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You Have Two Eyes, Use Them Both While You Shoot

One-eyed pirates have taken over the local gun ranges across America.

I have seen a pandemic of sorts, affecting many gun owners. The disease presents itself primarily when the gun owner is shooting. The symptoms are quite easy to spot. This despicable disease causes the shooter to inexplicably turn into a one-eyed pirate. Fortunately, I have not confirmed any cases where the disease has caused the shooter to forego a real leg, for a wooden peg.

All joking aside, shooting with only one eye open is something that is common with shooters. So what's the big deal if someone wants to look like Popeye while they crank off a few rounds?

For the plinker or casual shooter (for whom I have no issues with) shooting with one eye closed, or while using a ‘cup and saucer' grip is not a concern.

When this is the go-to skill for a defensive shooter, problems arise. Don't get me wrong, shooting with one eye is a great way of having ultra-focus on the front sight while achieving sight-alignment and picture. But the defensive shooter needs to develop a different skill more applicable to a deadly force encounter.

Breaking the Habit

Most of us first learn to shoot with one eye closed. Maybe because we started out with a rifle, or because it is easier to focus on the sights with one eye. So shooting this way quickly becomes a habit, and it's hard to break. Forcing yourself to change is the only cure.

Practicing something new feels weird, I know. But it won't feel natural and automatic until you have repeated it hundreds of times. So don't wait until a range day to start practicing. Start right away by incorporating this into your dry-fire routine.

Why It's Important

I told you it's important that the defensive shooter learn to shoot with both eyes open, and here's why:

1. Tunnel Vision – The human body has certain physiological responses to stress. One thing that happens to our bodies under stress is to lose our peripheral vision. Also known as tunnel vision, our field of view shrinks considerably.

You can imagine how tunnel vison, coupled with closing one eye can cause problems during a deadly force event. Additional threats or innocent people may go unseen. But it's not just people that we may not see. What about other dangers around us, like a busy street or a stairwell. And what about trying to create distance, or move to cover? When we are affected by tunnel vision, we may not see the perfectly covered position or exit just a few feet away.

2. Slows Down Our Shooting – This is not only a concept, this is a reality and is backed up with numbers. Closing one eye, and attempting to get sight alignment and sight picture before squeezing the trigger takes time. Time frankly you may not have when you're fighting for your life.

The alternative is what has been taught for many years and called a number of names: point shooting, combat shooting or front-sight focused shooting. Essentially it is relying on your body's natural alignment and kinesthetic awareness to aim rather than relying on the sights.

The same Kinesthetic sense, (the ability to know where our body is moving in the space around us) that gymnasts use to perform incredible feats, allows the shooter to get hits on the target without reliance on the gun's sights.

In practice, the shooter has both eyes open and focuses on the threat, rather than the sights. The front sight may appear in the shooters field of vision as it lands in the hit-zone of the threat. At this point, the trigger is squeezed. It's intuitive and with proper alignment and practice, quite simple.

For this reason, many rear sights on everyday carry guns are blacked out. Bright dots on the rear sight can cause the eye to focus on the rear sight, which for close distances isn't necessary.

Faster, Really?

How do I know this is faster? About 2 years ago I started running all my concealed carry students through the ‘controlability drill.' You can modify several aspects of the drill, but for the basic concealed carry class I run it as follows:

  • We shoot from 3 yards, and the shooter fires 3 shots from the ready position. The drill is timed and the student must have all three hits on a 6″ circle. I record the following info: overall time, time to first shot, and split time.
  • At the beginning of class, regardless of skill, and after a little warm-up, students run the drill.
  • We spend 2 hours and around 50 rounds running drills focused on building proper two-eyed, point shooting skills.
  • At the end of the class, the drill is run again.

The students overwhelmingly shooter faster and have more consistent hits on target at the end. Not just slightly better, but drastically better. The number to focus on for this discussion is the time to first shot. Shooters usually make the most improvement here. Why?

Use of a shot timer can give you feedback on just how much time it takes you to get shots on a target. While good timers are worth the money, in a pinch you can download a free shot timer app on your smartphone.

Because the first time around, even at only 3 yards, the student is concerned about pinpoint accuracy. They close one eye out of habit and look for that perfect sight alignment and sight picture before squeezing the trigger.

When the shooter applies the skills practiced in the class, they are able to get the gun where it needs to be much more efficiently. This results in quicker first shots, and when applied correctly, increased accuracy.

Keeping both eyes open while shooting is critical to breaking tunnel vision.

Finally

Learning to shoot with both eyes open is something every defensive shooter needs to learn. Shooting like this goes hand in hand with point shooting etc., and is a core fundamental for shooters who may have to operate under stress.

Once you reprogram your brain to keep both eyes open, shooting your gun will be a whole new experience. Going back and shooting with only one eye, will make you feel strange and you will realize just how much of your surroundings you have been missing.

Stay Safe and God Bless.

