Got issues with eye dominance when you're out shooting clays? Here's a surprising way of dealing with them.
Do you have issues with eye dominance?
I shoot from the right shoulder but have a left dominant eye. I’ve tried shooting with both eyes open but then my stronger left eye takes ‘control’ of the gun muzzles and sends the shot to the left, wide of the mark.
Different shooting instructors treat eye dominance differently
Some tell their pupils to close the dominant eye just as they mount the gun. Others tell you to start mounting the gun on your other shoulder.
If you can manage to do this then you’ll be cured instantly because you’ll able to shoot at last with both eyes open – and have binocular vision.
But what if you’re stuck as a one-eyed shooter?
What if you try to swap hands and fail? Will you have to see the target through just one eye for the rest of your shooting career?
I have to say that dimming my left eye has never been a problem. I think you probably compensate for it and it becomes automatic.
When I’m shooting clays I do sometimes lose sight of the bird for a moment but unless I stop the swing of the gun it doesn’t cause a problem.
Enter the radical shooting instructor
He says: “If you shoot with an eye closed, it’s time you stopped guessing where the target is and learned to shoot with both eyes open! Nobody should shoot with an eye closed.
“I convert between six and 10 people to my method of shooting every week.”
How does he do it?
Nick has five rules.
- Never look at the end of the gun, only the target
- Keep both eyes open
- Pay close attention to stance and gun mounting – they’re vital
- Think right edge (if right-handed). Left edge if left-handed
- Make your left arm (if right-handed) do 80% of the work, and vice versa in the case of a left-handed shot
He also starts controversially: “Everything that’s natural in shooting is wrong.”
Shoot at the target
I was instructed to shoot AT the target as you don’t see lead with both eyes open. (Or only a small amount.)
Nick described my brain as a computer that would communicate with my eyes and then I’ll hit the clay.
Nick sent a driven bird and I followed his instructions.
“Both eyes open, look hard at the target and shoot at it.”
Much to my amazement I hit it.
Nick then asked me why I had smashed it and I admitted that I hadn’t a clue.
That was the right reply.
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I was hitting everything effortlessly
The cynical side of me thought that I’d probably have hit it anyway. But Nick sent more and more driven birds along and I hit them all. So I had to admit he was right.
It was hard to not instinctively dim my left eye but on the other hand, I was hitting everything effortlessly.
The ideal position for a gun
Nick advised: “The more cast you have on your gun the better you will shoot because it brings the centre rib of the gun back into line.
“The ideal position for the gun would be in the middle of your chest but this of course would be extremely painful and isn’t possible. What you’ve got to remember is that a right-handed shot naturally pulls to the left to compensate so the more cast there is, the better.
“Remember that the brain is a very complex computer and you need to rely on it to sort out your sight, not complicate matters by dimming an eye and putting everything out of kilter.”
Thinking right and left edge
I am right-handed and so Nick advised me to always think of the gun’s right edge when bringing the stock to my shoulder. Right-handers have a natural tendency to drag the gun to the left, and off line. Think ‘right edge’ automatically makes your left arm stop the drag and hold the line. Your left arm will work harder because it pushes to the right edge. (The opposite applies to left handers.)
Nick pointed out a couple of faults I’d acquired during my shooting . The first was that I put more weight over my front foot so that my head stayed on the stock.
Nick told me to raise my left arm higher so that it took over the handling of the gun and made it easier for me to counteract drag during mounting.
I was also taught to bring my hand lower on the fore-end to improve my gun control
No more issues with eye dominance
Next up were more challenging birds. Nick’s technique worked for me again and again. I couldn’t miss.
I had to admit it was easier shooting with both eyes open.
“Cant your gun to the right when turning left and do the opposite when turning to the right. Do not lead, shoot straight at the target with both eyes open” said Nick.
This was a command I found really hard to follow as all my instincts told me to put lead on the bird. I tend to shoot quite quickly and naturally use ‘maintained lead’ so Nick was trying to slow me down.
Nick talked about ‘muzzling’ which means mounting the gun near the target. Using both eyes to see, canting the barrels and ‘muzzling’ automatically places the gun on the line of the target.
The outcome is that you end up with a shorter swing but this technique does need consistent timing and rhythm.
Am I a convert to this method?
Well, Nick had me hitting driven birds every time using his method.
With crossers I found it hard not to lead but leave the momentum of the gun and my brain to do the work. It didn’t feel right and I was finding it hard to concentrate by then. I probably needed more time with Nick.
Should you visit Nick?
Go and have a lesson. I’d also recommend those starting shooting to see him if they suspect they have a dominant eye. If you have a good technique from the start it’s the best way of becoming a respectable shooter.