Determining Your Dominant Eye
Shooting any gun requires we use our eyes, but some people get farther along in shooting than they ought to without ever knowing which their dominant eye is. Or, understanding why it’s important to know which it is. In this blog, I’ll explain and show you a simple way to determine your dominant eye. Then, I’ll speak to other things to help the dominant eye do its job. I’ll also share some info for shooting a pistol with your non-dominant eye and when it’s acceptable.
Shooting is a sport that requires you to use your eyes. It requires hand-eye coordination along with fine motor skills. It requires that you both move your eyes and make decisions on what to do with your hands, fingers, feet, and the rest of yourself based on the information that your eyes bring in. Seeing the sights of a handgun requires a little more concentration and practice as compared to a rifle with an optic or a shotgun where we often have a very loose focus on any sight (too, in shotgun shooting, it’s really best to focus specifically on the target rather than the sight of the gun). It takes mental awareness and purposeful, conscious focus to track and re-acquire the sights on a pistol during the shooting sequence.
Our dominant eye is usually our strong eye. It tends to be the same eye as the same dominant hand, however there can be anomalies. How do I know this? I’m one of them! I do everything right-handed, but shoot a pistol and a camera with my left eye. I have some damage to my right retina, so I just use my left instead.
How do we check eye dominance? The first way, is to simply stand in a room or outside, and focus on something at a distance. A light switch plate toggle across the room works great for this, or some object in your yard. Make a small hole to look through by placing your outstretched hands together thumbs overlapping, and open palms (see photo).
Here is the process: With BOTH eyes look through the space between your hands at the object at a distance and center it in the opening in your hands. Next, close one eye, then the other. Observe what happens. Your dominant eye will be the eye that has the SAME view as what you see with both eyes open. So, you will see the object with both eyes and the one that you still see the object with while the other is closed is your dominant eye. Another option is to use your thumb and hold your arm out. Cover an object in the distance with your thumb. Look with both eyes open and then close one eye at a time. Again, the eye that has the same “view” as what you see with both eyes open is going to be your dominant eye.
Your dominant eye can change, but not typically. Some people teach their eyes to change. My eye’s damage has affected me to where my left eye has become dominant. This isn’t a problem for pistol, but I make a point that when I hold a handgun to shoot. I don’t contort my body or tilt my head – I bring the gun up in line with my eye. And that’s really all that one does if their right eye is dominant. The issue comes in when you shoot long guns and are right-handed, but left eye dominant. In that case, my personal opinion is to shoot right handed. You are going to have a much better outcome with using the fine motor skills of your right hand and a weaker eye versus a strong eye, but clumsy body. I know this from trying to use my left eye to zero rifles. I can see so much better, but my trigger control for very precise shots is infinitely better with my right hand.
So, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t change what you’re doing, or that you have to shoot one way or another. Shoot what feels right to you. Obviously, use your dominant eye, but I would use a non-dominant eye and the hand I was born using over switching what side of the gun I shot from just because of my eyesight.
Many people will tell you that you need to shoot with both eyes open as well, and that is a learned skill with a pistol. It’s okay to partially squint one, or if you have a tough time shooting with both eyes open. You can use a piece of tape on the lens of your safety glasses to occlude your vision and force your strong eye to only see what is needed while the other eye can stay open to take in light, see your periphery, etc., but it won’t try to take control…it will be blocked.
So, check your eye dominance, and get ready to start dry-firing because next week we are going to talk about getting your gun and the rest of your gear set just for you, and then we’re about ready to shoot!
Becky Yackley primarily competes in 3 Gun, USPSA, Bianchi pistol, but has competed in shooting since 1989 in disciplines from service-rifle, to NCAA Air Rifle & Smallbore, air pistol, and a little bit of long range rifle.