When biathletes arrived in Sochi, their rifles were taken off their planes and delivered directly to the biathlon venue, which is the only place they can access them. Biathletes must sign out their rifles when they arrive and sign them back in before they leave. Every box of ammunition must also be signed out and accounted for.
The measures are similar to those used at previous Olympics, and Russia isn’t the only country with such tight controls. But it is among the strictest. “There aren’t a lot of other countries like that,” said U.S. biathlete Sara Studebaker.
For American biathletes in particular, it represents a stark change from what they are accustomed to at home.
“In the U.S., for a biathlon rifle, it’s really pretty simple,” Team USA’s Leif Nordgren said. “To be honest, no one really seems to care too much. When you’re done with training, you throw your rifle into the back of the car and bring it into the house.”
There are reasons biathletes like to take their rifles home or back to a hotel. Away from the mountain, many of them hang sheets of paper with five black dots on bedroom or living room walls, which mimics the targets in a race. They use them for a training method called dry firing, in which they aim at the dots with their rifles unloaded and pull the trigger.
Before a typical race day, they can do this casually — before bed the previous night or just after breakfast, for instance. But at the Olympics, the security measures bring those routines to a halt once biathletes step out of the competition venue. “You just kind of adjust your schedule,” said U.S. biathlete Lanny Barnes.
Competitive shooters perform far, far more dry fire than live fire.