The Cross-Dominant Shooter

A shooter who is right handed, but has a dominant left eye is cross-dominant.
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A shooter who is right handed, but has a dominant left eye is cross-dominant.

If you teach a large number of students like I do, you will find a surprising percentage who are cross-dominant.

No, that doesn’t mean they wear their spouse’s clothes to class. It means they are strongly dominant in one hand, but their dominant eye is on the other side of the body. An example would be a shooter who is right handed, but has a dominant left eye.

It is believed that 85-90 percent of the world’s population is right handed. However, about 2/3 of the population is right eye dominant, and 1/3 is left eye dominant. Only a small number (thought to be around 1 percent) have no dominance by either eye.

 

On the range, the clue that the student is cross dominant is usually misses that impact the target a bit high, but way off to the side.

 

In a study conducted in the early 1960s, more than 5,000 subjects were tested for eye dominance and almost one third were cross dominant. In that study, 28.6 percent were right handed, but left eyed. Only 3.9 percent were left handed and right eyed. In my experience, females are far more likely to be cross dominant, for reasons as yet unknown. In some groups of females we have trained, as many as one in four were cross dominant.

There are several simple tests an instructor can use to check for cross dominance issues. I’ll describe a couple of very easy ones here.

First, have the student make a small frame opening at arm’s length, by bringing the hands together. With both eyes open, have the student center a small object across the room in that opening. Close only the left eye, and then open both. Close only the right eye, and then open both. For one eye, the target object remained in the opening. For the other eye, the target object disappeared. The eye with which the object stayed in the frame is the dominant eye.

An alternative method is to have the student center an object in the opening with both eyes open, then slowly bring the hands back to touch the face, keeping both eyes open. The opening will naturally be drawn toward the dominant eye.

Another method is to have the student point the index finger of the dominant hand at an object across the room, with both eyes open. As described above, close one eye, then repeat with the other eye. The finger will stay pointed at the object for one eye, but appear to move for the non-dominant eye.

On the range, the clue that the student is cross dominant is usually misses that impact the target a bit high, but way off to the side. For a right handed/left eyed shooter, for instance, the hits will be high and to the left. Another clue can be discovered by watching the shooter while they fire. You may see the gun moving toward the shooter’s non-dominant side, or the head moving sideways as the shooter aims. If you see these clues, it’s time to perform the eye dominance tests described above.

A third option is to cant the pistol inboard from 15-40 degrees to bring the sights into the focal plane of the left eye.

A third option is to cant the pistol inboard from 15-40 degrees to bring the sights into the focal plane of the left eye.

With a shoulder-fired weapon, such as a rifle or shotgun, really the only satisfactory solution is to learn to shoot from the shoulder on the same side as the dominant eye. I am not aware of any other practical fix for this with long guns.

With handguns, we have some options. One controversial method is to simply learn to shoot with the hand on the same side as the dominant eye. So, if you are left eye dominant, you hold the handgun in the left hand, which puts the sights right in front of the dominant eye.

Bill Rogers is probably the best known proponent of this system. Bill believes it is easier to learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand than to change or overcome eye dominance. Rogers School students have reported excellent results with this method, but a lot of people are reluctant to carry their defensive sidearm on their non-dominant side and perform all functions with the hand that has less strength and less dexterity than does their dominant hand.

Another method is to keep the gun in the dominant hand, but move the head to bring the dominant eye behind the sights. This can be done two ways. We’ll use the example of a right handed/left eyed shooter, for clarity. In the first method, the head is rotated on its vertical axis to bring the left eye behind the sights. This is sub-optimal, as it points the right eye off to the right side, reducing peripheral vision to the front left. It appears to work better to keep the head pointed forward, but tilt it to the right just enough to bring the left eye behind the sights.

One clue a student is cross dominant is usually misses that impact the target a bit high, but way off to the side.

One clue a student is cross dominant is usually misses that impact the target a bit high, but way off to the side.

You have probably seen pictures of Jeff Cooper shooting a 1911 in a classic Weaver stance. You may have noticed his head cocked over to the right. This was because Jeff was right handed, but left eye dominant, and used this technique.

A third option is to cant the pistol inboard from 15-40 degrees to bring the sights into the focal plane of the left eye. I am not a fan of this particular method. Untrained people tend to move the hands over to bring the gun in front of the left eye. This results in a bent wrist in the hand holding the handgun, and is a poor method. That unlocked, bent wrist contributes to malfunctions and offers less recoil control than a straight, locked wrist.

