perform up to -20 °C.

Each rifle holds four 5 round magazines in its stock. These magazines feature anti-slip material on their ends for easy handling when wet.


Non-magnified peep sights are all that is allowed by the rules. These sights must also be rugged enough to keep their zero in cold, snowy conditions or the event of a fall. They also feature a snow cover on both the front and rear sights to protect them while skiing.

Click here to see how biathlon rifles are made.

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