Finnbiathlon: A rimfire rifle designed for the Finnish Biathlon Team

Eric Sof

Finbitathlon .22 Rimfire Rifle was designed for the Finnish Biathlon team in 1976

The Finnbiathlon .22 rimfire rifle was specially designed for the Finnish Biathlon Team in 1976. The rifle was designed by gunsmith Torsti Laaksonen. Due to the selection of materials and the innovative bolt action, the Finnbiathlon rifle was very light, fast to reload and the trigger system was easily exchangeable as it had only two screws. Over 3500 pieces were produced during 1977-1984.


The Biathlon event is an Olympic contest that involves skiing across the country and stopping four-time to carry out target shooting in prone and standing positions; the whole affair is intended to simulate a hunting expedition in the frozen North. When it was first invented, by the Scandinavians many years ago, it probably did; the contestants used military rifles and fired at realistically varying ranges.

U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program biathlete Sgt. Jeremy Teela, a three-time Olympian, practices shooting from the standing position
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program biathlete Sgt. Jeremy Teela, a three-time Olympian, practices shooting from the standing position (Photo: Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs)

Since it has been absorbed into the artificial world of Olympic sports, however, the Finnbiathlon rifle has become a .22 rimfire and the range is fixed at 50 yards. Needless to say, as soon as it became an organized sport, the sportsmen began looking for an edge and a highly specialized design of rifle has resulted.

Rare class

The Finnbiathlon rifle is a good example of this rare class, and it exhibits some unusual features. Its angular appearance makes it obvious that it is a target rifle, but the unusual collection of straps mark it out as something out of the ordinary. These are carrying slings which allow it to be slung from both shoulders and worn in the middle of the back; pointing up, so as to be out of the way when skiing; the sling ends in cords which can be passed through any pair of eight holes in the butt, so adjusting the height of the carry. A similar to this rifle was Anschutz Model 54 Silhouette Rifle.


The bolt action is also unusual, being a straight pull-type; these are exceptionally rare in modern weapons. The T-shaped handle is simply pulled straight back and pushed forward again, a sleeve with a cam track taking care of rotating the bolt. This leads to very fast action and one which gives minimal aim disturbance when performed at the shoulder, both desirable features in Biathlon where time is at a premium.

Torsti Laaksonen, the designed of the Finnbiathlon rifle (Photo: XY)

Another unusual item is a snow guard around the muzzle, which prevents the sights or barrel from becoming blocked with snow during traveling or even when diving for the ground for the prone shoots. When the muzzle is closed off, so are the sights, so there is no danger of accidentally losing off around.

The trigger is adjustable for tension and position and is a two-pressure military type. The rear sight is an aperture type, fully adjustable for elevation and windage, while the front sight is a hooded aperture. Weights can be fitted inside the fore-end in order to achieve the desired balance, the maximum additions taking the overall weight of the rifle up to 11 lbs. As a final touch, the fore-end has four slots in its right side into which four loaded magazines can be fitted, their bases out, so that they can be rapidly reached and changed during the progress of the event.

Finnbiathlon .22 was chambered in .22 Long Rifle RF caliber
Finnbiathlon .22 was chambered in .22 Long Rifle RF caliber (Photo: XY)

The center ring of the Biathlon target is 40 mm in diameter (1.56 in) and the rifle is quite capable of putting a string of shots into this at 50 meters. Its accuracy is first class, giving half to three-quarter-inch groups at that range when fired from a rest. But of course, shooting a string of five from the standing position after traveling across miles of snow isn’t exactly shooting from a rest.

Technical specifications: Finnbiathlon

Manufacturer: Tampereen Asepaja Oy, SF-33100, Tampere 10, Finland
Type: bolt-action, magazine, rimfire
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle RF
Barrel: 22.8 in (580 mm)
Weight (empty): 9.25 lbs (4.2 kg)
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds

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