Black Rifles & Tactical Guns

Navy SEAL Chris Sajnog Shooting Series: Rule #3 Physics – Mechanics, Not Methods

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Chris Sajnog, Author Navy SEAL Shooting

The Old Rules of marksmanship were focused only on the physical parts of shooting. But hopefully as you’re beginning to see, there are a lot of other aspects, far more fundamental than simply how you stand or grip a gun. Even when we take a closer look at the Old Rules of marksmanship, we can easily see that none of them are truly fundamental to shooting; they are all just methods to getting there.

Now is a good time to point out, I’m not saying methods are not required — we need to teach something. It’s just that we need to understand the difference between what is a method and what is truly a law of physics. Old rules methods taught us that our feet needed to be set in a certain position to have a solid shooting stance. This is fine on a static range and it might work for some body types, but it’s limiting as you try to progress as a shooter. Even if you just use the old rules as a starting point to learn from, it’s going to be ingrained in your muscle memory and it will be very hard to break your old habits.

So why are the old rules so limiting? Because they are not fundamental to getting rounds to hit where you want, when you want. They are a good way to teach different methods, but the fact they can be so different shows that they are NOT fundamental:

  1. Body Position or Grip: I can shoot just as effectively laying on my back, holding the gun with one hand — NOT fundamental.
  2. Sight alignment/Sight Picture: Even if these are perfectly aligned, you can still (and often do) miss the target. I’ll show you the New Rule that fixes this in a later article — NOT fundamental.
  3. Breathing – trigger control – follow through: Hold your breath, slap the trigger and forget where the round went…if you’re following the New Rules — the true fundamentals — you’ll hit the target every time.

 

po·si·tion

pəˈziSH(ə)n/

put or arrange (someone or something) in a particular place or way.

When it comes to the physical aspects of shooting, the New Rules are radically different from the old. Rather than positional rules, the New Rules focus on the proper mechanics to achieve an accurate shot every time. Where different shooting positions are often a matter of personal preference taught by instructors, New Rules mechanics are based on the laws of physics and if used properly will work for every shooter regardless of size or experience and in any “position.” By learning and ingraining the New Rules of marksmanship into your muscle memory, your body will naturally work to stabilize you and your weapon, no matter where or when you need to take a shot.

me·chan·ics

məˈkaniks

the branch of applied mathematics dealing with motion and forces producing motion

There are four mechanical laws to remember to be a New Rules shooter. They are your natural point of aim (NPA), lowering your center of gravity, widening your base and keeping your weight forward.

Natural Point of Aim (NPA)

Your natural point of aim is the place your sights are pointing when your body is relaxed. The easiest way to always have a proper NPA is to keep your hips pointed at your target.

The reason NPA is so important is your body will constantly be working to get you pointed toward your NPA. If you’re doing anything that’s keeping your body from pointing at the NPA, the laws of physics will win every time. In the following images of two sights, the first one shows the sights lined up on center mass as the shooter takes aim. The second image shows what happens when the shooter turns his focus to the front sight and the target becomes blurry. The body moves to its NPA and shot will break right — the laws of physics win again!

 

 

NPA Shift

 

Lowering Center of Gravity

The next rule is lowering your center of gravity, which applies Newton’s Universal Law of gravitation. By lowing your center of gravity, you increase your stability and the effectiveness of your shooting.

Think of how you would stand if someone were going to tackle you. You wouldn’t be standing upright; you’d be low with a wide base.

Widen Your Base

The next law of physics that New Rules shooter take advantage of is the law of gravity as it relates to balance. In a nutshell, the law states that by widening your base (feet, etc.) you’re better able to maintain control of your center of gravity and thus maintain your balance. This one is easy to implement because you simply need to widen your feet as much as is needed to maintain your balance.

Keep Weight Forward

The last biomechanical rule to apply is keeping your weight forward. This follows the law of angular momentum and works to negate recoil of the weapon. By always keeping your nose over your toes in an aggressive stance, you’ll be using natural laws of physics to easily and dramatically become a more effective shooter.

 

Mechanics

That’s it. By simply understanding and using the laws of mechanics to your advantage, you’re using the New Rules of marksmanship. There are other rules that New Rules shooters use, but they all are simply applying the natural laws at work in our universe. Simple techniques like making sure the line of your barrel on your rifle or carbine is not above the top of your shoulder applies the laws of energy moving toward the path of least resistance. This law is also applied by keeping some part of your hand on top of barrel or rotating your support elbow up to eliminate a hinge.

Newton’s 3rd Law of Physics

In the old rules, much attention was given to moving the trigger straight to the rear. Although the reason for doing this is due to the laws of force in applied physics, it misses the fact that if you apply a greater counter-force (grip) than that of the original force (trigger press), the greater force will always win! Think of it this way — if your grip is like a vise and there is no way the weapon will move, you can do whatever you want to the trigger!

Don’t let the tail (your finger) wag the dog (your gun). Your contact with 99% of the gun is far more important than where you contact the remaining 1% of the gun. The reason most people focus on the trigger is that they start off with a poor grip and rather than fix that, they think of ways to work around it.

The Geometry of Physics

When it comes to aiming, New Rules shooters continue to use physics in a form of vector-based geometry and multilinear algebra. The two laws we need to pay attention to when using a two-plane sighting system (front and rear sights) are angular and parallel shift errors.

 

Angular vs Parallel Errors

An angular shift error occurs if you fail to correctly align the sights. As the amount of the error or the distance from your target increases, the hope for hitting the target decreases exponentially. Error is proportional to distance, so the farther away you are, the more a small error in sight alignment will throw your impact off your intended target.

A parallel shift error basically means that you’re aiming at the target, just at the wrong spot. This happens when the sights are aligned perfectly, but the gun is not aligned perfectly with the target. If you’re focused on the target instead of the front sight, small movements (the notorious wobble) will appear magnified. This movement, though still there, will appear significantly reduced by focusing on your front sight.

The take away from all this gun-fighting geometry is that bad sight alignment (angular shift error) is far more detrimental than sight picture (parallel shift error) to hitting your target.

The majority of the shooter’s efforts should therefore be toward keeping the sights in correct alignment. So don’t worry about your wobble…holding the gun perfectly still is neither required, nor is it possible without support. 

“Methods work, but they work only for a small percentage of people.”

BREATHING

I just want to touch on the differences in breathing between New Rules and old rules shooters. Under the old rules breathing was stopped — held in a natural respiratory pause — so the barrel of the gun would not move up and down with your breath. In the new rules, we use breathing to get oxygen to our body and brain to make us stronger and faster — and to our eyes to allow us to focus to pinpoint accuracy.

Taken to an extreme: Hold your breath for a few minutes and then try to take an accurate and fast shot. Then work on the breathing exercises that New Rules shooters use and try to take an accurate shot or shoot with extreme speed…I’ll let you be the judge on the new vs. the old rules.

New Rules Review: PHYSICS

  • Use mechanics, not methods.
  • Find your natural point of aim
  • Lower center of gravity
  • Widen your base
  • Keep weight forward
  • Worry about your sights, not the target
  • Breathe!

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Chris Sajnog is the bestselling author of How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL, a retired Navy SEAL Master Firearms Instructor, Neural-Pathway Training Expert, speaker and Service Disabled Veteran Small Business Owner. He is one of the most experienced and respected firearms trainers in the world, being hand-selected to develop the training for the US Navy SEAL Sniper program. As a Navy SEAL he was the senior sniper instructor, a certified Master Training Specialist (MTS), BUD/S and advanced training marksmanship instructor.