Cross Dominance

Dear Technoid:

Recently I have gotten into shooting skeet and sporting clays. It was because of this that I discovered my problem, I have a dominant left eye although I shoot right handed.

I have received several suggestions from dots on my glasses to shooting left handed. The dot makes sense but I have noticed that as I shoot my glasses shift on my nose allowing me to look around the dot. I also tried following the target with both eyes but closing my left as I prepare to pull the trigger but the target seems to shift or jump on me. I was told that this was a sign of strong dominance by my left eye. Shooting left handed seemed plausible until I tried it and I doubt if I can acquire the footwork to make it possible.

I’ve also heard of stocks that are cast so far in that I can mount the gun on my right shoulder but shoot with my left eye!! Is this possible and if so wouldn’t that increase the amount of face slap, especially in clays where I’m not premounting my gun.

Help!!! Michael

Dear Michael:

First of all, look at the bright side. Many people suffer poor shooting performance due to cross dominance and never figure it out. Secondly, all cross dominance is not “strong”. Sometimes cross dominance crops up only with fatigue. If someone has “neutral” dominance, it can literally change around during the course of the day! Also age and health can affect eye dominance. If your cross dominance is strong and consistent, consider yourself fairly lucky.

Around 15% of people are cross dominant. It is more common among women for some reason. Many of the greatest baseball hitters are cross dominant- best eye nearest the pitcher and all that. Some very good shooters are cross dominant, so there are some steps that you can take.

If you feel that you are strongly cross dominant, learn to shoot lefty. Just make darn sure that you are strongly cross dominant or you will be wasting a lot of effort. I know that this is easy to say “Just switch sides” and very, very hard to do, but it is the way to go. The NRA did a study among rifle shooters and found that shooting from the good eye side was more important than shooting from the strong hand side. Admittedly rifle shooting has very little to do with shotgun shooting (a fact that has always been lost on that organization), but the principle is correct.

Shooting with two eyes open gives you the advantage of binocular vision. We use the natural parallax of eye separation to discern distance. When you close one eye, you can see detail pretty well, but you cannot judge distance. Try it and you will see. You go from 3-D to 2-D. 3-D is much better for shooting.

You did not say whether you were new to shooting entirely, or just new to trap and skeet. It is much harder to switch from right to left if you have been shooting for a long time. With a beginning shooter, you just switch them over right away on the first day and they never know the difference. Make a real effort to shoot lefty with both eyes open. Give it at least a couple of weeks. If you absolutely cannot make the conversion, then try some of the steps that follow. They are all compromises, but work well for many people. There are a lot of one eyed trap and skeet champions, but fewer at sporting where distances and target sizes vary more.

If shooting lefty does not work out, here are the other fixes most commonly employed. Try them in the order presented.

Blink down: Look at the bird with both eyes open to establish distance and flight path. As you raise the gun, close the left eye. You said that you noticed the bird “jumping” when you did this. That is normal in cross dominance situations. This happens more with some people than with others. If you are shooting a mounted gun, as in trap or American style skeet, you will have more of a problem with this “jumping”. Try starting with the gun off the face slightly or in the sporting clays under- the-armpit position. This might help stop the jumping. It works for many.

Dot/lens: If blinking down does not work, then go to a dot. With your gun mounted in the trap style, have a friend put a 1/2″ adhesive dot on your lens in such a position that it blocks out the front bead of your barrel. Many shooters use a piece of translucent Scotch tape. Position is important. Make sure that it blocks out the front bead. Leave most of the rest of the lens clear to preserve peripheral vision. I have also seen some shooters use a darker tinted lens on the strong eye. This may be something that you would want to experiment with if you do not like the dot.

You said that you tried the dot, but found that your glasses were moving so that you ended up looking around it. Your shooting glass should never move when you shoot. Something does not fit correctly. If the back of the thumb on your pistol grip hand is bumping into your glasses on firing, your stock is too short for the way you shoot. You should have at least 1″ between your glasses and the back of your thumb. Check your stock length and make sure that your glasses are proper shooting glasses (Decots, etc.) and are properly fit to your face. They should not move at all.

Closed eye: The third and final fix is just to close the offending eye just before you call for the bird. You lose all peripheral and dimensional vision. For trap and skeet the works well enough because distances and target sizes are known. In sporting this is tough because distances are less well known and different sized targets are used to give the impression of altered distances. The use of a 90 mm midi commonly gives the impression of a very distant 110 mm standard.

Barrel blinders: Cross dominant trap shooters often use a device called a barrel blinder. It is basically a strip of plastic about 5/8″ x 3″ affixed horizontally along the left side of the rib at the muzzle. It blocks the left eye from seeing the front bead. Only the weaker right eye can see clearly down the rib. It seems to be somewhat successful for mounted gun shooters. Worth a try.

Cross over stocks: The cross over stock is normally employed by the experienced shooter who is set in his ways, but has lost an eye due to disease or accident. It is also used by people who have suffered physical injuries requiring them to use the other shoulder. I feel that this would be a last resort. One never sees a cross over stock in serious competition. I have never seen one in the field either.

Something here ought to work for you. Best of luck.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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2 Responses to Cross Dominance

  1. Hugh Chinn says:

    Bruce: Are you or are you not a certified NRA shotgun instructor? If so, I am wondering why you would badmouth the NRA. If not, I am wondering how you would be aware of the NRA shotgun instruction curriculum.


    • Bruce Buck says:

      Yes, I have taken the NRA rifle, pistol and shotgun instructor courses. I coached International Skeet for two summers at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs at the request of the NRA. I shot competitive international shotgun under the NRA aegis until the NRA lost its Olympic national governing body position to USA Shooting. I have been a member of the NRA since my childhood and remain a member today. I am well aware of their shotgun instruction curriculum.


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