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18 Responses to You Have Two Eyes, Use Them Both While You Shoot

  1. Mark A Adams November 2, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    I have been trying to wean myself from shooting with just one eye when firing a handgun. Now it appears I may go back to it at least temporarily since one of my eyes has a cataract that is bad enough to be removed but the eye doctor recommends waiting until both eyes qualify for surgery before having that one done. If I keep both eyes open now I find it hard to focus on the sights.

    • Charkie Younger November 2, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      Get another opinion. Today technology allows you take it off anytime. Been there dine that.

  2. oldshooter November 2, 2017 at 8:59 am #

    I have no particular issue with shooting with both eyes open. However, I have a couple of quibbles about the justification:

    1) “tunnel vision” is a psychological phenomenon, not an optical one; it will occur (if it does – not everyone experiences it) regardless of whether or not you close one eye. It results from your brain’s frontal lobes “screening out” of conscious awareness, anything that isn’t immediately related to the primary objective at the stressful moment. As I said, I have no issue with shooting with both eyes open, but doing so will not prevent the “tunnel vision” phenomenon from occurring. In a related issue, most folks also experience “auditory exclusion,” another psychological phenomenon, when under high stress. For the same frontal lobe related reasons as “tunnel vision,” your brain will “screen out” of conscious awareness, most sounds that your frontal lobes do not consider “necessary” to deal with the stressful situation. That’s why people often can’t remember hearing their shots in a stressful shooting, even though they typically “have both ears open” and the shots are VERY loud.

    2) In the example used, one would expect to see significant improvement after a period of training and practice, and I assume the students train/practice at “presenting” the firearm, as well as firing it. It would not seem unusual to find improvement in all areas of performance, and the most improvement would be likely to occur in the area of least prior experience (or the area of “worst” performance prior to training in a better method). I don’t know how the students were taught to present the firearm for the first shot, but I suspect it will be something they have never practiced before, or previously did in a very inefficient manner, in which case that might explain the greater improvement in that “first shot.”

    3) I don’t have any data to support this idea, but I suspect that more intensive training in practicing better situational awareness while in the process of actually shooting, would be the best way to overcome the “tunnel vision” phenomenon. And by that, I don’t mean having the student merely develop the habit of turning and looking around him/her after the first shooting is done. I’ve seen a number of “tacti-cool” students who were taught to do this, who merely do it by rote, without actually “SEEING” anything, even though they physically “LOOKED.” In one instance, the instructor was standing about 10 feet to the left side of the shooter, with his trousers dropped around his ankles, and the student didn’t notice anything unusual, even though he looked right at the instructor when doing his post firing “area scan.” The instructor was making this exact point, he normally keep his pants on!.
    I suspect getting over “tunnel vision” might be better taught by having other targets “pop up” in the peripheral area during the initial engagement of the target to the immediate front. They should probably be targets not previously visible, that became visible DURING the initial shooting engagement. “During,” rather than “after,” the initial engagement, because we are trying to get the student’s frontal lobes to learn that they should not “screen out” other things in the environment DURING shooting. If the targets only “pop up” AFTER completion of the initial engagement, the student’s frontal lobes will already be ready to alert on new stimuli, especially movement. That’s not the problem; rather the issue is to train the frontal lobes not to impose “tunnel vision” while the shooting is actually going on. So that’s when the new targets should be presented to view.

    Full disclosure: Yes, I am a psychologist, yes I am an experienced shooter, and yes I have had issues with learning to shoot with both eyes open after many years as a competitive rifle shooter. I now shoot primarily pistol, generally practice weekly with my carry gun, and have had to go to some lengths to train myself to use both eyes. In my case, the issue is compounded by the fact that my dominant right eye, has worse vision (especially close vision) than my non-dominant eye (which is the one that sees my front sight better). This was not the case for most of my life (I am now 72), which makes it more difficult. After months of practice, I am now able to shoot accurately with both eyes open out to 21 feet, but beyond that I still need to shut my non-dominant eye to see the sights accurately enough. My weekly practice routine includes aimed, paced (like a “Bill Drill”), and rapid fire, at 10, 21, and 30 feet, with both, and then with each hand alone, and then aimed and paced fire at 75 feet with both or strong hand only. And, Yes, I’m getting new glasses soon!

    • Greg Weddle November 2, 2017 at 9:12 am #

      Good info oldshooter, thanks for sharing.

    • Matthew Maruster November 2, 2017 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks so much for the feedback. Glad you were able to overcome the cross-eye dominance issue that plagues many people. As far as addressing the tunnel vision, I didn’t intend to infer that shooting with two eyes will eliminate tunnel vision. The intent was to say that dealing with tunnel vision is bad enough, and closing one eye compounds the problem.

      The drills and techniques you mentioned about working on breaking tunnel vision are all spot on. Great info for all the readers! Thanks again.

    • Raymon Bullard November 6, 2017 at 2:22 am #

      Thanks for the feedback. In the past 6 month or so have been trying to tackle the task of shooting with both eyes open. I’ve been increasing with every outing and now, with your comment and this article, plan on making a go-by to help out while on the range. Thanks to both you and the author for helping with this issue.

