What is NPA?

And why should you care?

Natural point of aim, NPA for short, lies at the center of all marksmanship teaching — or should. Ever wonder why your shots aren’t landing where you expect but consistently land somewhere else? Odds are it’s due to natural point of aim.

In the most simplistic terms, your natural point of aim is where your body wants the gun to go. This applies to all kinds of marksmanship. Rather than moving the gun to line up with the target, you need to move your body so when you hold the gun properly it will naturally line up on the target. (Make sure you have a confident zero on your gun first.)

Countering Opposition

Yes, you can move the sights and your group will center, but only for the position you are currently shooting from. Next time you shoot the same gun, the group will likely land somewhere else.

“Well, forcing it works.” Forcing or “muscling” the gun can work and there are times you don’t have the opportunity to adjust natural point of aim. (An armed attacker isn’t going to wait while you line up the perfect shot.) However, it is important to remember muscling it will only lead to inaccurate and inconsistent shots over time. Using any sort of muscle puts strain on your body. Muscle tension is inconsistent and can vary from shot to shot. The goal is to minimize as much muscle tension as possible.

How to Find NPA

Finding NPA is easy. Pick up the gun and line the sights on the target. Keeping your finger off the trigger, close your eyes. Open them. If the sights are centered on the target where you left them, you have proper NPA. If the sights aren’t centered but left, right, above or below the target, your NPA needs adjustment. How to adjust NPA depends on what gun you are using and what position you are shooting from. If from the standing position, pivot your back foot ever so slightly (less than an inch at a time). Line the sights up, close your eyes, look again. Repeat this process until your sights line up with the target every time you open and close your eyes. From sitting, kneeling, or prone positions, moving your knees, butt or hips does the job as well.


Professional shooter Kade Jackovich fired this group from the unsupported standing position at 200 yards. Photo Credit: Kade Jackovich

Take a look at this target. Some shots have landed in the center, but the center of the group is approximately 9 o’clock in the 10-ring. Moving the center of this group to the center of the target would earn the shooter a few more points. This gun was zeroed off a bench before this string was fired from the standing position at the same distance, indicating the group misalignment is due to natural point of aim.

Remember –— it changes

NPA isn’t finite. It can and will change. If something seems off, stop shooting (if you can) and check it again. As you shoot more and more your muscles relax and alter your natural point of aim. NPA won’t fix all of your problems, but paying attention to it will make you a better shooter capable of dissecting other issues you can’t otherwise diagnose.