When it comes to shooting, eye dominance and the role it plays is a question that comes up a lot. Many shooters often wonder what eye dominance is and how to know which eye is their dominant eye.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about eye dominance and how it pertains to shooting a firearm.
What Is Eye Dominance?
Eye dominance is our tendency to favor the visual input from one eye over the other. Because of our binocular vision (two eyes), we receive and must process visual information from each eye on two planes.
Information from the stronger eye, the dominant eye, gets prioritized and tends to be what we focus on. This is a subconscious process that we have no control over.
How to Determine Your Dominant Eye
There are two main tests to determine which eye is your dominant eye:
The first involves a CD or similar object with a round hole. With both eyes open, hold the CD out in one hand and slowly bring it towards your face. Your hand will naturally guide the center hole of the disk up to your dominant eye.
You can also try to point at an object in the distance with both eyes open. Then, look along your arm and pointing finger as you focus on the object. Shut each eye individually and determine which eye is pointing at the object. The non-dominant eye will be pointing off to the side.
For most people, if you are left-handed, you're left-eye dominant and if you’re right-handed, you are right-eye dominant. However, this is not always the case.
What Is Cross-Eye Dominance?
Cross-eye dominance is when your dominant eye is the opposite of your dominant hand. For left-handed people, this would mean their right eye is dominant and vice-versa.
Most of the time, cross-eye dominance is not going to affect you in day-to-day life. Many people are cross-eye dominant and don’t even notice. However, shooting is one of those tasks where cross-eye dominance can be a hindrance. Additionally, it can become more of an issue when shooting at longer ranges.
How Does Eye Dominance Affect Shooting?
Eye dominance interacts with shooting when you are looking down the sights of the firearm, as it creates a sort of invisible line.
If this line does not line up with the plane of your dominant eye, it can be more difficult to see the target or make accurate shots. This comes up with cross-dominant shooters because the firearm is lined up with the plane from the shooting hand and needs to coincide with the plane of the opposite eye.
Rifle Versus Handgun
Cross-dominance is more easily corrected when shooting a handgun. You could swap the main shooting hand, but a simpler solution would be to shift the position of the handgun slightly past the center of your body so that the opposite eye can focus on the sights easier.
When shooting a rifle, your options for correcting cross-dominance are more difficult. You’ll have to decide whether you’re going to use the non-dominant eye or the non-dominant hand.
Swapping the rifle to the non-dominant hand may feel awkward at first, but it is ultimately the better solution because it will feel natural with training. You can also close the non-firing eye to make focusing easier, but this is not optimal.
If you are trying to train at shooting with the non-dominant eye, here are some techniques for the range that will work with rifles, shotguns and handguns:
Use a weaker contact lens in one eye while shooting
Put a patch over one eye
Use lip balm on one lens of your safety glasses
Train with your other hand
Should You Shoot with Both Eyes Open or One Closed?
Most new shooters tend to naturally close one eye while aiming to help them focus on the target and sights. This is a more natural shooting position and makes it easier to direct your focus, however, it also reduces your overall field of vision.
This is adequate for range work or target shooting, but it is not optimal for self-defense.
If you shoot with both eyes open, you are able to see more of the area around you and increase your situational awareness.
This is important for personal protection because it will give you more time to react if an additional threat presents itself. If you have been shooting with one eye closed, you can train yourself out of this habit by blurring one of the lenses on your shooting glasses with some lip balm.
This will help you focus your dominant eye like you do when you are shooting with one eye closed, and you can decrease the amount of balm as you practice until you are proficient with both completely visible.
If you get stuck trying to figure out which eye is your dominant eye or are working on correcting cross-eye dominance to become a better shooter, check out our other articles on The Shooter’s Log. There are plenty of tactics you can use to increase your shooting proficiency for both self-defense and range use.