General

3 Tips for Improving Your Natural Point of Aim (NPA)

natural point of aim - rifle

The most essential fundamental of hitting your target, any target with any gun, is a two-part process that has to become a one-step experience. Wait, what?

I’ll explain.

Put the sights on the target and then pull the trigger without moving the sights. That’s it.

If you can do those two things, at once, you’ll hit center. (Assuming the sights are on zero… but that’s another article.)

“Put the sights on target” is also the same thing as “aiming,” and a very important element is finding the “natural point of aim.”

natural point of aim
The sign of an NPA issue is simple, so also learn to make it obvious: you’re not hitting where you’re calling your shots. Sight on target center, shots not on center. Don’t overlook it. It’s probably the most simple fix for a missed shot.

What Is Natural Point of Aim?

This has been described time and time again and here’s my take on it: natural point of aim, or NPA, is where the sights are “naturally” looking. It’s kind of the “magnetic center” of a shooting position.

That’s for rifles and pistols, and even for throwing a rock.

Now, an awareness of finding and maintaining natural point of aim mostly relates to position shooting.

“Position” shooting is pretty much any shooting that’s not from a rested position (e.g. resting a rifle on sandbags, from a benchtop, using a bipod or any shooting where the body isn’t the base).

Position shooting is a human platform: standing, sitting, prone, or some variation.

The reason I mentioned all that is because in thinking of a benchrest-style hold, it’s easy to get a handle on natural point of aim!

In preparation to fire on target, the shooter takes time to get the gun centered on the target, and getting the front sight or optic crosshair or dot sitting dead center on said target.

That’s done by adjusting the height and the horizontal by shifting the gun on the bags and shifting the bags themselves.

The idea is for the sight to be sitting on target center with no inputs from the shooter—to set up a platform for the gun that’s pointing it perfectly.

To make your most accurate shots from another shooting position platform, you have to be just as careful to naturally center the sight.

I’ll use a rifle as the focus in the tips coming up because I think it’s easier to visualize, but it’s all the same with handguns.

natural point of aim - rifle
When your eyes are closed, shift left and right, back and forth, and wiggle around a little to really get settled into a centered, neutral position where you feel secure and comfortable. Breathing (how much air you’re holding) is a component of consistency also.

Tip #1: Search and Employ

Get a target up and get in position. Find your natural point of aim by closing your eyes, settling into your most secure hold, opening your eyes and seeing where the sight is.

Make changes in the orientation of your body to relocate the sight on target center. But! Don’t just fudge your grip to move the gun ( that’s what we’re trying to avoid). You have to move its platform, which is you.

Shift your body orientation, keeping the gun held in the same way so other routine position mechanics stay intact. Repeat, adjust, repeat—until at the least you see you’re holding center left and right.

natural point of aim - shifting
Don’t just shift the gun to get on target center. Move the entire platform to center your natural point of aim. Think of being atop a record turntable.

Important: Breathing is a factor! As you’re seeking out position center, do so holding the same amount of air as you do for making a shot.

Tip #2: Watch for Drift

Here’s why finding NPA matters: the gun will, not can, shift or drift to suit the platform you’re providing—kind of like water finding its own level or a rolling ball seeking its own resting point.

If the platform is not pointing and holding the gun on target center, then the gun will drift toward that direction, or want to drift, try to drift, to align with the off-center holding point created by your true platform alignment.

That creates shot impacts that favor wherever that location would be.

The impact changes can be from sight displacement and also from the pressures directed against the gun wanting to move to that location (or also attempting to relocate).

If the gun is trying to drift left to get to your natural center and you’re pressuring it to keep the sight right where the target is, it’s going to slip to the left at some point, and that is usually right at or right after firing. Watch for it!

And watching is the big key. “Calling a shot” means taking a snapshot in your mind of exactly where the sight was when the shot broke. Then compare that to where the impact is on target.

If these don’t agree, it’s one of two things: either you need a sight adjustment or an NPA adjustment.

natural point of aim - pistol on target
Facing the target more straight-on as with a handgun, adjusting the body alignment platform is done by small shifts using each foot: Wiggle your way to perfection!

Tip #3: Think Horizontally and Vertically

As with shooting from sandbags, your body-dependent shooting position has a vertical and a horizontal component. It’s easier to center left and right—just shift your platform left or right.

Standing? Move your feet. Prone? Realign your body.

Vertical changes may require more detail.

Depending on the shooting position, vertical hold adjustments in a rifle can come from hand positioning along the forend, and sometimes even from adjusting the amount of air held in the lungs.

With a handgun, adjusting to seeing vertical NPA is more intuitive, and flexible, but make certain it’s done.

natural point of aim - foot position
From a right-handed rifle shooter perspective (which would be shooting toward the left relative to this illustration), move the left foot to make bigger changes (like going from the edge of the target to its center). Then move the right foot to fine-tune natural point of aim to dead center.

Conclusion

This might seem like a lot of detail, but I promise it’s not. It is a huge key to becoming a good shot. It’s not always possible to shoulder a rifle or mount up a handgun and have it be on your natural point of aim.

But, after some experience focusing on natural point of aim, you’ll see that your first try gets closer and closer. It’s how eventually to hone the skill of “point shooting.” Handguns especially!

For a competitive shooter, perfecting natural point of aim is a crucial factor in score. For an accomplished target shooter, NPA becomes an exact and finite point, not an area.

It has to be found and then confirmed, and then maintained for each round (yes, it changes). That’s important!

Again, the tell-tale sign of a change is a shot off-center that looked on center when it broke. Get the centers together to fix that problem!

natural point of aim - plates
What if it’s for firing on multiple targets, like a sweep across a row of steel plates? I either set up on the center of the row or favor toward the most important target, which is usually the first plate if it’s coming out of a holster to start. Experiment!

Do you have any tips for improving natural point of aim? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Glen Zediker

Glen Zediker is the owner of Zediker Publishing, which specializes in books and other publications focused primarily on AR-15s, handloading, and shooting skills. Since 1989, he has authored or co-authored 20 books.

He started shooting at age 5 and competing in NRA Smallbore rifle at age 8. He got his first AR-15 at age 15 and has now had 45 years of experience with that firearms platform. He’s worked professionally with some of the greatest shooters on the planet and leading industry professionals. And he does pretty well on his own! Glen holds a High Master classification in NRA High Power Rifle and first earned that using an AR-15 Service Rifle. He’s also competed in many other forms of competition, including USPSA, Steel Challenge, Silhouette Rifle and Pistol, Bullseye Pistol, ISSF Air Rifle, Practical Rifle and shotgun sports.

Since 1986 Glen has been a frequent and regular contributor to many publications, having had over 500 assigned articles published. See more at http://www.ZedikerPublishing.com
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. I have always been a natural shooter. I call it snap shooting. I have been asked how do I do it? I just see the target, raise the rifle and pull the trigger and something falls down. I could never describe it. I never heard of NPA. As I get older I will use a rest,tree, whatever to steady against when available but I can’t recall ever “aiming”. Very well written.

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