Blinking Down

Dear Shotgun Report,

I’m left eye dominant enough that when I shoulder a shotgun the barrel looks to be aiming toward the left of center (with both eyes open). I shoot a bow left-handed (I learned as young kid on my own, instinctively, and that must have just felt “right”), but do everything else right-handed and don’t want to try to learn to shoot a shotgun left-handed. I’m also not so sure that my left eye is that strongly dominant.

I’ve never done much with a shotgun (though have used rifle & bow extensively for forty + years). I bought my first shotgun at age 30 and went directly to the partridge woods without practice–actually took a few partridge, but sure missed a bunch. I persisted in acquiring shotguns and now have four–12 ga. 1100, 20 ga. Citori, 16 ga Savage Automatic and an old 12 ga. pump. I’ve now decided to try to get better at it. I read “Seven Steps to Shotgun Heaven” and realized I’d followed none of ’em. So, I’m having my old 16 gauge autoloader rechoked (tubes), plan on sticking with that gun for two years (I just like it’s look & feel) and am going to start hitting the range with a real scatter gun aficionado.

My question: is it possible to learn to shoot decently right-handed even though my left eye wants to take over, and can I do this with both eyes open? Seems like that would work, given time. Are there remedies to this situation, other than switching to left-handed shooting? I’ve heard about putting tape over my left eyeglass lens, but that seems like it’d be a bother when bird hunting (partridge, mostly). The gunsmith told me they can change the stock (cast?) to help remedy this. Can that work?

Appreciate any guidance you can provide. I’m now reading Atkins “The Shotgunner’s Book” but he doesn’t say much about this. Great book, though.



Dear S,

Try rooting around through Shotgun Report. I’ve covered this one several times and mention most of the standard solutions. “Cross dominance” is fairly common, afflicting about 15% of he men and a far larger percentage of women.

I don’t think that a patch works very well in a hunting situation as you need to keep both eyes open, especially partridge. Heck, with partridge two eyes aren’t nearly enough. Patches do work great for target shooting, but that’s a whole different deal than hunting.

Try this: keep both your eyes open normally to see the bird, but as you raise your gun to your face close the left eye to shoot. This is called “blinking down”. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if it works for you it is a great solution. Practice it on sporting clays and skeet when shooting low gun. Since the hunting season is over now, give it a fair trial of at least a month on clays.

As far as having your gunsmith “cast” a stock to suit a cross dominant shooter, well it is possible, but I’m not sure you want to do that. To shoulder a gun on the right side and shoot with the left eye, you would need a “cross over” stock. This will have a dogleg bend with 3″~4″ of lateral shift. Cross over stocks are monstrous looking and not the best handling things. They are really a last resort.

Definitely try blinking down first. Some people find that blinking down makes the target “jump”. If you find that, try closing the eye a slight bit earlier so that the left eye is sure to be completely closed when the stock touches the cheek. If you close the eye after the gun is on the cheek, the target may well “jump”.

As a cross dominant shooter, I can’t tell you how much I admire you for getting grouse. I have pretty good eyes and really have to struggle and get lucky to put one on the table. But they are worth it. I’ve shot birds all over the world and have never hunted a more demanding bird than our ruffed grouse.

Perseverance pays off too. I have a pal who just got his first grouse last year after many years of hunting. His wife had the fan mounted on green baize in a shadow box with a little brass plaque. She had been hunting with him when he shot it and saw the whole thing happen. By the way, my buddy shot the bird one handed. He only has one arm.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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