Cross Dominance Fixes

Dear Technoid,

I started shooting skeet this spring (about once a week) and don’t seem to be improving very fast. I am left handed and right eye dominant; switching to being a right-handed shooter feels very awkward. I’ve shoot birds and sporting clays occasionally in the past. My father gave me a 20 gauge Citori with choke tubes because the gun I seemed to shoot best was my 12 gauge Citori goose gun. I also have a Browning 2000 20 gauge skeet gun. All of these guns have been shortened (I’m 5″3″). I have been taking lessons from a reputable instructor as I don’t know many people in Houston who shoot well to teach me (I’m a database administrator for a hospital and mostly meet computer geeks.)

My instructor has me shoot with scotch tape over part of my right lens to counter my cross dominant eye problem. Some stations — for example — high 5, are very difficult for me because I cannot tell why I’m missing and to me it looks like I’m missing in front of the target when in fact I’m shooting behind.

Is this related to my eye problem? I am usually good at sports and am a pretty good shot with a rifle. As far as I can tell, the guns fit me. Is there anything I can do to shorten the learning curve?


Dear Peggy,

Hang in there. It certainly sounds as though a piece of the puzzle is missing. If you can just find that piece, you could pull the cork out of your shooting genie’s bottle- (note twisted Yankee metaphor).

A very high percentage of women are cross dominant compared to men. My experience doesn’t gibe with those who put that figure as high as 85%, but I’ll bet that half the ladies I have coached are in your situation. I definitely know of cross dominant women who are superlative shooters.

The usual fixes for cross dominance are: 1) switch gun mounting sides to coincide with the master eye. 2) put a dot over the master eye so that it blocks out the front bead. 3) start with two eyes open and “blink” the master eye closed just before the shot. 4) start with the master eye closed and shoot purely one eyed.

First of all- are you absolutely, positively sure that you are cross dominant? Are you cross dominant all the time, or only when you are fatigued or ill? Many people have changing cross dominance. If you are serious about shooting, I would strongly suggest a visit to a sports medicine optometrist. It could save you a LOT of grief down the road. Don’t go to just any old mall eyeglasses doctor. Call up the local university med school and get the name of someone who understands the needs of an athlete. The $100 that the visit will cost is no more than the cost of one day’s shooting. Be smart, do it right. The eyes are by FAR the most important ingredient in good shooting.

Ok, from here on I will assume that the doctor has told you that you are indeed left handed and right eye dominant.

If you are clearly cross dominant, not marginally so (there is a difference), then it is always best to switch sides and shoot with the gun under your master eye. Yes, I know that is easy to say and hard to do. The more that you have shot, the harder it is. Since you are not a true beginner, it will be hard, but in the long run it is the best way. All other methods of compensating will deprive you of binocular vision. Only changing sides will preserve your depth perception. At trap and skeet, depth perception at the moment of the shot really isn’t that important, but in sporting clays and hunting depth perception is a valuable asset and you should be loathe to surrender it.

Switching sides for a “started” shooter like you is hard, but usually not impossible. You just have to stick with it for a month. If you aren’t making progress after a month (assuming you can shoot at least twice a week), then go to the next fix. Just remember, you really have to give it a try and the results will be worth it.

If you absolutely can’t switch sides, go to plan #2- the dot on the lens. You say that your instructor has done this for you, but that it still doesn’t work. Perhaps the dot has been placed in the wrong place. From your description of your misses on #5, it sounds as though the dot is not doing its job. Either you are moving your head or the dot is in the wrong location. Here’s how to put it in the right place: You will need an assistant and a 1/2″ or 3/8″ stick on dot or patch of opaque cellophane tape. Mount the EMPTY gun like a trap shooter and sight at an object on the wall. Hold this trap shooting position without moving. Have your assistant put the dot over your master eye so that it covers the FRONT BEAD of the barrel- not the target. That should do it. This placement will preserve as much of your peripheral vision and depth perception as possible, but will only block out the master eye when the gun barrel is on the bird. The dot works correctly only when the head is placed in the same relation to the stock and the dot each time. If your gun mount is not consistent, this could cause you to mis-align with the dot.

Some people find that it is just as easy to blink down the master eye the moment the gun comes to their cheek (in field and sporting clays). You may prefer this to using the dot, but it is not passive the way the dot is.

The most basic approach is just to shut your master eye and THEN call “Pull”. If you want to check the placement of the dot that your instructor put on your glasses, I would use this technique. If you can hit that high 5 when you start with only one eye open, but miss is when you have both open and rely on the dot, then you can be pretty sure that the dot is in the wrong place.

Cross dominance is a pain in the neck, but it can be overcome. You just have to work harder. Once you get the eye situation worked out, you may well find that you are a wizard shot. Don’t judge your ability by what is happening now with cross dominance problems.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to Cross Dominance Fixes

  1. Thomas Wyse says:

    My left eye gets bossy sometimes, but not all the time. I didn’t like the idea of wearing tape on my glasses or blinking. I don’t want to put tape on my glasses in the field, and often didn’t end up blinking in the excitement of a flush. I bought a Robert Louis Co. Lasershooter, and it provides my brain with instant feedback. My cross firing stays to a minimum if I use the Lasershooter consistently. If I take a break from it, my brain gets lazy, and it’s back to inconsistent shooting. I’d rather work on training my brain to interpret visual signals differently then make up for cross firing with tape on my lenses. It’s also fun to use. I chucked a cat toy laser on a piece of stiff wire into my drill, and I run the drill slowly. It’s a lot of fun to walk around the basement and pick up the cat laser and shoot it. Shoot it on the wall! Shoot it on the ceiling. Shoot it on the floor! Vary the speed! It’s hours of shooting fun, and it’s helpful for gun fitting too.

  2. stanley wren says:

    Been thru this and yes, it is painful but there is a light at the end. Opaque cellophane tape cut very small to only cover the front bead (hopefully a small brass one) was, and is, the winner. Tried everything else imaginable which included the magic dot (too large). The key IMHO, is getting the tape in the right location and assuming your gun fits where the mount is the same every time. You want both eyes clearly on the target for as long as possible so that your eyes and brain can triangulate the data from the target. At the very last instance, as you trigger the shot in your break zone, only then are you seeing the target with just your shooting eye.

    Keep working with it and it will come together. I’m in Houston and if you need help get in touch via this site.

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