Why “Natural Point Of Aim” Doesn’t Work For Self-Defense

One of the challenges that we have with self-defense and competition shooting is that we have to break a lot of the rules that we were initially taught.

Natural point of aim is a good example.

Natural point of aim is a very useful tool for long range precision rifle and precision pistol.

Basically, you want to figure out what stance and body position will allow you to shut your eyes, aim, and be on target when you open them.  If you’re consistently presenting to the right of your intended target, you simply step back a hair with your left foot so that you’re on target.

Natural point of aim makes it easy to stand with a static stance, draw, and have your sights come up into automatic alignment between your dominant eye and the target–when you have time to get that perfect stance.

I used to teach natural point of aim to shooters interested in self-defense and competition but realized over time that it creates a fragile technique that doesn’t work so well in real world conditions.  In fact, a lot of times we HAVE to break the guidelines of natural point of aim (NPA) in order to succeed.

NPA does work to make it easier for new shooters to hit the target with a perfect stance, but I’m going to share a technique with you that works with ANY stance.

To be clear, what I’m about to share with you is not well known.  It took me a few hundred hours of neurology training to figure it out.

I’m trying to make it a LOT easier for shooters and instructors to skip to the front of the line and avoid what I had to go through to learn this.

First off, why don’t natural point of aim drills/stances work for self-defense or competition?

Natural point of aim drills are based on a few myths:
Myth 1 is that natural point of aim is based on fixed body mechanics that take too long in dynamic shooting situations.  We want to be able to aim quickly and naturally at ANY angle with ANY foot position.
Myth 2 is that eye dominance & binocular fusion is always stable and consistent.  (There are 4 types of eye dominance that I test for with shooters and I’ve found that different stances and grips can shift dominance in some shooters.  Binocular fusion is how your brain merges and/or suppresses the images from each eye and whether that fused image is confusing or easy to understand.)
Myth 3 is that you’ll be able to assume that perfect stance in a real world situation. < This creates a fragile technique, which we don’t want. We want a resilient/durable technique.
Myth 4 is that your natural point of aim will be the same when you’re holding your pistol in your right hand vs. left hand vs. both hands.

NPA, the way it is commonly taught, is incredibly fragile and subject to slight changes in foot position, head tilt, and the curve and angle of the spine.

I want my shooters to be able to point accurately regardless of whether they’re standing flat footed, moving offline after striking, sprinting right or left to cover, moving into a shooting position, or leaning around a barricade.

Because of gesture activated devices and touch screens, a lot of money has gone into how accurately people point and what they’ve found is that it’s common for people to be off as much as 10 inches at 10 feet in calm situations.

And the more stress and balance challenges we add, the worse our pointing accuracy becomes.

Accurate pointing is a function of our vision, balance, and hand-eye coordination systems all being in agreement on which direction the threat is.  I walk people through a quick and super-easy test to see how accurately they can point at https://VisionTraining.com

When these senses aren’t matched up, it’s called sensory mismatch.

Accurate pointing with a gun also involves consistent grip, consistent eye dominance, and the eyes working together correctly.

These may seem obvious but half of the population has a challenge with JUST these 2 vision issues and they can make shooting very frustrating.

The more sensory mismatch someone has, the more compromised their aiming ability will be and the more dependent they’ll be on natural point of aim (NPA) to have their presentation automatically deliver the sights to a point between their dominant eye and the target.

Interestingly enough, sensory mismatch can cause the threat level in the brain to skyrocket and can be a HUGE driver for behavioral episodes for people with ADHD, ASD, TBI, PTSD, long-Covid, OCD, schizophrenia, and more.

The more someone’s balance system has been compromised by TBIs, or long-Covid, the more dependent they’ll be on vision for balance and the less accurate their pointing will be in non-sterile conditions.

Natural point of aim, as it’s traditionally taught, is dependent on stable (not shifting) eye dominance and accurate fusion of the images from both eyes.

Any NPA training that doesn’t address this has a high likelihood of not working with a non-perfect stance.

One of the fundamentals of NPA is that we have residual muscle tension that will pull us into a natural point of alignment that allows us to maintain aim without consciously doing anything.

This is correct, but that residual muscle tension can change dramatically in SECONDS.

Residual muscle tension is controlled in the brainstem and it’s highly dependent on eye movement and our inner ears…both in the moment and immediately prior to the moment.  (I can oftentimes help people increase range of motion by 15-30 degrees with less than a minute of eye movement.)

The midbrain controls residual flexor muscle tone.  The pons controls residual extensor muscle tone.  The medulla controls residual extensor muscle inhibition.  The cerebellum controls residual flexor muscle inhibition.  Change any of these and you can change natural point of aim.

What we want to do instead of adjusting our stance to find our NPA in a single, fragile position?

We do simple drills to improve how our vision and balance and hand-eye coordination work so that we can point accurately in a wide range of stances and non-stances.

I cover this in a few ways with See Quicker Shoot Quicker 2.0, but I’m going to be teaching a small group of instructors how to unlock performance in themselves and their students in my upcoming Vision Training for Firearms Instructors class.

It’s a 6 week, live online class that we’re holding on Zoom and it starts next Tuesday.

It’s the 2nd cohort (group) and the first cohort LOVED it and got a ton out of it.  If you’re an instructor, you should attend.

In it, we’re going to unlock a LOT of the mysteries of the eyes and how you can use vision to create dramatic, immediate changes in pain, performance, endurance, learning speed, accuracy, speed, and much, much more.

