Have you ever had trouble lining up the sights on a rifle because your eye didn’t want to focus on the target? This may have caused you to switch the rifle back and forth trying to get a grip that works while being able to use the sights. It is hard to do and never quite feels right when the hand you shoot with is on the opposite side of the eye your brain is trying to use.
Whether you are shooting with your right or left eye, dominance can be an issue when it’s not on the same side as your dominant hand. Many times, cross-dominant shooters find it difficult to sight in a gun and align the front and rear sights properly, especially with iron sights on long guns. In a cross-dominant eye situation, the gun’s barrel is out of line with the target.
While learning to shoot with both eyes open has many advantages, you still need to establish which eye is dominant. This is because the body will still use one eye to focus on the target even when both eyes are open. If you are cross-eye dominant, you may have to learn to shoot just a little differently. Either way, shooting with both eyes open is something you should learn if you haven’t already. Let’s look at how to determine which eye is dominant and what to do if you are cross-dominant. We will also look at why learning to shoot with both the right hand and left hand is important, especially in self-defense situations.
What is a cross-dominant eye?
Most people have one dominant eye, which means their brain prefers to process visual information using that particular eye (typically either the right eye or left eye). Most of the time, the dominant eye is on the same side as our dominant hand. This means a right-handed person will often be right-eye dominant. The dominant eye sends more information directly to the brain than the other eye does.
Shooters typically use their dominant eye, which provides information to the brain that aids in focusing on a target when shooting with pistol, carbine, or shotgun. With a dominant eye, you can more easily adjust your position and technique to improve shooting performance. This gets hard when the hand you use the most is on the opposite side of the dominant eye. Is there a way to fix this?
How To Establish Which Eye is Dominant
Tests can be administered to determine which eye is dominant. One simple test consists of stretching both arms in front of your face and creating a small triangular opening with your thumbs and forefingers. Focus the triangular opening on a distant object, then slowly draw that opening back towards yourself with both eyes open. Stop about six inches away from your face and then close your right eye. If the framed object moves out of view after closing your right eye, this means your left eye is dominant. If you close your left eye and the object stays in the same place, you are right-eye dominant. To confirm this, repeat the process with your left eye. The eye that can be closed without the object moving is the dominant eye.
Another simple test you can do is to point at a small object (like a light switch or doorknob) with both eyes open. Then close first your right eye, then only your left eye. The eye that closes without moving the object is the dominant eye. The eye that is dominant will be the eye that focuses on a target when shooting. A cross-dominant shooter will usually miss their shots because the eye that is not dominant doesn’t have enough information to see the gun or target in front of them. This can cause several clues to appear on the gun range, including high misses and hits that are slightly to the side or off-frame.
How To Shoot a Handgun With a Cross-Dominant Eye
When shooting with a handgun, a cross-dominant eye is not as hard to overcome. When compensating for your cross-dominant eye, learn to shoot with both eyes open. This will enable you to use 100% of your peripheral vision and depth perception to align the sights with the target. With a typical gun stance, a handgun can be moved just enough to use a cross-dominant eye. If you shoot with both eyes open, you may not even notice a difference. I am right-handed but train with my left hand on a regular basis. I am used to keeping both eyes open so when I hold a handgun in my left hand, my right eye still focuses on the optic and target.
You could learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand, so it matches with the same side as your dominant eye, but I have found people struggle with this more. I have found people do best when they hold the gun with their dominant hand and use their dominant eye to aim. To find out what works best for you, head to the range and try them both. What is more comfortable and what combo makes you more accurate?
Learning To Shoot a Rifle With a Cross-Dominant Eye
When shooting a rifle, a cross-dominant eye is more troublesome. If you are right-handed and try shooting a rifle on the right side, you will not be able to see the sights with your left eye. This requires you to use your non-dominant eye which can be done by closing your left eye. This will force the brain to focus through the right eye instead. A red dot makes this process much easier than open sights. Another option is to learn to shoot a rifle with the non-dominant hand. Most guns are set up for right-handed people so some modifications may be required for this.
While you can ultimately use your dominant hand and eye to shoot a handgun, even if they are crossed, this does not work with a rifle. You will need to shoot with either your non-dominant eye or non-dominant hand. This will again come down to what is more comfortable for you. Try both on the range and see what works.
If you decide shooting with the non-dominant eye is better, you can learn to re-train your brain. Keep your eye closed or covered up while shooting and over time, your brain will start to use that eye more. If you are right-eye dominant and decide to shoot left-handed, you can purchase ambidextrous parts for most weapons. AR-15 and Glock parts are the easiest ones to convert.
When it comes down to it, there is no way to “fix” a cross-dominant eye. Instead, you adapt and overcome. Learn to shoot rifles with your non-dominant eye or learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand. Try both ways and see which one works best for you.
Because the brain will always try and focus with the dominant eye, you will have to learn to keep it shut when shooting or practice enough that the other eye becomes dominant. This process is hard but can be done. Some people wear an eye patch on the range to help train the brain to use the other eye. Once you have decided how to overcome a cross-dominant eye on the range, practice, practice, practice. Before you know it, you will forget you ever had an issue to begin with.