Here’s a challenge for you. Define the best path to an affordable (<$500), accurate (<1 m.o.a. out of the box) rifle that would make it easy for the many excellent young cross-country skiers in the United States to become competitive biathletes. As a bonus, ensure the rifle and accessories are manufactured in North America!
The long-term goal of this challenge is to lead the U.S. down a path towards an Olympic medal in biathlon. A shorter-term goal is to find a way for the fast young skiiers based in the greater Seattle Metropolitan area (and trained up through the Junior Nordic Program and Snoqualmie Nordic Club) to pose some sort of challenge to the Mazama Valley youth biathletes in the next 5-10 years!
Let the comments begin! Any expert members of the Washington Biathlon Association want to chime in?
#1) Savage Mark II FVT ($380)
The big advantage of this bolt-action .22 is that it is has peep sights and high accuracy out of the box. Since kids less than 14 years old only shoot prone and don’t carry their rifles in WBA races, this rifle just needs a case and a sling to be youth-race ready! Snow covers, harness, extra magazines, blinders, and other accessories can be acquired later, perhaps as the biathalete nears their 14th birthday. If you want to convert it to a biathlon rifle suitable for being carried and shot standing, you can buy a stock and/or snow sight covers from Eastern Sierra Armory which also offers the Savage Mark II as a biathlon rifle (for ~$1300) using the barrel/action/trigger on their custom biathlon stocks.
The Mark II is know for its sub-1 m.o.a. accuracy out of the box. Here are some FVT accuracy data taken with various ammunition types acquired by Sergey of Precise Shooter (based in Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle).
3($20) for race magazines
#2) Summit T3 ($600-800 used-new, w/o sights)
Attractive biathlon-style action, trigger, and magazine release built on the Ruger 10/22 rifle by Primary Weapon Systems (based in Idaho, USA). Can’t really build up from a 10/22 starter rifle because Ruger only offers semi-automatic.
#3) Browning T-bolt ($600-800)
Fast, innovative straight-pull action, but sticker price is too high…
#4) Eastern Sierra Armory G3C?
A great American effort to build a complete competitive biathlon rifle, but for youth they are unfortunately in the same price range as Ishmazt
#5) Marlin 2000 biathlon rifle? (defunct? used?)