A few years ago, I walked into McLain’s
Firearms in Carlisle, Tennessee, and Michael McLain,
the owner of the establishment and the county’s gunsmith,
handed to me an odd .22 Long Rifle chambered rifle with a toggle
link action, sometimes referred to as a "straight
pull" action. The rifle looked okay, with a rather
plain wood stock and a dull black metal finish. I immediately
asked him; "How’s she shoot?" In Mike’s usual
manner, he took the long way around the barn in answering.
Taking the rifle from my steely grasp, "First", he
said, "try the trigger", and he inserted a fired case
to protect the firing pin and chamber edge, and handed me the
rifle again. Pulling the trigger, I just looked at him
cross-eyed. He stated "I haven’t touched it, they are all
that way!" Then he reached under some papers and pulled out
a used paper target, and showed me the groups that he had fired
using the rifle. I was impressed. The rifle was called the Biathlon
Basic, and was being imported by European American Armory.
Mike had been ordering them in quantity for the local squirrel
hunters. A hunter would buy one, and later come back with a
hunting buddy who wanted one for himself. Some hunters were
buying two or three each, just to have a backup. Later,
shooting one of the rifles, I fell in love. As so often
happens with love, it is a fleeting thing. I kept hearing rumors
that a left-handed version of the rifle was to be available
soon, so I delayed in buying one, but "soon" never
came. Then all of a sudden, the supply dried up, and I had
waited too long to get one. McLain tried, but could get no
more. I looked online, and none were to be found.
After a while, I got over the agony of
unfulfilled desire, and moved on to other rifles. Then just
before the 2007 SHOT Show,
I heard that another importer was bringing the Biathlon Basic
into the United States. The importer is Russian American
Armory of Scottsburg, Indiana, and one of my main objectives
of the show was to seek them out. On the third
day of the show I found the RAA booth, and sure enough,
among the several different firearms on display, was the object
of my desire, and I immediately started trying to secure the
delivery of the rifle.
The Russian-made Biathlon basic is, as the name
implies, a "basic" or stripped-down version of the Ishmash
Biathlon rifle that is used in serious small bore rifle
competition. The Biathlon rifle wears special micrometer
adjustable target sights and has a radical target stock, which
is perfect for serious competitors, but a bit out of place for a
hunting rifle. Enter the Basic. It has the action and design of
the competition rifle, but in a style more suited to the woods
or small bore metallic silhouette rifle range. The proper name
for the rifle is Biathlon 7-2-KO Basic. It wears a wood stock of
what appears to be birch, and has cut checkering on each side of
the pistol grip area. The factory specs calls for birch, beech,
or walnut. The sample rifle weighs in at six pounds and seven
ounces, but factory specs calls for 7.7 pounds, with the weight
difference probably coming from the wood on a particular rifle.
The barrel measures just under nineteen and three-quarters
inches long, and is of a semi-heavy profile, measuring right at
three-quarters of an inch diameter at the muzzle, which has a
radically inset crown. The barrel is free-floated its entire
length forward of the action, and the barreled action is
finished in what appears to be a black epoxy finish that is both
good looking and functional. The barrel also appears to be
hammer forged. The RAA Basic comes supplied with both a
five-round and a ten-round magazine, and like many Russian made
rifles, comes with a cleaning rod and oil bottle. The trigger
guard and floorplate are made of plastic, as are the magazines.
The safety is a handy little unit that slides forward to fire,
is inset into the front of the trigger guard, and is in an ideal
location for both left-handed and right-handed shooters. The
toggle action is very quick and easy to operate; much faster
than a turn-bolt action. Simply pull back to eject a fired
case and push forward to chamber a cartridge from the magazine.
During testing, the action functioned perfectly, never failing
to feed, fire, extract, or eject. The Biathlon Basic comes
with a Weaver style scope base atop the receiver for easy
scope mounting, and wears no open sights.
Now we come to the most impressive part, to me
at least, of the rifle; that wonderful trigger! The trigger pull
on the sample rifle measured just one pound and six ounces on my
digital trigger pull gauge. The pull has about an eighth inch of
take-up and then a perfectly crisp feel as the sear is released.
It is absolutely the best trigger pull that I have ever found on
a rimfire rifle, at any price.
For accuracy testing, I mounted my trusted Leupold
6.5 to 20 power target scope, to try to see just how well the
little rimfire will shoot. As expected, the accuracy was
superb. I tried the rifle with several different types of
ammunition from subsonic heavy bullet loads, to hyper-velocity
varmint ammunition, and most everything in between. The Biathlon
Basic shot well with everything tried, as the groups shown will
attest. At twenty-five yards, one hole ten-shot groups measuring
under one quarter of an inch were easy to achieve and repeatable
using match ammo from Wolf and PMC. Fifty yard
five shot groups were also very accurate, with any pulled shots
being my fault, every time. The pictures tell the story better
than words. I was very well-pleased with the accuracy and
performance of the Biathlon Basic rifle, and am very glad to see
this rifle once again available on the American market. This is
not a plinking rifle, but one with which a shooter can use to
hunt small game, and then take to a silhouette competition and
be competitive with any rifle on the line. The Biathlon Basic
is, as are all good rimfire rifles, all about the accuracy.
The rifle has the built-in accuracy, along with a superb trigger
that allows the shooter to take advantage of that accuracy.
It is also a very good value, priced along with rifles of much
For more information on the Biathlon Basic and
other rifles and shotguns from Russian American Armory, as well
as a list of distributors in the US, go to: www.raacfirearms.com.
For details on Leupold target scopes and other
optics, go to: www.leupold.com.
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