The Natural Point of Aim, or NPOA, is the point that your rifle is actually aiming at based upon your position and body mechanics. It is a mistake to build your position and then use your muscles to try and move the point of aim and hold it at the desired point. Upon firing, your muscles and reflexes will revert towards the actual NPOA, causing you to miss the desired target.
A good NPOA is dependent on the steady hold factors mentioned in the position building section. According to Army FM 3-22.9 Rifle Marksmanship, a good position is build around these factors:
- Nonfiring hand. Placement of the nonfiring hand depends greatly on what kind of shooting your are doing. Your goal should be to introduce a minimum of influence on the point of aim of the rifle. Rather, you are simply supporting it. In traditional marksmanship positions, the nonfiring hand will be somewhere forward of the trigger guard of the rifle. In precision oriented shooting, such as with a bipod, the nonfiring hand will probably be at the back of the butt stock.
- Butt of the stock. Place the butt of the stock firmly in the pocket of the shoulder.
- Firing hand. With the firing hand, grip the small of the stock or pistol grip. Using the middle through little fingers, exert a slight rearward pull to keep the butt of the weapon firmly in the pocket of the shoulder. Place the thumb over the top of the small of the stock or behind the pistol grip. Place the index finger on the trigger, ensuring it does not touch the stock of the weapon. This avoids disturbing the lay of the rifle when the trigger is squeezed.
- Elbows. Find a comfortable position that provides the greatest support. When using traditional marksmanship positions, pay attention to the location of the flat of the elbow in order to best provide support.
- Stock weld. Place the cheek in the same place on the stock with each shot. A change in stock weld tends to cause poor sight alignment, reducing accuracy.
- Bone support. Bone support is the foundation of the firing position; they provide steady support of the weapon.
- Muscle relaxation. When using bone support, the shooter can relax muscles, reducing any movement that could be caused by tense or trembling muscles. Aside from tension in the trigger finger and firing hand, any use of the muscle generates movement of the shooter’s sight picture.
Once you have developed each of these elements, you should check your NPOA. My common trick is place my front sight (or reticle) on the desired point of aim, close my eyes, hold my breath, and give my body a little “shimmy” to simulate recoil. I then open my eyes and observe where the sights fall. If they settle back onto my desired point of impact, then I have found my NPOA and am ready to fire. If they fall somewhere other than where I desire, then I need to revisit my position and try again (this typically takes a few tries, especially for a newer shooter). With practice in position building and NPOA, you will naturally become faster at acquiring a correct NPOA before the shot, and will spend less time adjusting your position. It’s all about building the “muscle memory.”
For best training results, do not fire until you know you have attained a good NPOA. I have long struggled with my impatience and the desire to “just shoot already.” Firing when I am in this state of mind, and have not attained a good NPOA, is always a recipe for frustration when my shots are not where I want them to be.
With time, your dedicated practice to attaining a good NPOA will translate to faster times in areas you did not expect. Even when you are not looking for maximum accuracy for a shot, your time spent finding NPOA will assist you.