Dynamic Natural Point of Aim Adjustment

High Speed Low Drag Abbreviation: DNP’AA (rhymes with ümpa lümpa)(It even looks like a Klingon word- COULD IT GET ANY COOLER!!!???)

Serious mode- On

In an early article I discussed what natural point of aim is and how it’s adjusted. To recap, natural point of aim can be thought of as where the rifle naturally points in any given position when the body is relaxed as much as it can be, given the characteristics of that position. Natural point of aim is much steadier than if the rifle were simply muscled to the desired point of aim without adjusting the body. Therefore, it follows that to adjust the point of aim, it’s necessary to move the body instead of simply taking the expedient course of moving the rifle using the arms/upper body.

When I first learned about natural point of aim and how to move it, it was taught in a very simplistic manner, e.g., “to move the rifle this way, scoot the hips the opposite way”. Additionally, the method of adjusting the natural point of aim suggested the input of a single input of adjustment that would result in a certain proportional change. Basically, the idea is to adjust by trial and error until the desired point of aim is achieved.

One of the reasons that the trial and error method of adjustment is advocated is because there is supposed to be a built-in check following a natural point of aim adjustment. Close the eyes, breathe, relax completely, open the eyes, and check. If the point of aim is not exactly at the desired spot, repeat the process until it is. This ensures that the body is indeed relaxed to the fullest degree possible and that one is actually seeing the natural point of aim. This is especially important to instill the degree of relaxation that is necessary, which is difficult to convey otherwise, especially to those new to the practice of natural point of aim.

The trial and error method is necessary when initially setting up in position, and making gross adjustments to natural point of aim, but this method does have its limitations. It requires a conscious and deliberate disengagement from the target area to make the adjustment. It places a barrier between action and observation of the effect. It assumes a fixed, static target. These limitations suggest that there is something missing if natural point of aim is to be applied in a field setting in which observation is important and targets aren’t static.

Experience has taught me that an understanding of natural point of aim, a will to maintain it, and a willingness to let it adjust itself intuitively, result in a method of dynamic adjustment. To get to this point the hard and fast prerequisite is that one understands natural point of aim in a practical sense and has completely overcome the tendency to muscle the rifle. If there is any doubt as to either of these, it’s best to stick to the trial and error method.

In order to make dynamic changes to natural point of aim, one must understand intuitively what happens to natural point of aim when any part of the body is moved, particularly those parts of the body from the hips down. The upper body should not be used to effect changes in the point of aim. You must know what will happen when a foot or a knee is moved or shifted. Learning this takes some trial and error in and of itself, but instead of disengaging the attention from the sight picture while making the movement, watch it as it happens.

Take for example the crossed ankle sitting position. A point of aim change can be effected by moving the bottom foot, which is in contact with the ground (in my case this is my right foot). I find that by keeping my toes fixed as a pivot point and moving my heel forward and back, I can change the point of aim down and up respectively.

Foot in neutral position, muzzle level.

Bottom heel slid forward, muzzle drops.

Bottom heel slid back, muzzle rises.

I find that by fixing my heel to the ground and pivoting my toes, the primary change in point of aim is left and right. In this way I can alter the point of aim up and down approximately two degrees (120 minutes, about 10 feet at 100 yards), and about a degree and a half left and right. This number comes from roughly estimating by the dimensions of my dry fire target at 10 yards. I would have to really work at it to make it smooth and predictable, but the potential is there and I definitely feel like I’m not muscling the rifle to effect this change.

The following photos depict changing the windage of the point of aim by rotating the bottom foot around an axis at roughly the center of the sole of the foot. The apparent change appears smaller in the photos than it actually is.

Dynamic Natural Point of Aim Adjustment- Sitting, Windage

In the kneeling position, a rather smooth change in windage can be made by pivoting the lead foot. In rice paddy prone, this is also the case. Additionally, in rice paddy prone an elevation change can be made by pivoting on the ball of the rear foot.

The following photo montage demonstrates using the lead foot to make a change in point of aim. The center photo is a neutral position. Notice that the rather minor change in the lead foot causes a significant shift in the horizontal muzzle direction.

