Position and NPA fight


Quintin Likely
April 10, 2005, 09:12 AM
I shot another 300 yard reduced match yesterday. Offhand and 300 slow prone wasn't nothing to write home about, but I did alright on the rapids. I'm having a hell of a time establishing NPA, but since that was my third match, I'm a member of the club now and can go to practice whenever I want, which I'm gonna exploit. (I live about 10 minutes from the range :) )

I noticed in all my positions except rapid prone, I'm canting the rifle to the outboard. I asked another shooter and he told me try not to cant. In slow prone, I'd shoot 6s and 7s with a cant, but if I moved my left elbow forward a little, turn the butt of the rifle almost sideways, rocking the top of the buttstock into my shoulder, the cant would be gone briefly and I cut off a couple line 9s at 9:00 like this. But if that wasn't done "quite right," I'd have to muscle the rifle up with my left hand and the front sight would start bobbing and twitching all over the place. I guess what I'm saying is that it didn't feel very comfortable doing this, even though I could shoot a good 9 or 10 with it. Also in prone rapids, my groups favored way left, wind was calm though. Had a lot of 7s and 8s in prone rapid at 9:00, what gives? I should note I used different sling settings for prone rapid and slow, and I borrowed another shooter's jacket during slow fire. I normally shot with a low sling, just above my elbow joint, but with the jacket another shooter rigged me up with a sling high up on my bicep.

I think I've finally figured out to settle down and WAIT on the rapids, I shot a personal best in rapid sitting, 149-2X or something like that, although I had a magazine problem on the reload, which was a good thing I guess, since it showed me just how much time I really do have in the rapids. I used masking tape around the body of my mags to mark them 2 and 8, the tape was a little too thick on my 8 round one, got jammed in the magwell, wouldn't go in far enough to strip a round. The guy running that string came over and helped me get the mag out and rip the tape off, I loaded and shot those 8 and still had a second or two left over. I took 7 seconds before making my first shot, he told me to wait until around 20 or so.

Offhand is still a challenge. My sighters are okay, 8s and 9s, but I'm still having serious NPA problems here. About 5-7 rounds into the string, everything falls apart. Granted, I'm not shooting Xs and 10s, but for the first few rounds, I could at least hold the 8 ring well. After about shot 7 or 8, I start getting tired and the front sight starts wobbling around more. I tried doing what Bert Medina told me, be aggressive on the trigger, first 10 I see, take it, and that works somewhat. Getting tired and wobbly means I'm using muscle to hold the rifle, not bone, right? I use a heavy work glove on my left hand and use the web between my thumb and index finger to rest on the delta ring and partially wrap the rest of my fingers around the ejection port. Toe of the buttstock sorta against my shoulder (I was using my work jacket that doesn't have padding or a solid spot like a shooting coat to stick the buttstock against, but Uncle Sam's refund ordered me a coat yesterday), nose to charging handle. I kinda twist counter clockwise (looking at me from up top) and put my elbow against my ribcage to make a platform of sorts. It works, just not for very long.


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Jon Coppenbarger
April 10, 2005, 01:45 PM

I am glad you went out and it seems you like it enough to seek out answers to your questions.
It is VERY hard to say what is causing your position breakdowns without watching you but here are a few basics that I can see from your post.

The rapids seem easier to you because it goes fast and you keep the same position every shot for that string so how ever you set up it will basicly go in the same general place even in the begining.
What you are experiencing in the slow stages is that you have to rebuild most of your position on every shot.
It would take a whole book here to try to explain everything to you you have asked but I will give you a few things to try and remember.
Get a book on positions and the basics. Most books talk about NPA but fail to explain them so that the new shooting will understand.

This next comment might seem very broad but it is also very true. Your NPA is the place where your sights are located when and only when you are in a completly relaxed state of position!!!!!!

Lets take a few positions and the above will be pointed out very quickly.

Off hand: just stand up there like you have been shown and then relax after taking a few long relaxing breaths and when you think you are close to the target and you think thats it stop! Ask your self this have you move left or right or are you forcing the rifle up or down? IF you just took your breaths and relaxed and your sights should of dropped right to the middle of the black or at 6 or where ever you place your hold. If it did you are right but most likely you moved the rifle to the center. At the beginning of your off hand for folks starting it is a hard thing to get right.
You might of heard the when you think you are set then take a few breaths and get relaxed and close your eyes and relax. Then open them and see where your sites are! if they are in the X ring fine pull the trigger then and you will get that X or close 10. If they are not or are moving and you tell your self its in the middle you are Lying to yourself!!
When you open you eyes and you are low and right of the center you move your front foot in and out left. That will bring you up and left. Most folks say move the front foot for elevation and the back foot for windage. That is true and I do if it is close but if you are off on both counts you need to get the right position close before you fine tune it.
Rule of thumb move you feet close together to raise elevation and futher apart to lower it. for windage move left to go left and right to go right.

