Last time I hit the basics of using an iron sight system. Of course, there’s more…
Last time I also broke down what’s necessary to hit a target: put the sights on the target and then pull the trigger without moving the sights. “Put the sights on target” is also the same thing as “aiming,” and a very important element is finding the “natural point of aim.”
This has been described time and time again and here’s my take on it: natural point of aim, or npa, is where the sights are “naturally” looking. It’s kind of the “magnetic center” of a shooting position.
Now, awareness of natural point of aim mostly matters to position shooting. “Position” shooting is pretty much any means that’s not a rested position (resting the rifle on a set of sandbags from a benchtop, or using a bipod). It’s standing, sitting, prone, or some variation. Thinking of a benchrest-style hold, it’s easy to get a handle on natural point of aim. In preparation to fire the shots, the shooter takes time to get the rifle centered on the target, and the front sight or optic crosshair or dot sitting dead center. That’s done by adjusting the height and the horizontal by shifting the rifle on the bags, shifting the bags themselves. The idea is for the sight to be sitting on target center with no inputs from the shooter. To make your most accurate shots from another shooting position, you have to be just as careful to naturally center the sight.
Find natural point of aim by closing your eyes, settling in to your most secure hold, opening your eyes and seeing where the sight is. Make changes in the orientation of your body to relocate the sight on target center. But! Don’t just move the rifle (that’s what we’re trying to avoid). You have to move its platform, which is you. Shift your body orientation, keeping the rifle held in the same way.
Here’s why it matters: the rifle will, not can, shift or drift to suit the platform you’re providing, kind of like water finding its own level or a rolling ball seeking its own resting point. If the platform is not pointing the rifle on target center, then the rifle will drfit toward that direction, or want to drift. That creates shot impacts that favor wherever that location should be. The impact changes can be from sight displacement and also from the pressures directed against the rifle wanting to move to that location. If the rifle is trying to drift left and you’re pressuring it to stay right, it’s going to slip to the left at some point, and that’s usually right at or right after ignition. Watch for it.
As with shooting from sandbags, your body-dependent shooting position has a vertical and a horizontal component. It’s easier to center left and right. Just shift your platform. Offhand or standing position, move your feet; prone, realign your body. Vertical changes may require more detail. Depending on the shooting position, vertical hold adjustments can come from hand placement along the stock forend, and sometimes even from adjusting the amount of air held prior to making a shot.
This might seem like a lot of detail, but I promise it’s not. It’s a huge key to becoming a good shot. It’s not always possible to shoulder a rifle and have it be on your natural point of aim, but after some experience focusing on natural point of aim, you’ll see that your first try gets closer and closer. It’s how eventually to find the skill of “point shooting.” Handguns especially!
For a competitive shooter, it’s a crucial factor in score. To an accomplished position shooter, npa becomes a finite point, not an area. It has to be found and maintained (yes, it changes) on each round.
Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master competitive shooter and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, please check out ZedikerPublishing.com or BuyZedikerBooks.com