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Picture this. You’re at the range, at a shooting bench or lying prone, with a rifle in hand. No matter what you do, you can’t get the crosshair to stay still on target. You pull the stock tighter to your shoulder and bear your cheek down on the comb, but the rifle still wants wobble. Does this sound familiar? Then you probably don’t understand “natural point of aim.”

Basically, natural point of aim is where your body wants to point a rifle when you’re relaxed. It applies when you’re prone, on a tripod, off-hand, or at a shooting bench. Work against natural point of aim and you’re apt to either miss or make bad shots. Work with it, and your groups will tighten up. The funny thing is, most shooters are unaware of natural point of aim.

Shooters who ignore natural point of aim try to muscle their rifles on target. When you do understand where your body wants to point a rifle when relaxed and you align that point of aim with your target, you’ll be surprised how much your shooting improves. The best part is that it isn’t hard to find your natural point of aim. Once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

What is Natural Point of Aim?

Align your body and rifle with your target to establish a good natural point of aim. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Natural point of aim is exactly what it sounds like. It’s where your body and rifle are aligned naturally in a relaxed state. Ideally, your natural point of aim will be aligned perfectly with the target. But sometimes it isn’t—especially if you’re unaware of your natural point of aim. The trick is to move your body and make subtle adjustments in your setup to get everything lined up. Otherwise, you’ll always be contorting your body somewhat—and applying unwanted torque to the rifle—in oder to stay on target, which results in more wobble and poor shooting.

Related: 7 Long Range Shooting Tips from an Army Sniper Instructor

How Do You Find Your Natural Point of Aim?

The author sets up behind a natural barricade to make a shot. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Finding your natural point of aim is easy, you don’t even need to shoot to figure it out. Start with an unloaded rifle in a shooting position you’d likely use in the field or at the range. For example, go with prone off of a bipod or backpack and aim at a target.

Close your eyes and relax into the most comfortable position you can take while still holding your rifle steady enough for a shot. Hold that position for 1 to 3 seconds. Open your eyes and check where your reticle is pointing. This is your natural point of aim. If you’re off the target, then you need to adjust your body to line up with your target.

Offhand and unsupported shooters can take another approach. With an unloaded rifle, close your eyes and mount your rifle. Then open them. This will tell you where your body wants to aim the rifle without the influence of where your target is. The trick is to get your body into position to align with the target every time, and recognize when you’re off target before pulling the trigger.

How to Adjust Natural Point of Aim

You’ll see your groups tighten up once you recognize your natural point of aim. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Adjusting natural point of aim is also simple. If you’re off the target, you need to move your whole body to get back on target. At first, try adjusting your body—your shoulders especially—to square up more directly with the target, then close your eyes, relax, and check your natrual point of aim again. Repeat this process until you’re relaxed on target with your eyes open. With time, you’ll understand when you’re aligned properly with your target without needing to close your eyes, relax, and check. What you don’t want to do is move your rifle on target without moving your whole body.

If you’re taking mutiple shots, you’ll might need to slightly adjust your natural point of aim throughout a course of fire. The idea is to have your reticle on target with either very little wobble or consistent wobble within the size of the target you want to hit. For a steel plate, this would mean your crosshair never leaves the edges of the target. For a deer, it should never leave the kill zone.

How to Double Check Natural Point of Aim

The best shooters I know do a lot of dryfire practice. It saves money on ammo, but it also lets you manipulate a rifle without the sensory overload of a round detonating. Dryfire can help with natural point of aim, too. After you get into a position where your natural point of aim and target are aligned (and you’re positive your rifle is unloaded, with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction), pull the trigger. The more your reticle moves when the trigger breaks, the further off your natural point of aim is. Close your eyes, relax again, and repeat the process. With pratice, you’ll find exactly when you’re body and target are aligned.

Why Natural Point of Aim is Important

Practice finding your natural point of aim in a variety of shooting positions. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

If you don’t shoot to your natural point of aim, you’ll fight your rifle to stay on target. Any stability you get will rely on your muscles to hold the rifle away from your natural point of aim and onto the target. If you notice an inconsistent wobble in your reticle or feel yourself straining to hold a position while shooting, you’re probably outside of your natural point of aim. If this is happening to you, take a few breaths, and adjust your body to align with your target until the wobble stops or stays within the target. Then all you have to do is focus on the reticle and pull the trigger.

Maintain Natural Point of Aim in Different Positions

I rarely use the basic shooting positions (standing, seated, kneeling, prone) while hunting. Instead, I usually look for something to support my rifle, like a tree, a rock, a treestand rail, or the ground; or I use a shooting aid like a tripod, bipod, or shooting sticks. Some are steadier than others, and natural point of aim still matters for all of them. If I’m standing with my rifle braced against a tree, aiming at a squirrel, I’ll move my feet and adjust my body to be as natural as possible. Of course, some positions might be trickier than others, but you should try to get as relaxed as possible while still supporting your rifle and absorbing recoil. For a time, you’ll need to consciously adjust for your natural point of aim, but it will become more and more automatic the longer you do it—and your shooting will get better as a result.

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