Dynamic Natural Point of Aim Adjustment- Kneeling

The last series of photos depicts a rice paddy prone, which I prefer to kneeling. The right foot is rotated outward to move the muzzle down, and inward to move it up. The center photo is the neutral position for me.

Dynamic Natural Point of Aim Adjustment- Rice Paddy Prone- Elevation

This is not something that I’ve really explored in depth. It’s really something that I have just noticed I do in a limited manner to effect minor adjustments in point of aim. I feel that there are possibly more ways to employ this technique with moving targets.

This type of adjustment is probably not as conducive to precise shooting as would making what I have referred to as a trial and error change. There probably is a “one most stable” version of any given position for any given shooter in any given terrain. As with most things however, it is nice to know how to balance compromises to best fit the situation. In this case, there may be times when maintaining sight of the target or quickly engaging it well might be preferable to taking one’s time to engage it perfectly. This is simply a tool to practice and have in the tool box should you need to make an adjustment on the fly to engage a fleeting target without losing it in your scope or sights.


12 thoughts on “Dynamic Natural Point of Aim Adjustment

  1. Great article! I’ve been following your progress for some time. I have a question though – your diagrams of the crossed ankle position shows that when your bottom heel slides forward the muzzle drops. I would think that if you drop your heel, that knee would drop and the muzzle would rise, and vise versa for when you raise your heel. Am I missing something?

    • Eric,

      When the heel slides forward, the knee lowers. The knee supports the weak side elbow directly under the forend. The butt is fixed at the shoulder, which is unaffected by the heel shift. Therefore, when the support side knee rises the muzzle rises as well.

      I hope that makes sense. Thanks for reading.

  2. I have been experimenting with a variety of “unorthodox” methods of refining my NPOA for nearly a year now. Much or it corresponds with what you present in this article. A little rotation of the foot, a little sliding movement with a knee, and inducing a quick twist of the spine (and then relax once more) seems to get me there more quickly than other basic techniques that require more gross motor movement. I haven’t systemized these per se, but am continuing to experiment.

  3. Some interesting detail there. I hardly ever shoot from either kneeling or squatting, so your discoveries there have escaped me. I’ll have to try them out. And work those positions more. Thanks for the info.

  4. Someone could write a book about adapting shooting positions to terrain. (maybe several someones already have done so) A lot of us develop range habits that may not work well in the real world. The range is almost always fairly flat, the world is not. One simple example is using the ordinary military open leg seated position while shooting downhill. Suppose you are seated on a horizontal plateau, and you need to shoot a target angled about 25 degrees downhill. When you try the position the muzzle is pointed horizontal and nowhere near the target. You straighten your forward leg to lower the muzzle and find that your forward knee is not bent at all when you find your npoa. You also find no stable place for you weak side elbow. One easy solution is to slide off the plateau and on to the slope. You can now use your regular position, but you are more exposed if the target happens to be one that shoots back. You could remain back on the flat, and perhaps dig a depression for your forward foot, or perhaps sit your butt on a rock. There are many solutions, but it is wise to think about these things.

    • It i also wise to spend lots of time in the field practicing adaptation. I am fortunate to live in an area where quite a bit of public land of varying nature allows occasional rifle shooting. “Hit that rock from here” is a good game.
      Also, lots of time spent hunting large and small game will give you the same exposure.

      • By the way, your last paragraph says a real mouthful, in terms of field shooting mindset vs. range shooting mindset. Something for beginners/non-hunters to think about carefully.

    • Ray,

      That’s an excellent observation. It would seem that after the orthodox positions are grasped, and some rudimentary improvised support is understood, it’s necessary to get out in some terrain and explore some unorthodox ways to apply the fundamentals.


  5. Excellent article. I learned NPA in the Corps and have been teaching it to civvies ever since!

    I was taught the “rice paddy squat” by an old Gunny who ran our security forces. Nice to see it taught here. Superior to even a low kneeling and more mobile as well.

    • Gunny G.,

      I’m glad to hear from someone else who is a fan of rice paddy prone. It has so many positive aspects and few disadvantages in comparison to other positions. The balance of accuracy and mobility that this position offers is about as good as it gets.

      Thanks for reading!


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