Much of the VBS’ adjustability owes itself to the tube and tube clamp system in the buttstock. Our original tube clamp system utilized a very simple design allowing for a ton of adjustment with very few parts and requiring minimal user input: simply loosen one screw or QR lever and you can quickly adjust the buttstock length and cast (butt stock offset). Loosen another and you can position the cheek piece at any point up, down, left and right. This original design was built on a custom aluminum extrusion we designed and had made for us. It allowed us to provide a highly level of functional adjustability while being economical to manufacture, given our capabilities at the time.
Over time we realized that this design had some flaws… really, it was too adjustable! With both buttstock and cheek rest having multiple degrees of adjustment that ran off a single screw, it was very hard to make precise and repeatable adjustments. For example, it was nearly impossible to lengthen the buttstock without also changing the cast, and likewise with the cheek rest height and position.
On top of these issues with usability, the manufacturing of these parts posed an issue for us as well: Using the extrusion tied us to one design that was hard (expensive) to make changes to, required us to place large orders with long lead times, and left us sitting on lots of inventory.
Along the way we have made huge advances in our in-house machining capabilities, and revisiting these parts we found it was actually more economical and practical to machine these parts in house from solid aluminum bar stock, skipping the extrusion all together. Not only does this reduce our reliance on external supply chains, but it also allows us to manufacture these parts as we need them, and easily make small improvements as needed.
With design and manufacturing freedom provided by our in house capabilities, we redesigned the tube clamps with separate fasteners and clamping geometry for each tube, isolating each degree of adjustment to it’s own screw. Along the way we also addressed two other weak points in our buttstock design: The butt plate and it’s attachment, as well as the harness bungee attachment.
Our new butt plate is attached via it’s own tube clamp. This is makes for a much more robust connection that is also serviceable. In addition, the new clamp-on connection for the butt plate will allow for the use of tubes (or rods) made of alternate materials- something that could be used to offer different shot/recoil feel and balance to the stock (stay tuned for more on that in the future!) The Butt plate it’s self features more universal compatibility with other butt hooks, and has slots with countersunk locking features to provide an easy yet robust way to adjust the butt plate up and down.
Our new Double tube clamp features two separate clamping fasteners for each tube. This allows the length and cast to be set separately from each other. One or both fasteners could be QR levers, which allows for quick and easy length adjustment without fiddling with cast and butt plate angle. In addition, the double clamp features a new integrated clamping system for your harness bungees that makes for easy harness adjustment and removal for travel.
Our new Cheek Piece Clamp is very similar to our old system, but incorporates two separate fasteners to isolate height adjustment from side to side adjustment. Loosen the outside screw, and easily make precise height adjustments. Loosen the inside screw and easily rotate the cheek piece away from or towards you without changing your height setting.
The best part is that all these new components are 100% compatible with all older VBS generations, and make an easy upgrade! We are offering each individually, as well as in our VBS Buttstock 2.0 Upgrade Kit.
Following up on last weeks post on the key features and characteristics of a biathlon rifle, This post lays out several of the available options for Biathlon rifles that are available in the US today. We’ll start at the bottom, with the least expensive, entry level options, and work our way up.
Savage MKII: this is a cheap but accurate .22lr bolt action rifle that uses 5 round magazines and can be outfitted with various biathlon accessories to make a race ready rifle. At a minimum, you would want one fitted with a “peep” style rear sight and globe style front sight. Savage rifles are well known for amazingly good out of the box accuracy for their price point. That said, they are still inexpensive, and the fit, finish and quality of magazines and other components can leave some to be desired. In addition, competitive athletes may find themselves limited by the relatively stiff traditional bolt action fairly quickly. In the end, these rifles offer a budget starting point to get into the sport. There are a few tiers at which you could get one of these rifles:
Savage MKII FVT. ~$450: basic rifle with peep sights. This is the bare minimum to get in practical biathlon shooting practice. The sights that come with these rifles are functional, but are prone to coming loose, difficult to adjust precisely, and do not have snow covers. The basic stock doesn’t accommodate a carrying harness or a holder for your extra magazines. These rifles are great for introducing young kids or novice shooters to the basic fundamentals, but not much else beyond that. They can however be upgraded to one of the next two options to get more biathlon utility out of them as a biathlete grow in the sport.
