WEST YELLOWSTONE- The sport of biathlon requires athletic ability and a steady hand with a rifle. Marc Sheppard has been helping those steady hands for 25 years.
Sheppard explained, “I started building custom stocks in 1992, it was my first one and that was actually the same year I started competing in biathlon myself, and over the years I was always tinkering with my own rifle and building my own stocks and finally got in to doing it full-time.”
Working the wood to fit the athlete takes time and patience. It’s very personal, although there are some rules that must be followed.
Sheppard said, “Every biathlon rifle has to weigh at least three-and-a-half kilo. That’s the minimum weight so that everyone is carrying at least the same amount.”
He continued, “The gold standard has always been walnut for rifle stock. It has a great strength to weight ratio. If you want something little stronger then you go to maple, but it’s more dense so they’re trade-offs there. More recently I’ve been using cherry quite a bit. It’s beautiful wood and quite a bit less dense than walnut so it’s a lighter rifle but you definitely don’t want to fall down on it.”
Wood is only a part – fit is the key, and that’s where Sheppard comes in: “Especially in biathlon when you have so many other factors involved. Heart rate, respirations, how tired you are if the wind is blowing, how cold it is. You want to eliminate as many as other variables as you can so having a custom fit just lets you drop in to position exactly the same way every time.”
-Chet Layman reporting for MTN News