Are You Cross-Eye Dominant? Don’t Worry About It – Guns For Beginners

While the notion of eye dominance is important in shooting, it’s generally overrated. Especially for new shooters, it’s much more important to learn the proper way to align and see your sights and not to worry about seeing them with the “proper” eye. At least at first.

Seeing properly is the key

Everyone has an eye preference, a tendency to look primarily through your sights with one eye or the other. If you’re right handed and right eye dominant (or vice versa), you don’t have to worry about a thing.

If you’re cross-dominant, that can complicate things for a new shooter, but there are ways around that. You can close the eye opposite the you strong hand or you can adjust your hold slightly to align your handgun with you dominant eye.

The pont is, even if you’re you’re dealing with cross-dominance, it ultimately has very little to do with learning to be a good shooter. The more important question is does the shooter know how to see and use their front sight. Do they know specifically what they’re looking for and how to view the object of their focus.

Concentrate on what you’re seeing, not how

When using binocular (both eyes open) vision there’s an effect called parallax. Each eye has a slightly different view of the world. That’s what gives us depth perception. The brain tends to rely on the dominant eye for more precise positional information, something that’s important in shooting.

Some trainers will try and get a new shooter or novice shooter to immediately identify their dominant eye as if it’s the primary key to good marksmanship. Instead of worrying which eye is dominant, they should be more concerned with where the shooter is looking.

Not knowing what to focus on is the most common sighting error we see in students…no matter which eye is dominan. I spend a great deal of time helping students focus on aligning their sights and getting them to see the the square shape over the round shape in their front sight. It’s more important for them to learn to see the front sight that it is for them to worry about how they’re seeing it.

As for how to do that, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. My go-to tip was showed to me by my shooting coach when I was on the junior national pentathlon team. He would have me stretch out a piece of string about 10 yards with knots at various distances.

He would then have me focus on each not staring with the farthest. Then I’d alter my focus, concentrating on each knot all the way in to my front sight.

These days I take a different approach with newer shooters. I ask them to extend their arm, then focus their vision on various features of their arm beginning a few inches out, gradually moving all the way out to their finger tip. I ask them to focus intently on these features (hairs, freckles, tattoos) to the point they can describe each of them to me in detail.

It’s awesome when a student comments that learning to visually walking down their arm toward their finger is what helped them finally draw their focus out to their front sight post.

Master the basics first

When I find a student is having difficulty focusing and shooting accurately with both eyes open, my solution is simple. I have them close one eye.

If they’re a right handed shooter, I have them close the left eye. By eliminating the eye dominance issue all together, the student is able to concentrate on the principles of marksmanship. Learning the how to shoot accurately with one eye closed and and gaining confidence in properly using their sights seems simple. But believe it or not, many beginners and even a few intermediate students have difficulty with this seemingly simple task.

Do I want students to eventually shoot with both eyes open? Of course. But I find it’s much more valuable for newer shooters to learn how to use their sights correctly and to start to shoot accurately. Then, once they have the basics down, they can work their way up to shooting with binocular vision.

When we minimize distractions and increase concentration as it relates to sight focus, the results speak for themselves. In short, you don’t need to know which eye is dominant early on. You can worry about that after you’ve learned how to use and see your sights properly. Then we can deal with any cross-dominance issues.

 

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.

comments

  1. avatar Scott says:

    Eye dominance is very important, especially for beginners. I am right-handed but left-eye dominant. I shot notch sights for years right-handed and sometimes left-handed for a change.

    But in ROTC the first time I was handed a rifle, it had a peep sight. I couldn’t hit anything. On the third visit to the range I tried shooting left-handed and I suddenly saw the sight picture for the first time. They should have tested us for eye dominance before ever giving us rifles. This is a real sore point for me. Any right-hander that shoots well right-handed should try shooting left-handed, and you will (not) see how important it is.

