Learn To Shoot A Pistol With Both Eyes Open And Eye Dominance
What does that mean in English? Eye dominance and having a dominant eye, and using eye dominant shooting are normal. Most everyone is either right eye dominant or left eye dominant which just means your brain’s preferred eye for processing visual information is right or left. With both eyes open work together to bring you visual information relating to depth perception and spatial awareness.
Your dominant eye is responsible for spotting small differences between your right eye picture and your left eye picture, giving you the information you need. Let’s dive into eye dominance shooting, cross-eye dominant shooting, and the difference between them.
Eye Dominance / Ocular Dominance / Eyedness Definition: The brain's tendency to prefer visual input from one eye or the other.
Shooting a pistol with both eyes open
Learning your dominant eye
The first thing you want to know in shooting a pistol with both eyes open, are you right eye dominant or left eye dominant? Don’t book an optometrist appointment, because you’re going to find out right now.
- Make a triangle with your two forefingers and two thumbs and hold it out in front of you.
- Look around the room and pick a target of your choice.
- Frame that target in the window you have created with your two hands.
- Now, close your right eye.
Did the object stay centered? If so, you are right-eye dominant. If you are right-handed, then you are ready to begin eye dominance shooting.
Did the object move out of the window? Try closing your right eye and leaving your left eye open. If the object stayed centered this time, you are left-eye dominant. If you are right-handed, that means you are going to need to learn left-eye dominant right-handed shooting.
So, if your dominant eye and your dominant hand match, you are eye dominance shooting. If your dominant eye and dominant hand don’t match, you are cross-eye dominant shooting.
Eye Dominance Shooting
Now, what is eye dominance shooting? If you are left-handed, left-eye dominant, then you are left-eye dominant shooting.
That simply means that you are holding your weapon with your left hand on the trigger and with your right eye closed. Your left eye dominance shooting is about lining up your dominant hand with your dominant left eye to aim down your sights with your right eye closed.
Most likely, you are already doing this. Left eye dominance shooting should feel natural.
If you are right-handed and right-eye dominant, then the same is true in reverse.
You should be using your right-hand trigger technique with your dominant right eye lined up to your sights, with your left eye closed, for proper eye dominance shooting.
Cross Eye Dominant Shooting: Left Eye Dominant Right Handed Shooting
Now, what if you are left-eye dominant right-hand shooting? Cross-eye dominant shooting occurs when your dominant eye and your dominant hand are on opposite sides of your body.
Often, it feels natural to try and use the same eye as your dominant hand and aim using only one side of your body, but if you are left-eye dominant and naturally meant to be a left eye dominant shooter, and you are using your right eye, your aim is suffering.
Cross-eye dominant shooting, which is most commonly left eye dominant right-handed shooting, is achieved using both sides of your body.
In order to successfully aim in our left eye dominant right-handed shooting cross-eye dominant shooting example, you would cross your arms over your body slightly, holding your weapon in your dominant hand while making sure to close your non-dominant eye.
This technique can feel unnatural at first if you are not used to cross-eye dominant shooting. However, if you are cross-eye dominant and are not using the left eye dominant right-handed shooting technique, your aim is at a severe disadvantage.
Moving Past Eye Dominant Shooting
As we learned in eye dominance shooting, just like your hands, most people have a dominant eye, but you can train your brain to better use both eyes. That’s called Ocular Dominance.
But just like your hands, you can use both eyes together to improve your threat awareness and spatial awareness. This keeps you moving fast and alert on the battlefield, and is going to make you a better shooter. And of course, it prevents you from being a Cyclops Shooter.
When you are in a static situation like the shooting range, it’s up to you if you want to close off half your vision to line up your sights. But in a dynamic situation, you want to give yourself every possible advantage, and I guarantee, you will feel a lot more comfortable if you have spent time training your brain to shoot with both eyes open.
Learning to shoot with both eyes open
I get a lot of questions about learning to shoot with both eyes open. I’ve gone over open eyes shooting in my book and on my blog, and I know from the comments a lot of you already know how to do this, which is great.
It’s something I talk about a lot, and l know it can be a bit challenging. The hardest part is to describe exactly what you see when you shoot with two eyes.
A big part of learning this skill is training your brain to use new visual information. That sounds intimidating, but really, moving past eye dominance shooting and the left eye dominant right-handed shooting problem is possible with a little bit of time and attention to how your brain works.
With your eyes open, you will have two sight pictures when you are aiming. A lot of you are telling me all the time, “I have two sight pictures, what do I do to get rid of one?”. Two sight pictures are good, this is part of the whole point of open eyes shooting, but you will have to train your brain to ignore some of that information and only pay attention to one sight picture.
So you don’t want to get rid of that second-sight picture, but you do want to train yourself to only pay attention to one while you are aiming down your sights. Learning how to shoot with open eyes means you will have to re-learn how to aim using these new visuals. This is actually easier done than said.
