How To Shoot With Cross-Eye Dominance

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Previously, we covered how to tell if you are cross-eye dominant. Now let’s talk about how to shoot if you are.

There are a few strategies that you can adopt in order to combat it.

First is to learn to shoot with your weak-side hand. I’ve heard a few people say they had to either in the service or just because. Granted, that’s easier said than done! Not only do you have to go back to square one, you now have to find left-handed (common-ish with rifles, not with anything else) or ambidextrous firearms.

And what if you don’t really want to do that?

SPC Wayne Becton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I delved into some forums across the interwebs, and some people’s experience has been that a red dot optic, on pistols or long guns makes shooting easier for shooters with cross-eye dominance. Granted, you can’t put one on every gun (more’s the pity) so that isn’t a perfect solution.

Another common trick is to just close your dominant eye.

Unknown/Published by Motion Picture News [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some folks might object at this point that you should only shoot with both eyes open. That’s a bit controversial; some believe you should never shoot with one eye closed, for some very good reasons, but it’s a well-known enough tactic that it bears mentioning.

Some people may have a problem with that, however. A certain portion of the population is not capable or has great difficulty with closing only one eye. The cause isn’t known; it has to do with the development of their facial muscles.

Not everyone develops the same neuromuscular connections as everyone else, including those for articulating the muscles of the face. Just as some people aren’t able to raise one eyebrow (can you smell what The Rock is cooking?) or curl their tongue like a taco, a portion of the human population doesn’t develop the ability to articulate their eyelids. Persons thusly afflicted cannot, therefore, throw a homely girl a wink in honor of HL Mencken or close one eye to shoot.

If you can’t wink, then you’ll need a different solution.

A related trick relies on the use of eye protection or having corrected vision. What you do is place a bit of tape on the lens of your eye pro or glasses that covers the dominant eye, blurring your dominant eye’s vision and forcing the non-dominant eye to pick up the slack.

left eye cross-eye dominance shooting shotgun glasses tape

Dan Z. for TTAG

TTAG editor Dan Zimmerman (long may he reign) relies on this method. There are actual stickers you can buy for this purpose (Magic Dots) or you can just use garden variety Scotch tape.

Another solution many shotgunners have tried is a stock that’s either curved or bent with exaggerated cast off to align the barrel axis with your dominant eye.

cross-eye dominance shotgun stock bent cast off

Courtesy The Breech-Loader and Google Books

To state the obvious, that’s great…on the trap field or at the range. But what are you supposed to do in a practical situation? What is the hunter or concealed carrier to do? Some folks don’t always wear eye pro (you should!) and not everyone wears glasses.

Easy!

You’ll never guess what it is. I’m about to tell you, and you won’t believe how powerful this hack is.

You…and you won’t believe this…tilt your head.

ABC Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shocking, I know.

Bear in mind that it isn’t a perfect solution. You need enough eye relief (the distance between the rear lens of your optic, rear sight or receiver and your eye) to allow the head to tilt into position with a long gun. It also isn’t going to feel pleasant, especially during extended shooting sessions.

However, some folks find that with a bit of adjusting their posture, it isn’t unbearable. Your mileage, as always, may vary; if this doesn’t work for you, then you need to pick a different method.

I don’t know that this would work with a bullpup or SBR given (again) the shorter eye relief. Sorry to say I don’t have a FAMAS lying around to confirm or disconfirm my theory, but after looking at some forums it seems like that definitely is a thing.

However, it will work with most rifles, shotguns, and can easily be done with handguns.

The classic shooting stance is to have your weak side foot about 45 degrees from your strong side foot, with the stock of the rifle or shotgun welded to the strong side shoulder and the forend supported by the weak side hand.

All you do is exaggerate the cheek weld; move your head about an inch further downward and you should get a sight picture with the cross-dominant eye.

But what about the modern tactical stance, where the shoulders are closer to square with the target?

ar-15 stance grip close target

Nick Leghorn for TTAG

You just do the same thing. Look, this isn’t rocket surgery; we’re talking about moving your melon an extra 1.5 inches.

As to handgun shooting, shooters who utilize the Isosceles or Modern Isosceles shooting stance won’t have much trouble doing likewise.

