Someone emailed me a question: “You mentioned in one of your Appleseed Shoot writeups about ‘aiming with your feet.’ Could you please elaborate on that?”
Sure. This is all part of the natural point of aim, which is the body posture that allows the gun to remain on target with minimal muscle input. Once you’re in your natural point of aim you can hold the rifle for a long time without getting tired because you’re holding the rifle in place with your skeleton and not your muscles.
If you can hold the slung rifle in position with a loose grip, hardly using your fingers at all, you’re in a natural point of aim. If you have to “white knuckle” the gun (as an instructor told me I was doing at one point) you’re not in a natural point of aim – something’s wrong with your body position and you’re having to use your upper body to strong-arm the gun to aim it.
I had no trouble getting my NPOA standing. The rifle rested comfortably in my left hand with my fingers relaxed. Prone was another story. More on that in a minute.
Aiming with your feet – standing
In a standing shooting position you’ll obviously have your weak-side foot forward. (If you’re right handed the left is your weak side.) Your strong-side foot will be back and pointing a little to the side, feet shoulder width apart.
The ball of your weak-side foot is the pivot point and stays in place. If you move the strong-side foot forward it tilts the rifle barrel down. If you move the strong-side foot back it tilts the rifle barrel up. To move the barrel left or right move your weak-side foot right or left, pivoting around the strong-side foot.
Aiming with your feet – prone
If you’re shooting prone (lying on the ground belly down) you’ll have the toe of your weak-side foot in the ground. In that position your weak-side elbow under the rifle is your pivot point and stays in place.
You can move the barrel up and down by controlling how much your foot is sticking up. If you let your foot go slack your toe stays planted and your heel moves back, which lets your body move back. Because your body is pivoting on the weak-side elbow which is planted in the ground that raises the barrel. Pushing on the weak-side foot pushes the heel forward, driving your body forward and lowering the barrel. You can reposition your legs to adjust your whole body from side to side to move the barrel from side to side, always pivoting around the weak-side elbow.
You can also do this with a sitting position, but it’s harder to describe and I’m admittedly not very good at the sitting position so I’ll skip that.
Incidentally, all this pivoting stuff dug dime-sized raw spots on both of my elbows the first day, even though I was shooting on a foam rubber mat. Wear a long sleeve shirt or use elbow pads for prone. I plan on taking a set of Lycra athletic elbow pads from the drugstore to my next Appleseed shoot. Another option is a shooting jacket with padded elbows.
More on natural point of aim
I never got my natural point of aim exactly right in prone. I think that’s why I wore myself out the second day. When your muscles fight your skeleton your muscles always lose. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
The second day an instructor was demonstrating prone again and I spotted something about his position that was different than mine. I’m now pretty sure a big part of the problem was that I had my weak-side elbow out too far to the side, so that it was at an angle to the ground. I should have had it closer to the center and almost straight up and down.
Instead of putting most of the weight on that elbow I was spreading my weight between both elbows. That threw off my posture, which pushed the rifle to the right. (How far to the right? At one point I wound up shooting the targets of the guy to the right of me! That was where the gun naturally pointed, so when I went down to prone the gun went there and under time pressure I didn’t notice I was picking off someone else’s target.)
With my skeleton pushing the gun to the right I had to use my upper body muscles to pull it back left. That adversely affected my accuracy and exhausted me. Putting extra weight on my strong elbow also caused me to struggle to maintain balance every time I had to do anything with my strong hand, like loading a magazine or working the bolt. I want to practice getting my natural point of aim in prone before my next Appleseed. If I can get that right everything else is basic marksmanship.