eye chart cross-eye dominance
Psiĥedelisto [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Cross-eye dominance is a condition wherein your brain prefers the visual input from the eye opposite your dominant hand. Roughly 90 percent of the population is right-handed, but approximately 30 percent of the population is cross-eye dominant.

Almost everyone – about 99 percent of the population – has a dominant eye, but there are some rare folks who never develop ocular dominance.

In other words, if ten people read this – I don’t know how possible that is, but one can always hope – one of those readers will be left-handed, but three will have cross-eye dominance.

What causes ocular dominance? It isn’t entirely clear. What IS known is that the brains of a number of animals that have binocular vision (including humans, those wretched meat bags) form ocular dominance columns, which are line-shaped structures on the primary visual cortex.

So far, it looks like they form in utero, meaning it’s likely genetic.

cross-eye dominance shooting guns
English: Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric C. Tretter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

That means there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it; you can’t become left-handed if you’re right-handed. You can learn to use your left hand (Thomas Jefferson learned how to write in Latin in one hand, and in Greek with the other) but you can’t decide you’re left-handed and you can’t decide not to be cross-eye dominant.

This matters because cross-eye dominance impacts shooters. If you’re right-handed but left-eye dominant, you’ll have issues when you shoot, as getting a sight picture will be difficult since you practically have to put your head across your body to get a proper sight picture.

Cross-eye dominance was also a plot point in “Fire Birds,” an absolutely TERRIBLE movie about helicopter pilots starring Nicolas Cage. Anyone else remember that train wreck? Anyway . . .

How do you tell which of your eyes is dominant? There are a few different simple tests.

First is the Miles test. It’s old (pre-Roaring 20s) it’s easy, and it works. Normally you’re supposed to use a rolled up newspaper or something, but you don’t actually need to.

Find a relatively distant object, say a painting, picture, wall clock or knick-knack on the other side of the room. Focus on it with both eyes open.

Now take your hands, hold them up together and make a triangle, with an opening in the middle with the tips of your thumbs and index fingers touching. Move the triangle to the object, so that the object appears inside the triangle. If you want to, you can use a rolled-up newspaper or paper plate instead, but again you don’t have to.

Now make the triangle smaller by moving one hand over the other, until the object is basically all you can see inside the little window between your hands.

Now close one eye. Open it, then close the opposite eye. When the picture moves, you’ve found your non-dominant eye.

Some people have problems closing one eye. If that’s you, here’s what you do:

Instead of closing one eye and alternating them, keep the window between your hands small and slowly bring your hands back to one eye, keeping the focal object in the window between your hands. Then push it back out, and repeat while bringing your hands back to the other eye.

What you’ll notice is that while bringing the window back to one eye, the picture stays stable and centered. That’s your dominant eye. If you have to move your hands to keep the object in view, that’s your non-dominant eye.

Another common test is the Porta method. The initial setup is the same; find an object on the other side of the room and focus on it. Bring up a finger or your thumb so it’s between your eyes and the object or just under it, sort of like focusing on your front sight.

Close one eye, then open it and close the other eye. I’m pretty sure you get where this is going; when your thumb or finger moves, that’s your non-dominant eye. Alternately, you can bring your thumb or finger back to one eye, then extend it and bring it back to the other eye. The eye you can bring it straight back to is your dominant eye.

If neither of these tests work for you…you need to see an optometrist.

What to do about cross-eye dominance for shooting? That will have to wait for another time.

Any of you out there cross-eye dominant? Just want to rant? Sound off in the comments.

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  1. I am cross eye dominant. Right hand/left eye Shooting handguns is generally not a problem, but shooting rifles is definitely annoying.

      • A lot of guys who shoot trap will have “blinders” on their non-dominant side eye…
        Sporting Clays and Skeet almost require both eyes due to where the birds are or may be coming from…

    • Same here and agree. I learned to shoot a rifle left handed. Even though it sucks to have the shell fly acroos the front of your face because there are not many left handed guns out there. There are more and more manufacturers making their guns so you can set everything thing up to your preferences. My Beretta Storm CX4 rifle is very customizable.

    • I’m also cross eye dominant. I taught myself to close each eye individually so I can close my dominant eye shooting rifle. My vision isn’t quite as good out of my non-dominant eye, but I can otherwise hold and shoot normally. I also try to work on shooting with both eyes open, which is easier with pistols than rifles.

    • Mine do and they can do it within a shooting session. I was told for years that can’t happen, but it does for me. I finally found someone knowledgeable a while back that confirmed he’s seen it with other people too. It is apparently uncommon.

      I generally shoot right handed with my left eye closed. I’ve tried both eyes open with holographic sights and sometimes I can do it and sometimes I can’t. It holds me back with the shotgun too.

    • Mine change from moment to moment. Whichever eye had the better or less obstructed view takes dominance.

      I’m right handed, and if I hold a pistol to sight with my right eye, my left eye immediately takes over, and the dominant view is the left side of the slide. If I present the sights to my left eye, I end up looking at the right side of the slide.

      I can shoot magnified optics with both eyes open, but can’t keep both open for irons or 1x optics.

  2. Im left eyed dominate and shoot right handed. I always blamed it for my low and left shooting. Not where my finger is on the trigger itself. I can shoot lefty also doesn’t really matter what hand I use. But If I try to shoot a handgun with open sights. Its always with my left eye. I cant use a scoped rifle with my left eye just doesn’t work.
    I gave up years ago getting shooting glasses to correct this domination thing. Never worked for me.

