Cross-Dominant Shooting and How to Overcome It

The conflict between right and left is a big sticking point for shooters, and I’m not talking about politics.  I’m talking about hand dominance vs eye dominance.

political free zone
Fear not! You’ll find no politics here.

Let me explain.

Unless you’re one of the ridiculously small percentage of people that is truly ambidextrous, your dominant hand is going to have a huge impact on how you shoot.  What a lot of people overlook is something even more important: which eye is dominant.

Just like your hands, you almost certainly have one eye that is dominant over the other.  We don’t have solid numbers but it’s estimated that less than half a percent of the population has no eye dominance either way.

Why is this important?

Well, if you’re cross-dominant (right eye dominant, but left hand dominant, or vice versa) you can have some trouble shooting if you don’t learn how to correct for it.

That’s what we’re going to cover in this article.

Roughly a third of the population is thought to be cross-dominant, but thankfully, there are several ways for cross-dominant shooters to shoot just as well as anyone else.  The difference comes down to practice and training.

Training with a Pistol
As with most issues, the solution is to train more.

If you think you might be cross-dominant, want to learn how to train someone to overcome cross-dominance, or have a lot of shots that go a little high, but way off to one side (a common indicator that a shooter is cross-dominant) you’re in the right place.

Diagnosing Cross Dominance

Besides misses that land high and to one side, tilting your head to one side, or moving or tilting the gun to your non-dominant side are also signs of cross-dominance, and are things you should be aware of in your own shooting, or in those you’re training.

Fortunately, there’s a very easy way to quickly and easily diagnose cross-dominance, and you can try it right now wherever you’re reading this.

First, hold your hands out in front of you, and make a frame with your fingers like you’re a photographer lining up a shot.

framing new york harbor
Pick something commonly available like a picture on the wall, a piece of furniture, or a 20th century ship in New York Harbor.

Find an object a good distance away and tighten the frame you’ve made with your fingers around it, keeping both eyes open.

Now, keep your hands still and close one eye, then the other.  The object should stay in the frame when viewing it with one eye, and move out of frame when viewing it with the other eye.  The eye that keeps the object in the frame and allows you to still see it clearly is your dominant eye.

Another way is to extend one arm and point at an object with one finger, keeping both eyes open.  Do the same thing as before and close one eye, open it, and close the other eye.  

Your finger will stay pointed at the object when viewed with your dominant eye, but will appear to move to one side and no longer be pointed at the object when you have your non-dominant eye open.

Now, if you are right handed and right eye dominant or left handed and left eye dominant, you’re done unless you’re working with someone who is cross-dominant or you’re a trainer looking for ways to help folks you’re instructing.

training kids to shoot
This is especially important to understand if you’re looking at training your kids early, as they may be cross-dominant whereas you are not.

Since you’re still here, let’s take a look at ways to correct for cross-dominance.

Addressing Cross-Dominance

Alright, if you’re looking to overcome cross-dominance when shooting a rifle or shotgun…I have some bad news.  

You have, to my knowledge but please correct me if you know otherwise, three options:

  • Close or occlude vision (by using anything from an eye patch, to translucent tape over your shooting glasses) through one eye.   Limiting your peripheral vision, especially in a defensive situation, is never good, but you can get away with it in a match or when at the range.
overcoming cross dominance
One of our top contributors, Annette Evans demonstrates taping over one side of your eye protection as a cross-dominance fix over at Target Barn.
  • Use a red dot, which will allow you to keep both eyes open, with your dominant eye on the target and your non-dominant eye on the dot.  This makes more sense in practice than explaining it, so you’ll just have to try it.  You can also do this with other optics, depending on your degree of cross-dominance, but it doesn’t work well with all scopes, and doesn’t work with irons.  For what it’s worth, this is what I default to, but I can handle a long gun equally well shooting right or left handed.  Like anything else, it’s something you can overcome with training.
  • Learn how to shoot with your non-dominant hand, which is easier with a rifle than a pistol in most cases.

Overcoming cross-dominance with a pistol is a bit easier.

Cross-Dominance and Pistol Shooting

When it comes to pistol shooting, if you’ve never held a gun before, or have limited shooting experience, or are working on training a newbie, I’d strongly recommend teaching them to shoot with the hand that matches their dominant eye, rather than trying to use their non-dominant eye and dominant hand.