Now that you know what to look for, I predict you will notice more cross dominant students. Now you know how to help them.

 

[ Tom Givens is the owner of Rangemaster in Memphis, TN. For over 30 years Tom’s duties have included firearms instruction. He is certified as an expert witness on firearms and firearms training, giving testimony in both state and federal courts. He serves as an adjunct instructor at the Memphis Police Department Training Academy, the largest in the state. Tom’s training resume includes certification from the FBI Police Firearms Instructor School, NRA Law Enforcement Instructor Development School, NRA Law Enforcement Tactical Shooting Instructor School, Gunsite 499 under Jeff Cooper, and more. ]


48 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Thank you for this article. Only 2 months ago taking a
    NRA class was this noticed about me. I’m doing
    much better now. Sachs

  2. I am cross eye dominant and what works best for me is a type of modified weaver stance. I turn slightly to the right. Left foot forward and my chin is directly above my right bicept. My elbow is cocked slightly and my left arm is at between a 45 to 90 degree angle. I have complete control of my firearm with no problems with recoil or sight alignment.Its acctually a very comfrotable stance for me and I hit what Im aiming at. If you have thi problem try this technique. It dosent take long to get used to and you just might like your results. I know I do. Peace all, Gunnr

    1. Roger that – you described my handgun stance perfectly. Strange thing is, neither of my eyes is dominant, so I’m fine using my right eye for a scope, but I naturally use my left eye for a pistol. Yeah, I’m a lefty who only uses my left hand for writing and eating. With few exceptions, I use my right hand other than these 2 issues. So, I’m probably in the smallest group of “dominance” issues around!

      1. This describes me to a T. I usually use my right side for sport activitys requiring strength and have learned to shoot left handed. I can ck my eye dominance and it will change every three to for attempts. Have tried cking it right after I wake or not being to focused, and also attempting to be focused, all with different results.

    2. Thats me stance to a T, didn’t know what the stance was called till now. Just found Jeff Coopers book online at the Libary. I never realized I was cross eye dom till this weekend when I was buying ammo at the GS and asked the store owner to help me find a 22lr rifle for my 9yr old who was with me. He too is cross eye dom but unlike most with a rifle he tried to use his left eye on the rifle.

  3. I am a cross dominant shooter.right handed left eye.I have learn to overcome this by slightly squinting my dominant left eye while bringing my gun to ready position,this puts the gun and right eye on target and I am able to hold it there.It may not work for everyone but it has worked for me for over 35 years.

    1. My cross dominance was noticed by the instructor during my CWP class range time. It was suggested that I keep both eyes open. I’m able to do this and concentrate on lining up the sights with my right eye but if I have to I will squint or blink my left eye.

      I’m now practicing by not using the sights for those close range self-defense situations.

  4. Yeah I’m one. I figured it out pheasant hunting when I was 11. I just closed my left eye to shoot and haven’t missed since…

  5. Hey Tom, When I first learned to shoot it was by watching others. What I saw was everybody holding their shotguns to their right shoulder. I guess I figured that was the only way it was done and never thought about it. Only problem was I am left handed. And at that time I was left eye dominate. I learned this later of course. But, I had an awful time trying to hit clay birds. It was so uncomfortable and I missed constantly. Then I started squinting my left eye to make my right eye see. It took years of shooting before my right eye became dominate. Now it’s uncomfortable to shoot long guns left handed as now it’s perfectly natural for me right handed. But, I shoot pistols strong hand left. I carry left handed and shoot right eye dominate with both eyes open. I shot bow left handed for twenty years until I ripped up my shoulder. Been shooting right handed ever since. A good mentor would have saved me a lot of trouble. I look for cross dominate with everyone I mentor. I have found it to be rare. Thankfully.The sooner one finds his/her dominate eye the better.

  6. Thank you so very much for this article. It pertains to me exactly & has answered all my questions. Thank you!

  7. I’m right handed and ‘left eyed’. I never cosidered canting the gun, I just layed my head sideways and shot.

  8. I’ve fought with this problem for years. Both my father and husband couldn’t accept that I was cross-dominant. I finally just gave up and did it my way with the sights in front of my left eye.

  9. I am one of the special crossed eye dominant people. I have a right eye with a left hand. I am also a female. I feel I am special. It drives the guys nuts including the person who taught the concealed carry class.

