Winter biathlon, Rio Grande Valley style

NEWSCENTER 23
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POSTED: Monday, February 10, 2014 - 4:11pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 8:58am

It's tough trying to find a Winter Olympic sport you can try in the Rio Grande Valley. 

NewsCenter 23 is going to try to recreate biathlon conditions here at the Lozano Shooting Range in Linn, Texas, north of Edinburg. It has a rifle range and targets have been placed 160 feet away, just like the targets in Sochi, Russia for the Winter Olympics this month. 

"Once it gets to a certain point, it's too cold or...you freeze up and you can't feel anything in your hands, I think by that point, it's a lot harder, it makes it difficult versus being in the hot sun, or moving around," said David De Leon, a competitive shooter and the range master at Lozano.

"The biggest factor I would say, would probably be the fact that they have to move up to a certain point and stop and shoot," De Leon said. "And the fact that they have to control their breathing while they're shooting, is probably going to be one of the biggest factors."

I'm going to do the easiest of the 11 biathlon events. Instead of skiing three loops of about 1.25 miles, I will instead run a half mile three times, and I will shoot at targets in between. 

The first round will be laying down in the prone position; the second round standing. What biathletes use is a .22 bolt action rifle. I got my hands on a .17, which is similar. 

"It's an accurate rifle, it's very fast, it can go to a long distance," said Jason Breeden, a competitive hunter. "It depends on the size of the target you're going to hit, of course, if you're shooting at something the size of a dollar bill at 100 meters, it's going to be hard to do without a scope."

I'll admit, I'm a city kid.  I've had very very minimal experience with a gun.  Luckily, the .17 is a very easy gun to use. It's relatively lightweight and accurate. It also has a scope on it. Biathletes don't have a scope, they can't use it in competition. 

"The .22, it doesn't have as much recoil as other people think of a high-caliber," De Leon said. "But the fact that it could be lighter than most guns... because it's not heavy enough, you can't hold it steady enough can play a factor."

In the Olympics, biathletes who miss a target will ski an extra loop or take a one-minute penalty.  

"You do get a little fatigued, carrying a rifle around, walking a certain distance," Breeden said. "I know I've walked almost 200 to 300 yards to stalk a deer before, and fatigue does come into play."

Luckily I kept in mind a tip that David gave me before we started today.  Take a deep breath, and at the end of your exhale, pull the trigger. And it certainly helped before I started running and after when I was breathing heavily, as I hit my target everytime.

We have to thank Lozano Shooting Range for allowing us this experiment. 

 

The range will hold its Full Auto Fun Shoot this weekend... details can be found on Lozano's Facebook page. 

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