The Natural Point of Aim – or NPA – is a fundamental concept that must be ingrained in shooters if they aspire to any level of success. In a nutshell, the NPA is the natural, relaxed shooting position whereby the rifle and shooter’s position are naturally aligned with the target.
I will go on to explain how to achieve the natural point of aim in any field or target shooting position, but first a little anecdote to explain how it can be forgotten
I was check-scoring for a very close mate (we’ll call him Mal) at a service shoot at 200 metres. We have shot together in teams and against each other since we were 14, so we go a way back. He had adopted the open-legged sitting position – due to a recent spinal fusion operation he cannot go cross-legged – and he shot very well for his first four or five rounds of the ten-round application match, having used his sighters to wind on with his Central aperture equipped No1 SMLE. (He has produced 49.6/50 on fullbore targets at 800 metres with it, so a service match is a snip for it, accuracy-wise.)
Around shot number six and seven, he posted two shots down to 8 o’clock and perplexed, Mal moved to wind his sights to “get back in the V”. I stopped him and, knowing he hadn’t changed his position throughout, suggested he move his buttocks and feet slightly, while bringing his sling hand slightly toward him. He trusted me, although we were shooting against each other for bragging rights, and proceeded with the remaining rounds of the stage, posting all V’s or bulls. In the subsequent ten round double-snap match, he also recorded ten hits out of ten – a solid result.
This is a demonstration of how a poor NPA can let a shooter down. Mal had not taken the time to establish a correct NPA in prep time before the shoot and, when he was getting a little fatigued half-way through, his shots started going where his actual NPA was pointing – not in the bullseye. He had been successfully muscling the rifle onto the target early on, but it was going to end in tears if not corrected.
So how do we establish the correct NPA?
First, adopt the shooting position you will use. Once secure, aim at the target in as relaxed a frame as possible, then close your eyes for five seconds. When you open them, note where your sights are pointing.
If you are pointing to the left, slightly move your body around its natural pivot (front elbow for prone, buttocks for sitting, feet for standing/offhand) in the direction you wish to move your point of impact. If you are pointing high or low, move the forward hand up or down the fore-end to compensate. Once you are practised, minor cheek weld and rear hand variations will also assist.
Then, repeat the closed-eyes drill and make minor adjustments to be spot on.
It takes little time, but is a good routine to get into. Eventually, your nerves and muscles will automatically get you adopting it in all positions in which you have practised it, so it will pay dividends in the field, when you don’t have time for the exercise.
One good thing about this drill is you can practice at home with an empty rifle minus the bolt – you don’t need to be on the range. Try it – it works.