The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: Unnatural Point of Aim
Tom McHale 06.18.13
Do you want supernatural shooting results?
Are you tired of listening to friends talk about shooting one ragged hole in their targets?
Want to lose that extra five pounds before 3-Gun match season?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, let’s talk about natural point of aim.
1. Occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature
2. Being in accordance with or determined by nature
When it comes to shooting, rifles, handguns, or shotguns, natural point of aim simply means assuming the stance and position where your body naturally wants to point the gun. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate natural point of aim is to look at unnatural point of aim.
Unnatural point of aim refers to any position where you have to “force” or “muscle” the sights of the gun onto the target. The most extreme example of unnatural point of aim would be standing with your back facing the intended target. If you could manage to get your gun pointed at the target from that position, it might be an example of supernatural point of aim, as in something from the movie Poltergeist. Less dramatic examples would be assuming any shooting position that requires you to move your arms, shoulders, waist, or hands to “force” the gun into alignment with the target.
If you have to expend any effort at all to “force” your gun to the target, you are creating fatigue in your muscles, eyes, and brain. The second you relax one or more of those, your gun will come off target.
It’s one of those “oh, duh” things when you think about it. Shooting from a naturally relaxed and comfortable position will help you shoot more accurately, more consistently, and with better shot-to-shot performance. You’ll also get the sights on target quicker if your body is already somewhat aligned when you look for that front sight.
How to find your natural point of aim
Important notice: We’re talking a lot about going natural, but don’t worry, you can still use deodorant and shave whatever parts of your body you’re accustomed to shaving. There’s no need to go French just to shoot naturally.
The best place to work on finding your natural point of aim is at the shooting range–mainly because it allows you to see your results as you practice. It’s also safer because you’re already in a place where you can point your gun safely at a target and backstop.
First, ensure your firearm is on safe and unloaded. Next, assume your normal shooting stance with your gun pointed at the intended target. Make sure your sights are lined up at a very specific point on the target.
Now get ready to become one with Dionne Warwick and go all Psychic Hotline.
Close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths. Think about all those who have passed before us. Do NOT try to force your gun to stay on target. Don’t cheat. Remember what Miss Ninnymuggins used to say back in fifth grade: you’re only hurting yourself! Just be natural for a sec–with your eyes closed.
Now open them. What do you see? Are your sights still lined up on the target?
If you open your eyes and see a view like the photo in this article, then you haven’t found your natural point of aim. If you open your eyes and see a pterodactyl listening to eight-track tapes, then double check the source of those mushrooms on your last Domino’s order.
If your sights are now lined up to one side or the other of your desired aiming point, that’s an easy fix. Just have the range master move the target a bit to the side. But seriously, you can do a scaled-down version of the Ickey Shuffle to get your sights back on target. If you don’t know what the Ickey Shuffle is, just Google “Best Football End Zone Dances Ever” and you’ll get it. Simply put, shuffle your feet to realign your whole body so your sights line up on target.
If you find your sights pointed a bit high after opening your eyes, try moving your back foot forward just a tad. That can help lower your sights a bit. The opposite works if your aim point is low–move that back foot back just a touch more.
Now that you’ve done a little Gun Range Blossoming Lotus Yoga, start over. Aim at the target. Close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths. Listen to the sound of my voice…
When you open them, reevaluate and readjust your body position to get your sights on target again. Just like before. Repeat this exercise until your body position is just right.
Now load your firearm, return to the natural aiming point you’ve discovered, and shoot the target. Wasn’t that fun?
Do this exercise repeatedly to make sure your stance is naturally consistent and aligned with your target. Soon, you won’t have to close your eyes and dance anymore. You’ll find that when you assume a shooting position, your body will find its natural point of aim.
Before anyone gets all cranky and questions the practicality of scooting around blindfolded to find your natural point of aim, the idea is to build a habit when you are practicing at the range. With repetition, you won’t have to think about it–it’ll just happen.
Naturally, that’s the whole idea of natural point of aim!
Safety note: While we like to have a little fun with these articles, guns are serious business. Exercise caution when closing your eyes while aiming a gun. To achieve natural point of aim, you only need to do this for a second, while aiming at the target. Don’t do anything silly or dangerous like waving your gun around with your eyes closed. You can also do this exercise at home during dry fire practice. Of course, ALL dry fire safety rules apply. Put ALL ammunition in a different room. Check your magazine AND chamber (or cylinder if applicable) to make sure your gun is completely unloaded. And always use a safe backstop as an aiming point.
This article is the third part in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting. To learn more about how not to shoot, check out last week’s article on “doin’ the Bernie” here.