In an effort to give people some information on how better to attain the maximum accuracy for their shooting system we will address some of the fundamentals of marksmanship individually to make sure newer shooters have a good grasp of the basics. One of the most important, is Natural Point of Aim or NPA. Put simply, this is the place in space where your crosshairs naturally fall after you lay down behind a rifle, kneel with one, or set up some kind of barricade shot. Natural point of aim is where the gun and shooter wind up aiming by default. Plenty of things can influence where that might be. A physical ailment or disability like a bad knee, neck problems, shoulder issues, etc. The terrain can play a role if you are laying down on uneven ground or at the crest of a hill. Here’s the important part, take note of where your natural point of aim is in space as you get on the rifle. Then imagine your whole body is paralyzed, you can’t move your leg independently of your torso, or your arms. What you want to do next is move your entire body, and the rifle, while maintaining the position that gave you your natural point of aim, and shift all of it together so that your natural point of aim now rests on the target.
Sounds easy right? It is, it can be, and it should be. The problem is most people don’t adjust their body and rifle together. If they get behind the gun and find themselves looking at a point in space next to the target, they compromise their position and body mechanics by essentially ‘muscling the gun over’ so that the crosshairs fall on the target. That’s the wrong approach. Your natural point of aim is your default body position in relation to the gun in a given position, like the prone position. Your body will try to get back to that default position subconsciously if you compromise it. So just muscling the rifle over to one side to get it on target will allow you to align your crosshairs with the target. The problem will manifest itself when you squeeze the trigger and break the shot. For starters, you probably aren’t laying parallel to the axis of the bore and directly behind the stock of the rifle. As the rifle recoils you will probably lose sight of the target. As the rifle settles after recoil and your body slips back to its natural point of aim, wouldn’t you know you are likely looking at that same spot off to the side of the target again that you started off with?
The proper way to adjust is to imagine that you can’t move your body without moving the gun, as though the rifle and your body are frozen in space. Now move your body and the rifle together. Remember the little green army men toys when you were a kid? That’s how you want to move your body. You pick up the army guy and his weapon, their relationship stays the same, and you aim the army man and the rifle as one at a different position in space. That’s how you need to move. So when you get on the gun and it’s not looking at the spot you want, move everything together so the crosshairs align with the target. Stay directly parallel to and behind the rifle. When the rifle recoils from this position, it won’t move off target, it will stay where it is because you have moved your rifle and your body together so that now your natural point of aim is directly at the target! That’s absolutely the way to adjust your position. It works the same way in other positions. If you are kneeling for a shot off a barricade, the hood of a car, whatever…do the same thing. Note where your natural point of aim is located, then move your body and the rifle together so that your natural point of aim is aligned with your target.
Some positions are more stable than others, that’s to be expected. Some positions you will have to deal with movement and floating of the reticle no matter what. In those positions, think of your natural point of aim as a circle of area in your sight picture, rather than a precise dot position. In other words, where is the reticle floating most of the time? That little arc of your sight picture, bigger than it was in prone because kneeling or standing are less stable, is your new natural point of aim. So move everything again so that the now larger segment of your sight picture where the reticle is floating now spends its time floating over, under, and around your target. You will have to focus on when you break the shot in these positions to increase your odds of a hit but if you set up your natural point of aim the right way, you will be able to see whether you hit the target or not. That is the name of the game when it comes to precision rifle shooting at distance. You won’t always have somebody to spot for you, or the time and opportunity to go look for yourself. The more you can do to enhance your understanding of the fundamentals of marksmanship the better chance you have of making a hit, or in the event of a miss, to see how much you missed by in order to fire an accurate follow up shot that hits the mark.
If you are interested in some professional instruction on the subject that you can check out from home, I highly recommend you head over to Sniper’s Hide and register for the online training. The owner is an outstanding instructor and describes these concepts, and several that are far beyond our ability to teach to others, in an easy to understand way with excellent video quality and written summaries of the topics. The going price for that training is less than $15.00 USD per month and a bargain any way you slice it. The Sniper’s Hide website can be accessed at http://snipershide.scout.com/