Cross-Dominance: The Non-Issue

6-Aug-08 – 03:36 by ToddG

Cross-dominance, sometimes called “cross-eye dominance,” affects approximately 10% of shooters. It is fairly common among left-handed shooters (whose right eye is dominant) but it also occurs in a small percentage of right-handed shooters (whose left eye is dominant).

There are a number of different tests to determine eye dominance. The easiest is to point your pistol at a small target. Now, close your left eye, keeping the right eye open. If the gun is still lined up with the target, you’re right eye dominant. If the gun seemed to “jump” to the left, then you are left eye dominant. (thanks to reader HD for catching our earlier mistype)

For years, instructors would give students a variety of different techniques to overcome the problem of cross-dominance. Even now, some instructors treat it as an affliction. Recommendations range from forcing yourself to shoot with the non-dominant hand to radically canting your head and neck to get your dominant eye in line with the gun.

None of that is necessary. Or even helpful.

If you are cross-dominant, the solution is pretty simple. Just put the gun in front of your dominant eye. Simple as that.

Close your non-dominant eye. Draw the pistol and point it at your target. Don’t bend your neck or anything else, just stand upright and aim the gun. Now open your non-dominant eye. Ta-da. You’ve done it!

The photo above is of an extremely accomplished shooter who happens to be cross-dominant. Can you tell from his face, head position, or stance that he’s shooting with his left eye? No, you cannot. He simply brings the gun an inch farther to the left than a non-cross shooter needs to.

So, don’t let cross-dominance limit your shooting or your students’ shooting. Like many things in life, cross-dominance doesn’t become a problem until a shooter is told it’s a problem. Don’t program shooters for failure. If you are dealing with a cross-dominant shooter, just make sure he’s lining the gun up properly and leave it at that. If he’s struggling, have him shoot with his non-dominant eye closed for a while to get used to the proper position of the gun. Then, as he gets more comfortable, he can start working on shooting with both eyes open.

Cross-dominance is just a boogeyman used as an excuse by bad instructors or struggling shooters. Remember: just put the gun in line with your dominant eye, whichever eye that is. It really is that simple.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 19 Responses to “Cross-Dominance: The Non-Issue”

  2. Now, close your left eye, keeping the right eye open. If the gun is still lined up with the target, you’re right eye dominant. If the gun seemed to “jump” to the right, then you are left eye dominant.

    If I close my left eye, the gun jumps to the left, not right. If I close my right eye, it stays the same. Is this what you meant? Or am I just weird (I have real problems with my shots pulling to the left).

    By HD on Aug 7, 2008

  3. I am a right handed shooter, left eye dominant, and I guess I accidently “learned” early on that there really is not an eye dominance problem. I’m lucky to have gotten started out the right way, because at my age I don’t easily learn new things.

    By Steve on Aug 7, 2008

  4. I have the same problem that HD described, and I to tend to pull my shots left. I shot 100 rounds last time out and not one of them went to the right of my point of aim. I thought for my next trip to the range I would try shooting with my left eye closed, (I’m right handed, but left eye dominante). I’ll give putting the gun in line with my left eye a try as well.

    By SB on Aug 7, 2008

  5. no one ever seems to address the problems of those have only one working eye which is not on the same side as their shooting hand …
    i have several friends with this problem , 20/200 or worse in the right eye and right handed …
    it makes correcting poi/poa problems a real pita sometimes

    By r eduex on Aug 9, 2008

  6. Something that may help with comfort is a patch/cover. Rather than closing the eye which would be unnatural, use a shooters patch (hinged to it can be flipped up).

    I did this with my students when I was teaching marksmanship for the military 15 years ago.

    By turbomkt on Aug 9, 2008

  7. My left eye was quite dominant when I started shooting but I’ve since become ambi-ocular.
    I worked at it, not very hard really, and now shoot freestyle and strong hand with my right eye. I now only sight with my left eye when shooting weak hand.

    By Ninth Stage on Aug 10, 2008

  8. This advice is fine for pistol shooting. But for rifles (not your subject, I know) there isn’t an easy solution like this.

    By Al on Aug 10, 2008

  9. HD — You’re right, we suffered a little transcription error getting that typed up. It’s fixed now. Thanks for catching it!

    r eduex — If you’ve only got one working eye, dominance is a non-issue. Put the gun in front of the working eye, just as explained in this post. If you have one eye with great vision and one with bad vision, and the bad vision eye is dominant, shooting glasses or a patch are your only quick solutions.