    1. I, too, am left handed with right eye dominance and female. I was accurate until my instructor told me to open both eyes. From that point on I have had trouble hitting anything near the center of the target. After reading this I will ‘cheat’ and try squinting to regain the accuracy with my right eye. Thanks for the info.

  10. How about just closing your dominant eye and shooting with the eye that lines up with your sights? I am left eye dominant and right handed. I have always just closed my left eye and shot with the right eye with great results using handguns, long guns and bows.

    1. This method is fine for shooting paper, but in a real life and death gunfight you really need your periphrial vison. When you close one eye you lose about 45% of your vison to that side and a bad guy could walk right up to you and you wouldnt know he was there. For a real life situation always shoot with both eyes open. Dont question this and dont forget it. It could be the difference in going home one day or never going home again. Peace, Gunnr

      1. I make it a point to practice with both eyes open and much of the time is devoted to practicing without using the sights.

    2. I cant close my left eye, it is impossible. I have tried and tried…..any other options?

  11. I have lazy eye. Left eye dominant and right handed. I do not use any of these methonds and my rounds go righy where I want them. It is a matter of concentration and focus. Though I do practice with my weK hand as well in case of a strong side injury. Its a little sloppy but can be done. As for long guns. I tend to use the same concentration/focus and I set my head kind of close to the rear sight so it makes your non-dominate eye focus on it.

  12. I disagree with your solutions. I am a cross-dominate shooter. I qualified expert in the Navy for both rifle and pistol. I shoot pistols by the Jeff Cooper method (right hand, head tilted to line up left eye with sights). With a long arm, I use my non-dominate eye to aim, scanning with my left eye, then partly closing that eye in order to lock on to my target with my right. This method is very fast and very accurate.
    “Canting” the pistol does not result in a bent wrist. Bending the wrist, results in a bent wrist. Adherents to martial arts know that canting the wrist 45* actually locks the skeleton, providing a more stable platform. Very little training is needed for this method, unlike weak hand shooting, which takes A LOT of training.

    You may be an experienced firearm instructor, but I am an experienced/expert cross-dominate shooter and will continue to shoot the way that works for me. I encourage your readers to try ALL methods to find what works for them, and take ALL expert opinions with a grain of salt.

  13. Boy, you have described my dilemma to a tee. Great advice, and I can’t wait to get back to the range with my 1911A and fix my “high-left” drift!! Thanks for thinking about us cross-dominant shooters.

    Doc

  14. My wife had this issue when I started teaching her to shoot. Fortunately, my father battled this due to losing his right eye as a kid and had to learn to shoot. He used the head turning since the peripheral vision was not issue and it worked for my wife.

  15. Instead of bifocals, I wear mono vision contacts. My right eye is corrected for distance, my left for close up and reading. It works pretty good most of the time, but I couldn’t focus on my handgun sights. With my right eye, the target is clear, but not the sights, creating a type of cross dominance. I now sight with my left by tilting my head, the sights are clear, although the target is a little blurred.

  16. I’m female, left eye dominate and right handed but also do a number of things dominantly left handed and a number of things well with either hand. My solution was easy and that was to be a left handed shooter.

  17. I’m left handed and right eye dominant. My solution is to cant the gun slightly to the right. That works best for me cuz I can’t shoot fer sh*t with my left eye! Occasionally I’ll try shooting with my right hand but not because of the eye dominance issue but more so because I think it’s good for a hand gunner to be ambidextrious. As for shooting long guns I’ve always shot left handed and adjust the windage accordingly. It seems to work ok for me.

  18. what do you do if you cannot for the life of you, close your left eye??? Right handed, left eye dominant and not digging wearing a patch on my left eye as I can’t close it ???
    MT

    1. Ha! This is me to a T……….Ever find a solution? I have no problem with a pistol, just cant shoot a rifle, yet.

  19. Thanks. The part in quotes identified my problem with a pistol exactly, consistently hitting left, and a little high. This morning I tried shooting lefty instead, and grouped my shots around the center of the target. I still don’t know whether I should train myself to shoot lefty, or to try some of these other ideas in order to compensate. One thing I was doing for a while was aiming (intentionally) low and left, but I identified this as another sub-optimal solution because the point of impact changes with every gun, and this technique requires a good estimate of the target’s range in order to compensate correctly.