With this video, I hope I think you will better understand what I’m talking about and how to master this skill. So, I want to not just tell you, but show you what I see when I shoot with eyes open.
Blinding me with Science: the science of dual eye dominant shooting
If you are interested in the science of shooting with two eyes, Julie Golob digs into this more on her blog as well. I had a chat with her and Barbara Baird on The Won episode #83. Another great resource for evaluating your eyes and how they relate to your aim is Eye on Performance sports vision training.
Not everyone is going to be able to shoot with both eyes, but now you should have a better understanding of what you should be looking for when you’re training.
Two Warnings on eye dominant shooting
I should also note that you need to be able to shoot well with just one eye open before you start trying to shoot with both eyes. It’s like trying to learn to juggle while riding a unicycle: probably impossible, and you’re going to waste a lot of time looking very stupid doing it.
Before you dive into shooting with both eyes, spend time dry fire drilling or on the range utilizing your eye dominance shooting techniques. Learn to crawl before you walk, and learn either eye dominance shooting or cross dominant shooting, like our left eye dominant right-handed shooting, whichever reflects your eye dominance and hand dominance.
You need to learn to do each one separately before you put them together. If you are just starting out as a marksman, get your basics down before you shoot with two eyes. You will have a much better time if you work on your aim with one eye first. There are lots of great resources on this blog and in my book The live-fire range is also the worst place you can learn to shoot with both eyes. Your time, money, and energy would be much better spent practicing dry fire. Not until you have trained your brain during a dry fire should you start slinging lead downrange with both eyes.
Is It Better To Shoot With Both Eyes Open?
Training Time: Both Eyes Shooting
The question is, Is It Better To Shoot With Both Eyes Open?. You will know this by training yourself to overcome eye dominance and make the most of your abilities as a marksman starts with learning to read the visuals you will have both on the range and the battlefield. One of the things you can do to help train your brain to work with two sight pictures is to practice two eyes aim with a pencil.
Take your pencil and aim it like a dart, pointing to a target, with eyes open. Then, close your non-dominant eye and see how far off your aim is. Try this a few times to train your brain what you’re looking for when you aim your sights with both eyes.
Then try it the other way, aiming with your dominant eye and then opening both eyes to see what you should be looking for when you aim. You can do this drill anytime, anywhere, and if you get used to seeing how you have to aim to be accurate with both eyes, you will save yourself time, money, and frustration when you finally take this skill to the shooting range.
This is one of many Optic Drills you can do at home, any time, that I recommend for strengthening your eyesight. A lot of people think that as you age, your eyesight has to deteriorate and that this is just a part of life.
When I started to notice my own eyesight giving me trouble, I did some research and discovered that notion is just false. The eye is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs training and exercise to stay healthy and effective.
Do you have any challenges with eye dominance shooting, cross-eye dominant shooting, left eye dominant right-handed shooting, or shooting with both eyes open? Let me know in the comments.
Chris, I am “old school” I was trained during the Gunsite / John Shaw influence period and have 1000’s hours shooting from the Weaver / modified Weaver, plus I’m cross dominate, right hand with a strong left eye dominance. Even with hours of dry fire and live fire, I revert back to a head-tucked, one eyed, modified Weaver when under stress. I think that there is a group of shooters that face the same challenge, what drills and exercises do you suggest for someone with those limitations?
First off, if you’re shooting well under stress it doesn’t matter how you stand or if you’re a one-eyed monster. With that said, if you want to change anything it’s going to time. I’ve been studying a lot of research on change for my next book and current experts say any change takes an average of about 68-days, not 21 like most of us heard and was just invented because it sounded good. So this means you’ll need to train (dry fire) for around 68-days (range is from 22 to 126-days) for your new desired skill to become an ingrained habit. And this is 68-days working on it, not 1-2x week over 68-days.
As for your cross-eye dominance, this is a tough decision. You can change eye-dominance but this too will take some time. It’s pretty easy to do. Just put a vertical strip of scotch tape (clear) over your dominant eye shooting glasses and use your other eye. Over time your brain will learn to use that eye.
For all of this the most important thing is to make your habits during dry fire. Changes will happen much faster and easier. Only when you’ve got it down should you head to the range. Also, if you are going to make the changes, don’t cheat and go shooting the old-school way as this will set you back.
Let me know if this answered your question.
First off, if you’re shooting well under stress it doesn’t matter how
you stand or if you’re a one-eyed monster. With that said, if you want
to change anything it’s going to time. I’ve been studying a lot of
research on change for my next book and current experts say any change
takes an average of about 68-days, not 21 like most of us heard and was
just invented because it sounded good. So this means you’ll need to
train (dry fire) for around 68-days (range is from 22 to 126-days) for
your new desired skill to become an ingrained habit. And this is 68-days
working on it, not 1-2x week over 68-days.