Savage MKII FV + Lost Nation Sights & VBS Stock. ~$1300: this is again the same rifle but with good sights, our adjustable stock with magazine holder, and carrying harness. Probably the cheapest “race ready” biathlon rifle available. Great for getting started or recreational-level biathlon. Build your own rifle like this here.
CZ 457: This is a slightly more expensive bolt action .22lr made in the Czech Republic that we now offer with all the same biathlon accessories as the Savage. They have a much smoother and easier to actuate bolt from the factory, can accept aftermarket triggers and barrels, and generally have much better fit, finish, and build quality than the Savage. They are still a traditional turn bolt rifle, making them a little slower and less user friendly for biathlon shooting than an Anschutz or Izhmash, but a great option for a novice or recreational athlete. Like the savage there are a couple tiers on which one can get into these rifles:
CZ 457 MTR Varmint rifle + Lost Nation Sight Set. ~$960. This setup has a sporter style wood stock and heavy barreled action. When fitted with our biathlon sight set this can be a good rifle for learning the fundamentals of biathlon marksmanship. The basic stock doesn’t accommodate a carrying harness or a holder for your extra magazines. These rifles are great for introducing young kids or novice shooters to the basic fundamentals. can be upgraded with our VBS stock later.
CZ 457 MTR Lost Nation Rifle Build. ~$1600. We build biathlon packages using the 457 MTR barreled action, our VBS stock, and biathlon sight set. Our adjustable stock includes a magazine holder, and can accommodate a carrying harness and all accessories needed for racing. Great for getting started or recreational-level biathlon. Build your own rifle like this here.
Izhmash 7-2, 7-3, or 7-4.
7-3 and 7-4. These are purpose built for biathlon, and have a toggle style, straight pull bolt action, somewhat similar to an Anschutz. They’re made in Russia, and haven’t been available for new purchase in the US for years due to various embargos (don’t see that changing anytime soon). They can be found used occasionally for $2000-$3500. These rifles came fully outfitted for biathlon, but often can benefit from some updating and re-accessorizing. Spare parts and magazines can be hard to find. Our VBS stock and biathlon sights make great upgrades to modernize these rifles.
7-2. This was the hunting/sporting version of the Izhmash biathlon rifle. It features the same biathlon action and barrel as the 7-3 and 7-4, but came on a more traditional hunting style stock, and without any biathlon specific accessories. These can be found used at online auction sites for around $1k and upgraded with our biathlon stock and sights to make a decent biathlon rifle for around $2000. Spare parts and magazines can be hard to find.
Anschutz 1827 Fortner: This is the high end, true purpose built biathlon rifle. These rifles have the slick straight-pull bolt action designed and built by Peter Fortner in Germany, and are designed to perform well in the cold. You can read more about the merits of the Fortner action, in our previous post. They can be had with factory stocks and accessories or with aftermarket accessories (such as the rifle packages we sell) for around $5000-$6000+. These rifles hold their value well, with 10-20 year old used models often going for $2500-$3500 if you can find them. These rifles are expensive, but they can be thought of as an investment. Buy one for a young athlete now and they could go on to race in the Olympics in 15 years with this same rifle! or you could resell it in 5 years and it will hold much of its value.
The distance between the center-line of the barrel and the lower edge of the forestock, including magazine and trigger guard, must not exceed 140 mm.
Fit your budget!
There are two types of actions that are commonly used in biathlon. The first is a traditional bolt action, the second is a straight-pull or toggle action. Both use a “bolt” that is manually operated by your dominant hand to chamber each round and eject the spent casing after each shot.
