Most of you have probably noticed that when you look at a shotgun, unlike other guns there is no rear sight. Most of the time there is a bead on the front of the gun and sometimes there is one in the middle, called a mid-bead. These beads are used as reference points for your eyes, which are the true “sights” of a shotgun and are what is crucial for placing an accurate shot. Shotguns are designed to be shot with two eyes, with both eyes open you gain the full 180-degree field of view as well as depth perception. This allows your brain to gather the correct information to calculate distance and speed, which allows you to place the right amount of lead on a target and make a successful shot.
Although it is possible to shoot with one eye closed it is not the most effective way to shoot a shotgun at moving targets. Starting to shoot a shotgun with one eye is the biggest mistake that anyone who wants to shoot or hunt effectively can do. I personally struggled with this as a young shooter, shooting almost my first two years closing one eye. When my coach decided to switch me over to two eyes it was the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced. It took almost 8 months for me to begin to get the hang of it and I almost quit several times along the way. With both eyes open a shooter must establish a dominant eye, this is the eye that your brain diverts to automatically when it sees motion or focuses on an object. In this piece, I will outline how to establish which eye is dominant and how to fix cross dominance issues.
First, we have to establish the dominant eye. There are several methods to establish this, but I prefer two. I call them the pointing test and the circle test. They are not great names, but they are the two most effective ways of figuring out which eye is dominant.
We will start with the pointing test. This is done simply by choosing a stationary object about 8-10 feet away, about the size of an apple. Then take your dominant hand and point at the object with your index finger, looking at the object close the opposite eye of the hand that you are pointing with. If the object appears to stay in the same place relative to your finger then this is your dominant eye, if the object moves however then the other eye is dominant.
The circle test is even simpler. Pick an object on a wall across a room, then reach out with both hands and create a circle with your thumbs and index fingers. While keeping both eyes open, slowly bring that circle back to your face while focusing on the object, you will automatically bring your hands back to the dominant eye.
These tests will work for almost everyone when trying to determine eye dominance. Most people erroneously believe that your dominant eye and dominant hand are linked and that they will be the same. For example, right-handed people will be right eye dominant and the same for left-handed shooters having left eye dominance. This is not always the case, sometimes a person can be cross dominant; meaning that their dominant eye and hand are not the same. If you are left handed and right eye dominant you would be an example of a cross dominant shooter.
Being cross-eyed dominant can be very frustrating, especially when you are trying to shoot a sport that requires you to have both eyes open. There are some ways to help fix this issue. One is to switch which shoulder you mount the gun with to the dominant eye side. This is difficult and can take a lot of time. You are basically trying to reteach your body how to hold, move and use a gun all over again.
One option for target shooters is a sight blinder, it is a small piece of metal that you can attach to the rib of the shotgun. Mine is made by Meadow Industries. It does not allow your opposite eye to see the bead on the front of the gun, which helps your eye resist wanting to look at the bead causing the eye to take over. This is popular in American Trap (ATA). The one downside that I don’t like is that it can block you from seeing a target that heads in the direction of the blinder. Meaning if it’s on the left side of the gun then it is sometimes difficult to see a target going left. But I have shot with one and find that it can help. And, it’s not a bad option for $17.
A simpler option is to use scotch tape to occlude the dominant eye enough for the opposite eye to take over. This is simple and can be done by placing a small piece of tape on your shooting glasses in view of your dominant eye. You will still get the correct information for speed and distance because you have both eyes open, but your non-dominant eye will take over and allow you to make the shot.
There is also a company called Birchwood Casey that makes a product called Off-Eye Optical lens filters. They are basically tape that has varying levels of occlusion. This tape allows you to train your non-dominant eye to take over and eventually you will not have to use tape anymore because you have trained the other eye to take over, this will take some time but the tape will still allow you to shoot while learning this process. I find these to be a great option for around $10. You can’t go wrong.
Both of these processes take time for your brain to figure out what is going on, and only time and practice will help you get through it, but once you do, you will become a much more effective shotgun shooter. With enough time you will eventually be able to take the tape or filters off your glasses and you will be able to just use both your eyes without any occlusion.