Eye Dominance: Why Shooters Need to Find Their Dominant Eye

Eye dominance is a term usually mentioned during the initial stages of marksmanship training. It’s a rather self-explanatory term. Just like how most people have a dominant hand, they also have a dominant eye that more accurately relays visual information to your brain. 

For shooters, especially beginners, it’s important to identify your dominant eye because it could dictate how you physically shoot and orient your gear. In this article, we’ll define eye dominance, tell you why it’s important, show you how to find your dominant eye, and give training tips for shooters who are cross-eye dominant. 

What is Eye Dominance?

In simple terms, eye dominance is the eye you use to focus. While it seems logical that handedness would dictate eye dominance, or vice versa, it doesn’t. 

According to medical experts, the left side of the brain controls your right hand while the right side controls your left hand. Yet, vision is controlled by both sides of the brain, so each side controls part of each eye. What that means is handedness and eye dominance develop separately. 

However, there is a correlation between handedness and eyedness. In a 2011 study, medical researchers tested 100 subjects, of which 97 were right-handed, using two different eye dominance tests. 

dominant eye

The shooter is holding a pistol with his right hand and aiming with his right eye.

The first test simply asked subjects which hand they preferred to use to perform individual tasks. The questionnaire revealed that 84 percent of the respondents were both right-handed and right-eye dominant.

The second test, called the Miles test, is a self-performed vision test, which I’ll get into later. It showed 75 percent as both right-handed and right-eye dominant.  

But as the saying goes, correlation does not equal causation. The variations were more complicated within the remaining groups. 

On the first test, data showed 13 percent of right-handers as left-eye dominant and 66 percent of lefties as right-eye dominant. That means 15 percent of all subjects have cross dominance, meaning they were right-handed but left-eye dominant and vice versa.

For the second test, data showed 24 percent of the remaining righties as left-eye dominant and 66 percent of left-handers as right-eye dominant, which means 26 percent of righties and lefties were cross dominant. 

In the end, the study found “no significant relation between dominant eye and dominant hand.” However, researchers did suggest that “eye hand dominance could serve as a factor in athletes or guiding young players on whether to hit left or right hand or to switch hit.”

eye dominance

The shooter is holding a rifle with his right hand and aiming with his right eye.

Eye Dominance and Marksmanship

In 1996, the federal government studied how eye dominance affected novice shooters’ ability to learn basic rifle marksmanship. Specifically, they wanted to know more about cross dominant shooters. For the study, they monitored 308 Army recruits during basic training and their marksmanship scores.

During training, recruits are taught how to shoot their service weapon, and then at the end of rifle training, they’re given a qualification test. 

Researchers found that recruits with cross dominance had significantly lower scores than those with common alignment. According to the study, the average score of recruits with uncrossed dominance was 86.1 percent while cross-dominant recruits had an average score of 56.5 percent. 

As a result of the study, the researchers determined that eye dominance influences how new shooters learn marksmanship skills. They explained that since it’s easy to determine hand and eye dominance, the military should employ specialized training to teach cross-eye dominant shooters. 

In the most practical sense, that meant instructors needed to ensure that their cross-dominant shooters are “holding the rifle with the appropriate hand or need to change.”

Eye Dominance Test

The Miles test is the most popular and practical way to test eye dominance. How to determine eye dominance is really easy.

  • Find an object off in the distance to focus on.
  • Form a triangle with your hands while centering the object. 
  • Close the triangle so it gets smaller.
  • While focusing on the object, close your right eye. 
  • Open your right eye and then close the left eye.

Interpreting the results is also easy. If, for example, the object remains center when you close your left eye, your right eye is your dominant eye. 

The inverse of that is when you close your right eye and the object shifts out of sight, it affirms that your left eye is NOT your dominant eye. 

Training with Cross Dominance

For those whose dominant eye aligns with their dominant hand, there isn’t much to change when it comes to training or learning the fundamentals of marksmanship. But as we’ve already learned, cross dominant shooters might have a difficult time. 

Savage shooter and instructor Patrick Kelley said in a video that the biggest challenge for cross-dominant shooters is determining which shoulder to use. He should know because he is one. Kelley is right-eye dominant, but left-handed. 

eye dominance

The shooter is holding a shotgun with his right hand and aiming with his right eye.

For rifles, Kelley suggested using the shoulder that aligns with your dominant eye. “If you’re right eyed, use your right shoulder,” he said. “Make it simple and use your right shoulder.”

For shotguns, he said you should again use the shoulder that aligns with your dominant eye. “It knows what it needs to see to break a shot,” he said.

Lastly, for handguns, Kelley said a lot of cross dominant shooters get tripped up on which hand to use to shoot a pistol. 

He suggested using your dominant hand because using your dominant eye only requires a slight shift of your head. “Just move your head a tiny bit one way or the other way to get a good line up on your sights,” he said. 

Overall, Kelley’s parting advice is to use the shoulder commensurate with your dominant eye for long guns and your dominant hand for handguns. 

“That is all you need to know about cross dominance and eye dominance,” he said. “Pick one and practice. You’ll get good at it no matter how you’re set up. Even if you’re weird like me and cross dominant.”

Parting Shots

If you take away anything from this article, hopefully it’s this: Identify your dominant eye before you begin marksmanship training. It’s easy, especially if you employ something as simple as the Miles test. After that, let your dominant eye dictate how you hold long guns, and let your dominant hand dictate how you hold a handgun. 

What are some training methods you use to train cross dominant shooters? Share them in the comments. 

Daniel Terrill

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