A traditional bolt action requires the bolt to be pushed forward and rotated down to lock shut for each shot, then rotated up and pulled back to open. This is a very simple and robust mechanism, but It requires a certain amount of movement of your hand/arm to operate which can disturb your shooting position between shots. Examples of biathlon rifles with traditional bolt actions would be the CZ 457, Savage MKII, and Any Anschutz 64 or 54 bolt action variants.
A straight pull or toggle action bolt is just what it sounds: you only need to slide the bolt straight forward and back to load and unload. The primary advantage of a well designed straight pull or toggle action is that it allows the shooter to maintain shooting position throughout the reloading cycle. That said, not all straight pull actions are equal. The best type of action currently available for biathlon is the Fortner action. This is a straight pull action invented and manufactured by Peter Fortner in Germany, and sold by Anschutz in the 1827F biathlon rifle. The ergonomics of the Fortner action are ideal for biathlon, making it easy to operate very smoothly from biathlon shooting positions.
There are several other straight pull or toggle action designs out there. The Izhmash 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, and Volquartsen Summit actions both use a linkage style toggle bolt, which can be nearly as good as a fortner, but may require a modified bolt handle to allow the bolt to be pushed closed more easily with your thumb. The browning T-bolt design offers a straight pull bolt but unfortunately the location of the handle and locking mechanism don’t allow for a very smooth operation and thus it still requires the shooter to completely remove their hand from the stock to operate quickly.
With a well tuned and smooth traditional action a skilled shooter can cycle the bolt with little disruption of their position, but likely never as fast as a Fortner action.
The barrel is a critical component of any rifle, and not all are made equal. Barrels come in different lengths, diameters, and materials and can be made using different processes, with varying levels of quality control. There are three main processes used to make rimfire rifle barrels: Hammer Forging, Button Rifling, Cut Rifling, each has its advantages, but generally Button rifling and cut rifling produce the best precision. At some point we will release more content specifically on barrels… but for now we’ll keep it simple: You want a barrel that is capable of producing more precision than you, the shooter, in a practical biathlon scenario. Generally that scenario is a sling supported prone position, in the winter. It’s likely that the only barrels in the world manufactured with cold weather performance in mind are those used made by Anschutz for their 1827F biathlon rifles, however that doesn’t make them the only barrels that will work in the cold, nor does it mean that every Anschutz barrel will perform well in the cold. There are many variables at play (ammo, cleanliness of barrel, etc.). It’s also important to remember that there’s different degrees of cold. A barrel that shoots poorly at 5 F may shot acceptably at 20F, making it fine for many biathlon racing scenarios. Stay tuned for more content on barrels and cold weather performance.
There are two common categories of triggers, Single stage, and two-stage. You could probably include “shitty single stage” as a third (and probably the most common) type. Regardless of type, the trigger pull weight (force required to fire the shot) must be greater than 500g (1.1lbs). Here’s a quick run down:
Single Stage: a good single stage trigger has no movement before the shot goes off. You apply pressure and the trigger doesn’t move until you have applied the “breaking” force, then it releases, firing the gun and moving backward slightly. Most single stage triggers are not perfect though, and have what’s described as “creep”. Creep occurs when you apply pressure very slowly and the trigger will move a little before going off. Creep is often inconsistent, and generally not a great thing, but in some instances can act like a two-stage trigger.
Two Stage: a two stage trigger has a set amount of movement before stopping again and requiring additional pressure to go off… thus the trigger can be pulled in two well defined stages. Two stage triggers are traditionally only found on higher-end target and competition rifles, and are extremely helpful, particularly when shooting from unstable positions. The ability to do a little “work” on the trigger before it goes off allows the shooter to be primed physically and mentally to make a smooth shot release on target. Two stage triggers help make you a better shooter by facilitating a better trigger control process.
