This will be the first installment of actually talking about shooting. By now the assumption is you are familiar with the operation of your weapon. And hopefully (before you did anything else) you’ve become acquainted with the safety rules for handling firearms. I’m going to run through them anyway since it never hurts to think about them. Remember A-C-A-B.
- ALWAYS treat all firearms as if they are loaded. No exceptions.
- CONTROL your muzzle at all times. (If you’re not willing to destroy it, don’t point your weapon at it.)
- ALWAYS keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to fire.
- BE aware of your target and what is above, below, on the side of, in front of, and beyond it.
The 5th rule is a little bit more subjective. It’s pretty simple though. If you’re impaired in any way and cannot safely handle a firearm then don’t. This could include being too tired, being drunk, going through a stressful situation, etc. It’s on you to not endanger anyone you’re training with so please don’t be selfish in that way. Emergency life or death situations may require you to pick up a weapon. Otherwise, avoid doing so until you’re safely able to. Please! Also, notice using the safety isn’t a part of the safety rules. Your weapon may not have one. But if it does, use it. Keep the safety on until your sights are on target. When done firing, put the safety back on. You can think of this as the 6thrule even if you want to. Make this a habit. Make this almost involuntary. Let’s get into the topic now.
Natural Point of Aim (You might see this as either NPA or NPOA.) is the single most important item for a shooter to learn, and it is one of the most difficult. It’s a concept that describesthe place where your body would place a shot when totally relaxed. Think of it as just using your body’s bones for support, not your muscles. Your body has to be relaxed for precise shooting. As you breathe in and out, your muzzle (and therefore your sights) will move up and down. Your body will be in a more relaxed state when you’re done breathing out. For this reason you should obtain your Natural Point of Aim while after exhaling, during the pause before you begin to inhale.
This process is particularly important when shooting from the prone position. If you’re not familiar with what that means, for now just visualize shooting while lying flat on your stomach. There’s not much to it. I’ll try to post a better description of the proper way to get into all of the more common shooting positions as soon as I can. There are plenty of youtube videos on this subject of course. However, since part of the motivation behind this blog is to provide access to this information outside of the normal gun circles I understand if you don’t want to research this on your own. Bear with us!
A couple things to touch on real quick: If you’re using a bipod or your magazine as a monopod, that’s fine. You may also be using a sling to support the rifle. Your support arm (Your support side is the opposite side of the trigger hand. So, since I shoot right-handed, my support arm is my left arm.) still needs to be relaxed. There is a whole process to firing a shot and finding your NPOA is just a part of that process. Since I think you should learn iron sights first, I’m going to assume you are. You need to make sure you’re aligning your sights properly before doing anything else. Then you can get your sights on your target. Don’t try to do this in reverse. You’ll have to use your muscles, maybe without realizing it.
To get the proper sight alignment for your AR, it’s not too terribly difficult of a task. This will be the first thing you need to do in order to properly fire a shot, so it’s crucial that it’s done correctly. But, it isn’t hard.
AR rear sights are “peep” sights. You have a front sight post in front and the rear sight has an aperture that’s literally just a circle that you look through. Most likely, your rear sight will have two apertures. One will be bigger around than the other. For now, just use the smaller one. The bigger one is intended for close range engagements, among other things. However the smaller one is more precise. Use the smaller one until you know what you’re doing.
Center the tip of the front sight post in the rear sight ring. That’s it. See the following photo:
(This pic was taken off the internet via a quick search. I probably owe someone credit. Also, ignore the curved things on the sides of the front sight post. They’re only there to protect the front sight post from getting bent. They have no bearing on your shooting and shouldn’t be used when establishing sight alignment or picture.)
(NOTE: I realize that a lot of the info that we put out on this blog related to firearms is AR-centric. The fundamentals are the same regardless of what platform you’re using. Obviously the sights are different on an AR compared to an AK. If you struggle with anything related to your AK or SKS or FAL or whatever the hell you have, don’t be afraid to reach out. We’ll work with you privately or start posting things centered around other platforms when we have more time to do so. Thanks for your understanding.)
Keep in mind that you don’t have to have the front sight pointed exactly on the spot you want the bullet to impact the target. You do this step first so that you can move your BODY, not the RIFLE to get the proper sight picture. That’s your next step.
Once your sights are aligned relax your body. This is roughly your NPOA but you probably won’t be on target. So move your BODY (not the rifle) to place the aligned sights on target. Put the top of the front sight on the center of whatever target you’re aiming at. That’s how to get your proper sight picture. Do this by keeping your support elbow in place and use it as a pivot point as you move your body. Move your body sideways while keeping your support elbow in place for horizontal adjustment. Move your body forward or backward while keeping your support elbow in place for vertical adjustment. This will probably take a lot of practice at first.
After you do all this it might seem like you’ve achieved NPOA. You should still confirm it. Close your eyes. Then take a deep breath in and then breathe out. When you’re done exhaling, open your eyes. If you’re still on target, you have proper NPOA and can continue firing “by the numbers.” When you actually shoot you should do so during a respiratory pause. So you have just mirrored that part of properly firing a shot. It’s still likely that you haven’t achieved a good NPOA yet so you need to repeat this process until it’s confirmed successfully.
It’s ok if it takes a few times of repeating this to get a good NPOA. You aren’t going to realize when you’ve been using muscles. That’s what confirming NPOA is all about and you’ll get quicker at it over time. Don’t skip it. Just get better at finding it. On-demand accuracy and fundamentals of shooting are for more important than firing 27 rounds in 4.89 seconds and not hitting anything you intended to. With a good NPOA, your sights willremain on target. If the sights aren’t steady, you’ll jerk the trigger as the sights move to try and get the shot off “in time.” You will not be accurate shooting this way. Practice, practice, practice and it will become fast and intuitive. Focus on accuracy now, speed will come with time.
Here’s another stolen photo from the internet that shows what your sight picture should look like:
(The tip of the front sight is placed where the shooter wants the bullet to hit. This is called “center-hold” and it’s the best way to shoot, as opposed to a “six o’clock”hold. Notice how the rear sight AND THE TARGET are out of focus. The front sight is crystal clear. That’s on purpose. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to focus on the front sight and not the target, that’s what you want to do. This will be covered in the next entry.)
Another important factor will also be trigger control/follow through, and we’ll talk about that soon as well. I want to do a write-up on the entire process of taking a shot, but I thought it would be good to introduce this topic now since it’s so important. Remember that starting out, your goal is to learn to shoot properly and have on-demand accuracy. You have to learn to shoot small groups before you can learn to shoot small groups quickly. It’s that whole “crawl before you can walk” thing. If you’re out shooting and your groups are tight but not where you were aiming, you probably just need to zero your weapon. That’s a separate process to learn that we’ll cover soon. But if you’re getting the tight groups that’s way more important for now.
-Align your sights.
-Move your body to get on target. Breathe in, breathe out.
-Find your NPOA.
This is only a part of the process to fire a shot, but it’s crucial you absorb these concepts. I’m writing all this out as I have time. So make sure you read all of it before heading out to the range.
Until next time, comrades.