    I shoot a normal AR (right-handed model) left-handed. That was absolutely necessary when I used the iron (peep) sight, but is probably not necessary with the EOTech I use now. But the bolt release and safety selector are on the thumb side of my shooting hand. That would seem to be awkward shooting right-handed.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Agreed. Cross dominance is toughest with kids. They have a hard time closing their dominate eye and using the other. Mostly a problem with apeture sights.

      For the kids in my rifle class, we tested eye dominance when going over the safety rules and sight alignment. If someone was croos dominant, they got a rifle with open irons.

      Later, we moved either to shoot with other hand(side) or close their dominant eye. Worked pretty well.

      Never a problem with handguns in my experience. Plenty of distance to use the dominate eye, regardless of dominance.

      1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

        I’m cross dominant and started shooting around 8 years old with a .22 pump action. Never knew anything about eye dominance then but I always closed my left (dominant) eye when I was shooting at that age. I didn’t learn about my left eye being dominant until riflery in Scouts so around 11 or 12. By that point there was no chance I was switching from right to left handed shooting. But with rifles it is natural to me to close my left eye when shooting. With pistols it took time but I’ve adjusted to keeping both eyes open. I also tend to tilt my pistol just a hair to the left to align the sights more with my left eye.

  2. avatar fteter says:

    It’s funny. Been a RH shooter, right eye dominant all my life…until recently. The vision in the right eye has started to deteriorate (a macular pucker, so it won’t be getting better). So I’m now training to become cross eye dominate for pistol shooting. Due to a good instructor showing me years ago that front sight focus was everything, and because I use an Isosceles stance, it’s really been no big deal.

  3. avatar Grace12 says:

    I shoot long guns left handed and hand guns right handed.

    1. avatar Bloving says:

      Ha! I’m even more messed up: left eye dominant and I’ve been using right-handed bows all my life… broken and lost a bunch of arrows trying to learn to use a bow left-handed.
      I had read somewhere that crosseye dominance is more common with female shooters… anyone?
      🤠

  4. avatar DixieBiker says:

    Thanks fteter! I am recovering from a dominant eye retina tear with a macular pucker and just starting to learn how to use my other eye or both eyes! I bought a good pellet pistol to train with as it is much cheaper to shoot. I’ll check out the isoceles stance.

  5. avatar Darkman says:

    Since I shoot with both eyes open. It doesn’t matter even though I am right eye dominate. I was taught to shoot with both eyes open by my father. Never understood why you would want to close one eye and restrict your field of view. It’s the only way I instruct new people to shoot.

  6. avatar anonymoose says:

    I have to shoot a bow lefthanded, and while I shoot rifles lefthanded, I do the Chapman Stance with handguns.

  7. avatar Casey says:

    I feel like this is gravely underestimating the trouble that new shooters have verbalizing their problems. I have a lot of personal anecdotal evidence that teaching people about eye dominance early saves a LOT of hassle down the road when they can’t make the front site work right.

    A small but noticeable portion of the population is stereo blind – both eyes work together to give them normal FOV, but one eye is basically super-dominant, and the weak eye doesn’t provide any depth information. When you get cross-dominant stereo blind people, there is no “don’t worry about it”, because they literally will not be able to “just focus on the front site”, and they usually aren’t able to explain why. Two minutes talking about eye dominance solves the problem and more than once made people realize they were stereo blind.

  8. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Unfortunately, I am ambidextrous; equally inept with either hand/eye.

    My best shooting results are at contact distances (which probably explains why I find “fire arms training” to not be “a thing”.

    Hoping that should I eventually lose my sight, all that contact shooting might actually be useful.

  9. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Getting older sux in the eyesight department. Im right handed, right eye dominant and shoot with my left eye.
    Cant focus my right eye past my nose anymore let alone a set of sights. Diabetic with cataracts. No more 22 target shooting with my handguns.
    Defensively I can hit what I have to using just the front sight. With both eyes open and a 6 inch black mass of a 22 target. I do ok at 15 yards or less.
    Next year turn 65 and will let Unkle Sammy pay………..20/20 or better would nice to dream about.

