Gun Control in Sochi

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The Soviet Union may have handed out tens of millions of AKs with few strings attached, but Russia itself enforces strict gun control — even on Olympic biathletes:

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.


  1. Dan Kurt says:

    re: Dry Firing

    My son, a Ph.D. Mechanical Engineer, got into shooting sports while a graduate student. He shot IPSC* and IDPA** and reached Master Level in IDPA. He was invited to three nationals and went to two. Constant dry firing in his apartment he believes really helped maintain proficiency. He would have targets placed in a few places and practice multiple times a day. People who he was up against that would be hard to beat were the occasional policeman who was given time and ammunition to practice daily and military personnel who were encouraged to actively practice with live rounds. The dry firing, however, helped him he believed. He now is living in the Phoenix, AZ area and has not been impressed with the local clubs: little or no camaraderie? unlike where he was in graduate school.

    Dan Kurt

    *IPSC: International Practical Shooting Confederation

    **USPSA: United States Practical Shooting Association

  2. Isegoria says:

    By the way, the dry-fire book for practical shooters is Steve Anderson’s Refinement and Repetition, in which he describes the drills he devised to attain the rank of grandmaster, or GM:

    Because both my parents were music teachers, I fully understood the power of practice and had already experienced it first hand as a guitar player. As a teenager I spent hours playing scales and finger exercises on un unplugged electric guitar to build finger strength, speed and coordination, so the idea of dry fire made perfect sense to me.

    I analyzed the USPSA classifiers and realized that most of them involved shooting six rounds, reloading, and then shooting six more rounds and various target arrays. From there it was simple to devise drills to address those challenges. These became the first 12 drills in Refinement and Repetition. The others came after a similar analysis of the skills that are needed in common USPSA stages.

    It’s important to remember that I never set out to write a dry fire book. I set out to make GM. The book got produced because I got tired of giving away the drills for free.

  3. Toddy Cat says:

    And of course, Russia’s murder rate is far higher than the U.S. Score another victory for gun control.

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