Ammo used in Olympics


Ray touched on this subject in a different thread. I decided to make a separate one to avoid confusion.
Question: Which ammo is used in Olympics? Do they bring/supply their own or all the participants in a particular event given identical ammo? How is ammo chosen in either case? Any special headstamps?


I think the Biathlon has been wussified to being limited to 22 LR. As I remember, wasn’t it proposed that it be further gentrified to air rifles in some countries.

I don’t know about other Olympic shooting events. Do they even do that anymore? I know that Palma was once considered an Olympic event. It is restriced to ammunition that is carefully defined in the rule book. It was, at one time, supposed to be ammunition provided by the hosting country but that led to a lot of fights with accusations of cheating, so the rules were changed.

That’s all I know about that.



I think that at least italian shooters try and choose the cartridge that fires best in each rifle/pistol. Lot is important so they usually buy large quantities of cartridges of the choosen lot/brand combination.

Anyway the most used cartridges by italian shooters are of Lapua manufacture.

Fiocchi ammunition is widely used by Skeet and Trap shooters


I think like most shooting events, except for the Palma Match where the host country NORMALLY provides the rifles and ammunition and the competitors must use those, the Olympics leave the choice of firearm and ammunition to the competitor, or his team leaders. Of course, I am sure there are specifications that must be followed, such as caliber, or range of calibers, depending on events, perhaps barrel length limitiations, overall weights, sighting equipment allowed, etc. These rules change as technology changes firearms. I recall shooting for my High School Team in 50 ft. indoor smallbore, the limitations on the rifles then (no hook buttplates, certain sight radius, no palm rests, three-pound trigger pull, etc.) would have caused every rifle used anywhere today in the same events to be disqualified.



The ammunition used in International Palma caused quite a commotion a few years ago and almost ended with the cancellation of the games. Every country was hurling accusations back and forth accusing each other of rigging the rifles and ammunition to their benefit. There probably was some truth to some of it but the solution was simply to specify an approved Palma cartrige and not allow any deviations. Right now, there are only 2 approved cartridges. The 308 Winchester and the 223 Remington. Cartridge dimensions and chamber specs must comply with SAAMI or CIP. Bullet weights cannot exceed 156 grains for the 308 or 81 grains for the 223. These simple standards have settled the matter, at least for now.



The Biathlon teams bring their own ammunition. Its the same with all the ISSF (International Shooting Sport Foundation, formerly UIT) events, among them 300 m fullbore (which is no longer olympic but still World Championship). Surprisingly, even in countries with extremely strict gun laws it works.

I did not like the Biathlon change from military calibers to .22 rimfire. But one has to admit that this was the foundation to the enormous success Biathlon has had since in Europe. Smallbore ranges (and automatic targets!) are much less expensive and can be built even in densely populated Europe. Due to the short 50 m range, the spectators immediately see whether a target drops or not. For standing, you can even see where the miss went (squashed lead sticks to the white steel background). When athletes are shooting side by side it is pure suspense.

One can only admire those shooters who are able with a heartbeat rate of 160 or so, hitting 5 CD-sized targets standing offhand at 50 m (and 40 percent that size prone).


Although only at 50 Ft. (I guess that is about 16.5 meters), the ten ring on our Smallbore (.22) targets was smaller than the diameter of the bullet. Still, from strong positions like prone and sitting, it was not too hard to shoot possibles. Kneeling and Standing, for me, were case altogether.:-( And, of course, we hadn’t just skied (or ran) for a long distance before shooting! This thread made me reacquaint myself with an old friend - my Winchester 52C that was way in back of the safe since I had not shot it in about 40 years! Very old fashioned today, but still a beautiful piece of steel and walnut!


Would anyone have ammo boxes and headstamps of early Olympic biathlon competitions? They were .30-06 and 7.62 NATO until .22LR became a standard in 1978.


In the 1996 summer Olympics pistol calibers were still used. I acquired a box of Chinese Nagant revolver cartridges used by the Chinese team from one of the people in Atlanta who helped host the team. No special markings are obvious. I assume other teams also had their own ammunition, butI have never seen any boxes specifically marked for the Olympics.



Biathlon at Olympics started 1960 at Squaw Valley. At the time the Nordic states and the Soviet Union dominated it. I would expect they used 6.5 x 55 and 7.62 x 54 R.


Here are some typical / current .22lr biathlon boxes. I believe the Lapua is generally popular with the athletes.


There is (or at least there was once) a biathlon competitors’ forum on the internet. I found it once by accident when researching .22 Rapid Fire Pistol Shorts. The accuracy of different brands of .22 rimfire biathlon ammo was discussed. Apparently both temperature (obvious) and the altitude (less obvious to me) of the competition arena are critical to the shooters performance. Some competitors had trained & sighted in their rifles in California at low elevation. They traveled to an event in the Colorado mountains and could not get their rifles to hold zero. They obtained another brand from a competing team and all was well.

I shoot rimfire smallbore competitively. Yesterday, I was testing the accuracy of some older ammunition, several types of target .22 rimfires purchased between 2009 and 2016… I tested a box of Fiocchi Winter from 2013. The lubricant had dried out after only 4 years in storage and accuracy had dropped off.

Olympic Rapid Fire Pistol Match rules were changed in 2004. The .22 Short rimfire cartridge was ruled out of competition. I believe 2004 was the last year that any Rapid Fire Shorts were loaded.