The Biathlon Basic is Back! Now from Russian American Armory


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

March 25th, 2007




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 inferior quality.

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:

For details on Leupold target scopes and other optics, go to:

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.


The Biathlon Basic from Russian American Armory.



This screw adjusts the safety slide's tension.



Surfaces of receiver and stock are grooved to eliminate any movement.





A look at the sear spring.





Barrel is free-floated along its entire length (top), and features a deeply-recessed crown (bottom).



The heart of the Biathlon is its unique toggle action.





Safety is perfectly located for left-handed or right-handed shooters, and operates by pushing forward to fire.



Rifle comes with five-round and ten-round magazines.



As befits a rifle of this accuracy level, the Biathlon Basic comes equipped with a Weaver-style scope base, and no iron sights.





Author tested the Biathlon Basic with a wide variety of ammunition.



When it's time to really test the accuracy of a rifle, Jeff reaches for his trusted Leupold 6.5-20x target scope.



Accuracy was impressive to say the least, as these representative 10-shot 25-yard groups using Wolf & PMC ammo demonstrate.



Increasing the range to 50 yards did not diminish the Biathlon's ability to impress, as these 5-shot groups show.