Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Eye Dominance and Shooting. I wrote a short post on it while back and one of my readers, a lady new to shooting, asked me to expand on it.  So S.,  here you go,  the original post and comments with some extra information and new pictures, while I finish tonight's dinner. After a day of nothing but a granola bar and what I think were hamster pellets, I'm ready.

"Eye Dominance" is not the eye that's the "strongest" or has the best vision but refers to the eye that the brain "prefers" or the one that has stronger "processing" in the brain. People usually have one eye that likes to "take over" when binocular vision is impaired, or one eye that is more sensitive to visual discrimination. My eyes are green, and sensitive to the light, but it still seems that even with sunglasses on, if I'm going to get "poked in the eye", it will be my dominant one.

For hunters and sharpshooters, it's recommended that one uses the dominant eye to line up the sights for that reason, because visual acuity, or discrimination is better, resulting in better accuracy. In shooting, in which fine monocular coordination and vision is required, the dominant eye certainly has an advantage. During suppression, when the brain "chooses" to process only one eye, the other eye is in essence "shut down". The brain is a very complex yet simple organ, in which a vast amount of visual information can be processed simultaneously or can completely disregard information from  the one eye.

I'm right handed but if you watch me as I shoot I have my right eye closed. And I am right handed. Which means I am LEFT eye dominant. Or Cross dominant. Most right-handed people are right-eye dominant and most left-handed people are left-eye dominant. But this certainly isn't true for everyone. For some people, hand and eye dominance are opposite, about 15% of the total population, a good percentage of which are women. Cross dominant eye is more common in female shooters and adolescent males, so ladies, do not believe those who tell you simplistically that everyone should shoot with two eyes open. For adult men, the majority who are not cross dominant it is a skill that can be learned fairly easily, but if you are cross dominant, it's much harder. About 70% of men are same-side dominant and they can be well advised to shoot with both eyes wide open. Also, with women, as with younger boys, absolute eye dominance in either eye is not the norm. And unlike the boys, they do not generally grow out of it.

Cross domination does create some differences in participating in the shooting sports, and as it can be subject to some changes due to sex, age and stress, it's good to periodically check which is your dominant eye, it might well result in an improvement in your shooting.If you're new to shooting or want to confirm which eye is dominant, it's easy. There's more than one way to do it. (1) If you hold your hand out at arm's length and make a circle, then view an object across the room by looking through that circle, your brain must choose which eye will actually focus on the object. Since your eyes are about 3" apart, both eyes cannot maintain the direct line-of-sight to the object. So one eye must take command, and you will, without thinking about it, position your hand more to the right if you're right-eye dominant, or slightly to the left if you're left-eye-dominant.

In either case, the eye that takes over and maintains the sight-line is the dominant eye. (2) Easier yet - make a small hole in the center of your hands, bring it up to the object you are looking at . . .mmmmm. . . .HP sauce. . . . and with both eyes open, look at the object and bring your hands to your face. The eye you come closest to as it draws near is normally your master.

One other way - (3) hold a CD at arms length. If you're a right-shouldered shooter, hold the CD in your right hand. Left-shouldered shooters hold the CD in your left hand. (Ignore the hand I have selected in the photo, that was simply so I could hold the camera in my right hand). Now look through the hole and focus on a stationary object. If you are a right-shouldered shooter, close your left eye. If you are left-shouldered, close your right eye. Now does the object you're looking at through the hold in the CD vanish from view or move it's position slightly across the hole? Or does it stay in one place? If the object remains stationary, you have the correct eye dominance. If it vanishes, you have a cross "master eye" dominance. Obviously there's subtle variances and some folks have shallow or "middle" vision.

I'm cross eye dominant, not a problem with handguns, unless they are really short barrelled (a low stock may cause a shift of eye dominance on all or, more commonly, some targets -those which cause one to press their head down into the stock). With most handguns, I simply turn my head slightly prior to the draw to line up my master eye down range and thus gain just a little speed on the first shot.

In my opinion , it's a bit more of a problem with shotguns. With a rifle, accuracy depends on a rock-steady hold, as the eye slights the front and rear sights to a stationary target. Shotguns though are dynamic, they're weapons of movement, My shotgun doesn't have a rear sight and to use it, my dominant eye thus becomes the rear sight. Where my problem lies with a shotgun is that I'm a right-shouldered shooter with a dominant left eye instead of a right one. So my left eye is controlling where my gun points and I will shoot behind a left-to-right crossing shot and in front of a right-to left.