    This has not been a problem for me shooting scoped rifles. The scope naturally captures my right eye, and my left gains focus on the target — took a little getting used to when learning to shoot with both eyes open.

    I suspect this is why I was never able to hit anything with my Ruger 10/22 before I put a scope on it — I was almost ready to blame the gun.

  20. So Colonel Cooper must have shot his rifles left handed then, since there is no other “satisfactory solution?” I heard that he was an alright rifleman.

    I can think of one “practical fix” to a shooter who shoots right handed with a rifle, but is left eye dominant. Squint the left eye. A lot easier than shooting left handed. I can assure you from my personal experience.

  21. Cross dominate shooters do have better alternatives.

    Its called the Center Axis Relock System.

    Very few of us are Certified and actively instructing civilians as it was intended for military and law enforcement by design but I’m one who will.

    What is often missing in most Conceal Carry Courses is going over the flight/fight response and why traditional shooting stances do not work.

    I won’t go into to much detail here because if you want you can actually take my Online Extended Conceal Carry Video Course for FREE by visiting here:

    http://www.adatccw.com/DONATIONS-SPONSORS.html

    One key factor is that in a self defense close quarters battle it is physically IMPOSSIBLE to close an eye!

    An attack is usually going to occur within 0-6ft 73% of the time and if your lucky within 0-15ft up to 88%…bad guys are not really known to give you a “heads up” that they are coming to hurt or kill you.

    Again there are MANY other factors that will contribute to why traditional shooting stances rarely work and its proven by Professionally trained officers based on their 18% National Average “active shooter hit rate”. Its under 11% for civilians.

    *These are not range training results…but LIVE active shooter response within 15ft when your life is on the line*

    If we focus only on the cross dominate eye issue (plenty more that occurs) C.A.R. does many things including offer cross dominate shooters the ability to use their DOMINATE EYE with their DOMINATE HAND.

    The C.A.R. system affords an increase in recoil retention by about 90-95% depending on which position your using, increased weapon retention by 95% and eliminates much of the flight/fight responses that EVERY HUMAN will have that makes shooting weaver/isosceles obsolete for personal defense.

    What works when your “pheasant hunting” or on a “controlled setting like a range for target shooting” using range style shooting platforms does not necessarily work for Real World Combat.

    Civilians and professionals alike have taken just my Conceal Carry Class and come away with some astonishing extra knowledge and a “wake up call” on whether their live fire training habits will or will not likely work in time of desperate need.

    My company is offering the FREEDOM 2013 10,000 STRONG CAMPAIGN to help concerned citizens get their RIGHT back so that they can apply to legally carry and protect themselves and those in desperate need.

    We need more GOOD GUYS carrying so that the bad guys have to think twice about who to attack and if we can also make headway on getting gun free zones to become GUN PROTECTED ZONES we will find success in stopping needless carnage.

    The course has a heavy retail price of which I have removed to make it free however be mindful that there is a small nominal fee for certification processing/shipping.

    The C.A.R. system works even better for those who are not cross dominate and when learned students get training on both left/right hand use as its a completely mirrored system.

    Its tactically sound and why it was designed by a former LE/Military professional for LE/Military professionals.

    The past few years it has been open to civilians because its time they learned too that the far fetched idea and training of isosceles/weaver to work within the distances of usual attacks is not effective.

  22. So i am right handed and left eye dominant. Amd also my right eye vision isnt great. And i really dont wanna shoot left handed. So should i try with both eyes open. I know what to do for a handgun. But what about a rifle????

  23. I’m right-handed and right-eye dominant but use my left eye to aim because my sight is clearer in my left eye. It works very well for me, and I don’t make any other body or head-position adjustment.

  24. Robert DiLella Sr

    I AM RIGHT HANDED, but I am left eye dominate, I can’t close my right eye,so when I first started hunting I learned to shoot left handed. Using a scope on rifle, or shooting clays just became natural, I keep both eyes open to track a clay, then close right eye before taking shot.
    I have tried shooting both eyes open, no success !! Now shooting a pistol, I can’t shoot left handed. I’m not an avid pistol shooter, just enough for protection!!!!
    I shoot ok ???? but a friend gave me a tip,to bring the gun up aligned with my left eye, rather then cocking my head over to the right. I tried it last week, I did much better… shooting for protection there isn’t time for using sights, more instinct and speed…….any suggestions ??????