Credit: gunbelts.com

As you present the pistol toward the target, you simply tilt your head to the strong side to get your dominant eye into position or move the gun so that it’s more visible with the dominant eye.

If you have cross-eye dominance, the Modern Isosceles, Combat Isosceles, whatever you want to call it, is going to be your best bet for handgunnery. That’s why so many instructors teach it!

However, shooters that employ the Weaver stance, as taught by Gunsite and many other instruction bodies, will find this problematic.

Credit: ShootingTimes.com

The Weaver stance is more or less only possible to use if you have normal ocular dominance, as the shooting hand is almost straight out from the body, which is bladed toward the target.

Some folks might have guessed where this is going next: the Chapman stance.

Credit: DefensiveCarry.com

Devised and popularized by Ray Chapman, it’s a modified Weaver stance, though it also isn’t perfect.

The Chapman stance uses the same push-pull dynamic as the Weaver, but instead of bending the strong side arm, it’s thrust straight out. The body is still bladed toward the target, and both arms are tucked into the body for the utmost of support. However, the strong arm being straightened requires the head to tilt toward it. For cross-eye dominant shooters, you have to rest your chin on your bicep, basically like a cheek weld with a rifle.

The Chapman stance is easier for beginners to learn, and more ergonomic than the Weaver for cross-eye dominant shooters. However, it narrows the field of view since your head naturally must tilt toward the shooting hand arm, lessening the total field of vision which some feel is disadvantageous in a self-defense and/or combat scenario.

I leave that to the comments section to debate. Speaking of which, what did YOU do to deal with cross-eye dominance if you have it? Anything like the above? Are you ready for some football? Sound off!

comments

  1. avatar Achmed says:

    Brian Zins – who won the National Pistol Championships 13 times in a row – is cross-dominant.

  2. avatar Doug says:

    “The Weaver stance is more or less only possible to use if you have normal ocular dominance”

    I’m cross-eye dominant and have shot Weaver in competitions for decades. I just cant my to the right.

    Guess I need to stop doing the (more or less) impossible and get with the program

  3. avatar napresto says:

    Interesting – I hadn’t heard of the Chapman stance; I had always thought this was Weaver. I am cross-eye dominant, and I have been alternating between isosceles and (what I now recognize as) Chapman for pistol shooting. I like both and do reasonably well with them. For rifle, I tend to just close my dominant eye.

    Question for anyone who knows: is there a name for the 1980’s “super squat” stance that you sometimes see old-timey “let’s go roust some punks” type cops using? Is that just a TV thing? You know the one I mean…

  4. avatar Achmed says:

    Basically if you are right handed and left eye dominant then shoot pistols right handed – move head over – and long guns left handed. Your right arm drives the gun and all your left index finger had to do is proper trigger control. It works fine. The article is good, but really cross dominance is an easier problem that being left handed in the first place.

  5. avatar daveinwyo says:

    For AR fans, how about those off set sights?
    Hand gunners shouldn’t have much of a problem, just use the gangsta stance with the gun held side ways.

    1. avatar Jon says:

      Never tried them. Never needed to. I always train with basic equipment (irons, dot, basic handguards). No accessories or special stuff (gangsta grip, $300+ sights, etc.). That way I am familiar with 98% of rifles and am able to use them immediately as if they were my own.

  6. I’ve been tilting my head since before I knew what eye dominance was. It always just came naturally. I never even realized it was a problem until someone described it to me and I thought about it and said “yep, that’s me”.

  7. avatar Jon says:

    In basic training during phase 1 rifle marksmanship, i discovered that i was cross dominant (right handed, left eye). Some drill instructors had a problem with me shouldering the weapon on my left shoulder. My solution: march with the rifle in my right shoulder to avoid the barking dogs roving the column. At the range; shoot with it in my left shoulder to pass marksmanship. This was not ideal but it got me through basic.

    Once I was at my permanent duty station, I told my team leader i was cross dominant. He said “so shoot left handed”. For four years i carried a rifle and trained left handed. Now, shooting an AR left handed is natural for me. During my enlistment, i touched a pistol once. At one of the more relaxed range days, my PS handed me his pistol and said, ” try this”. I emptied one magazine at a silhouette 15 yards away and hit it three time (i had never shot a pistol before). PS looked at me and said “how the f*** can you hit a target at 1000 yards with an M240 but cant hit a person from 15 yards!”

