Finding Your Dominant Eye

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.

Starting position for the pointing test, simply close eye to find dominant eye.

 

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.

Starting position for the circle test, draw hands back to face

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.

Example of correct scotch tape placement on glasses.

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.

Example of Off-Eye Optical Lens Filter

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.

 

About the author: Jake Wallace was introduced to the shotgun sports after breaking his hips when he was 11, which forced him into a wheelchair for 23 months. He saw a shooting program on one of the outdoor networks and thought that it was something he could do from a chair. Jake started shooting ATA from a chair and progressed to international when he was able to walk again. He loves being in the outdoors because nothing clears his mind like sitting in the woods or on a boat. Jake was part of Lindenwood University’s history of success having graduated from there in 2012 after being a part of four ACUI National Championships for the Lions from 2009-12. He currently resides in Colorado Springs where he’s a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. JAKE WALLACE: Hunting for Trap Superiority http://www.usashooting.org/news/usasnews/USAnews-2017-August/?page=22 Competition Highlights • 2018 World Cup Gold Medalist, Mixed Team • 2017 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2017 World Championships Team Member • 2017 Qatar Open, First Place • 2016 Fall Selection Match Champion • 2015 Shotgun Team Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 USA Shooting National Championships, Gold Medalist • 2014 Championship of the Americas, Silver Medalist – shot a perfect 125 in qualification to tie World Record • 2014 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 Spring Selection, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Granada World Cup, Sixth Place • 2013 World Clay Target Championships Team Member • 2013 National Championships, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Spring Selection Match, Bronze Medalist • 2010 World Championships Junior Team, Silver Medalist (w/ M. Gossett) • 2010 World Championships Junior Team Member

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Gordon August 29, 2018, 5:50 pm

    Easier use spotting scope look through it and it will always be the dominant eye.

  • G. Q. Clodfelter August 27, 2018, 4:11 pm

    This is about shooting not English grammar. So teach what will our word for tomorrows lesson be?

  • Mark Klusmeier August 27, 2018, 8:35 am

    Bypass the Birchwood-Casey item. Although there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s pricey for what you get. Accomplish the same thing by taking about the same money to Staples. Buy the transparent/translucent pricing dots — you can get 1000 or more for $8-10. (DON’T get the opaque ones.) They’re about 5/8″ in diameter and are in varying colors. I use 2 reds and a green together (on top of one another) to start. Mount your (empty) gun, and have a friend, looking at you from the downrange side, place the dot(s) on your glasses directly over the pupil of the eye you want to occlude (your dominant, “off” eye). This will allow that eye full peripheral vision, but occlude the target itself, forcing your non-dominant eye to handle the shot. These dots also peel off without residue, so they can be removed (and later replaced) if you use the same glasses for other disciplines too. And, if you want to lessen the occlusion, just use 2 dots instead of 3, or change the color of one or more. (Almost) infinite possibilities exist.

  • Michael S. Mince August 27, 2018, 3:43 am

    The word is “sight”, not “site”

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