(Part five of a nine part series, courtesy of Fred’s M14 Stocks)
Welcome again to our series on becoming a Rifleman – someone who can, with rack-grade rifle and surplus ammo, maintain a 4 MOA group at ranges from 25 meters to 500 yards from field positions.
In Part Four, we discussed the 6 steps to “firing the shot”. Course by now, you have these committed to memory, right?
But for folks who might have just joined us, I’ll repeat ‘em :
1. SIGHT ALIGNMENT — Line up the front and rear sights
2. SIGHT PICTURE — Keeping the sights lined up, bring them onto the target
3. RESPIRATORY PAUSE – Deep breath, exhale partially, hold breath as front sight touches bottom of target
4A. FOCUS YOUR EYE — Focus your eye on the front sight
4B. FOCUS YOUR MIND -– Keep front sight on target
5. TRIGGER SQUEEZE –- Squeeze straight back while front sight stays on target
6. FOLLOW THROUGH — Sighting eye open, take mental picture of where sights were when rifle discharged, and follow through with trigger
Today, we’re diving deeper into Step Two of “firing the shot” and discussing “Natural Point of Aim” (NPOA).
NPOA is the one factor which separates the Riflemen from the ‘wannabees.’ Like I said last time, you have two basic choices in getting and keeping your sight picture. First way is to use your muscles and fight your body’s natural alignment so as to force the sights onto the target.
That’ll work – maybe – as long as you can:
a) use the same amount of muscle power to force your body into the exact same position for each shot (remembering, of course, that even the “Quick and Dirty” single-sheet Army Qualification Test will require 40 shots), and
b) keep your muscles from growing tired and starting to tremble as you fight your body to keep your sights on target.
Being that you’re one of the bright students here (or, like Fred, you’ve gotten tired of doing the same thing and getting the same results), you’re gonna want to have your body work with you, rather than against you. So you’re going to use the second way, which is your NPOA.
What does NPOA offer you?
If you don’t get your natural point of aim, your shots will be off the center of the target, even if fired perfectly. Why? Because your body is out of position, and you have to muscle the rifle to get your sights onto the target. That muscle strain is difficult to replicate, shot to shot, and it wears out your body’s fine muscle control pretty quickly.
A Rifleman takes his shooting position so that his rifle, with his body relaxed, is pointing at the target. He doesn’t have to fight muscle strain and he makes his job of firing the shot a lot easier. Best of all, his shots will be on target, accurately and consistently, because he’s not fighting his body’s natural position.
Here’s a guarantee: learn to establish your NPOA and use your sling in all positions (more next time), and you’ll reduce your groups by at least 33%, maybe more. Promise.
Sounds like it’s worth the trouble, right?
So how do you find your NPOA?
First, follow Step One of “firing the shot” and align your sights once you are in your shooting position. Next, follow Step Two and get your sight picture by lining up on the target with your sights.
Now the NPOA work begins. Close your eyes, relax your body, taking a deep breath in and let it out.
Open your eyes and check your sight picture. 9 times out of 10, your sight picture will have changed, because your body is now relaxed.
You’ll now reestablish your sight picture by making slight adjustments in your position. If you are in the prone position, you’ll shift position pivoting around your forward elbow to bring the sights back on the target. In other positions, you will make whatever small adjustments in your position so that the rifle points naturally at the target.
Satisfied with your position? OK, let’s test your work.
Once again, close your eyes, relax your body, inhale deeply, exhale, open your eyes, and check your sight picture.
Depending on your position, your sights may be dead on target. If not, repeat the cycle:
– Establish your sight picture
– Close your eyes
– Relax your body
– Inhale deeply
– Open your eyes
– Re-check sight picture
– Make slight adjustments to your position, and
How many times do you have to repeat this process? You’ll want to repeat it until when you open your eyes, your sights are naturally on the target. No more, and no less.
Once you establish your NPOA, MAINTAIN YOUR BODY POSITION from shot to shot by not moving that forward elbow supporting the rifle [prone] or keeping your position steady [all other positions]. Even tougher, you’ll need to keep that same body position as you reload and fire a fresh magazine.
If you move, your shots will move. It’s that simple, and that important.
Now, I know that someone out there is thinking, “Why do I have to go through all of this hooey just to fire a shot?”
Well, guess what?
You don’t have to. You can fire each shot just the way you have always fired each shot.
Thing is, though: if you do that, you’ll get exactly the same results that you always have.
The rest of us want to be Riflemen. We are willing to overcome our sloth and change our habits, whatever the cost, because we want to join that elite top 5% of marksmen in America. We know that if we do that, we’ll be among the best shooters in the entire world.
And we are committed to that goal. Even if that means memorizing some stuff that we don’t want to memorize, and forcing our bodies into positions that are pretty darned uncomfortable, at least at first.
Most of all – we are committed to becoming Riflemen, even if it means going through the NPOA cycle 10 times for every shot, until we get the hang of dropping into a good position from the beginning.
You see, when ol’ Fred told you that NPOA sorts out the wannabees from the Riflemen, he was speaking in two senses.
First, NPOA is the technique that will allow you, with practice, to shoot 20” groups at 500 yards. Without it, you’re toast.
But even more importantly, the learning and application of the NPOA process is where you build the self-discipline, perseverance, and moxie that will benefit you for the rest of your life, both as a Rifleman and as a citizen.
So, right now, while the information is still fresh – go to your gun safe, grab your rifle, ensure that it is unloaded (chamber and mag), and take 15 minutes of dry-firing practice from prone position using the NPOA steps we’ve been discussing. Start slowly, and repeat each step quietly to yourself as you do it. If you can, get your spouse, roommate, or eldest child to help you by reading the steps as you go through them.
Take that practice 3 times a week, 15 minutes a session, in the comfort of your home – practice, persevere, persist. You don’t even have to go to the range – but of course, if you can get to the range, don’t miss the opportunity.