Eye dominance is a neurological imbalance that can adversely affect your shooting ability, says shooting instructor Ben Smith
Most people have a dominant eye, meaning that their brain has a neurological preference for the visual input from a particular eye. For right-handers it is usually the right eye and for left-handers the left, though not always.
In some cases the brain has no preference — this is cross-dominance. My colleagues are of the same view that in most cases it is fairly simple to identify and cure eye dominance — but it is not always your eyes that are the problem.
Eye dominance changes
Around puberty and old age your eye dominance can suddenly change without warning. Before selling your guns and giving up shooting due to a severe drop in form, first check that this hasn’t happened.
There are many pieces of equipment that makers claim can help cure eye dominance but here we are fairly traditional in approach.
Shooting with both eyes open
At my shooting school we agree that if you are new to shooting and have ambidextrous qualities, it is well worth trying to switch the shoulder you shoot from in order to suit your dominant eye and allow you to shoot with both eyes open. “This option suits a person’s natural attributes,” says colleague Robert. So try shooting from the shoulder on your dominant eye side — it may feel strange at first, but with practice it will become second nature.
Shutting an eye
Shutting an eye is a good option if you cannot mount under your master eye. Colleague Nigel says that some of the best Shots he knows close an eye. “Other than shooting at a pin-straight driven bird, closing an eye barely inhibits you for almost any other shot you may be asked to make,” he points out. There is a valid argument that closing an eye can restrict your peripheral vision. To remedy this, Nigel advises his clients to keep both eyes open for as long as possible while addressing the target, before closing the dominant eye as
the gun is brought into the shoulder.
Again, practice makes perfect.
“Believe it or not, there are some people who physically cannot shut an eye while keeping the other open,” says Nigel. In this instance, and if switching shoulders has been deemed unhelpful or uncomfortable, then obscuring the lens on a pair of glasses on the dominant eye side is a cheap, simple and effective option. You can buy magnetic patches that you can fix to your glasses to obscure your dominant eye from companies such as Redeye.
Other useful pieces of equipment include EasyHit foresights, which are affordable fibre-optic beads that are fitted to the end of the rib. They are designed to convince the brain to give precedence to the eye that is positioned over the rib of the gun, therefore curing the eye dominance issue.
As far as specialist equipment to remedy eye dominance goes, neither Nigel nor Robert are huge believers. However, both hastened to add that certain pieces of equipment may revolutionise shooting for some people.
“We are all different,” Robert points out, so there are certainly cases where specialist equipment has solved on-going problems with eye dominance.
Do you need specialist eye dominance equipment?
The pros of specialist eye dominance equipment are that they can give you confidence and set your mind at ease. Confidence in your equipment choice is key, so try before you buy and you might find something that will work well for you.
As for the cons, Nigel says: “The majority of equipment designed to remedy eye dominance is affixed to the gun, so it makes you look at the gun, not the target.” This may stop your swing on a moving target, missing the target behind.
Gun fit and gun mount
One of the first points that Nigel and Robert both made was that of gun fit. “If you shoot with a gun that doesn’t fit you, you may not only shoot poorly, but also give people the impression that you have an eye dominance problem that needs to be remedied,” says Robert.
Getting a gun that fits you and your shooting style is vital and should be dealt with when you first start shooting. Book a gun fit — then buy a gun that fits you.
Gun mount is another important issue that again can give onlookers the idea that you have a problem with eye dominance. A good, consistent gun mount is paramount to being a good Shot so it is something that Robert and Nigel focus on intently.
We all like to get the gun out of the cabinet occasionally and wield it around the living room (empty, of course). Practise your gun mount during these moments; repetition is key and if you have a mirror, even better. Those who are lucky to have great hand-eye co-ordination can often still shoot well despite a poor gun fit and gun mount — but they could be so much better.
Trust the professionals
There is a real divide among those who shoot, particularly game Shots. On the one hand there are people who frequently seek help with their shooting, or at the very least practise once or twice a month.
On the other, there are those who avoid seeking help, almost as a matter of pride. They cannot be seen to be taking their shooting too seriously — by having a lesson or visiting a clay ground — yet they can still be seen shaking their heads as another bird or clay evades them.
Game Shots have a moral obligation to prepare as best we can in order to make clean kills. No one likes to wound birds and, in these times of close scrutiny, we must do all we can to avoid bringing the sport into disrepute.
Shooting is also becoming an ever more expensive hobby/sport, so why not invest in at least a few practice sessions to make the most out of your various other shooting-related investments?
When it comes to issues such as eye dominance, it can be easily fixed nine times out of 10 at a shooting ground. Nigel and Robert urged anyone who thinks they have a problem with eye dominance to consult a qualified shooting instructor: “Book an hour at a shooting ground as issues like eye dominance cannot be identified or cured in a living room or gun shop.”
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Eye dominance can be a frustrating problem to have and there are plenty of products and methods that can be adopted to help solve it. So the first step to improve your shooting ability is to ask a professional.