What to do when your dominant eye differs from your dominant hand

“Cross dominance” is more than just winning first place in a drag show.  It’s what you call it when your dominant hand is on the opposite side of your dominant eye, which can be a real hassle for shooters.

Anyone in a sport that requires aim should know that using both eyes (binocular vision) creates an effect called parallax, or the change in the perceived location of your target when seen along two lines of sight.  Shooters will naturally rely more on their dominant eye to properly acquire a target.

However, if you’re cross-dominant, aiming might be a challenge for you.

Finding your good eye: Testing for eye dominance

According to Positive Shooting, like 30 percent of all men (the numbers are a little more complex for women), my dominant hand and dominant eye don’t match.  I write, throw, shoot and do damn near every other task with my right hand.  But when I test for eye dominance, my left eye is the clear winner. 

How do you test which eye is dominant?  With both eyes open, hold out your finger and line it up with an object.  I’ll use the neck of my guitar for this example.  With both eyes open and your finger aligned with the guitar (or whatever), close your right eye.  If your finger is still aligned with only your left eye open, you’re left eye dominant.

The author would be left eye dominant in this example.

The author would be left eye dominant in this example.

Now close your left eye and open your right.  If you’re left eye dominant, your finger will no longer be lined up with the object (it’s worth noting that a small percentage of the population has no ocular dominance, meaning both eyes are equally strong and neither is favored. Also, dominance is not always absolute.

If your dominant hand and your dominant eye match, you’ve got no worries in the shooting department.  But if, like me, you’re cross dominant, there are some things you’re going to want to keep in mind.

Long gun shooting

Unfortunately, the best way to handle cross-dominance in long gun shooting is probably to shoot with your non-dominant hand, mounting the firearm on the same shoulder as your dominant eye, although many shooters advocate shooting with a patch over their dominant eye or shooting glasses, one author suggests.

What plainly doesn’t work is leaning your head way over the stock to line up your dominant eye with the sights.  If you don’t believe me, go grab a long gun, mount it to your dominant shoulder, and try to sight in using your cross-dominant eye.  It’s really not an option. 

Handgun shooting

Handguns are a lot more forgiving of cross-dominance.  Sure, you can learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand — if you’re carrying for self-defense that’s not a bad skill to have anyway.  But there are other, simpler solutions, as listed by U.S. Concealed Carry. 

The author demonstrates a pistol cant with his trusty finger gun.

The author demonstrates a pistol cant with his trusty finger gun. By canting the pistol, the shooter holds the gun with his dominant hand and aligns the sights with his dominant eye.

As a cross dominant shooter, I prefer to use a modified Weaver stance with my head cocked or tilted to the right, which lines up my dominant left eye with the sights by bringing my right cheek close to my right shoulder.  But another solution is to simply twist or rotate your head to line up your dominant eye with the sights.  I find this somewhat awkward, as the sensation is disorienting to me.  It also drastically reduces my left-side peripheral vision, which is not something I would train to do when practicing situational-awareness and self-defense.  Best to retain peripheral sight equally on both sides, in my opinion.

A final option for overcoming cross-dominance is to cant your pistol toward the dominant eye.  Unless you’re already an experienced shooter, don’t try this.  It’ll affect your shooting technique and you’ll look like a wannabe gangster.  As a last resort for the cross-dominant shooter who has already mastered the fundamentals of grip, stance, trigger control, and not otherwise looking like a thug, this technique may have something to recommend it.

G’d-eye

If you are having trouble hitting the target, are a new shooter, or you’re training a new shooter, test for cross-dominance.  It’s a common problem, and understanding it may well take you from “can’t hit the broad side of a barn” to ringing that gong every time.

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