  3. PATRICK EALEM November 2, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    WHERE TO GET A SHOT TIMER; BEST CC HOLSTER FOR NEW WALTHER 15 shot.

    • Matthew Maruster November 2, 2017 at 10:35 am #

      Hi Patrick,
      Pact timer is really great and you can get one for around $80 on average. For free apps, just search for ‘free shot timer’ in the app store and there are a few that are good. I use the one that is called ‘free shot timer’ (go figure). It works well and gives the info you need. As far a good concealed carry holster, that depends on a lot of factors. Check out this article for a good jumping off point: https://www.concealedcarry.com/gear/top-concealed-carry-holsters-reviewed/ hope this helps and keep in touch!

  4. Gene Wildey November 2, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    Always shoot with both eyes open, however I am blind in one eye

  5. Doug November 2, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    I have the one eyed challenge because I’m right dominant but shoot rifles left handed. When I shoot with both eyes open I see double, so I close one eye to pick a sight picture. I literally just put some scotch tape on my shooting glasses yesterday, to work on breaking this habit. I have an IDPA match this weekend, so we’ll see how the tape works. It’s supposed to be very effective at training to keep both eyes open.

    • Donna November 7, 2017 at 11:51 am #

      I have the same issue, left eyed but right handed. Have tried the tape routine, blinking to get sight picture, all the other hints. I’ve practiced with shooting both eyes open but have trouble fusing images into a single one so it takes a long time to take one shot. Nothing has worked so I continue to shoot with right eye closed.
      Compound it with the fact that I have to wear a contact in my left eye to see the sights, which blurs up the target, and you have a combination of things that makes for interesting shooting!

      • Loren Cannon November 7, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

        I, also, am right handed, but left eye dominant. In addition, I do NOT have ‘fusion’…both eyes working in sync. It was next to impossible for me to shoot with both eyes open because when I did, I saw two targets, two sets of sights.. Which one was correct? Lol I ‘solved’ my problem by tilting my head to the right enough that the ‘proper’ set of sights ‘appeared’… Hard to explain.. Using my Left eye, instead of my right eye, would have worked but I found I didn’t like doing so…I also am extremely right handed, relearning to shoot left handed, after 50 years seemed too much….Works for me. 🙂

        • George November 14, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

          @ Loren. Something that I have trained right handed people who are left eyed dominate to do is to shoot left handed. Start by getting yourself a left handed rig and dry fire practice. Work on a smooth draw (smooth is fast) lining up with your dominate eye as you draw out and begin your press. Learning to shoot with both eyes open is a great skill set when shooting up close, and yes your speed and accuracy will improve, again, while shooting up close. But, beyond 17yards it becomes very difficult.

  6. Richard Diaz November 2, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    Whenever I try to shoot with both eyes open, my eyes begin to water and everything gets blurry, this is a phenomena I don’t quite understand because I have good vision and my eyes are checked every year, any ideas?

    • Matthew Maruster November 2, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

      Hi Richard,
      Difficult to know for sure, but it sounds like your eyes are getting fatigued. The muscles in your eyes are some of the most sensitive in your entire body. This is what police are looking at when they are looking at someone’s eyes during field coordination tests for DUI’s. The alcohol has big effect on the tiny muscles of the eyes and causes bouncing (nystagmus). The more nystagmus present, the higher the blood alcohol content. Extremely accurate when someone knows what they are looking for.

      Not saying your hammered while you shoot 🙂 just saying that if you are focusing really hard on your sights, you may be tiring out your eyes. See if it happens right away, or after some time at the range. Also, try starting out shooting a little closer. Shooting closer doesn’t require such sight focus and may allow you to start breaking the old habit of closing one eye. As you feel more comfortable you can move back and it won’t be such a strain on your eyes.

      Also try some dry fire and see if you get the same problem. Same as above, maybe practicing outside of the range can lessen the strain on your eyes and mind.

      Hope this helps, and let me know how you do.

  7. Bob Hendricks November 7, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    I always shot with one eye shut, probably because I first started out as a rifle shooter. All through a career as a police officer, I continued to shoot that way. I thought I was pretty good – not the best shot in the dept., but one of the top 5 out of over 200. Then I went to Gunsite where for the first time I shot at something other than a single stationary target on a square range. It was humbling to say the least. That started me looking for better ways. I read about the advantages of “two eye” shooting & gave it a try. I was shooting about the same out to 7 yds., but beyond that, my groups almost doubled. I couldn’t figure out why I was doing so much worse, till I finally went back to closing one eye. Bingo! Back to normal. Maybe it’s just because I’m a geezer now with bifocals, but now I shoot with both eyes open up close, but if I need to make a more precise shot, or a more distant shot, I still close my off eye. I’d be interested to know if others find shooting with both eyes open decreases accuracy at distance.

  8. JLaPointe November 9, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    This has helped me train my eyes:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGlCVTdNqfw

    • Matthew Maruster November 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing this. If your ophthalmologist has diagnosed you with excessive or insufficient eye convergence this is an excersize that can help with training your eyes. I have never had this issue, so I am curious, how long did it take you before you started to see results? Thanks again.

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