As for your cross-eye dominance, this is a tough decision. You can
change eye-dominance but this too will take some time. It’s pretty easy
to do. Just put a vertical strip of scotch tape (clear) over your
dominant eye shooting glasses and use your other eye. Over time your
brain will learn to use that eye.
For all of this the most important thing is to make your habits during
dry fire. Changes will happen much faster and easier. Only when you’ve
got it down should you head to the range. Also, if you are going to make
the changes, don’t cheat and go shooting the old-school way as this
will set you back.
Let me know if this answered your question.
I’ll be trying this this afternoon if I get a chance to go to the range thanks
How’d it work Scott? Make sure you dry fire before using it at the range.
Old habits are hard to break lol, I’ve always shot with one eye, I still need to practice with both eyes open. I believe the dry firing with both eyes is helping some though. Hope your doing will Chris.
Hey, these are great tips. I am a right handed shooter with left eye dominance. I’ve been shooting an M1 Garand left handed by closing my right eye, with iron sights. I’m looking to purchase a modern AR-style rifle and plan on using a red dot optic but I need some guidance. I’m guessing that even with both eyes open I will need to shoot on the side with the dominant eye. It’s still a little awkward for me to shoot lefty, but I can get by. What do you recommend? It seems like my options are either shooting lefty (dominant eye side, but awkward) or trying to change eye dominance to shoot righty where it feels natural. I read your response below. I’ve heard conflicting information about whether changing eye dominance is feasible or even possible. Do you have any personal experience with it?
I don’t have any personal experience with this, but I have taught a lot of people who have the same dilemma.
This is something you’re going to have to decide yourself. The main importance with shooting with your dominate eye is shooting with both eyes open. If you’re closing the other eye, you can shoot with either eye.
When I shoot rifle reaction side with iron sights, I close my right eye and use my left.
If you want to chance eye dominance, you can. It takes some time though.
When I shoot with a red-dot/reflex sight I keep both eyes open and can use either eye. You should be able to do the same.
Hope this helps.
What about people who are left eye dominant, but are right handed when it comes to pistol shooting? When it came to you students or your fellow co-workers, what would you advise them to do? I have heard of moving the pistol over to the left eye. I thought this might be a problem, because the pistol is not in line with the forearm of the right arm. I have heard about canting the pistol to the left a couple degrees. Just wondering what you thought?
Chris, Hey. I’m cross eye dominant and it hasn’t hurt my pistol shooting any. I train a lot and practice daily. I just bought an AR 15 with irons and an Eotech optic. It’s a real challenge to shoot with both eyes open with a rifle. I lose focus on everything. Will I be able to master the optic (at least)? Or will I just be better off shooting my long arms with a one eye focus on my sights? By the way where I train they teach students to only use one eye to shoot as we aren’t training for the military and I guess they don’t think periphrial vision will help in a gunfight. I guess you can open your eye after your shot breaks???
Gunnr – First, make sure you can shoot with one eye. When you’ve got that down, then working on keeping both eyes open. Make sure you’re practicing off the range as you’ll get in a lot more reps in a shorter amount of time.
The optic should be easier than irons.
As for which way is better for you: Shooting is/should be continual learning, so maybe now you’re better off with one eye, but a year from now you’ll be able to use two.
Even those of us who shoot with both eyes open close an eye for various reasons, so it’s not taboo.
If you’re in a violent encounter, you’ll have both eyes open. Hopefully you’ll be able to see your sights.
Train hard – Fight harder.
Hey Chris just wanted to throw out a BIG thanks for serving our Country!
Thanks Bones! It was a pleasure and an honor – plus I had fun and got paid!
I understand all you are teaching regarding eye dominance and shooting with both eyes open. However, there’s something I’m still confused about. I’m sure you’ve been asked this (in fact, as you were a firearms instructor for the Teams, I know you have), so I apologize for the redundancy.
If you train us to keep both eyes open while focusing on that front sight (creating two sight pictures), then how do you clear a building (if you’re a SEAL) or deal with a home invasion threat (if you’re a civilian like me) with this concept? Say I’m the point man, and the breach guy just sledged the door open and we’re stacked on the left side of the door. When I enter and train my weapon to the left corner of the room and there is a threat, do I zoom in with my eyes on my front sight so that there is a double image of my rear sight and a double image of the threat I’m about to drop? Or do I focus on the threat so that there is a double image of my front sight and double image of my rear sight?
Does that question make sense?
Anytime you’re moving, you need both eyes open – this includes clearing a building. With enough training your mind will be able to quickly see your front sight lined up on a threat. You will always see two slightly different sights with both eyes open. The further anything is away from your eyes, the smaller the differences get.
If a tango is so close that you see two of them, either/both sights will hit them.
