Top 10 Questions

Do I need prior firearms experience?

No. Sometimes it is better to not have had any prior firearms experience. The technique for shooting in biathlon is very specific, and while some aspects of shooting in other disciplines apply, many do not. It may be easier to learn proper technique from the beginning than to unlearn a technique from another discipline. For example, many shooters close their "off-eye(the one they are not sighting with)" while shooting, but biathlon rifles are equipped with a blinder so the off-eye is kept open while shooting. If you have firearms experience, that is okay too. It means that you may be familiar with more of the terminology of the shooting process.

Do the rifles "kick"?

No. Kick, or recoil, is a result of a combination of the mass of the bullet exiting the barrel, and its rate of acceleration(in simple terms). The larger the bullet and the faster it accelerates, the more recoil. The ammunition used in biathlon rifles is .22 caliber, Standard Velocity. This cartridge is one of the smallest, and is relatively low powered, so there is no discernible recoil in the prone position. Athletes may notice a little bit of movement when firing in the offhand (standing) position, but nothing dramatic or painful. See "http://www.bsharp.org/physics/recoil" for more info about recoil.

Is it loud?

Ear protection (ear plugs/ ear mufffs) is not required on the firing line during biathlon. The ammunition used in biathlon is .22 caliber, Standard Velocity. This means the bullet (after exiting the barrel of the rifle) is traveling below or just slightly faster than the speed of sound. Regulations state that the bullet can not be traveling faster than 1247fps or 380ms. Most ammunition is rated for around 1080fps. There is not as much of a "crack" when the shot is fired as with faster ammunition.

Reference: IBU Reg: 3.1.7.2 Muzzle Velocity

The muzzle velocity must not exceed 380 m/s, measured 1 m after leaving the muzzle.

Can I bring my own rifle? Do I need to have my own rifle?

Yes,you can bring your own rifle if the rifle and your ammo conform to International Biathlon Regulations (Annex 4, 3.1.6 and 3.1.7). There are some key considerations: The rifle must be bolt action, have a 5-shot magazine, and no optics on the sights. The ammo must be 40grain lead .22 caliber rated for less than 1247fps.

Biathlon rifles are very specific to the sport, and using a non-biathlon rifle can be very challenging. For example, the biathlon rifle has a sub-half pound, two stage trigger. This very light trigger means the rifle stays on target while releasing a shot. A rifle with a heavier trigger will be more difficult to shoot accurately. Jackson Biathlon has a number of regulation biathlon rifles for use during instruction, including a left handed rifle. Contact us if you have any questions about using your own rifle. We also have limited amounts of ammunition available.

If you don't have your own rifle, don't worry. Use of club rifles and ammunition is included in most lesson prices If you are racing in a Novice category, club rifles and ammunition will normally be supplied.

How do I know if I'm shooting at the large or small targets?

Each time you sight on a target, whether it is the offhand or prone metal targets or the paper targets for zeroing, the sight picture is exactly the same. The black circle that you see is 4.5" in diameter. It is important not to think about what kind of target you are shooting at (metal vs paper, offhand vs. prone), but focus on having a good, consistent sight picture.

If you are shooting at the metal targets, an indicator flag will show or not show on the right hand side of the targets (next to the E of Echo target). It the flag is "Showing, you're Standing" and the whole 4.5" is reactive. If the flag is not showing, only the center 1.8" of the black target is reactive and will register a hit.


The orange flag showing on the right hand side means this target is set for offhand. The round flag hanging below the target indicates it is ready to be fired at.

How young a person can you train to shoot biathlon?

We have had students as young as 8 years old at the range, but more important than their age is their ability to follow directions. Safety is of paramount importance, and if a youngster can not focus and follow directions and safety protocols, especially during the excitement of a race, then they will not be allowed on the range. We make every effort to explain the procedures and safety protocols to young children in simple terms, while still keeping the experience fun.

What if I don't skate ski?

No problem. While most high level competitors skate ski, you don't have to at Jackson Biathlon events. You can classic or snowshoe in the winter, and in the summer, athletes can run, walk, or mountain bike. Jackson Biathlon races have different categories to accommodate different experience levels in both shooting and skiing/snowshoeing.

Do you teach skiing as well as the shooting?

No. We focus mainly on the shooting aspect of the sport. For novices we have found that it is simpler to teach the shooting procedures first without skis. Biathlon is a complicated sport, and we try to teach people the fundamentals of the shooting part before they incorporate skiing. Once students have a firm grasp on the basics then we start adding skiing and elevated heart rates to the lessons. There are a number of local Nordic areas that offer lessons and rent equipment: (hyperlinks for each name) Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, Great Glen Trails, and Bear Notch Ski Touring.

Do I have to buy a Trail Pass at JSTF?

If you are just skiing around the Range, or in the Windy Hill Fields, you do NOT need a JSTF trail pass. This covers the normal trails of a Race, Lesson or training day. If you ski out of the Fields onto the East Pasture Loop, or any other trails in the JSTF system, you must purchase a trail pass. They are available at the JSTF Center in Jackson Village.

Can I just show up and race?

Yes, but... If you are novice, you will be required to attend a safety briefing before the race. We will go over safe shooting practices and basics of bolting and sighting the rifle. Unfortunately, time and coaching staff constraints do not allow an in-depth coverage of the procedures for biathlon directly before a race.
We highly recommend taking a lesson. A lesson will explain how the rifle works, how the target works, and how to shoot safety and effectively. Having that knowledge will allow you to hit more targets and enjoy your experience more.
Jackson Biathlon offers many levels of private and group instruction to learn about the sport. Look under the Learn section of our website.