    After my discharge, i bought my first handgun (glock). I couldn’t hit anything and count not figure out why. During my CWP course (which included 1/4 day of range time), the instructor was becoming increasingly frustrated that i was performing the worst in my group. He figured out that i was cross dominant and shooting pistol using rifle shooting techniques. He took a few extra hours after the course to teach me the basics of pistol marksmanship. I learned that he was cross dominant and worked as a detective for 30 years. He showed me how to adjust my grip to shoot cross dominant: dont lean your head, rotate your grip (if your hands are large enough) and rotate the pistol slightly (5ish degrees). The recoil is slightly different and return to sight picture is a little more awkward initially but nothing that a few thousand rounds wont fix.

    1. avatar Achmed says:

      Your story about Army basic is great. Still the same – BRM is all about getting people through the factory and less about anything approaching excellence.

    2. avatar Gary Crane says:

      Finally, someone who gets it right! I have been a police firearms instructor for over 40 years. I have won state and regional championships with handguns. I am distinguished in both revolver and pistol in both Canada and the states. I shoot right handed and am left eye dominant. I just align the pistol in line with my left eye by choking up on the grip. Canting the head is unnatural. It works for me and hundreds of non-dominant eye students.

    3. avatar Ragnar says:

      Same for me. Left eye dominant. Shoot long guns left-handed and pistols right-handed. I use the same technique with pistols, just adjust the grip slightly and align my sight picture with my left eye.

      One complication of shooting long guns left handed and pistols right-handed is, my kit setup is a little different. Transition drills from rifle to pistol are quicker for me, but my magazine setup on my belts are slightly less than optimal. My holster is on my right hip, and my AR mags are located just behind my holster. Training has compensated for this bastardized setup.

  8. avatar Skippy says:

    I’ve got CT lasers on the guns I carry most (S&W Model 60 snub and HK VP9). I can keep both eyes on the target and play with the cat.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Well a red dot reflex site works well on my rifle. I keep both eyes open. My pistol “skills” have deteriorated as my once dominant left eyesight now sucks. Not enough to not hit a badguy at 30 feet but troubling. Until I get bifocals(arg) I may try the canting thing. I have noticed a lot of old shooters DON’T extend their strong hand straight out when they aim(like the slightly younger than me Jerry Miculek!)

  10. avatar kahlil says:

    Am right handed and left eye dominant (for the most part). When I shoot long guns I have no issue in using my right eye and it feels right, but when I shoot handguns it is more natural for me to use my left eye for aiming. I have been working on using my right eye more for handguns, through a combination Chapman stance as well as just closing my left eye to force the issue with my right 🙂

    Either way I shoot ok with either eye but my left eye is more dominant, feels better/natural, and is my default when using handguns.

    1. avatar Benjamin McLeod says:

      Try shooting your rifle “left handed”, using your dominant left eye to see the target and your dominant right hand to support and aim the rifle. Your left hand can easily pull the trigger.

  11. avatar Christy says:

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  12. avatar Wiregrass says:

    I am left handed, right eye dominant. Rifles were never an issue since I started shooting rifles right handed at an early age. I actually think having your dominant hand on the forestock is an advantage in controlling the shot. For bullseye, I hold the pistol in my left hand, use a dot and bring the pistol in line with my right eye and likewise I tend to favor the Chapman stance for a two handed defensive technique.

    1. avatar James Ray says:

      Same here. Left handed, right eye dominant. Learned to shoot rifle right handed, bow with right, golf right, but handgun left. Used a weaver stance fot years, but recently started with the combat isoceles. Both feel natural. When shooting pistol, I do seem to sqint left eye and head tilt a little.

  13. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Off topic?
    President Trump visiting California today is making Democrats cross-eyed.

  14. avatar Adam C. says:

    I had an instructor when I was first learning handguns that had me create a cheekweld with my bicep. I guess it creates the same effect as tilting your head but rather than the head moving the firearm is pushed a little to left. Not sure if this advice is good or bad but it has worked for me. If there is a downside to this, I’m always open to advice.