If you have cross dominance and you discover it while new to the sport you can likely learn to shoot from the same shoulder as the master eye. For a new, young shooter, this is as easy as learning any new motor skill. But for those of us who have been shooting off and on for years, it's almost impossible to change the master eye, and changing to the opposite shoulder will just feel strange as you've already got some "muscle memory". Some instructors (and I am NOT an instructor - these are just my experiences) state a solution would be to block the cross-dominating eye with an eye patch or tape on the lens of the shooting glasses, to force you to use the non-dominant eye until it becomes more comfortable. However, this will give a partial loss of binocular and peripheral vision, but some readers have recommended it.

What works for me is to close the cross-dominant eye before the shot is taken. By doing this, I've retained peripheral and stereoscopic vision by keeping both my eyes open as I evaluate the shot, until the last split-second. Now I've got a clear picture of my target/barrel relationship with no chance of cross-dominance kicking in.

Of course the shotgun, with its wide pattern, is a forgiving weapon and despite dominance, you will do well some of the time. However, it never hurts to make sure that the eye that is above the rib is the one that you rely on to give the brain the correct ocular information.

Long guns, and long guns/long range are another issue. Whether you are shooting at 100 yards, or 1000, it's a consideration.

If you are shooting a rifle right-handed, it is almost impossible to lay your head far enough over on the rifle stock to be able to sight with your left eye. Here, all you can do is force the mind to utilize the non -dominant eye (with a patch or tape on the glasses). I like the opaque tape idea, better than the patch, as this forces the non-dominant eye to take over and aim without totally blocking vision in the dominant eye. There are also sighting devices for sale but I would hesitate to recommend any one of them as I've not tried one. Talk to other shooters, more are cross- dominant than you think. Find out what works for them. Have fun experimenting, but this is a complex subject and professional guidance (and that is NOT me) can be a real help.

Barkley is, unfortunately, BOTH eye dominant when it comes to the begging look. That's not fair


  1. I am cross dominant as well, right handed, left eyed. I shoot all long guns (of all types: lever, pump, bolt, semi-auto, full auto) off the left shoulder and all handguns with the right hand and have for as long as I can remember. I do not find it to slow me down at all and at times I do find to be an advantage. My recommendation, especially for a new shooter, is to use the dominant eye. I don't want to turn this into a book, so if anybody has further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at Chantry36@yahoo.com

  2. Ms Brigid,

    I recently acquired my first AR. It's always been my intention to add an Eotech to it. I think I've been told Eotech's are to be used with both eyes open. If this is the case how will this be affected by my own cross eye dominance?...


  3. What a fabulous post. I am cross dominant and right handed. I also have the unfortunate pleasure of having poor vision in my right eye. Even with corrective lenses, it does not get to a point where I can comfortably aim and shoot a long gun. I recently purchased my first 30-06 and I have been shooting it off the left shoulder because of this. It is a little tougher to do at 40.

  4. Thanks! When I read you were a cross dominant eye shooter I knew you would have clear insights on the problem. Not a problem though really, more of an agenda item to deal with. Same way Barkley looks at how you are going to need help with that burger.

  5. My oldest daughter is cross dominant; left-eyed, right handed. (Once we figured that out, her shooting improved, too. Sadly, lefty flintlocks are hard to find, so she has to make do with cartridge guns, and a lefty caplock rifle.)

    Apparently she got it from me; right-eyed, left handed.

    Nowadays she's got a shooting range in her back yard.

    I'm hoping that it's catching, since it doesn't appear to be genetic.

  6. "I just know what works for me, but am not a expert in this area of knowledge."

    I am, and I don't tell my students any different.

    Nice idea about using a CD to determine which eye is dominate. Never thought of that one.


  7. Barkley knows a good thing when he sees it. IF your shotgun has a wood stock, you hunt a lot or shoot trap/skeet /sporting clays a lot it might be worth a trip to a good stock maker to have the stock bent(adding cast). Or have one made to fit. If it's space age stuff I think your out of luck.On handguns in your profession one of your bag of tricks must include "weak hand" shooting, how's it work for you? A little practice, you'd be great at it, probably are now the mushroom

  8. Thank you!

    Having a good shop nearby stocking UK goodies is important since I've been a Jelly Babies fan for 25 years -- too much "Doctor Who" in my formative years.