    Al — Most people I’ve trained with recommend shooting with the non-dominant hand (i.e., left shoulder for right-handed person) to get the sights/dot in line with the dominant eye.

    By ToddG on Aug 12, 2008

  10. I’ve shot with the shooter in the photo on many occasions and he used to close one eye and it didn’t seem to affect his shooting. Didn’t know he switched to both eyes. I’m cross eye dominant as well but tilt my head vice moving the pistol over. You ever picked up on that when shooting with me Todd? I’m sure you have since the cant is fairly obvious. As for rifles, I still shoot right handed despite being left eye dominant but position the rear scope cap so that it acts as a pseudo eye patch. I do this with Aimpoints and scopes. Try it Al and let us know how it works for you.

    By Rich on Aug 13, 2008

  11. Rich — I don’t think he shoots with both eyes open regularly.

    By ToddG on Aug 13, 2008

  12. I’m lefthanded, yet when I learned to shoot(with rifles), the regular right-handed rifles didn’t feel at all awkward(quite natural actually), so that’s how I learned. I had no idea at the time that I was cross-dominant(besides, it felt natural using my left hand to adjust my aim).

    Though as Nightstage, I guess I’m more ambi-ocular, the right is dominant, but I can consciously switch at any time without issues.

    With pistols, I just hold it slightly more to the right(two-handed hold), though I could easily switch eye instead, particularly if I wanted to shoot one-handed.

    By Kaerius on Aug 14, 2008

  13. I”m right handed but left eye dominant i learned to shoot like this,it really made no difference until i started shooting large cal. I learned real fast. After joining the army i trained my self to shoot with my right eye it became my dominant eye after awhile,Now years later i started wearing contacts and my eyes went back to the way they were when i was younger it is still not that a big deal just something you have to identify and adjust to now i shoot with my right hand and my left eye i still shoot rifles with my right eye and left one closed

    By Bryan Wilson on Oct 20, 2008

  14. It is a non-issue with most pistol shooting. It is a potential problem with long guns.

    By John on Feb 23, 2009

  15. I am left eye dominant and right handed and grew up shooting rifles. Plus I can not close my left eye and have my right eye open….still not sure why…but it has always been that way. So as a kid I learned to shoot rifles left handed and it works great. Now I am shooting a pistol and still trying to determine if I should shoot left handed with the pistol or adjust to a right handed shot. Any suggestions?

    By Rich on Feb 20, 2011

  16. Rich,

    If you actually have the ability to choose, you’re lucky. Even though you have taught your left side to handle a rifle, I’d be amazed if you are as dexterous left handed as you are right. If so, then good on you. If not, and if you want to shoot a pistol really well, then you pretty much have to shoot it right handed. You then have two choices. Either do as Todd says in the article and use your left eye while shooting right handed (preferably while keeping your right eye open, but it doesn’t really matter), or learn to close your left eye, only, on demand. I have met many people who could not close one eye, but with time and effort, they trained their eye lid to close on demand. It’s a muscular issue for most, not an impossibility.

    By SLG on Feb 21, 2011

  17. Thanks, SLG!

    By ToddG on Feb 21, 2011

  18. Thanks SLG….I guess I will need to try a few options mentioned and see what works best in the long run for me. One other question though…I have a Springfield XD 9mm standard and the slide release is on the left side…so if I shoot left handed with it it is tough to release the slide if it is locked back. I know this is not an issue in a self defense scenario since I keep the pistol with a loaded clip just not chambered…so the slide obviously don’t lock back in this situation…but at the range it is when I load the first clip with the slide locked back as my local outdoor range requires. Right now I have to hold the pistol in my right hand to release slide, then switch to my left to shoot. Any suggestions on this if I choose to keep shooting left handed? Thanks for the help.

    By Rich on Feb 21, 2011

  19. Hi,
    I am a right handed with left eye dominance. But My coach recommands me to shoot by right hand and right eye. In other word, he doesn’t belive in eye dominance rule. Do you confirm such method?

    By nima on Jan 23, 2012

  20. As a LEO I never knew of the condition until the Academy when I started shooting shotguns/rifles. Shooting pistols with my left hand and rifles with my right was normal growing up. I didn’t see anything strange about it until the range master brought it to my attention. They didn’t try to change my shooting preference.

    In fact, I now see it as a plus working the streets. If things were to go south and I lost my left side in a gunfight I can stay in the fight with my right. Any advantage no matter how slight is an advantage :)

    By Tuan on Mar 21, 2012

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