From what you are saying it gets worse after 4 to 6 shots? Yes that is very common and a couple of things happen.
#1 your body has loosened up and you are more limber now and you most of the time will start to get that left to right swing for the experienced shooter and worse for the beginner who did not set the position up right to start.
#2 You most always start the off hand a little hyped and nervous which is also common and then you start to settle down and relax.
#3 You are now in a grove and you are starting to miss a few steps in building your position as the thing has begun to become routine.

All of the above happens and you must STOP at the first sign of any of them.
Most great shooters with a service rifle off hand will tell you if you do not have a x or 10 ring hold fix it.
Yes Bert is right on and you should take that first 10 you see but he does not mean you should take it when you are trying to guess when your sights are going to pass threw it. I have the bad habit of pushing the rifle from mid 3 o'clock 9 ring to the middle and it causes 9's out to the left as I have to guess when to pull the trigger and I do not always get it right.

Sitting position. If when in position and (NO) tension left or right on the gun and having the right head pressure on it your sights should not move at all.
You will know when it is right as on recoil it just jumps ever so slightly up and comes right down either high or low after the recoil. Your shots should come very easily. If they are moving or you find you are forcing the rifle left or right to add tension to try and stop that wobble you need to work on the position. A common mistake of AR15 shooters is opening the position up to let your body asorb the recoil. Get this no recoil on the ar15 so get that rifle over your arm or darn cose to it and let your arm and the sling support your rifle not push it away.

For prone it is half of the match or more for a 50 shot match.
Npa is every thing for a good prone shooter.
The easiest advice I can give you is to go watch a very good service rifle prone shooter the next time you go out. Copy his position in every detail, take a picture if you like or can! Go home and copy it to the T!
First thing you will notice is a very low position and second is that his mag is resting right next to his arm with the rifle supported by the arm and sling. Third thing is he is behind the rifle also. You must master this first and it will save you a lot of frustration down the line.
In slow prone I check my NPA on evey shot. I will put it this way if your position is right and you did your left and right NPA you could close your eyes and your shots should not go left or right of the 9 ring.
I get no shots out in the corners caused by position and if they are out lets say a 9 at 5 I disgard it as a missed wind reading mixed with bad elevation hold and move right to the next shot nd that is at 600 yards. They say reduced slow prone is a tough target I find with the proper NPA it is the easiest target. Last 5 matches I dropped a total of 3 points out of 1,000 points possible and they all had a reason they were out by either light or wind. It works in all conditions for rapids or slows for prone. On a very good day its very good and lousy weather days it keeps you from having a train wreck.

NPA is everything in prone and if you do not have it you will get those shots out in the corners.

So I will stop but try to check your self on every slow shot and check that NPA on every shot in the slow stages.

I asked a champion back in the 80's what the difference is between us and his response was that he just made less mistakes. It was true then and it is true now.
#1 remember you will need to learn the positions and after you learn and perfect them.
#2 comes around and that is the mental game and what you make your self do.
If you acept that wobble from 8 ring to 8 ring in off hand be prepared to have a score that is not so good but if you stop at the first sign of it not being close to right you have gained the mental game to get it right before you pull the trigger.

Good luck

Quintin Likely
April 10, 2005, 05:05 PM
Jon, thanks for the great info!

First thing you will notice is a very low position and second is that his mag is resting right next to his arm with the rifle supported by the arm and sling
The shooter that was helping me during slow prone was telling me about this, but maybe I had something wrong, the magazine was close to my left arm, but I still had maybe 2-3" before it touched. He said in his prone position, the magazine rests against the sleeve of his jacket (left handed match rifle shooter). Moving my left elbow closer towards the center of the mat while keeping the rest of myself in place helped, but I still had to muscle the rifle up with my left hand to keep it out of the deck, or I had to shift my lower body around to keep the rifle from pointing three or four firing points left of the one I was shooting on. Whatever I did in one direction, everything else went out of whack. I'd choke up further towards the receiver with my left hand, and the rifle would either point towards the dirt or off to the left. Move my elbow towards the center of the mat, and it'd point straight, but it'd be way low, I'd have to muscle and strain between the buttstock in my shoulder and the sling around my arm to move the muzzle up, and then when I finally get the post on target, it's wobbling like there's no tomorrow. I had a couple that broke high, just as I was breaking the shot, I could see the front sight move up.