Regardless of your choice of rifle, it’s the stock, sights, and accessories that will really make it a biathlon rifle. A biathlon rifle stock needs to provide several key functions:
Provide ergonomic grips for both prone and offhand shooting that allow you to comfortably and consistently hold the rifle and manipulate the action.
Provide an adjustable or properly positioned cheek rest for the use of biathlon sights
Allow up to 4 magazines to be carried safely on the stock
Allow for the attachment of a carrying harness and prone shooting sling.
Meet IBU Rules
In addition to the necessities, a good biathlon stock will provide some level of adjustment, and/or be custom made to allow the athlete to stand and lay in comfortable positions, supporting the rifle with little to no use of muscles. The rifle stock should be able to conform to the shooter’s body positions.
The “holy grail” of biathlon stocks is a true custom stock built to fit a shooter perfectly. Unfortunately, getting a stock fit perfectly can often take an entire season or more of use, making small modifications over time to dial in the fit. Those who successfully achieve the perfect fully custom stock are generally high level athletes who are able to work closely in-person with a stock maker and shooting coach over the course of (often) years before getting it right. Shooting is a constant evolution, and I would only recommend pursuing a fully custom stock for an athlete that has been in the sport at a high level for several years and knows exactly what they want.
More realistically, the best stock for most biathletes is going to be a stock that is designed to be adaptable and adjustable, allowing the athlete to dial in the stock over time. This concept has caught on quickly over the last several years, and today many competitive biathletes, all the way up to world cup and olympic level, choose to use adjustable and modular stocks that can evolve with them, often incorporating custom made parts that can be replaced to allow the stock to evolve with the athletes shooting.
Having the correct sights is critical for a biathlon rifle. Sights must be non-magnified peep sights consisting of a front “globe-style” sight that can accept apertures, paired with an adjustable “peep” style rear sight. The rear sight should be easily and consistently adjustable in small increments, and should be solid enough to hold its position through use. Both front and rear sights should also have snow covers if winter biathlon is the goal.
Rear sights can further be accessorized with a blinder, eye shade, or eyecup to help manage the light conditions for better sighting, and to ease eye strain or eye dominance issues. Additionally, the diameter of the rear “peep” aperture can vary. A 1.1mm rear aperture or “peep disc” is fairly standard, but with the use of an adjustable Iris-style aperture one can set this diameter from 0.5mm-3mm.
Stay tuned for our next post which will summarize the available options for biathlon rifles.
We get a lot of questions about the pros and cons of long vs short butt hooks. Here is a quick overview of what butt hooks do, and some things to consider when picking out hooks for your rifle.
Generally, biathlon rifles have one or two “hooks” protruding from the butt plate of the rifle, located either at the top of the butt plate, or bottom, or both.
Top Hook: The top hook is used in the prone position only. When lying in the prone position it rests on the top of your shoulder, and can provide a stop, preventing any downward shift of the rifle butt in your shoulder. It also serves as a consistent reference point, helping place the rifle in your shoulder the same way every time. A short top hook will provide less of a stop, and serve more as a reference point, whereas a longer top hook with provide both a solid stop and reference.
Sounds great right? For the most part, it is, but as a beginner, you have to be careful with top hooks, as they can give you a false sense of security in your prone position. A good prone shooting position should create enough pressure between the butt plate and your shoulder, that the butt plate will be firmly held in your shoulder and won’t slip down– without the aid of a top hook. If you start using a long top hook before you’ve taken the time to adjust the rest of your rifle properly and practice establishing a solid prone position, it could mask the fact that you don’t have adequate pressure in your shoulder and prevent you from ever addressing other issues in your position. For this reason it’s often a good idea to start with a short top hook, or no top hook at all until you feel you’ve really dialed in your prone position. Once your rifle is adjusted well and your position is solid, switching to longer hook can ensure that you find that solid position every time.
