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May 20th, 2007

Fun Gun: Quick Look at Biathlon Basic

Izhmash Biathlon Basic MTGunsEvery varmint shooter needs a good, light-weight “walk-around” 22LR. It’s a nice bonus if the rifle is accurate enough to be competitive in a club-level rimfire silhouette match or “fun shoot.” The Izhmash Biathlon Basic, a Russian-made toggle-bolt rimfire repeater, fills the bill. Our friend Mac Tilton of MTGuns recently obtained a few dozen of these interesting little rifles–brand new. He invited us to test one out at the scenic Winchester Canyon Gun Range in the coastal mountains overlooking Santa Barbara, CA. With the help of Mac’s assistant Bruce, we took a new Biathlon Basic right out of the box, fitted a Sightron 6-24X scope, and put it through its paces at 25 and 50 yards.

Izhmash Biathlon Basic MTGuns

Click HERE for Three Large Photos.

Previous testers have noted the quality of the Biathlon Basic’s trigger. While it won’t rival an Anschutz, the trigger is very smooth, breaking at just over 2 pounds (just right for hunter-class silhouette). It has a rather long, but smooth and fluid take-up, followed by a crisp, predictable let-off. In the length of the take-up it reminded me of a pistol trigger. You can easily modulate the trigger to complete the take-up and then hold it right at the break point, like a two-stage trigger.

The rifle is comfortable to hold off-hand, though a long-armed shooter could benefit from a little more length of pull. The gun balances very well just forward of the action and swings naturally. The rounded fore-arm is easy to hold with either a split-finger or conventional grip.

Izhmash Biathlon Basic MTGuns

Once the gun was sighted-in, Bruce shot some 5-round groups at 25 yards, using a Caldwell front rest and rear bag. With the very narrow fore-arm, the Izhmash was a bit wobbly. Still, the gun produced a number of 5-shot groups right at 1/4″ with three different kinds of ammo (Federal Gold Match, Remington/Ely, and Winchester target). The gun seemed to prefer Remington/Ely, which has a fairly fat, heavily-lubed bullet with wide driving band.

The Fortner-style toggle action is touted as being extremely fast and efficient. We found that the action, right out of the box, was pretty stiff. It eased up once we applied some light lube (Eezox), but it still required a good, hard push on the toggle to close the bolt, particularly on the fat Remington/Eley rounds. No doubt, with more break-in and a bit of bolt grease in the right places, the action would smooth up. This writer tried a couple other Biathlon Basics in Tilton’s shop. On these the toggle bolts could indeed be snapped open and closed with just a quick thumb motion.

We did manage to shoot some groups at 50 yards, but in the late afternoon we had a swirling 10 mph wind gusting to 15, and the groups opened up considerably, averaging about 3/4″. Bruce hopes to take the gun back to the range when conditions are better and do some further testing for accuracy. Based on what we saw at 25 yards in calmer conditions, I wouldn’t doubt the gun can shoot 1/2″ or better groups at 50 yards with the right ammo. We just couldn’t hold that well in the conditions. We noted that the gun likes to be shot fairly fast–our best groups at 50 were shot rapid-fire.

Izhmash Biathlon Basic MTGuns

Is the gun worth $300? It will outshoot most rimfires in the price range, it has a very smooth trigger, it comes with a built-in Weaver-style scope rail, and the toggle action is fun to use, if a little stiff at first. This writer concluded that the gun would be an nice short-range varminter, and would be accurate enough to use in club-level silhouette matches. It is, without question, a great gun for a junior at the price. The Biathlon Basic is offered by MTGuns, (805) 720-7720, for $300.00. The current U.S. distributor is Russian-American Armory,, (877) 752-2894.

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May 20th, 2007

Wind Skills DVD by Bassham & Wigger

Lanny Bassham Winning in the WindDealing with the wind is probably the biggest challenge in shooting. “Anyone who has ever fired a shot outdoors realizes, sooner or later, that doping the wind tends quickly to separate the winners form the ‘also-rans’. From benchrest competition to long-range prarie dog blasting, understanding the way the wind affects the shooter, the target and the bullet is vital if one wishes to hit the target.” (Phil Johnston, GunWeek.) Many of our readers have asked, “What’s a good book or video on reading the wind?”

You’ll find some great material in Nancy Tompkins recent book, Prone and Long-Range Rifle Shooting, and Mike Ratigan offers excellent wind-reading advice for 100/200 yard BR in his new Extreme Rifle Accuracy book. But for those seeking a single, dedicated resource on wind reading, we recommend Winning in the Wind, an interactive DVD by Lanny Bassham and Lones Wigger, both World shooting champions. Winning in the Wind covers mirage and the strategies for shooting in different wind conditions. The DVD has over 100 digital graphics, photos, and ilustrations, plus a complete interactive shot chart showing wind effects. The DVD also offers helpful hints for staying positive and mentally focused when dealing with fickle and erratic winds. This CD-Rom is available for $35.00 from Champion’s Choice, or directly from the Lanny Basham website,

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