  15. avatar Jeff says:

    I just started my 10 year old son shooting with a rifle. He is left handed but right eye dominate. Finding a youth side left handed rifle is difficult. He solved the problem by choosing to shoot right handed, with out prompting from me. He is very happy this way and has a great time at the range.

  16. avatar LibertyToad says:

    I simply taught myself to focus using my other eye. It really wasn’t very difficult.

  17. avatar Chuck says:

    I struggled with the cross dominance problem for years, one problem I have is that my vision is sharper in my dominant left eye (two whole steps on the Snelling chart. OD 20/25, OS 20/15), making most of the techniques just not acceptable (the headaches alone were a big NO, as they were migraine like in severity). Finalky, with pistol, I used a Chapman like stance, but modified even more. The dominant eye side is brought forward by shifting the left foot forward and turning the left shoulder towards the target. Right arm is straight for the push/pull effect, but I close my right eye. My groups at 25′ immediately tightened up by a 3″ minimum (went from 7-8″ groups to 3 -4″ unsupported). It may be unorthodox, but it works, so my thoughts on the subject are experiment and discover what works best for you. My scoped rifle I close the dominant eye, my AR is red dotted, so both eyes open I don’t notice a change.

  18. avatar Jack says:

    I close both my eyes.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      that’s what she said.

      “…you now have to find other-handed…or ambidextrous firearms.”

      what if you’re left handed and right eye dominant?

  19. avatar Hank says:

    A thought just occurred to me…. I wear contacts some of the time…..Has anyone ever tried just wearing a Contact in your right eye (assuming left eye dominance) ??? Seems like it would work and I am going to try it.

  20. avatar Mark says:

    For rifles, a red dot fixes the problem with ease as it forces your eye dominance to shift. For pistols I’ve never had an issue as I just naturally move the pistol over a bit (without thought) and it lines up with my left eye.

    This isn’t rocket science and you haven’t figured out to solve this “problem” you probably aren’t very intelligent.

  21. avatar Wayne Clark says:

    The C.A.R. system (Center Axis Relock) developed by Paul Castle, is yet another…& highly effective…way to approach cross dominance. Not a magic bullet but centering your site picture with both eyes (open), ensures a better target acquisition…IMHO. Look it up & give it a try.

  22. avatar Old IPSC shooter says:

    I am VERY left eye dominant and I cannot close just that eye.
    I do not want to be dependent on using the glasses with the tape in a crunch situation.
    Both combat and self-defense are come-as-you-are events.

    So … I shoot long guns left-handed. After 45 years it is as natural as can be. Accuracy, rate of fire, etc. are great. I even pick up rifles and shotguns left-handed automatically. P.S. My bolt actions have left-handed bolts. That was clumsy for the first 500 dry-fire cycles but not a problem for decades.
    Handguns I shoot right-handed but cant my wrist about 8 degrees to the right (I do not shoot 500 S&W) and hold it in front of my left eye. Works fine.

  23. avatar Retro says:

    I shoot handguns Weaver, just blade my body a little bit more, but don’t put my head on my bicep (that sounds awkward as hell).

    Rifles I just shoot left handed unless the ejection is in my face. Then I switch over.

    BTW, I find that I can shoot weak handed almost as well as strong.

  24. avatar John in Ohio says:

    “What is the hunter or concealed carrier to do?”

    Good thing that I open carry so I don’t have to read or recommend this article to anyone.

  25. avatar Ed says:

    Jeff Cooper was cross dominant – right handed, left eyed. He cocked his head to the right to line up the sights with his left eye while shooting right handed in a Weaver stance:

    https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/blog/cross-dominant-shooter/

  26. avatar James69 says:

    Shotgun, problem solved…. 😉

  27. avatar BusyBeef says:

    a red dot on my pistol solved this problem for me.

  28. avatar Ella Lemond says:

    Thanks for sharing

  29. avatar Roy says:

    Cant? Why? Just shift the handgun two inches toward the dominant eye! May have to adjust your stance slightly.

  30. avatar adverse6 says:

    I’m not cross eyed.

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