  10. avatar samuraichatter says:

    I got to ask . . . is every gun guy that is in front of a camera these days a former SEAL?

    I know not all are but dang! Where are recon guys and green berets? Do SEALS ever become florists or janitors? I mention the last one due to a remark buy Jesse V. Do they ever go the explosives or knife route after service?

    1. avatar Tile Floor says:

      some SEALs, especially since the death of UBL, have tended to capitalize on their mainstream fame and use it to their financial advantage after leaving the military. Not saying its a good or a bad thing

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Obviously they all have to be able to swim, carry wet logs, grow beards, poorly disciplined. But who says they can shoot better than ______?

        The Navy actively DISLIKES kinetic energy weapons. Can’t even be bothered to put appropriate quantity/size guns on their toys for proper sea/shore bombardment ($7.5 billion destroyers with 2x inoperable 6″ guns that are to assume the role of the Iowa class 16″).

  11. avatar former water walker says:

    As I hit 64 my eyesight is going downhill.My dominence has changed and I may have to get bifocals 😟My younger wife just got ’em but she’s still cute…

  12. avatar ironicatbest says:

    the truck I wrecked took care of that, now I’ve only got one eye, problem solved.

  13. avatar Slacker says:

    My right eye has been blind since I was 3 and I am right handed. I wish someone in Boy Scouts had asked me to try with the other hand instead of watching me contort myself trying to get my left eye behind the sights while shooting rifles right handed. Everyone shook their head and looked at me like a kid who just didn’t get it.

    15 years later I tried shooting a bb gun on the left and was amazed how much easier it was. For handguns I never noticed any issues.

  14. I’m cross-eye dominant because I feel balanced that way. Right hand, left eye. Lots of folks are.

  15. avatar Joseph says:

    Proof reading might help.

    1. avatar cris says:

      that’s pfunny, i thawt the same thing. tjanks for the chuckle.

    2. avatar AdamTA1 says:

      Agreed and what I came here to say. This line, “He would then have me focus on each not staring with the farthest.” I had to read 4 times. Even then I wasn’t completely sure what he was trying to say until I read the next line and realized he meant to use knot instead of not. Usually I can overlook the plethora of spelling and grammatical errors on TTAG, but that missing letter changes what he’s trying to say in that sentence completely.

  16. avatar Bob says:

    I’m neither eye dominant, which is nice for being able to shoot with either hand equally well. However, keeping both eyes open isn’t going to happen.

  17. avatar Komradklaus says:

    I had trouble earning my rifle shooting merit badge back in the scouts because of over-focus on eye dominance. I am cross eye dominant, but I have very weak eye dominance, such that when shooting rifles left or right eyed I get a double image of two rifles with the rifle seen by my non-dominant eye slightly more transparent. While I am very weakly left eye dominant, my left hand is a little bastard, so I had terrible trigger control AND had to close one eye even using my dominant eye. I had to finish up the badge on my own after camp with my grandpa and a friendly RSO at a local range. Thankfully, that RSO instructed me to use the eye and hand I was most comfortable with and I finished the badge easily in an afternoon.

  18. avatar Tile Floor says:

    The only time I have seen it been a problematic issue is when we use ballistic shields, cross eye dominant folks tend to have to struggle and expose more of their arm around the side to get a sight picture

  19. avatar Jeff says:

    I am also left eye/right hand dominant. It particularly effects me when shooting rifles but have trained myself to be consistent using my right eye. The biggest improvement came from training with quick reaction drills and just developing muscle memory to create dependable groups. A lot of the techniques I got from this drill set, https://bit.ly/2HuZOXq. I highly recommend it.

  20. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I’m cross-eye dominant (right handed/left eye) – I can’t keep both eyes open and align the sights with my right eye. I can keep both eyes open and align the sights with my left eye. Training has taught me to do this naturally.

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