    Guns are totally foreign to me, but recent events have made me want to buy something like a Springfield M1A and learn to use it well before I can't.

    Will I sound like a nut if I call the local stores and inquire about such an item and training? Do you recommend something better for the hardware?

  9. Ah, yes. It's good to hear I'm not the only strange one out there. I'm as 'right handed' as they get. Clapping is hard for me because my left side just isn't coordinated. However, my left eye is the dominant eye, and by a mile. If I try to use my right eye, my brain gets all confused and my shots go wide by a mile.

    Generally, I just turn my head ever so slightly to the right so that my left eye is better aligned with the sights and keep both eyes open. I've learned to trust what I see even though I'll tend to see two front sights. The one that "looks" like it's on target is the one that's on target for me.

    For my red dot sight on my pistol, I keep both eyes open because my left eye will find the dot and, by the nature of the sight itself, the right eye will be too far away to see it. Even on those odd occasions where the right eye sees the dot, I'm still on target because the red dot works like that.

    With my rifle, I just use my right eye since it's sitting on top of the damned thing anyway. It's uncomfortable, and I will find myself leaning over the stock more to try to get my left eye in the game, but that's not sustainable for any period of time. When you talk about shouldering it on the left, are you saying shoot left handed (using the right hand to steady the barrel and the left for the trigger)?

  10. I used all the standard checks years ago to confirm my cross dominance. Eventually I realized there is a simpler way. Hand someone a camera such as an SLR and have them look through the viewfinder. Or have them take a peak through your spotting scope.

    My worst problem with cross dominance came when shooting bow and arrow without any sights. The "sight picture" I worked out involved lining up the point of the arrow with someplace down and to the right of the (big, round) target.

  11. All this explains why I always want to crane my head over the shotgun...LOL Trooper was pretty certain it was cross dom at the time.

    I may try to shoot the long guns on the left as I've little body prejudice to overcome. It'll make for some interesting experiments on the range...

    As for someone getting aid in shooting, and cleaning - I am betting you can find someone in your area by perusing http://thehighroad.us/
    Nice folks there...

  12. It's always good to hear from someone else who is cross-dominant, although I've worked things out over the years it's always good to hear what worked for others. I've changed techniques a few times and have improved over the years because of it...I have ALWAYS been a decent shot and one of the best in my immediate family but I've really improved in the past 3-4 years with some training and expert suggestions.

    First, for davek on EOTech/AR usage and cross dominance. Your results will REALLY depend on what type of shooting you are doing and what stance you employ. The EOTech really isn't for driving tacks into targets at long distances. If you're looking for minute accuracy at 100+ yard distances you will likely be disappointed no matter what you do, unless your some kind of mutant (and, yes, I've met them!) The EOTech shines in rapid target acquisition under tactical conditions and keeping both eyes open really isn't so much a requirement of the sight, it is mostly a tactical plus in retaining your field of view for threat scanning and movement while engaging. Because the EOTech doesn't rely on lining up multiple objects separated by a distance, the point of aim is not affected by eccentricities in your binocular perception so eye dominance really isn't a factor in it's usage.

    As far as stance goes, in my experience it is best to have your upper body square to the target (isosceles stance with pistol, subgun/CQB stance with subguns and carbines) as that makes it far easier to put the dominant eye inline with the sights. The EOTech is VERY forgiving in this as the holographic sight picture conforms to what your brain "wants" to see and since there is no real need to achieve a cheek weld (other than stability.) Unlike with iron sights and most optics, I'm sure you've noticed that the EOTech is VERY forgiving as to head position...that is both a good and bad thing. Since you do not have to be consistent in positioning your head to shoot well with an EOTech, you can become quite sloppy which would be a real problem if, for whatever reason, your EOTech fails and you need to rely on a BUIS. In my opinion it is a good idea to set up your iron sights to co-witness with your dot sight as, in the long run, this will tend to "train" your brain and body to align them with the dot making an iron sight friendly stance reflexive even though it is not necessary most of the time.

    I hope I address some of your concerns...always remember that outside of the very basics, there are few "right" and "wrong" ways to shoot. Practice, experiment and adopt what is comfortable and gives you the results you seek.

  13. You know James -

    Brigid was just being modest.

    She'll do that even though she's got a resume that would drop your jaw.