To learn what it will look and feel like, make sure you’re using stress training.
Hey Chris I grew up bird hunting and shooting clays and was always taught to shoot with both eyes open. I have recently gotten into deer hunting and I close one eye when I shoot. At the range I can hit a bullseye from 100 yards but it doesn’t seem to matter in the field because I have missed two deer. Should I look through my rifle scope with two eyes open or continue to use one eye? Also could I aholr my bow with two eyes open?
Alex – Shooting a scoped rifle is much different than open sites or reflex. Short answer – Close the other eye and get you some venison. Both eyes open is for keeping situational awareness and shooting fast. The further the shot, the more time you have or the more accurate you need to be – you need to start thinking about closing an eye.
Shoot accurately with one eye first, before you try it with two.
Hi Chris. I’m a left handed shooter with right eye dominance. I have always in the past placed a piece of tape about the size of a dime on my shooting glasses to block out my right eye but still keep both eyes open. After reading your article and watching your video on the matter, I have been dry firing at home with both eyes open and no tape on my glasses. I have to say that after a few weeks of dry fire practice I believe i’m ready to try it out live firing at the range. Thanks Chris for a great topic. If its going to be, it’s up to me….!!!
Thank you for posting. It’s good for other shooters to hear that it works IF YOU PRACTICE.
So many people try something once and then say it doesn’t work.
Good luck and let us know the verdict!
Hey Chris, here’s an update. Went to the range and applied the exact technique I used dry firing at home. What I found on the range was that my first, target was set up at 10 yards. At this distance I was amazed that I was shooting really good groups. My only concern was that I wear prescription glasses which are fitted with progressive lenses for close up and distance. With my head held in the proper position I found myself seeing a blurred front sight unless I tilted my head upwards to correct my vision. To remedy this problem I removed my prescription glasses and replaced them with a pair of plano safety glasses, and “Bingo” Problem solved. I understand that you use prescription glasses for shooting and would like to know if you have ever experienced this problem and if you did, how did you remedy it? I know of a company that will place the bi-focal in the top of the lens specifically for handgun shooting, but they are kind of pricy
Thanks for the update.
I have some eye issues and I wear a special pair of glasses that laser map your eye and then build lenses that have a different RX for every point on the glasses…they are not cheap.
Make sure you have a mark on your front site post big enough to catch your eye and focus on.
First of all thanks for your very useful book. At the age of 64 I just took delivery of my first firearm (S &W M&P 9) and I am raring to start dry firing and also putting in some range time. I have also determined that I am cross dominant, (right handed, left eye dominant). I think you are telling shooters like myself to train yourself to use your dominant eye while keeping both eyes open. I don’t see anything in your book or on the website that tells me how to to that. Did I miss something that was right in front of me in your book or website (I’ve been know to do that before)?
If not,do you have any suggestions for me and others like me. I did get the one about tilting your head toward the dominant eye. Some (including a person on this page) have suggested putting some material over the non dominant eye. Is this one technique you would recommend? Any others?
Steve – Welcome to the club! I should’ve been clearer in my article, but shooting with both eyes open should only come AFTER you can shoot with one eye. Like everything else I teach – crawl, walk, run.
Also, rather than turning your head to the side to line up with your dom-eye, just shift the pistol over to line up with the other eye. They are both effective and have +/- to each. Try them both.
Hope this helps!
First of all, I want to acknowledge your clear spirit of wanting to help those of us who want to become better shooters (and better people as well). I never expected a reply this quickly.
I have been practicing my platform, grip, and sight picture at home (no mag and chamber checked empty) for a few days with both eyes open. I will be going to the range in a few days to shoot 30 or 40 rounds to check my brand new firearm. I will see if I am hitting the target at 5 yards consistently with both eyes open. If I am able to do that I will continue that way; if not I will start up my learning curve with one eye shooting.
Thanks again and I will watch the website in the hope that you might run a training session in the Denver area.
It is great to have a professional such as yourself to offer tips, instruction and advice in order to help others become safer and more proficient shooters. Please keep up the great work.
I have been a serious avid shooter for 50 years now. I have tried to become proficient in all aspects of shooting as I could think of. I started serious shooting when I was 12 years old and I have to say that I loved it so much that it kept me from most of the bad things that kids are exposed to when they don’t have something like shooting to hold their attention goodcrnough so they don’t have any interest in the things they should stay away from. It didn’t stop my interest in girls but I managed to get them into shooting with me. I have 2 ex wives that I an proud to say I taught to be safe, very good shooters. I did instill in them that you must never shoot your instructor so I think I am safe!! Actually I still enjoy shooting with both of them occasionally. The art of well coordinated shooting tends to bring people closer. I guess it’s because it requires fine tuned physical movements as well as brain and hand eye coordination
RD – Glad to help. Here’s to 50-more years of safe shooting! CLS