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Issues with eye dominance when shooting: how to deal with them

Which is your dominant eye when shooting?

Man holding shotgun

Matt Clark working on issues with eye dominance

Do you have issues with eye dominance?

Eye dominance is the tendency to favour one eye to the other while maintaining the value of binocular vision. It’s a subconscious thing so you won’t be aware of it. 

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 

In some cases the brain has no preference — this is cross-dominance. Let’s find out more about these issues with eye dominance. (Is your eyesight affecting your shooting? Here’s what you can do about it.)

issues with eye dominance

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

Both eyes open vs one closed

When we mount our gun and look along the rib with both eyes open, our brains are taking in the full picture, receiving a complete, three-dimensional view and understanding of target speed, angle and distance. Shutting an eye denies that.

A newcomer to shooting will almost always 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 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 issues with eye dominance.

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 to discover your dominant eye

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.

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.

Shooting with an eye patch for eye dominance correction

Shooting with an eye patch

The problem with patches on lenses

  • A patch on safety glasses is okay for shooting trap targets but not for sporting/skeet or FITASC type targets, due to the acute angles thrown up.
  • Another problem with the ‘patch on the glasses’ method is that shooting glasses will always be slipping down your nose – placing the patch in completely the wrong place.
  • The patch also hinders your vision and is very annoying when loading the gun and looking for pick-up points.
  • To judge speed, distance and angle of the target, you will need to see the target/bird with both eyes open at first. The patch on the lens technique can hinder this. By far the best technique is to see the bird with both eyes WIDE open. (Read should I start to close an eye when shooting?)
  • Once you have seen the bird you can then close the left eye and shoot the target/bird with the WIDE-open right eye, using the necessary technique to kill the target consistently.
  • If the eye is open wide more light enters, so you see the target better along its entire flight path.
  • When you’re practising dry mounting, try calling for the bird and then saying in your head: Two eyes, one head, bang.
  • If you can’t shut/wink your eye then the patch on the glasses is the only option.
questions about eye dominance

Your dominant eye should be the one you use to look along the centre of the gun’s rib

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 won’t have any issues with eye dominance. You’ll be cured instantly because you’ll able to shoot at last with both eyes open – and have binocular vision.

Eye dominance terminology

– Absolute dominance in the eye looking down the rib – keep both eyes open and focus locked on the bird, the bird and nothing but the bird.

– Predominant dominance (one eye is predominantly but not fully dominant) in the eye looking down the rib – keep both eyes open with appropriate cast, or, squint an eye as the gun comes to the shoulder or otherwise block the vision to it.

– True cross-dominance (eg right-handed but left eye dominant) – squint/close opposite eye, block vision to it, use a full crossover stock, or change shoulders.

– Intermittent or occasional cross-dominance – probably caused by poor focus discipline or bad gun fit. Consider what rib picture you can see when the gun is mounted at 45 degrees with normal cheek pressure.

– Central vision (neither eye dominant) – close eye opposite rib, block vision to it, consider acquiring a semi-crossover stock.

– Indeterminate dominance – both eyes fighting for control, close eye opposite rib or block vision to it.

Shooting with both eyes open

In an ideal world we would shoot a shotgun with both eyes open. This allows our brains to  combine two images which provide us with the depth of vision to judge angle and distance. It also establishes a point on a line drawn between the centres of the pupils – our eye dominance point.

If we are right-handed and shoot from the right shoulder, with luck it will be the right eye that determines our point of aim; vice versa if left-handed.

But this doesn’t apply to a lot of people. Eye dominance seems to be established at puberty and there is a higher occurence of opposite eye dominance in women. Eye dominance can also change during a lifetime.

Try shooting from the shoulder on your dominant eye side — it may feel strange at first, but with practice it will become second nature.

Eye dominance checking

Be wary of self-diagnosing your own eye dominance – it is much better to go to a reputable instructor

Trust the professionals

When it comes to issues with eye dominance, they can be easily fixed nine times out of 10 at a shooting ground.

shooting lesson

Unfortunately for shooters, there seems to be no direct link between a person’s hand and eye dominance

Questions about issues with eye dominance

Q: I have to close my left eye because of eye dominance, so sometimes I lose sight of high driven birds. What can I do to stop this? 

A: If you’re losing sight of the bird in this way then it suggests that your gun is too low in the comb, and needs raising.

When the gun is mounted and brought to an ever-steeper angle, your right eye drops below the line of the rib causing you to either lift your head from the stock or open the left eye in an attempt to regain sight of the bird.

You might even slow/stop the swing of the gun with the same result. A  missed target. Raising the gun’’s comb height means your one good eye remains on the bird throughout the mounting process allowing you to pull off a successful shot.

Often you only need to lift the comb by a quarter of an inch to achieve a remarkable transformation. It’s worth experimenting to discover what suits you best. You’ll find rubber comb raisers in different sizes in most good gun shops.

Q: Will I always need a patch for my left eye dominance?

Q: I’m a female Gun and have just begun shooting. I’m left-eye dominant and my instructor demonstrated that a small patch or piece of tape on the lens of my safety glasses helps. Will I always have to use this ‘patch on glasses’ technique?

A: Around 80% of women have left eye dominance but shoot from the right shoulder. If that’s the way you feel you’re most comfortable shooting then that’s fine.

But to shoot consistently, for anyone with a cross dominance issue, you will find you either need to close an eye or place a patch in a very precise spot on the lens of your safety glasses, in order to block out the target from the left eye. You can also have the stock of your gun altered too to counteract the cross dominance.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.