  3. I’m left handed with right eye dominance. Rifles definitely more of an issue than pistols. I also have an astigmatism, which I didn’t know until the first time I tried a red dot and it looked smudged. Good times!

      • I’m also left handed but right eye dominant. I learned to shoot rifles & shotguns by closing my right eye. In school I was forced to learn to write with my right hand so now I’m practically right handed. I shoot a pistol better right handed than left & I’m learning to shoot a rifle right handed as well. Not nearly as awkward feeling as I thought it would be.

  4. My right eye is blind. I’ve only shot rifles left handed and don’t know any different. Most of the time the bolt is on the wrong side and I wouldn’t want to try shooting a bullpup that ejects to the right. I don’t even notice semi-autos ejecting in front of my face. I shoot pistols with my right hand but obviously the left eye is aiming.

    • Exact same thing for me. I don’t think it’s affected my ability as a shooter so I don’t mind. Ive been doing it this way most my life though.

  5. Yep right handed left eye dominant, it switched after lasik eye surgery. No big deal ,prior my right eye was so weak , I switched to shooting long guns lifted handed anyway .

  6. I WAS cross eye dominent. Right handed closed my right eye to shoot a handgun. It worked well 8 years ago. My left eyesight has worsened and now I see better with my right eye. I wore glasses as a young man (astigmatism)but quit after wife at the time broke them. It got better. Now everything is fading at 65. Have to get my eyes checked. Got a refex red/green dot for my AR which works GREAT. I can keep both eyes open. Anyone use a 3× flip-up magnifier on their rifle??? I’m digging the open sight and don’t want a scope. FWIW I saw Farago’s video about how blind he was and the steps he took…I’m only concerned about the handgun thing. Anyone use a reflex/red dot for their handgun????

  7. I’m Right handed and left eye dominant. Trained in the infantry to shoot rifle left handed. Now it’s natural to me. Didn’t shoot pistols till after discharge. I have no training in pistol marksmanship and shoot pistol right handed but use my left eye. I’m sure that’s bad somehow. Someone here can probably tell me why. But thus far it works. I go to my rifle when something goes bump in the night cause it’s more natural to me than a pistol anyways.

  8. Right hand dom, left eye dom. Grew up shooting pool left handed, shooting rifles leftie. Never had any problems. Can actually shoot pistol either hand, all should train that way take a day at the range and just use your non dom hand for your pistol.

    Unless you count the screaming Army drill and range NCO when I shouldered the M-16 on my left. There were no brass deflectors at the range at Ft Sill, least not that day. And of course me being a wise ass when they pointed it out to me is when I said, isn’t that a brass deflector right there pointing to it on the upper. Did 20 push ups for that.

    Only issue with bolt action long guns, off hand less support from left hand hold when racking bolt back. Don’t really notice cases flying in front of my face not being focused close. Never been hit in the face. But have had a few top o the head bonks, depends on the eject pattern.

  9. I am mildly right-eye dominant.

    Now for the weird part: it isn’t entirely clear whether I am left-hand or right-hand dominant. My mom claims that I tried to write and use scissors left-handed when I was in pre-school and kindergarten and the schools “corrected” my “wrong-handedness”. Thus I grew up and still prefer to use my right hand for writing, throwing a ball, shooting a handgun, etc. And yet my entire life I have played hockey, played golf, and batted (baseball) left-handed. In high school I picked up a table-tennis paddle one day and, without any practice whatsoever, was almost as good left-handed as I was right-handed (and I was good enough right-handed to play in tournaments).

    In college I started to realize that I might have been left-handed and simply trained my brain to be right-handed. At this point, I can throw a baseball, football, or frisbee left-handed almost as well as I can right-handed. And I have no problem at all shooting rifles and even compound bows left-handed.

    My point: try to identify your child’s genetic eye-dominance at a very young age, say no later than four years old. Whatever eye is dominant, make them do everything with that hand and their brain will quickly adapt and be able to do everything just as well. At least that is how it worked for me. (I am bordering on semi-professional skill level in all sports — baseball, football, volleyball, table-tennis, racquetball, bowling — playing right-handed even though it appears that I might have started out left-handed.)

  10. So using the Miles test, I’m left -eye dominant (I’m right-handed). Using the Porta test…um, I see 2 thumbs with both eyes open. Yes, I’m sober.
    Whatever. I close my left eye to shoot a bow, and none of the deer I’ve killed ever questioned it. I’m learning to shoot rifles with both eyes open, which isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Is it possible to have no eye dominance?

  11. I’m left hand/right eye dominant. When I started shooting I just started with my right hand. Took some getting used to of course but it’s completely natural at this point. And as an added bonus, shooting with my “off-hand that’s really my dominant-hand” is easier than it is for most because I have a lifetime of dexterity built up in that off-hand.

  12. I am ambidextrous however I have always shot a handgun right handed and a rifle left handed. I am left eye dominant . Recently I have started practicing with my left hand using a handgun and found it much easier to become proficient with my left hand then adjust to accommodate the right 😃

  13. Sam,

    Thanks for the great article. Where did you get that 30% number? I used to teach firearms regularly and it was rare to have cross-eye dominant students. In classes of up to 20 students, maybe one or two every other class or so, but I never wrote down statistics, so what do I know?


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