Yesterday wasn't too hot either, but I was getting some pretty good mirage through the scope, and I'm completely dumb as to how to interpret and adjust for mirage.

Jon Coppenbarger
April 10, 2005, 06:33 PM
A common problem is that alot of folks have the sling to tight. My sling is the same as sitting or one looser for prone depending on how it feels that day but most of the time is the same. Not everyone is like that also.

You may try it in practice with the sling very very loose and get in that position that I discribed or you saw the other guy use. your mag may compress its self against your jacket sleeve at this point. (that is very close to the correct position). Then slowly tighten the sling untill it raises it off your jacket sleeve as a rest and the sling is used as a support. It may touch the sleeve but may not compress it against the ground.

It does sound like your sling is to tight.
When it is to tight it will cause you to have several things which is all bad.

#1 You will have to turn your body to get the sights to the right so you now have a out of alignment in your body in relationship to the target.

#2 It will cause you to have a higher position which is not good and will cause a very unstable front sight. In the wind it will kill you!

#3 It will open you up and cause your right elbow to move out and not allow you to get the rifle over toward your arm or rest along side of it.

Your prone position should be very comfy.
The only exception to that may be a NTIT position or as I do in the rapid I may tighten it up one notch but not to the point of moving me out of what I have done as you see that is the reason for me using either the same or one looser between positions. I have to see how it fits on that day.

A good rule of thumb is the way it is taught for the rattle battle match by the marine and army teams and is a good foundation for your prone position. They and I will put it this way in slow prone you may have a slightly higher (very slightly) position as you are finessing you NPA. In rapids you do not have the time.

To start without the rifle.
Go down into position by laying along your (left side) (right hand shooter info for everything here) and stretch your arm out with your elbow to your ankle touching the ground. The only thing not touching the ground is your arm foward of the elbow. You now have the correct position!
Now pretend that you have a rifle in your left hand and you put the butt in your right shoulder. Then roll right untill your right elbow is now tucked in.

By doing this you will roll into the proper position as it will ever so slightly raise the space between your elbow and the arm pit. Like a couple of inches only.

That is the proper position and is what everyone should do after they are slung up is to roll into your position the way described above.

The sling should give you support and be adjusted to let you have the position and alow you to get in the position described. A good way to tell if it is to tight is when you put it in your shoulder it is very hard to do and when to start to roll it tries to throw you out of position. Causing the muzzle to be low and left.

If your position is right the right leg that is bent at the knees controls your windage and your breathing controls your elevation. That works in general and is a good basis for the prone position.
I will stretch my body out till it matches my breathing for my NPA and move by belly every so slightly right or left to get the right to left down.
That is the basic beginning and then the breath and leg is used for very very small final adjustments.
A rapid will go like this. I know exactly where my elbow will be placed on my mat and it hits that spot. I try to stand up and not move my left foot so when that elbow hits the mat My body should be very darn close to where my prep position was. When I go down I stretch out to put my elbow down and my body is stretched out like described above. Close the bolt and put the but in my shoulder and then roll into position.
Get my head in position and make any big adjustments to position like move my belly left or right or come foward or stretch my body out. Then with my eyes set on the sights I fine check my NPA and adjust the breath and right leg till its as perfect as I can get. Bang the first shot goes off and it tells me if my position is correct as the sights should retun to position and allow you to just take a good breath and start the process over.
If it does not return as mentioned fix the position NOW! then take your second shot. When you are changing the mag never let your left elbow leave the ground. Just roll back into position and check your NPA and do the same as you did on the first shot and check your recoil and return position.

You may stuggle and your shots will come hard if your position and NPA is not correct. You will find if you take the time to get it right before you pull the trigger your shots will come very easy and it will allow you to take a slow deliberate shot each and every time.

Good luck Jon

Quintin Likely
April 10, 2005, 07:20 PM
The sling should give you support and be adjusted to let you have the position and alow you to get in the position described. A good way to tell if it is to tight is when you put it in your shoulder it is very hard to do and when to start to roll it tries to throw you out of position. Causing the muzzle to be low and left.
Jon, that's *exactly* what was happening. It was like a tug of war in between my bicep where the sling was and the butt of the rifle. Even after loosening it up a bit, I still had to muscle the muzzle up towards the target though.