    Makes her all the more pleasant to be around. :-)

  14. Guess we're not that uncommon huh?
    Left eye dominant, right handed. Shoot handguns right, rifles left, and am respectable with both.
    Had to give up a gold for a silver in a state M60 match some,(okay, 15) years ago when the RSO comes up and kicks me in the foot and says"You can't shoot that left handed" I looked back and said "Since when?Been doing it this way for a while now" And he pulls out the LOI and shows me chapter and verse. So I had to transition to the right and let my AG take the gold:-)

  15. Barkley and Bailey my little brown beggar (Beagle/Doxie mix) have the same look :)

    word verification "dablam" Hehe some how very apropos to the blog.

  16. Thanks for re-posting this! Since I've been shooting more lately, it's been on my mind to come back and re-read this very helpful information.

    Barkley's eyes are real heart-melters, aren't they? He knows what he's doing.

  17. I'm also right hand - left eye due to problems with my right eye. I tried shooting long guns left-handed, but it didn't work for me. I was stuck until I picked up a Lee-Enfield No4 Mk1 at my local gun shop, and found that the comb was low enough to see through the sights with my left eye when shouldered right-handed.

    I now have two Enfields, and I have lowered the comb on other rifles to work for me also. With ARs, an A2 style receiver with a normal stock and a scope mounted to the carry handle works very well for me.

    This might be another option for shooters who are extremely cross-dominant.

    [WV derwom - what a hangfire from Pakistani .303 sounds like from a short barrel :-) ]

  18. "Makes her all the more pleasant to be around."

    You're certainly right about that.


  19. Well thank you James!

    Thank you ALL for all the good info on the eye dominance issue. I learned much as I am sure did many of you.


  20. Great post Brigid. I am cross=dominant. Left handed in all things but one, and right eyed. So I shoot right handed.

  21. k. so ive got a question...

    i shoot right but im left eye dominant. i am only 16. but have been shooting for a while. it would be har but im sure i could switch if it was worth the effort. my passion is waterfowling so i need to be good with a shotgun. is it worth switching?

    you said something about young males growing out of it? what if i switch and end up becoming right eye dominant in ten years? what then? should i switch now, wat and see what happens, or just forget about it just close one eye all the time....

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I'm left-handed and right-eyed.
    But, I practice with my right hand as well.
    And have shot well with both eyes.

  24. I have all my life been right eye dominant, simply because I was essentially blind in my left eye. I had laser surgery and now my left eye is nearly 20/20 but my brain refuses to accept it and so I still use mostly my right eye. It takes real effort to use just my left eye or to make them work together.

  25. I think you and my gal have almost identical Ruger 10/22 stainless rifles...

    We sometimes have kids in 4H that seem to have eye dominance change over time and it usually means they need a trip to the eye-doctor for a new prescription for their contacts or glasses... for example, if the right eye changes in vision... the left seems to take over dominance until the vision is corrected again...

    Dann in Ohio

  26. Very interesting ! ! am cross-dominant, right handed,older male. Never knew it until several years ago, just knew i sucked with a rifle. Not so hot with a shotgun either, but managed to hunt rabbits with a double-barrel. Can't use an eotech because of astigmatism ! Have to try shooting leftie i guess ? Thanks for info. Very good explanation of subject !

  27. I'm just cross....left handed, right eyed!!
    Thanks for a much needed(for me) short course.

  28. A great post once again! I run across cross dominant shooters and your information will once again be valuable in class.

  29. Thanks for the info. I also have the adventure of being left eye dominant and right handed. It makes casting a fishing rod interesting too.

  30. Weird. Just tried the CD thing and I'm left eye dominant. I shoot righty, though, and am able to use my right eye to shoot no problem. Just weird. Never claimed to be otherwise, however.

  31. Unfortunately many years ago I had an impact injury that put a tear in the retina in an eye - so scar tissue now. I have always shot with both eyes open - still do but now central vision is pretty much gone in the one eye - do have peripheral in it. Not a big deal with pistol just move my head over a little but now I have to shoot left handed with a rifle - I am also a person that for some reason I have never been able to close my left eye independently - right eye ok, I can wink it just fine - go figure.

  32. Thank you very much for posting this. Right now I am only a CCW shooter, and I am cross dominant. But my father has a few rifles that I hope to inherit, and I was struggling with how I would be able to do this. After a few searches online, I still didn't have my question answered. After reading this I figure I am going to have to start training that weak eye to take over so that I can comfortably see down the barrel. Thanks!

  33. Evilstepmommy29- thanks for your comment. It will encourage others, I'm sure.

    Best of luck to you.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..