#3 Fundamentals: Aiming and Natural Point of Aim


Rokslide Sponsor
Dec 21, 2016
To state the obvious, aiming the rifle precisely on the target is the first fundamental of marksmanship. You can't hit what you can't aim at. Standing unsupported, you will have a lot of "wobble" as the rifle moves around and it makes hitting small targets much harder than shooting with a bipod and rear bag while bench or prone. There are all sorts of methods for getting as much stability as possible to support the rifle between positions like standing unsupported and a bipod and rear bag.

Whenever we interface with a rifle our body is going to influence where the rifle is pointed, regardless of the position. If I am standing and I have to twist my body at the hips to aim at a target to my right, then my body naturally wants to untwist to the left. It is the same thing if I have to twist my shoulders to force the rifle while I am prone. Because I have to force my body to twist to the right to get on target, it is not "naturally" aiming at the target. I will be more unsteady and compromise the stability of the shot because I have built tension into my body to force it right. I am not "naturally" pointing at the target. Recoil will naturally exploit this unnatural twist and tension in our body because it is part of the whole rifle/body aiming system. Recoil immediately starts to untwist your body before the bullet leaves the barrel, reducing accuracy, even though the rifle was "aimed" at the target when the trigger was pressed.

Avoid all unnecessary tension in the body. Rather than twisting at your hips or shoulders, shuffle your front foot to the right and your body will naturally point further to the right. Moving your base is a far easier and induces no unnecessary tension. By moving your feet instead of your hips, your body will naturally aim the rifle to the right without winding up any twist. Your body is now naturally pointing at the target so you aim with less muscle tension. When you fire the rifle, the rifle will not immediately "untwist" your body before the bullet leaves. The rifle will more naturally and repeatedly recoil the same.

At first, it can be an unnatural feeling to change where we are pointing by moving our feet. I think that is because if we are pointing our finger, it is more natural to move our arm or twist our hips from side to side just a little bit rather than to move our feet an inch or two. Consequently, when shooting our first impulse is to immediately twist our hips or shoulders to aim rather than moving our feet. But, this impulse is not the best form for shooting. Ultimately, learning to move our feet to aim actually makes shooting easier. Because, we learn one way to connect our body with the rifle, the only "natural" way to aim is to then swivel our base like a turret gun. Our feet, knees, and rear are our base, and should be the swivel to turn onto the target like the based of the turret gun on a ship. And, they are also the adjustment up and down to clear whatever obstacle there is or to support the rifle at the best height. Picture your upper body always in the same position with the rifle and your base swiveling or moving to put your entire upper body into the natural point of aim. As we aim from our base, we remain connected to the rifle in practically the same position. For aiming up or down, we do use our arms and shoulders, just like the barrel moves up and down on a turret gun.

Testing our "natural point of aim" is the ultimate precision and accuracy test to see whether we are aimed at the target in a consistent position. As hunters, when we interface with a rifle, we are always using some amount of bone and muscle to support the rifle and aim it. Testing natural point of aim is the way to minimize the disturbance induced by our bodies that occurs primarily with our torso and upper body. The test will tell you how much you need to swivel your "turret" to aim on target. For this purpose, I am assuming that you have chosen the best position for the circumstances, such as seated, kneeling, off a tree, tripod, or prone and are working on eliminating muscle tension out of the position you have chosen. Selecting shooting position to reduce wobble is another discussion.

Testing Natural Point of Aim (often time shortened to NPA) is simple. Close your eyes, gently breathe a couple cycles and then open your eyes. Your body will move into a more neutral position and almost always your rifle will have moved off the target. It moves because it is now pointed by your body without your conscious muscle flexing and tension. The movement during the test is easiest to detect with your eyes closed because your body was constantly muscling against forces to put the rifle onto the target. The next step is to adjust your body so that it will more naturally point at the target and repeat the cycle. Eventually, you should be able to get your body into a position so that there is no unnecessary muscle tension pushing the rifle onto the target. Your wobble will be reduced as much as possible for that position. There are other things you can do to reduce the wobble further, but they are ways to further support your body. For instance, if you are standing prone unsupported, if I then added a support underneath the forearm, it would immediately reduce the wobble mechanically while your body remains "naturally pointed" at the target.

To become better and faster at aiming, you should build the process of identifying your natural point of aim into your shooting process. After learning the principle of natural point of aim, whenever I first have the target in my sights I automatically relax, sometimes closing my eyes briefly. Immediately, I can see which direction my crosshairs move and I then shift whatever part of my body is on the ground as needed--my feet if standing, my feet or knees if kneeling, my rear or feet if sitting, and my hips if prone. That is my first macro test and adjustment of NPA. Once I get into a good comfortable position, then I relax again, sometimes closing my eyes with a breathing cycle to test natural point of aim as a micro test and adjustment of NPA. With my "macro test" I may move up to several inches, but, with my "micro test" it is often just a fraction of an inch. When standing, it may be as simple as twisting on the ball of my foot to move it imperceptibly. When prone, it may be nothing more than a wiggle of my hips. To avoid fatigue, I typically don't do long cycles or take long with NPA because the longer I am in a position the more wobble I get. However, with prone, I will often repeat it quite a few times, especially with very long shots.

After building NPA tests into my aiming early and often, I can aim my rifle faster and more easily than trying to muscle the rifle from a position that is "unnatural". I break cleaner shots and have more impacts. As you implement the natural point of aim test in all the positions that you commonly shoot, you will build into your body the memory of how you need to align and how you can hold the rifle. Remember, your hips and up should feel almost exactly the same in every position, it is your base that swivels on the ground. By repeatedly testing and adjusting NPA through your base rather than your upper body, you will more naturally assume and repeat the same positions easily. Natural point of aim will become habit and aiming will become easier.

Now, you can't always test and adjust for NPA before a shot or an animal may move requiring a quick adjustment. This is why the practice is important to design NPA into the way you build positions naturally. When that shot comes up, you will naturally put your rifle up to your shoulder and your body will be facing the animal, you will be addressing the animal from a solid position from the beginning. You will naturally point your body to the animal because "it just feels right". This brings up a point. Sometimes, it doesn't "feel natural" when you begin adjusting your body because of NPA testing. However, that doesn't mean the position is "natural", it just means you feel comfortable repeating it. And, it certainly doesn't mean it is good form.

I talked about shooting with some young men a couple weeks ago and their success. One reason they successfully hit targets at 975 yards was that the young men and dads tested their natural point of aim repeatedly until the rifle did not move when they closed their eyes and went through a couple breathing cycles. They also dryfired their trigger press to check if the rifle would move. With no movement, I knew that they were in a completely neutral and natural position aiming the rifle at the target. The bipod and rear bag was doing virtually all the work at that point. They aimed the rifle system at the target with the rifle rested on the front with a bipod and in the rear with a stiff wedge bag. They didn't even need to squeeze the bag to get on target. By eliminating virtually all of the influence of their body on the rifle, the rifle could deliver the bullet exactly where aimed as long as they pressed the trigger without disturbing the rifle.

After repeating this feat dozens of times with new shooters and "experienced" shooters, it is absolutely clear to me that testing natural point of aim and adjusting the whole body to move the rifle on target is a simple exercise that will immediately improve the shooting of almost every shooter.
Nov 19, 2022
It there anyway to find all your points organize in one area? I was gonna get my boys to read them. Or should I just copy and paste them into a word doc?

Really appreciate your work!

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