Eye Dominance and the Shotgun Shooter

While Trap Shooting with my Nephew one night at our local club he said to me “I seem to have problems focusing on the targets and keeping the targets lined up with my gun.” A very quick test exposed his problem; he had an issue with his eyes called cross dominance.

What exactly is, Eye Cross Dominance? First off, eye dominance almost always has nothing to do with eye strength. It is nearly 100% a neurological condition that our body uses to coordinate and control our body’s movements and functions. So how does this Cross Dominance issue affect a person’s use, and more importantly, one’s proficiency with a shot gun? If a right handed person shoots with both eyes open but is left eye dominant his left eye will control where his gun points. This will result in a person shooting in front of a right to left target and behind a left to right target.

The next logical question is how to check to see if you have a cross dominance problem. One quick and easy way to test for this is to point at an object at a distance with your finger. Close first one eye and then the other. The one that stays in line with your finger is your dominant eye. If you are a right handed shooter, don’t be surprised if you find that you do have a cross dominance issue as nearly 40% of all right handed shooters do.

Ok, now what to do. If you do have a cross dominance issue there are a number of possible remedies that may work for you.

First, the best solution is to switch sides and learn to shoot from your dominant eyed side. In other words left to right or right to left. This can be accomplished rather easily IF you detect a cross dominance problem early on. It is most difficult though if you have been shooting for some time as we develop a thing called “muscle memory”. If that is the case it is very difficult to retrain all that memory. Some in fact who have tried have said that in the end their gain in breaking targets was minimal in comparison to the effort and time it took to do so.

A second possible solution is simply to block the cross dominating eye by putting a dot, tape or even Vaseline on the lens of your shooting glasses. There is a pitfall to this solution in that this will give a partial loss of peripheral or binocular vision. For Sporting Clays shooters this is not preferable but may be better than battling a cross dominance problem.

A third possibility is to keep both eyes open and a just split second before taking the shot, close the cross dominant eye. This takes time effort and determination but by doing this a shooter retains his full peripheral and stereoscopic vision. He will have a beautifully clear sight picture of his barrel to target relationship and at the same time pretty much prevent any cross dominance from occurring.

In conclusion let’s first remember the ETER (exception to every rule) situation. No one solution will work for every person and not all people have a cross dominant issue for the same reasons. We have chosen as our vocation, hobby or stress release, a sport that is optically critical. The simple fact is that if we can’t see them we can’t break them. Whatever the course you choose, with practice and determination you will no doubt have more dead, than lost birds. Amen to that!


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