Today we will be discussing the first functional element of the shot process: Stability. While some would say that stability is the most important element, we want our paratroopers to realize that all these elements need to work together in order to achieve a hit where they are aiming at.
TC 3-22.9 states that stability ‘is provided through four functions: support, muscle relaxation, natural point of aim, and recoil management. These functions provide the Soldier the means to best stabilize the weapon during the engagement process.’
Support is provided either by the Paratrooper’s body (natural means), or by artificial means (e.g. a tripod) Either of these will work, what the paratrooper needs to take into consideration when employing these forms of support is how much time they have to assume the position, and how stable a platform that natural or artificial support provides.
When assuming a position, the paratrooper will work out a pre-shot routine as a part of their shot process. This is recommended when you have the time to take a well-aimed shot, or when you are zeroing. The Paratrooper should have a defined start point (e.g. starting at the non-firing hand or the feet) and work their way from front to rear (or vice versa) so that they achieve a solid functional position. If this technique does not work for the paratrooper, they should develop their own process for thinking through getting into a steady position. The point is, they need to have a thought out process for assuming a position, not just flopping on the ground.
The paratrooper should assume a position that they do not have to maintain by muscular force. The muscles should be (generally) relaxed as much as possible to prevent muscle fatigue and shaking.
Natural Point of Aim is the point the barrel naturally goes to when the Paratrooper’s muscles are relaxed, and support is achieved for the weapon. The lower to the ground the Paratrooper is, generally the more stable the position will be. In any position but the prone supported, there is a noticeable wobble area induced by lack of stability. This wobble area is where the Paratroopers’ sights oscillate around and through the Natural Point of Aim. If the Paratrooper’s wobble area is large, they need to adjust their position to reduce the overall size of the wobble area to increase the probability of hit on their target.
To check where their Natural Point of Aim is at, the paratrooper should assume a supported position and achieve the natural respiratory pause in their breathing. The Paratrooper will then close their eyes, and go through a breathing cycle, then when they are on the natural respiratory pause again, open their eyes. If their reticle (or front sight post) is off their point of aim, the paratrooper will make small adjustments to their position to get their point of aim back on the Natural Point of Aim. The Paratrooper continues this process until the Natural Point of aim is on the point of aim when they open their eyes after their respiratory cycle.
The final thing the Paratrooper focuses on is managing their recoil. This is accomplished by the Paratrooper assuming and maintaining a stable firing position. If done correctly, the Paratrooper’s sights will rapidly return to the target allowing for follow on shots (if needed) into the target.
If the Paratrooper focuses on this throughout the pre-shot, shot, and post-shot process, they will have a stabilized platform to fire from. A good rule of thumb for paratroopers to remember is the more contact their body has with the ground, the more stable their position will be. The amount of contact they have with the ground is driven by the situation they are in and tactics required to win the fight.
The most important thing for Paratroopers to remember is that they have to practice these positions frequently in order to know where their natural point of aim is for any particular position. Dry fire should be done in the kit that the paratrooper usually wears on a regular basis so that they get an idea of the restrictive nature of their equipment. This also leads to the paratrooper being able to transfer between positions and master stability under optimal conditions efficiently, so that when the variables of battlefield calculus are introduced, the paratrooper can rely on the ‘muscle memory’ they have built through multiple repetitions of creating a stable position.