An Easy Way to Find Your Dominant Eye

Make sure you’re shooting from the correct side—and hitting every bird you should—with this simple test.
Make sure you’re shooting from the correct side—and hitting every bird you should—with this simple test.file photo

Here’s a test that has no wrong answer.

Most introductions to shotgunning begin with the “master eye” test. You hold your arms straight out at eye level, fingers up, palms out, thumbs and forefingers overlapping, leaving a small hole through which you sight a faraway object. Then you slowly bring your hands to your face, keeping the object in sight, until they wind up over one eye or the other. That’s your master eye. If you bring your hands back over the other eye, the object you were looking at disappears. You can also keep you arms extended, sight the target with both eyes open, close one eye, and then the other. The object will seem to jump sideways out of sight when you close your dominant eye. Try it.

With luck, you will turn out to be right-eyed and right-handed, or left-eyed and left-handed. However, you may be cross-dominant—right-handed and left-eyed, for example. The best thing to do is learn to shoot from the dominant eye side. My older son, Gordon, is left-eyed and right handed. I taught him to shoot left handed from the beginning.

If you don’t want to switch sides, you can use a small piece of tape or a smear of Chap-stick on your shooting glasses positioned so it blocks just enough of your master eye’s vision that the other eye takes over. This is better than closing the non-gun eye, because shooting with both eyes allows you to get a much better view of the moving target.

I’ve given the master eye test to a lot of new shooters, and I’m learning there is not just right and left eyed dominance. Some people are both-eye dominant or “center dominant.” My younger son John is center dominant – when he does the eye test his hands wind up over the bridge of his nose, not over one his eyes, but it doesn’t affect his shooting. His friend Nicky, who just joined our high school trap club, is extremely center-dominant. If she puts the gun to her right shoulder, the gun blocks enough of her right eye’s vision that the left eye takes over, vice versa if she tries shooting left handed. The first time she shot I hadn’t figured this out yet, and she broke four targets out of about 100 (she liked shooting and wouldn’t stop). Next time, I tried making her shoot left-handed, but that didn’t work any better than right handed. Then I put a small piece of masking tape over her glasses to block the left eye’s vision, and she started pounding targets. Last weekend, her third time shooting a shotgun, she broke a 20x25.