Eye Dominance and Cross Dominance Shooting Solutions

March 28, 2023

Eye Dominance and Cross Dominance Shooting Solutions

While taking my youngest right-handed daughter out shooting, I discovered she is left-eye dominant. Many shooters, especially new ones or parents teaching their kids how to shoot, have questions about this topic. I started to research it, and in doing so, I found out after 30-plus years of shooting that I am right-eye dominant, and I have been shooting since I was a kid left-handed because I am left-handed and didn't know that. We have many shooters here at Warne, some of which, like my daughter and I, are cross dominant, so I will share a few experiences because everyone is different regarding being a cross-dominant shooter.

Eye dominance test?

Using this dominant eye test, you can determine whether your left or right eye dominates. Place your hands out as far as possible straight in front of you and form a triangle with your thumb and index fingers. 

testing for dominant eye

Center an object far away, like a wall clock or something similar. For this example, we are using the Warne logo on our door.

dominant eye test

Now close your right eye, and what do you see? Then open it and close your left eye, and what do you see? Whichever eye you still see, the object centered in the triangle is the dominant eye. Whichever eye had the view obstructed by your hand is your non-dominant eye.

The right eye is closed in this photo, and the left hand obstructs the centered logo, showing right-eye dominance.

dominant eye test with weak eye open 

To confirm this, close the left eye; if the whole object is in the center, the right eye is the dominant eye. The opposite would be true for left-eye dominance.

  testing for dominant with weak eye closed

Learn to shoot with the dominant eye rather than the dominant hand.

Taking my youngest daughter out shooting for the first time, I had her shoot right-handed because she is right-handed, and she was trying to look through the scope with her left eye. I wanted her to use the right eye, but she kept trying to use the left eye. A range officer at my range heard the conversation and said, "I bet she is left-eye dominant." So, I had her switch the rifle to the other side she started shooting like a champ.

Experiences shooting cross-eye dominant.

Talking with Brian, the CEO here at Warne, who is right-eye dominant, left-handed, and shoots right-handed. He spoke.

"I honestly don't recall ever trying to shoot a firearm left-handed as I was learning to shoot. I have an older brother, and like any younger sibling, you want to copy them. As soon as I had the chance to start shooting, I copied my brother and my dad and had no issues. I remember later my dad testing me for eye dominance, and he was excited because he didn't have to buy a left-handed rifle. He could pass down my brothers! The topic always comes up when people realize that I am left-handed but shoot right-handed. They always assume I must have been forced to learn it right-handed, but that was never the case. In fact, I remember when I was in kindergarten, and they tried to force me to write with my right hand. I told my mother, and she was at the school the next day tearing into them, lol!

Ultimately, I never really struggled in this area because from about the time I could walk, I was shooting a right-hand firearm, and my eye dominance just happened to line up!

  cross dominant hunter

I would advise performing an eye dominance test on anyone new to shooting and going with whatever the eyes tell you. Teaching someone to hold the firearm in their non-dominant hand would be easier than trying to overcome their eyesight! I have tried to shoot left-handed over the years, and it is incredibly difficult for me because I have so much muscle memory shooting it right-handed. However, it would be easier to learn if I had been left-eye dominant and been taught to shoot left-handed. "

Why should you aim with your dominant eye?

I also spoke to Jake, the Materials Handler here at Warne, and like me, he did not learn that he was cross-eye dominant till later in his life as a hunter/shooter. When asked the same questions, he said?

"By the time I had learned that I was left-handed, I had already been taught to write right-handed. I believe this helped me in life as I'm now somewhat ambidextrous. Even though I'm ambidextrous in some ways, I still started life picking up a rifle and shooting left-handed as that is more natural. I started shooting when I was 8 or 9, then finished Hunter's Safety when I was 12. From 12 years old to about 25 years old, I hunted and shot rifles left-handed, never knowing anything else. I always closed my right eye when I aimed, so no big deal. When I was 25, hunting with my brother-in-law, we spotted a large buck. Everyone was trying to let me shoot as I was the one that spotted the buck. The only problem is that I could not get it in my scope. I'd lift my head and spot the buck outside the scope, then line it up and look through the scope, the buck wasn't there. The buck's patience finally wore out and took off.

That night at camp, while I was depressed about missing out on a rare Oregon buck opportunity, my brother-in-law asked me what my dominant eye was. I had no clue. He said that if I'm shooting left-handed but right-eye dominant, then maybe that's why I have difficulty lining up the scope to the animal quickly. While doing a quick test, I realized he was correct. I'm right-eye dominant. I've been shooting right-handed from that day forward to ensure I'm using my dominant eye.

cross dominant shooter

This is still a bit of a challenge as it is more natural for me to hold the rifle left-handed. Once I'm in a stable shooting situation, I can line up the scope with the target much easier and quicker. I still shoot the shotgun left-handed as it's more natural to swing as I'm following a bird or clay. I lean over the shotgun a little further to hold my right eye over the site.

Luckily, with a pistol, I've always shot right-handed. I don't know why, but it always felt natural."

What should a cross-dominant shooter do?

So, if you are a new shooter or teaching a new shooter, it is essential to find out which eye is dominant and train to shoot based on the dominant eye rather than the dominant hand. If you have been shooting with your strong hand and weak eye for many years and are doing fine, don't worry about it. If you struggle with accuracy or target acquisition, it may be worth shooting based on your dominant eye and seeing if you improve.

What to do after shooting for many years with a non-dominate eye?

So, after discovering after all these years shooting left-handed that I am right-eye dominant and owning left-handed rifles, I should decide if I want to switch over to my dominant eye or keep shooting as I have for many years and what now feels natural to me—some things to consider.

Can I shoot with my non-dominant eye?

If you are shooting a rifle with a scope shooting cross dominant, and that is the way you are trained to shoot, it's ok to shoot that way because you are looking through an optic making your weak eye strong, and most shooters will close the eye they are not aiming with anyway. In most cases, the same goes for shooting with open sights. Open sights use a rear and a front sight, so when you aim even with your weak eye, you align the sight image to your eye using the sights. Although if you are trying to shoot with both eyes open, the results will vary depending on how trained your weak eye is.

Shooting a handgun with a non-dominant eye with strong hand.

If you are cross, dominate. Most cross-eye shooters shoot a handgun with their strong hand and aim with their dominant eye. It's just a slight turn of your face, putting your strong eye forward, which you probably already do.

Shooting Shotgun with a non-dominant eye with the strong hand.

A shotgun is a whole different story because shotguns are often aimed with both eyes open with the dominate eye centering the target in your view unlike a rifle with an optic or front and rear sights aligning your eye with the target. This can make it challenging to shoot with both eyes open, giving a shooter a full field of view to hit a moving target. If you have practiced and have shot with your weak eye or it just feels very unnatural to shoot with your weak hand an option is to shoot with a red dot. This way you can aim with your weak eye using the dot while keeping your strong eye open. 

Warne manufactures a shotgun red dot mount that fits a shotgun rib. This was designed for all shotgun shooters wanting to add a red dot to their shotgun but has shown itself to be a huge benefit for cross-eye dominant shooters wanting to shoot with both eyes open.

Overcoming Cross Eye dominance

Practice. Go to the range or your shooting spot, and with the gun unloaded, practice drawing your rifle on your dominant eye side. I wouldn't shoot at first, just practice shouldering the gun. Work on your stance, holding the gun as you would with your strong arm and holding it steady on target. Then after you get used to shouldering it, practice seeing how fast you can acquire random targets with your strong eye versus your weak eye. This may help you realize if switching after years of shooting with your non-dominant eye to your dominant eye is worthwhile.