For any athlete ready to pursue one of the most challenging sports, Biathlon, where you cross – country ski (in winter) or run (in summer), then stop and shoot grapefruit – sized targets from 50 meters, you need to learn how to choose a biathlon rifle. The biathlon rifle must meet several specifications: .22 caliber, bolt action, iron sights, five round magazine, total weight more than 3.5 kilograms, and with a trigger pull no less than 500 grams. With hundreds of rifles on the market that meet or exceed these specifications, choosing a rifle that will help with your competitive edge requires more than an understanding of the minimum requirements.
- Select a rifle with the right stock. To choose a biathlon rifle you'll want to select the right stock. The stock should free-float the barrel so the stock does not touch the barrel to keep it from changing the point of impact of the rifle as the stock stretches or shrinks with changes in temperature. The stock should also have a place for four loaded magazines so you can reload during the event.
- Backpack straps. To compete in biathlon you will need to mount the rifle securely on your back with backpack straps. Choose a biathlon rifle that allows these straps to be mounted to the stock of the rifle.
- Sights. The sights on the biathlon rifle need to be "iron" sights, made out of metal with no lens or optical enhancement. Often athletes choose a "peep" sight, which is a little circle in the rear with a post or dot in the front sight. To shoot, line up the front sight in the middle of the target and in the middle of the circle made by the rear sight. Choose a biathlon rifle with the right sight to have winning accuracy.
- Snow cover. With your rifle on your back pointed toward the sky you could get into a bit of trouble if it begins to snow. Even a little snow or water in the barrel can cause accuracy problems, and even make your rifle to malfunction. The snow cover will often flip up to cover both the barrel and front sight so no snow blocks your vision or enters the barrel.
- Look for temperature ratings. Because you'll be shooting in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, your rifle needs to have tight tolerances. If it doesn't, you risk losing accuracy as the temperature changes, and temperature can change significantly if your first round of shooting is just as the sun breaks over the mountains and your second round is after the sun is up and the snow is getting slushy, you could lose the second round because your rifle is hitting high or low.