  25. I have that problem right handed, but left eye dominant. Since I was 5 and it was discovered I had to shoot rifles and shotguns left handed. The few times I had to carry a pistol in military, while I could qualify, my grouping and control sucked with a pistol shooting left handed. Now that I have decided to get my conceal license I have spent a lot of time at the range and have improved, my grouping are still slightly low and to the right, but much tighter. I plan to take the stress shooting class the instructor who taught the conceal license taught, he suggested a try working with my pistol shooting right handed.
    I plan to try that as soon as can get hand on more range ammo

  26. As I stated in another article comment, I shoot with only one hand because of a physical impairment to my left hand. Add to that I only have vision in my left eye which makes sighting with one eye no problem. I’ve been looking at the world this way for sixty years and sighting a handgun the “old” way has never been a problem. I even have bad arthritis in my shooting wrist and so far no FTF’s.

  27. PLEASE CHECK THE CAR SYSTEM DEVELOPED BY PAUL CASTLE (RIP SEP2011), http://www.sabretactical.com for this issue. The master instructor is Jeff Jonsgaard.I am left eye dominate. Left handed for M4 and other long guns. RIght handed for pistol. Paul taught me when I was w/ Charleston County Sheriff Dept 99-01. And again at FT Irwin MAR 07.

  28. I am a cross dominant shooter and as an NRA trainer I find many others just like me. I was trained to cant my weapon to my eye not move my head or hands. It is so ingrained now that I automatically go there without thought! It is all about training that motor muscle memory…practice, repeat, repeat, repeat. I teach my students the same way. I have found they do really well and feel much safer than using their non-dominant hand.

  29. Growing up, my mom, a leftie, shot right handed but was left eye dominant. My grandpa couldn’t figure it out until he finally asked her which eye she used and had her switch. Immediate accuracy! All that time she thought she was a bad shot, lol.

  30. Eye dominance is a matter of your visual cortex deciding which eye it wants to pay attention to. Ussually it is the one with better acuity. Eye dominance can change instantaneously depending on the situation. And eye dominance is very trainable.
    It is easy to learn and doesn’t take much time or effort to be able to aim with either eye, while both eyes are open.
    This is much better than learning to shoot a long gun off of your support shoulder.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vNsdQwXVsU&feature=share&list=UUfsagvZM75–MRWntqzAyRw

  31. Thanks for the article… I don’t feel so weird now.
    When I was younger and shooting whatever, I was told by many ” hey your doing it wrong, use the other eye “!
    I finally read somewhere on how to tell which eye was dominate, but thought I was still alone on this.
    Thanks again :)

  32. I am cross dominate and have learned to fire a pistol with my right eye. As stated in the article it is a whole other story with a long gun. Especially one with optical sights. I must hold low and to the right on my target. I think if I sighted the rifle to compensate for that hold over I could shoot with my right eye.

  33. I have identified myself as fitting the bill. A lefty with right eye dominance. Curious to try both methods. I don’t own any longbarrels, but will be purchasing Jeff Cooper’s book for my library. Looking forward to better results.

    1. Hey I am right eye dominate and left handed. Did the book help you? I have tried shooting right handed (pistol), but don’t feel comfortable. I shoot my rifle left handed and use my left eye on the scope……….

  34. I noticed this when I took a class last year. I found myself using my left eye more. I can switch to the right eye from time to time but much easier with the left.

  35. I’m cross dominant and my solution is simply to aim a set distance to the left of the target, therefore accounting for error. I was wondering if there were other methods though.

  36. I’m a classic right-hand / left-eyed. I bought an ambidextrous handgun (S&W MP .40) and taught myself to shoot left. Other than a slight tendency to ‘push’ shots slightly right – I’m having much better success than shooting right. With the “ambi” gun – I practice with both. :-)

  37. I was right hand left eye dom and struggled with it for a long time.I trained myself to become strong hand dom by slightly squinting (not closing) my left (dom) eye thus making myself right hand /right eye dom.many hours of dry practice and range time(about a month daily)I have corrected my eye dominance issues and can now shoot without having to “squint”

  38. I am also cross-dominant, something which seemed to develop on it’s own when I was in the Navy. I used to shoot right-eyed/right-handed, until one year suddenly I was missing wide left during handgun quals, and realized I was no longer instinctively aiming with my right eye. The problem I have now that I own my own firearms is that both the 1911 and the P9RK I own eject their rounds back and to the right, resulting in me catching a casing in the right lens of my glasses about once per magazine.

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