If there were ever an Olympic sport that embodied the traits of a hunter – Endurance, Precision, Embracing the Elements – the Biathlon is it. In a day and age where half pipes, pucks, brooms, and ice skates take center stage, why is no one paying more attention to an event where athletes are flying through the snow and shooting rifles?
How does that not get more coverage? Hopefully, this Hunter’s Guide to the Olympics will help you find something worth watching during the Pyeongchang games outside of the ski slopes and ice rinks.
Meet Team USA
What is the Biathlon?
The Biathlon is like a cross-country ski race combined with precision target shooting along the way. It is extremely popular in European countries where the sport originated as an exercise for Norwegian Soldiers training for the military. Pretty cool, right?
Although it’s gaining momentum in the States, historically Germany, Russia, and Norway have dominated the event – so don’t expect USA to take home the gold. Aside from that, it should provide good entertainment value if you enjoy guns and snow!
How the Biathlon Competition Works*
To get a better idea of what exactly happens in a Biathlon, here’s a quick breakdown. The competition consists of a race in which biathletes ski around a cross-country trail system. The total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds. These rounds are completed half in the prone position and the other half standing. Depending on the shooting performance (if you miss or hit the targets), extra distance or time may be added to the contestant’s total. The contestant with the shortest total time wins.
The rifle rides on the athletes back while cross-country skiing via backpack like shoulder straps
Shooter taking aim from the standing position
For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets. Each missed target is penalized in one of three ways, depending on the competition format (there are multiple competitions in the Biathlon – Sprint, Pursuit, Individual, Mass Start, and Team Relay):
- By skiing around a 150-meter (490 ft) penalty loop – (It would be like you forgetting your release after already climbing up the tree and having to go back to the truck to get it)
- By having one minute added to a skier’s total time – (Like having to wait an hour after sunrise before you could legally take a shot)
- By having to use an “extra cartridge” to finish off the target. (Like having to buy more ammo before you could continue hunting)
Shooting Round Details*
The biathlete carries a .22 bolt action rimfire rifle, which weighs at minimum 7.7lbs. This does not count for the ammunition which is carried in clips that attach to the custom stock. Let’s just make this clear, this no standard rifle. An average biathlon rifle costs a cool $5,000 and is fully customized to fit each shooter.
RELATED VIDEO: The Simple Elegance of the Biathlon Rifle
The target range shooting distance is 50 meters or 160 ft. There are five circular targets to be hit in each shooting round. When shooting in the prone position, the target diameter is 45 millimeters or 1.8 in, when shooting in the standing position the target diameter is 115 millimeters (4.5 in). The targets are self-indicating, meaning they flip from black to white when hit, giving the biathlete as well as the spectator’s instant visual feedback for each shot fired. How nice would that be at your local range?
Now that you know a little bit about the event, here’s when you can catch the action: Full Biathlon Schedule
*(Sources – Wikipedia)