Jon Coppenbarger
April 10, 2005, 08:38 PM
You can practice the position without the sling at home in the house.
Do it with out the rifle untill you get comfy with doing it and then add the rifle to it without the sling. You should use your jacket and you do not have to in order to try it first. when you find the right position and practice it at home then attach the sling to get it to just support the weight of the rifle off of your arm. after you do it awhile then you can see how tightening it up one set of holes at a time affects it.
You will see shortly what it feels like to be to loose because you will find yourself having to support the rifle and it will move a little on you. Then when it is just a couple of notches to tight you will see that in order to get into a position you will either have to go high or open your position up.

There is always a 1 or 2 hole position on your sling that will work.

But build that position first by steps and it will not take to many of those building leasons and you can just go to what you need in a match.

Wish I was there to show you it would make it easier.

Steve Smith
April 10, 2005, 09:49 PM
Jon is handling this very well, but if you guys don't mind I'll say a few things too, and maybe we can get this nailed down.

If you have loosened your sling and your muzzle is still in the air, then your hand is too choked up on the handguards. Let your hand move forward a bit and see what you have then. When I am training someone to shoot prone, I will often get them in what I consider a good position and then I will push them down hard from between the shoulders. That forces everything behind their elbows (hips, legs and feet) backwards. It also tensions the sling more. At that point they usually say "ah hah, now I understand how the sling does the work!" I would suggest you do essentially the same only on your own. Once you're in position, scoot back with your ass end, leaving your elbows where you are. This will stretch your body out and you will be much more stable, and not movng up and down. Also you are really going to have to focus on what it means to no muscle. When we say that, it doesn't mean that your muscles are active but not "pushing up," but rather your biceps aren't active at all!

Jon Coppenbarger
April 10, 2005, 10:51 PM
I shot my first xtc at CRC on sat. for the year. did alright but I won the off hand go figure. That does not happen to often. Good turn out with over 20 experts. Something like 22 o 23 of them. Should make for a real bulge in the master class by the end of the year around here.
it was pretty windy with switching gust by the time we got to 300 with over 20 mph fom right to left and then switching directions. Not fun but a good learning experience. You know its a hard day when you get 1st master with a 193 at 300 and 1st master with 186 at 600.
I hope you get out and practice soon.


Steve Smith
April 11, 2005, 06:18 AM
1st master with 186 at 600.

Yuck. I hate those days. Any day under 195 makes you feel like someone kicked you in the nether regions.

Yes, getting some practice soon I hope. I have that ammo coming and it should be here by the end of the week.

April 11, 2005, 11:58 AM
A couple thoughts on cant and position.

There are two things that make up a good position: The first is that it is stable during recoil. The second is that it results in a comfortable and natural head position.

A forced head position will ruin a rapid target. As you shoot, your head will slowly drift into something more relaxed and you'll end up peering through the edge of the aperature instead of down the center. So when you work on your position, make sure you bring the rifle to your eye (and not your eye to the rifle). When you get into position, look through the sights and ask the question--how could the rifle be better situated to make my head position more upright and natural?

I use a little cant (inboard) during offhand to bring the sights to my eye. This is a choice I make and is a good thing, IMO, to build a better position. In sitting, I can get the rifle level, but it requires work to keep it there and the position usually deteriorates once the firing begins because the sling tends to rotate the rifle. Rather than fight to keep the rifle upright, I accept about a 10 degree cant outboard. It's a little bit of a compromise, but I shoot good scores with it. I had to take the sling out a notch to be able to do this (it's just as tight on my arm, but it's 1 notch longer).

Once you get close to 20 degrees of cant, you should probably stop and rework the position to try and eliminate some of it. I used to shoot sitting with a lot of cant and my no-wind zero was different every single day. It was very inconsistant. I'm now shooting with a consistant 10 degrees cant, and my zero is now the same--2 clicks windage.

Other rapid comments:
I spend a little wiggle time up front to get my NPA just right before I start squeezing the trigger. Take your time in the rapids and breath between each shot. Make sure you have the same lung pressure for each one. I think it's best to get your hand up forward against the sling swivel unless you have to pull it in to get the front sight up on the target.

The only way I can get a repeatable prone position is to pull my left elbow inward as I'm planting it on the mat (I shoot lefty). It makes the position a little higher up, but it's consistant for me.

When you build your position, don't just roll and wiggle your way into it. Be aggressive! Set the rifle in your shoulder and PLANT your elbows where they need to be. The more "method" you put into it, the more repeatable it will be.


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