William Powell Country

Eye Dominance with Shooting


Article written by 27 June 2013

As I’m sure most readers of this article will know, a shotgun whether over and under or side by side is designed to be shot with two eyes open.  With correct and consistent gun mounting and proper gun fit the gun will shoot where you look. However, this all depends on whether your right eye is the dominant eye for a right hander or your left eye is the dominant eye for a left hander.

A dominant eye is the eye which is the stronger of your two eyes. This normally corresponds with which ever hand you are. For example left hander like myself usually has a left master eye. My left eye looks along and out through the gun with a good gun mount, picks the bird up and keeps me on line using good technique to make the shot. If I was right eyed for example, on a straight driven bird I would consistently run up the right hand side of the bird during the shot.

There are loads of tests to check your master eye. I tend not to get too carried away. I will always make the judgement on the way a client handles a gun, with a few checks I do without making it obvious I’m checking their eyes. Simple is best.

As a novice shot, regardless of age, sex or size, I would always start the client with an eye shut. This does tunnel vision but enables the client to build a relationship with the gun, understanding how the gun should feel against the face during correct gun mount. Having established the eye dominance before they start learning, means that when I feel the time is right, I can then move the client onto.  Keeping both two eyes open. Some clients may struggle getting their bearings with two eyes open when they first shoot, but an ability to trust your eyes with correct technique and gun fit will bring consistent results.

What do you do if your opposite eye is dominant?

  1. There is the option of closing the opposite dominant eye so the weaker eye looks along and through your gun. This can take time to get your timing right, on when to close the eye, but with practice it will come. If you close the eye too early, you will restrict your full vision of the bird for a long period. If you close it too late, you will make a poor connection with the bird and run off line. When shooting with an eye closed, vision becomes tunnelled and you may be very aware of the pictures you see in relation to gun and bird. Even with an eye shut, make sure you stare hard at the bird to help you finish your shot. Be aware the difficult bird will be your straight driven bird as you will lose sight of the bird during the shot. There is nothing wrong with shooting with an eye closed. You can shoot consistently. Reading speed, distance and direction is harder, but with practice it gets easier.
  2. Change shoulders so that your dominant eye matches the shoulder you shoot from. This is easier said than done. For a novice or inexperienced shot, do not be put off if a reputable instructor suggests changing sides. If you have only shot a few days or a few lessons it will not take you long to change sides. If you can’t close your opposite dominant eye change shoulders.

If however, you have shot for a while and feel that you will benefit from changing shoulders from where you shoot and you are able to shoot keeping both eyes open, be willing to put the time in to practice this. However, only do this if you are hoping to take your shooting more seriously, for example a bumper packed season. If not continue as you are. I make a serious point here; visiting a top instructor or shooting school to help reach this kind of decision, is the only way to go.

Do not have anyone putting glasses on you with tape over an eye.  This is dangerous in the field as you will lose you peripheral vision as well as making you look rather silly!  More seriously you need your full vision to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times and to make yourself and indeed everyone else safe.

Certainly wear no eye patches for the above reason. All of these short cuts are ok at a clay ground in a controlled environment such as when safely standing in a cage, but are so dangerous out in the field.

Also do not go sticking different things on to the end of your gun. This will have the opposite effect and all you will find yourself doing, is staring at the end of your gun and not the bird!

Perhaps predictably, but I thing by far the best way forward, is my recommendation that you consult with a reputable instructor or shooting school, who will advise you best before you make any decision.




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