Friday, April 26, 2013

Just the Basics - Your Dominant Eye


Dominant: commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others

Our bodies work out a lot of the mechanics of everyday living as we grow. Balance, movement, reaching, the incorporation of vision and touch . . . . it’s an amazingly complex machine. It takes years to train.

One of the “decisions” our bodies usually make is whether an individual is right handed or left handed. It’s not that one hand or the other is useless . . . . just which one is “dominant”, which hand do we prefer to use. There are some folks who are truly ambidextrous – they are fully comfortably using either hand interchangeably. Rare, but they are out there.

Typically, our eyes follow our hand preference. If we are right hand dominant, our body prefers to use our right eye first to focus on an object that we may be reaching for. In the shooting sports – eye dominance plays an important part is “sighted fire”. Those instances when we take full advantage of sight alignment and sight picture prior to pressing the trigger. So what is an easy way to determine which of our eyes is the “dominant” one?

Start by extending your arms out in front of you and forming a triangle . . . it looks something like this:


Pick a point in the distance and put it at the center of the triangle. I have chosen the face of a 1900s Waterbury Clock that sits on our mantel. KEEP BOTH EYES OPEN.

Then, slowly move your hands towards your face, keeping both eyes open and slowly making the triangle smaller and smaller until your hands touch your face and you can still see the clock face.

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With your hands touching your face, the triangle intact, both eyes open and the clock face clearly visible . . . . close one eye at a time. DO NOT MOVE YOUR HANDS! The eye you close, that makes the clock face disappear, is your dominant eye. Try this exercise a couple of time, you’ll get the hang of it.

Could you be right handed BUT left-eye dominant?? Sure, and just the opposite as well . . . left handed BUT right-eye dominant. This is called “cross-eye” dominant. For pistol shooting, a small adjustment in your head position can compensate for sighted fire. For defensive fire – “metal on meat” - eye dominance has little effect.

However, for long-gun shooting using iron sights or a scope, you may well find it easier to switch shooting hands. Again, cross-eye dominant shooters are not all that common – in the 20% range. And, if you are cross-eye dominant, you can certainly training your body to adapt to either switching shooting hands, or using your non-dominant eye.

Do this little exercise, figure out which is your dominant eye and then adapt as necessary.


  1. I'm right-handed, but left-eye dominant. Figured that one out years before I started shooting, when I found that it was easier to look over my left shoulder while jogging (better peripheral vision on left side) to check for traffic approaching from behind than to look over my right shoulder. Handguns are easy, as you said, a slight shift in hand and head position, and everything lines up. Rifles, though, I have to shoot left-handed. Not a problem with a semiauto (just watch that a couple of burn scars around my right elbow from low-flying brass), but on a bolt-action like my Mosin, I have to unweld from the stock, and then wrestle the bolt (that may be more due to it being a Mosin than anything, Enfield didn't seem to cause much problem) to eject and rack another round. But there's no problem pulling the trigger!

  2. Yep, an interesting problem, but you 'can' train the other eye... Not easily, but the Army came up with a procedure for their helo pilots using a patch on the dominant eye. Or not... :-)

  3. Rabid - I am always suprised when a shooter "discovers" they are cross eye dominant. Just doesn't occur to folks.

    Jim - I think it's easier to switch "sides" for rifle shooting. Pistol, it's pretty easy to adjust. As for helo pilots . . . well, there ya go. :)

  4. Tell ya what, when I decided to try shooting southpaw with a rifle one range trip, it was frikkin AMAZING the difference it made! Literally night-and-day change in my groupings.

  5. I am right-hand/left-eye dominant and have had all sorts of fun with the rifle and especially "pointing" with a shotgun. My wife and oldest son (out of the six of us) are all right-hand/left-eye dominant! So training my family is fun.

    But then again that is probably while I prefer pistols....

    It does make "weak-hand" pistol shooting better so it is not all bad... ;)