Eye Dominance Issues And How To Work With Them

What you see is What you Get!

My previous blog, “HIYS” Part 4, highlighted the importance of understanding eye dominance for shooting and helps you work out what’s going on with your eyes.  You will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Corresponding handedness and eye dominance  – ie right eye dominant and right-handed or left-eye dominant and left-handed
  • Cross dominance – ie right eye dominant and left-handed or vice versa)
  • Partial dominance – the dominant eye is influenced by the non-dominant eye
  • Central vision – both have equal influence, neither eye is dominant

Shooting with both eyes open gives you the perception of depth, speed and full peripheral vision, so if your handedness and eye dominance coincide, then happy days!  

If you fall into one of the other categories, you’ll need to work out the best solution for you and your shooting.  You may or may not be able to have both eyes open; it isn’t always straightforward and may take some experimenting with the different options to work out, but a good coach will be able to help you with this process.

Mixed Messages

Whatever the result of your eye dominance tests, I recommend firstly, that you experiment with shooting off your preferred shoulder with both eyes open.  It may not work but it’s worth exploring as it’s not entirely unheard of to find that your eyes behave differently with a gun in the shoulder.  If there is no joy, then move on.  

When going through the process of establishing what your eyes are doing, be sure that you are actually shooting with both eyes open when you’re meant to be.  It may sound silly but sometimes people shut an eye without realising!  If you do this it will send mixed messages to you and your coach and could lead you down the wrong path!  

In any event, be mindful that eye dominance can change under certain circumstances such as particular targets, tiredness, lots of screen work, dehydration, low blood sugar levels or even different light.  Eye dominance can change at different stages in life or become more susceptible to the above; classically young boys are mostly left-eye dominant but frequently become right-eyed around puberty; the eye dominance of older people can change as well.   More women than men are left-eye dominant.

Cross Dominance 

If you have cross dominance, discuss with your coach your shooting aspirations, what disciplines you want to shoot and how often you would like to participate; taking account of your shooting background too, your coach will help you decide the most appropriate solution to accommodate your eye dominance circumstances.

Whether you want to shoot for fun or competitively, and subject to the individual, my advice is to shoot off the shoulder of your dominant eye so you can keep both eyes open.  If you’re a beginner this is no big deal as you don’t know any different.  If you’ve been shooting a year or so, it’s definitely worth changing shoulders if you want to shoot a lot.  Even if you’ve shot for some years, it may come naturally to swap but it might also require considerable effort to get there; or you may decide you just don’t want to go through that pain barrier!   Swapping shoulders is mostly successful; plenty of Dry Gun Mounting practice speeds up the process, but it needs to be your decision as it’s your shooting that is at stake!  The good news is that you can always change back if it really isn’t working for you. 

A young girl came to me last year for Olympic Skeet lessons.  She’s cross dominant and had been shooting for three years right-handed with her left eye shut.  I suggested she swapped shoulders, advising it was one step back to go three steps forward.  She made up her mind to go for it and practised her dry mounting every day after school.  Three months later she said it felt more natural shooting off her left shoulder than her right. 

If you do change shoulders, you’ll need a stock appropriate to that shoulder.  It won’t harm to practice mounting and shooting with your original stock to get a feel for what it’s like before fully committing to swapping shoulders, both physically and financially!  However, I don’t recommend using a wrong-handed stock as a permanent solution!  

If you don’t want to or can’t change shoulders, then you’ll need to take some other action. Shutting your dominant eye forces your other eye to become your master eye, allowing you to shoot off your preferred shoulder.  This cuts out a lot of peripheral vision and perception of depth and speed which makes shooting that little bit harder.  

An alternative solution is to put a patch on your shooting glasses to block the vision from the influencing eye.  It allows better perception of depth and peripheral vision than when shutting an eye.  The patch needs to be the right size and in the right place.  

Central Vision

Those with central vision can elect to shoot off their preferred shoulder and shut the opposite eye; as above, this is detrimental to your visual acuity in shooting terms, but it can be done and many do do it.  Or similarly, using a patch to obscure the vision of one eye creates a master eye but preferentially it allows more peripheral vision.

Partial Dominance

If you’re 90%, 80% or 70% dominant in one eye (because your non-dominant eye has some influence) it’s possible you can shoot effectively with both eyes open without any correction.  I’m 80% right-eyed and don’t wear a patch.  If you can’t shoot consistently, experiment with patches of different translucency on your non-dominant eye; you can buy kits for this.  Select the most translucent patch that gives you the desired success or removes the “ghost” barrels, if you see them.  This will involve trial and error and scrutiny of the results.  You could use a pattern plate but my view is that shooting targets gives the best results as other factors that can influence pattern plate shots.  

Other Eye Dominance Correction Methods and Gismos

There are other options and products available which work by either patching the eye or putting a gadget on the end of the barrels.   Some of the options available are:

  • Dulled down eye prescription for those with contact lenses or glasses
  • Sellotape patch on glasses of varying layers
  • Red Eye eye dominance kit – magnetic “spots” placed on shooting glasses which can be easily moved or removed; an alternative to sticky opaque patches.
  • Easy Hit bead – a long bead on the end of the gun to prime the preferred eye
  • The SP – a small rubber profile on the side of the gun primes the preferred eye

Beware Fake News!

Certain situations can give the wrong impression about eye dominance ….

If you shoot in fashion glasses you may find when the gun is mounted the top of the frame obscures your master eye vision potentially causing a cross dominance effect.  Shooting glasses come up high above the eye to avoid this problem.  

Poor gun fit can give mixed messages.  A low comb may cause your dominant eye to drop behind the action obscuring the rib of the gun and mimicking the effect of cross dominance.  If your head tips over the stock, say to the right for a right-hander, it may give the impression of trying to get your left eye down the rib ie of cross dominance but it could be caused by an incorrect drop-to-toe measurement or too wide a comb.

Watch out for big bangs!  If your fringe hangs over your dominant eye it can obscure the view and make you appear to be cross dominant; I’ve seen this happen.

Poor gun handling can have the same effect: leaving your thumb on top of the rib while shooting will obscure the view of your master eye so you appear left eye dominant.

Good luck with your eyes!  Explore the options, watch out for the danger areas and get your eyes working for you so you are shooting where you are looking!

Written by Nicki Wakeford