Bottom Hook: The bottom hook is used exclusively for the offhand or standing position. Positioned under the arm, or in the armpit of the shooter, it prevents upward shift of the rifle butt in the shoulder. Biathlon rifles are almost always front heavy, which means when a good standing position is established (skeletal support through the support forearm and elbow resting on the shooters hip) the rifle will want to tip forward. The bottom hook prevents this tip, letting gravity lock the rifle into position. Shooters can make small adjustments to the elevation of their natural point of aim in standing position by moving the bottom hook up or down.
As with prone shooting, there should be some amount of pressure in the shooter’s shoulder, and like a top hook, a bottom hooks can be used as a crutch with this regard. That said, long bottom hooks are generally considered a good option, or even a necessity for precision standing shooting.
The Short of it:
Long hooks exist for a reason: they make prone and offhand shooting positions feel more stable, and repeatable. However, in pursuit of excellence, they will likely need to be moved around, played with, and probably at times removed to ensure you’re optimizing your shooting in the end.
The wait is over! Our complete biathlon sight package for the Savage MkII FV/FVT rifles is now in stock!
Combining a proven and precise Gehmann 590-B rear sight with our own mount provides a top of the line rear sight option that requires no gunsmithing for installation–just use our provided screws and the existing threaded holes in the Savage receiver.
In the front, we’ve designed a sight base with snow cover that securely and easily attaches to the barrel with set screws–again: no drilling or tapping required. Our front sight base works with the Williams globe sight that comes standard on the Savage MKII FVT rifles. Our sight kit will be available with or without the Williams sight, allowing for an economical upgrade for the FVT rifles, or a great new sight option for the MKII FV variant.
If you haven’t already heard, we are now working with Anschutz North America as a premium dealer! If you’re looking to purchase a new Anschutz rifle or parts, hit us up! Or better yet, visit our online store to build your own race-ready rifle package using a combination of LNR&D and Anschutz products.
We’ve been getting more and more inquiries about stocks from customers outside of the US, and the answer is Yes! We can ship the Versatile Biathlon Stock to international customers, however there is some extra paperwork to be done by both the customer and Lost Nation R&D. Here is a quick guide to what is required:
Our rifle stock is classified as a ‘significant firearm part’ by the United States government, which places it under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). What this means, is that for orders valued over $500 to canada, or over $100 to any other country, we must submit a DDTC export license.
When we submit an export license for approval with the US DDTC we need the following from you:
Signed Purchase Order – This is a dated and signed document that clearly states what, and how many products you are ordering from us. You can use a template of your own, or use this template.
Import Permit or Authorization letter – Each country has different regulations on the import of firearms parts. Some require you to obtain an import permit from the authorities, some do not. You will have to contact your local state or federal government to determine your regulation, and obtain the proper papers. Even if your country does not require a permit, we need a signed letter from your local authorities stating that you do not require a permit. Basically, The US government won’t let us send you something without proof that you can legally possess it in your country.
End Use Letter – This is a short letter from you, the customer, addressed to Lost Nation R & D, stating your intended use of the stock. Download example letter here.
Once these items are received, we will fill out our own forms and submit the entire package to the DDTC for approval. Once submitted, the approval process can take anywhere from 3 days 1-2 weeks. As soon as we get the approved license back from DDTC, we can ship your stock!
If you are located outside of the US, and are interested in placing an order, Contact Us with the stock configuration you’d like and we can help you get the process started!
2019 is bringing some exciting new changes at Lost Nation Research and Development! We have already rolled out our new “pro” line of standing and prone grips, and you can expect to see more grip and accessory options coming soon.
Be on the lookout for new rifle compatibility options for our VBS system, including a now available option for the venerable Marlin model 2000, or “blue marlin”, a rifle that introduced a generation of biathletes to the sport.
And last but not least, we are excited to announce that we now have an FFL07 firearms manufacturer license! Among other things, this will allow us to offer complete, biathlon-ready rifle packages for sale! Stay tuned for more information on this soon, but in the mean time, if you’re in the market for a savage MKII based biathlon rifle, contact us for pricing.