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heels and having the bal- ance point just at the front of the shins, produces a stance that is very, very steady, es- pecially for athletes who have or develop good bal- ance sense. Going ice skating for two

hours each week for eight months will result in an incredibly steady stance, partly due to the balance training demands of skating and partly due to the excel- lent muscle tone and en- durance in the leg muscles. With calmer, stronger, more enduring muscles combined with trained balance sens- ing, corrections are much more subtle and the stance is unbelievably steady. This is but one example of ways to train the balance. Natural point of aim (NPA)

is also a critical foundation for rifl e and pistol. Shotgun also has an analogous con- cept, though it takes a

scribe NPA as “…getting the rifl e/pistol to point at the tar- get.” While not incorrect, it misses the essence of NPA. In reality, NPA is all about the athlete discovering where the rifl e/pistol wants to point when we are relaxed into position. We must not impose our will! Once we discover where the rifl e/pis- tol wants to point, we then make adjustments, check again, and repeat until we have aligned where the rifl e or pistol wants to point with the center of the target. Again, we must not impose our will. We must also not use our

eyes to point at the target and call it good. Our checks must include the eyes being closed long enough to allow the visually induced muscle tensions to dissipate, and even then, we must wait un- til we are balanced before opening our eyes, else the check will be false. A detailed NPA rou- tine has been de- veloped which is rig-

orous, takes into account

s o m e - what dif- f e re nt fo r m . M a ny p e o - p l e d e -

About the Author

Based in the Atlanta, Ga., area, JP O’Connor (email: and blog: is involved in shooting as a competitor, offi cial, and coach. He is a former Assistant National Coach – USA Paralympics Shooting Team and ISSF Judge, serves on the National Coach Development Staff in both rifl e & pistol, and is Coach Emeritus of the NCAA rifl e and intercollegiate pistol teams at the University of North Georgia. He enjoys working with a number of pistol and rifl e athletes and junior club teams from around the country, ranging from beginners to the highly advanced, in training sessions, clinics, and one-on-one private coaching. Previous installments of this series, additional resources, and book suggestions may be found at http://www. and via his blog.

May 2014 | USA Shooting News 33

the “will” and visual factors, and works extremely well. A write up is scheduled to be online on my blog by the time this article is in print. Shotgun has a different

dynamic. The athlete plans where they want to break the target and adjusts ac- cordingly when setting up

their stance. The goal is to facilitate a smooth, comfort- able movement of the shot- gun to the target and break point. Details are left to the shotgun coaches to explain for us. Another important tech-

nical aspect is vision. All shooting athletes should get their eyes checked each year. Even a slight change in prescription has a profound effect on one’s ability to see clearly when aiming. Many pistol shooters discover that having the eye doctor pro- vide a second “occupation- al” prescription that is +0.5 diopter different from the athlete’s normal prescrip- tion and placing this lens in a shooting frame provides a sharp, clear view of the front sight with no fatigue. Vision is of critical importance for shotgun, with its rapidly moving targets. Clearly, there are numer-

ous additional technical as- pects of target shooting that remain unmentioned in an article this short. Get some- thing that works, use it, learn it, and then you will be able to discern what needs to be adjusted or changed. The beginner cannot buy all the gear, set it up perfectly, and never change it again. Similarly, constant changes are a sure bet to frustration. The books by Heinz Re- inkemeier are especially

useful in understanding the physical and technical aspects of rifl e and pistol, along with the mental and emotional aspects. See the “Resources” page of the blog for details and links. If readers will send me sug- gestions for truly excellent shotgun books, I will gladly post those on my blog. Of course, there are many great coaches around the country who are happy to work with you.

In the next two install-

ments of this series, we provide a short overview the mental and emotional as- pects of high performance and thriving under pressure. Finally, we will bring all of these aspects together as we look at the actual deliv- ery of a shot.

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