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Does Eye Dominance Matter in Shooting?

Most humans have a dominant hand that they favor. Similarly, we also have a dominant eye that sends signals to our brain faster and more efficiently. Outside of a little trivia about human eye physiology, understanding eye dominance can help you shoot better.

Determining Your Dominant Eye:

Maybe you already know which eye is your dominant eye, but if you don't it's quite simple:

  • Extend arms out fully, and form a triangle with both hands.
  • Use an object across the room, like a clock as a target.
  • Center the object within the triangle formed by your hands.
  • Close your right eye, and leave the left open- is the object still centered?
    • If so, you are left eye dominant.
    • If the object seems to disappear behind one of your hands, you are right eye dominant.

This simple process helps you determine which is your dominant eye.

Your dominant eye, which I'll refer to as (DE), is likely the same side as your dominant hand. But this is not always the case. There are many people who are cross-eye dominant. There is also a small percentage of people whose DE is not overly dominant, meaning the brain does not grossly favor signals coming from one eye over the other. You can see how much differently the dominant eye perceives things compared to your non-dominant eye (NDE). The effects of using your NDE for aiming usually result in poor accuracy.

Application:

Now that you know your dominant, ensure that when you are aiming, you are using that eye. This may involve closing the NDE and using only the DE for more precise shots. But what about shooting a pistol with both eyes open? Yes, it is preferable to keep both eyes open. You probably do this instinctively, but when you bring your sights up to eye level, you likely bring them up in front of your DE (see the photo). If you bring the gun up perfectly centered, you may turn your head slightly to the non-dominant side, in order to line the sights up with your dominant eye.

Positioning the sights in front of your dominant eye is important for accuracy purposes.

When you aim with both eyes open you are effectively going to see two images. As you train, your brain learns which of the two images to trust (the one coming from your dominant eye) and which to disregard (the one coming from your non-dominant eye). In this article, I dive a little deeper into the process of aiming with two eyes and how you can train your brain to focus only on the image coming from your DE. This takes time, and because not everyone's eyes are not perfect, some people find sighting like this very difficult. I would recommend anyone training with a handgun for defensive purposes, to learn how to shoot with both eyes open.

Cross-Eye Dominance Issues:

Cross-eye dominance is more easily managed while shooting handguns. You have a couple of options. First, you can still keep your dominant side hand grip, but simply tilt your head slightly, or bring the gun up in front of your DE. This is most simple and often the best way to adapt.

Or, you could choose to completely switch sides from your dominant side to your non-dominant side. Effectively switching from a right-handed shooter to a left-handed shooter, or vice-versa. This is not usually necessary while shooting handguns.

You are presented with a unique problem when shooting rifles because your head is only on one side of the gun. Again, you may switch sides from your dominant side to your non-dominant side. This method seems to work with most cross-eye dominant rifle shooters. The other option is to train your NDE to act as your DE. I have found some people catch on to this and can accomplish it almost intuitively. For some, this is simply not an option. No matter what, they simply are too reliant on the dominant eye image.

Wrapping Up:

Shooting and aiming are actually a pretty simple processes if we just break them down to their core components. So while I may use some technical descriptions to describe what is happening, I don't want to over complicate the process for you. Likely, much of the aiming process is happening instinctively, where you're using your dominant eye without realizing it. But if you are having consistent accuracy problems and it is not being caused by other factors, you may want to ensure you are not using your non-dominant eye for aiming.

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2 Responses to Does Eye Dominance Matter in Shooting?

  1. Joe Moore August 29, 2018 at 4:54 pm #

    Matthew, thanks for this article.

    I wear a type of toric contact lenses, by which my left eye is forced into “near” (short-distance) focus, and my right eye is forced into “far” (relatively long-distance) focus. Therefore, I can easily – at least, over several months I have learned to – keep both eyes open, and see both my sights and my target in focus at the same time. I consider this a very positive advantage, and it has measurably improved my marksmanship… well, the range safety officer is impressed, anyway. LOL

    For gun-owners who require corrective lenses, I highly recommend discussing torics (which are becoming more popular and affordable) with their optometrist.

  2. Craig Moritz September 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm #

    There is a quirk of the human nervous system that has not been addressed:Iit crosses from side to side twice. For example: the left-brained are right handed and left footed. There may actually exist a small advantage for the cross dominant eyed shooter. The right brain (and eye) has a better connection to the left hand, and vice versa.

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