- Whether natural point of aim can be overlooked.
- How to recognize and correct an error in natural point of aim
- How to train natural point of aim live fire and dryfire
- Measuring natural point of aim as a metric
Natural point of aim (NPA) is a fundamental of marksmanship that if unaddressed can lower the probability of hitting what you’re trying to hit. In its most basic form NPA means that the target is resting or being supported in a way that on its own it is aiming at the point of impact. A common saying for NPA is “rifle to target”. This article is going to be more specific; more specifically its “Rifle pointed at the intended point of impact through your optic”.
A rifle and ammunition combination are going to have a performance standard of its own. I call this the “system capability” others have called it the “system dispersion”. Essentially it means that without the shooter the rifle is in its most accurate state.
When a rifleman takes a hold of a rifle system, they are adding error through their inputs and outputs. If a rifle is resting on a rest of some sort or in the hands of a shooter and is naturally aimed away from the intended point of impact its common to see a shooter simply steer the rifle into the intended point of impact and assume that it’s going to be great. The problem is that by steering a rifle off its natural point of aim you’re adding torque. This torque is going to resist the movement and the rifle is going to naturally pull back to its natural resting direction. The interplay between forces tends to drive the shot toward the natural direction of the rifle from the intended point of impact. In other words, your shot doesn’t go to the intended spot.
Do Fundamentals Matter ?
Can a shooter with NPA or any other fundamental error still hit a target? Absolutely. There is always a chance a shooter can get lucky. A rifleman, however, wants to know and understand their ability and the probability they will hit. To increase your probability of hitting your point of aim with the same point of impact you must reliably eliminate fundamental tolerance stacking.
There are a few ways to test a shooters NPA that are fun and informative. If you are at the range and shooting distance you can try our NPA check. To run the NPA check allow the shooter to build a position and then practice a few repetitions of breath cycle with eyes shut. On the opening of the eyes look to see if the reticle is still on the intended point of aim. If the reticle has not moved have them repeat the check while a second person covers the optic in some way so that the shooter can no longer see the reticle or target. With good NPA the rifle will not move, and the shot will go to its intended spot. If the NPA is off in this scenario the bullet will likely move between the point of aim and the natural point of the rifle. If the movement is large enough this can cause a complete miss of the target.
Checks without firing can also be performed that can teach you to feel and see NPA errors before you shoot.
Testing Natural Point of Aim
One test is simply to close eyes on a few breaths and check reticle movement from before and after eye closure. If the reticle moved it likely moved to the more natural point of the rifle. To correct reset the rifle so that its pointing where you want it to be and then connect back to the rifle and repeat. When NPA is good there won’t be movement of the reticle.
Another check I perform regularly is simply set up and then rather than shooting carefully disconnect from the rifle while maintaining a sight picture. The rifle will move to its natural direction if you were driving it. I like this because when stressed or trying to perform it’s easy to overlook our influence and when I notice the feeling of pressure, I have built the disconnect into my process to check from time to time and regularly catch myself driving the rifle more than I should.
Better Record Keeping Means Better Results
If you are a data collector, it’s easy to log in a data book or on the riflekraft site in the notes section for targets the sub tension movement of your NPA errors and the direction they tend to be in. I like this because overall trends can help us identify why we are seeing patterns in our shooting. Without recording and tracking our shooting over time its very difficult to remember all the subtle variables. The ability to log data over time on a target with measurable datapoints was the motivator for the RifleKraft site in the first place. Many shooters are benefitting from this as an online databook and although its not necessary and you can write on paper in your own hard copy book, I still recommend shooters log data in one form or another so that they don’t learn the same lesson regularly for longer than they need.
Error stacks. Most significant hit probability errors are coming from the shooter in the form of fundamental errors. Fundamental errors are cumulative and as a result tend to grow shooters groups as well as contribute to missing in an additive manner.
NPA stacks on all the other errors and when you don’t know which error caused the effect you see down range you can’t make an informed action.
If you don’t know exactly why you missed, you could be blaming the wrong reason and putting time and mental energy into the wrong fix.
Record your shooting tendencies so that you can learn over time what your trends are and then apply that knowledge to improving as a rifleman.
If you cant figure it out, take a class!