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What exactly is eye dominance and why is it so important?

Someone learning to shoot needs to understand the implications of eye dominance, says David Turner.

master eye

Are your barrels pointing where you think they are?

Eye dominance, sometimes referred to as “master eye”, is the tendency to subconsciously prefer visual input from one eye to the other while maintaining the value of binocular vision.

First, let’s clearly understand that shooting well with a shotgun is an art form and not a calculated sport, unlike that of rifle shooting (although we may think about a measured lead in order to establish forward allowance). Those blessed with good hand and eye co-ordination often do well, as they also would with various ball sports. We are shooting at a moving target in a three-dimensional arena, which needs our spatial awareness, depth-of-field perception and visual acuity to be the very best we can muster.

Shutting an eye

When we mount our gun and look along the rib with both eyes open, we subconsciously appreciate the breadth of the full picture and derive a complete, three-dimensional view and understanding of target speed, angle and distance, with the appropriate eye taking ownership of the view of both target and rib. Shutting an eye denies us the full picture.

Having taught a lot of newcomers to the sport I have found that, almost without exception, they will put the gun to their shoulder and naturally shut an eye to sight along the rib. They can be forgiven for thinking “that’s what you do” when using a gun that you look along and line up with a target. If we then ask them to open both eyes they can get confused and bewildered by a vague and woolly picture. If it’s a have-a-go situation, then a good instructor will allow the shooter to close one eye and maybe not ever mention dominance. On the other hand, someone learning to shoot needs to understand clearly the implications of dominance and that same good instructor will ensure that’s the case.

With the wrong dominance, the gun will not be pointing where the shooter thinks, as can be seen in the diagram above.

eye dominance test

With both eyes open bring the CD towards you. Your hand will naturally bring the hole of the CD to your dominant eye.

How do I know what my master eye or eye dominance is?

There are a few ways to check. Most commonly, point at a distant object with both eyes open and look along your arm and pointing finger, focusing on the object. Shut each eye in turn. The dominant eye should be pointing at the object; the “off” eye will be pointing way off to the side.

Another good way is to use a CD or 
DVD. Holding it at arm’s length, look through the hole with both eyes open. Then bend your arm, bringing the disc back to the eye that is seeing it. That will be your dominant eye. In the event that neither of these methods work, you might have central or middle vision, which means both eyes share the view and one is no more dominant than the other. This will cause a miss to the left for a right-handed shooter and the opposite for those who are left handed.

What do I do if I have the “wrong” dominance?

You could change shoulders and learn to shoot off the opposite shoulder. That’s a tough one for most people, but with perseverance it can be achieved. Or you could shut your “off” eye. Some struggle with this as they are not used to it.

There are various products available to help, most addressing the symptoms through use of patches — adhesive spots for glasses that obliterate the view from the “off” eye. Some contact lens wearers even use a poorer prescription for their off eye, which is a good plan for those shooters.

eye dominance and shooting

Eye dominance and shooting

Eye dominance and your shooting! Everyone can improve their shooting by understanding more about eye dominance.

There are also products on the market that use our brain to help address this issue, such as the Easy Hit Fibre 
Optic Foresite. The product “trains” the brain to see the fibre-optic bead with the eye that’s over the rib.

So the brain recognises instantly the fluorescent bead and adopts the correct dominance. This also works for shooters who have “middle vision”, as the bead deepens the dominance.