Every session will be recorded so you can watch it if you miss the live class and re-watch it as many times as you’d like…forever.

If you’re interested, make sure to use your best email address and say “tell me more” in the comments below or reply back to the email that got you here.



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  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply January 22, 2024

    When we look at something close the pupils get small, when we look at something further away the pupils dilate, when surprised with a threat the parasympathetic shift to sympathetic shift causes un involuntary pupil dilation along with depth distortion as the survival mechanism in the brain causes tunnel vision and makes a conscious effort to focus on something close such as handgun sights impossible.
    What works when “not” under a life threatening situation does not transfer to a surprise violent criminal assault.
    Depending on the objective of the training the method has to match the goal.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply January 27, 2024

      That’s a deep topic. I’ve had lengthy discussions with shooters who have both clearly seen and not seen their front sights in a life and death shooting situation where they didn’t know they were in a gunfight until one or more shots had been fired at them…sometimes misses, sometimes hits.

      The fact is that “impossible” is too strong of a word. I definitely agree with likely, but what has happened over the last few decades and especially since popular books were published in the 80s and 90s with what we now know as incomplete/inaccurate neurology and physiology claims, is that it’s been really hard to break through the belief that visually fixating on handgun sights is impossible. What I have done is make a concerted effort to break down what allowed people who DID see and use their front sight with incoming fire as well as how shooters trained who were not able to see/use their front sight. The factors are incorporated into all of the training I’ve created.

      One of the biggest problems that I’ve seen is that people have taken the (partially incorrect) assumption that it’s impossible to use pistol sights in a gun fight, extrapolated on it, and based training on it that de-emphasizes the use of the sights to the detriment of shooters everywhere.

      That is why I teach 4-speed aiming the way I do…emphasizing both kinesthetic aiming (and the sensory integration that’s needed to make kinesthetic aiming possible…especially with low-round counts) and acquiring a detailed sight picture for every string of fire. If shooters focus on one end of the spectrum at the expense of the other (and especially shooters doing less than 10,000 reps per year…which is 99% of the civilian and LE population), they end up with a gap in their skills that they may not realize until lives depend on performance.

      • rod vanzeller

        Reply Reply January 28, 2024

        I think it all comes down to how each individual handles adrenaline,nature and nurture are going to play a major role.

        • Ox

          Reply Reply January 28, 2024

          I agree 100%. Where we may differ is in our thoughts/experience with directly and purposely CHANGING how people handle adrenaline.

          In many cases, I’ve had people come to me who believe that their stress response is “nature” and I’ve used neurology drills to change it in minutes (nurture). I have learned to completely disregard the idea that things that we consider to be our “nature” are permanently hard-wired and unchangable.

          • rod vanzeller

            January 28, 2024

            Great discussion.

  • Lewis Higinbotham

    Reply Reply October 5, 2023

    Please tell me more.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 5, 2023

      I just sent it.

  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply October 5, 2023

    I still don’t have an answer to my question, did you use the sights on that scenario training?
    Thank you in advance for your answer.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 5, 2023

      Sorry, Rod…you asked a few times in a few places here and on YouTube. I answered a couple of times and thought you’d seen one of them. The question behind the question is a great one.

      The video at Peyton’s was from an event that Jeff Anderson ran. I was not there.

      I have done quite a bit of scenario training over the last 20 years and am a master-instructor for the Reality Based Training Association, so I do have some thoughts on using sights in scenario training.

      1. If someone isn’t disciplined about using their sights in training, the substantia nigra region of the midbrain makes it incredibly difficult to choose an option that is significantly more difficult under stress. Not using the sights is significantly easier than using the sights until someone has practiced using the sights to the point where the difference in effort is negligable.

      2. If someone isn’t disciplined about using their sights in training or doesn’t train, we shouldn’t be surprised when they report that they didn’t see their sights when shooting under stress.

      3. There are times where shooters who use their sights have become so conditioned that their presentation is going to automatically deliver their sights between their dominant eye and the target that they shoot before their eye has shifted focus/fixation back to the front sight. What this means practically is that the 1st and 2nd shot of a multi-shot string may be shot without a front sight focus while the eye catches up. Practically, this means that the lag associated with front sight focus goes away, but we get the benefits of increased accuracy.

      4. Threat focused shooting depends on sensory integration…the eyes, ears, and body awareness agreeing on which direction the threat is and which direction we’re pointing the gun. Sensory integration can be disturbed by performing with a body orientation different than how the shooter practiced, movement, and impact to the head.

      Again, in the debate between threat and front sight focus, the correct answer is both 🙂

      • rod vanzeller

        Reply Reply October 5, 2023

        Thanks for the reply.
        Personally I train all of it, dry fire train every day, live fire twice a week and scenario adrenal stress training once a week. In scenario I train with surprise added I only see the threat but don’t miss,
        this are close quarter engagements 3 to 5 yards.

        • Ox

          Reply Reply October 6, 2023


  • Larry A

    Reply Reply October 5, 2023

    Tell me more.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 5, 2023

      I just sent it Larry

  • Mark G

    Reply Reply July 6, 2023

    Tell me more!!!

  • David Nichols

    Reply Reply July 5, 2023

    Tell me more

  • Linda South

    Reply Reply July 5, 2023

    Tell me more

  • David McArdle MD

    Reply Reply July 5, 2023

    Tell me more

  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply July 5, 2023

    Are you familiar with the training Peyton Quinn offered at his training center in Colorado a few decades ago?
    Specifically, the adrenal stress drills with firearms?

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