If you’ve already started shooting and you want to overcome a cross-dominance issue you discovered after, or want to correct issues a student has developed, there are a few things you can do.

Learn to Shoot with Your Non-Dominant Hand

This a worthwhile skill for anyone to learn, but it is especially important for cross-dominant shooters.

one handed shooting
Shooting with your non-dominant hand is always good practice.

If your dominant hand is injured or otherwise occupied, learning to shoot a handgun with your off-hand can save your life.  Beyond that, this is one of the simplest ways to overcome cross-dominance issues, particularly early in your shooting career.

Of course, there are problems with this approach.  First, you may not be able to get over using your non-dominant hand to shoot.  I’ve known many people who were strongly right or left-handed and thus didn’t feel comfortable using their weak hand to control and manipulate a handgun, which is understandable.

The other issue is that most handguns are setup for to be shot right-handed only, so shooting left handed can cause a host of problems, particularly with guns that don’t have ambidextrous or swappable controls.

In general, I’d say it’s way easier to overcome right eye dominance when you’re left-handed than the other way around.  If you’re left-handed, you’re probably already used to conforming to a mostly right-handed world, and you may find it’s easier to do that here.

Close, Squint, Cover, or Partially Block One Eye

Like with a rifle, you can also close or otherwise block vision through your dominant eye, which will cause your brain to prioritize input from your open, non-dominant eye.  For some people, simply squinting one eye (if possible) can work, though it can cause problems with the uneven tension in your face affecting your accuracy.

You can also put something like scotch tape, chapstick, or something similar over the lens of your shooting glasses on the side of your dominant eye.  Again, I wouldn’t call this eyedeal (heh) but it does work, and many folks find it helpful in competition environments.

In a defensive situation, you’re not likely to have your shooting glasses on, and you’re going to want as much of your vision unobscured as possible, so while this works at the range, it isn’t really possible if you’re planning on carrying a handgun for self defense, and if you subscribe to the “train how you plan to fight” mantra like I do, it makes this suggestion impractical at best.

Turn or Tilt Your Head

Turning your or tilting your head to the side is a totally viable way to bring your dominant eye inline with the sights of your gun, even if it does look a bit silly at the range.

The problem here is that it not only feels unnatural, but it’s difficult to maintain and to perform consistently.  Neck pain will result if you do this for long periods, and you can develop some long term issues if you do this consistently.

For the occasional range trip, it’s fine, and in a panic situation where you need to get your eyes to cooperate right now, it will serve.

Jeff Bridges True Grit
Jeff Bridges helpfully demonstrating the “tilt your head” approach in the movie True Grit.

Canting the Gun

The other option that I really don’t recommend is canting the gun.  Canting the gun 15-45 degrees to the left or right can bring your dominant eye in line with the sights appropriately, but it can also cause a host of other issues and difficulties.

First, it’s hard to cant the gun consistently, and when you’re trying to be both fast and accurate, consistency, especially in your training, is key.

The second problem is one of function.  Modern firearms were designed to be held vertically (not sideways, not canted, not upside down) and any deviation from that can increase the chances of malfunctions, and it also causes problems managing recoil and getting your eyes back on the sights quickly for a follow-up shot.

Also, you’re just asking to get hit in the face with brass.

Beyond that, you’re going to have some serious trouble adjusting your point-of-aim vs. point-of-impact at longer ranges.  This is another technique that I would only advocate using in a pinch, but it can be very effective with a revolver where cycling of brass isn’t as much of an issue.

cant gun cross dominance
You can also check out another shooter’s approach to cross-dominance with our friends at USCCA.

Shift the Gun Past Your Midline

A modern isosceles stance has you holding the gun squarely in the middle of your body.  The most natural, and least disruptive method I know of for a cross dominant shooter to address their issue is to simply shift the gun a little to either the left or the right to bring it more in line with your dominant eye.  

This way, you’re keeping both eyes open, you’re not doing anything weird or uncomfortable with your head, and you’re holding the pistol the way it’s meant to be held.

The main problem with this is you have to alter your stance a little regarding how you hold your arms, and it can theoretically make recoil a little more intense because you aren’t in the optimal position to absorb it and compensate.  That being said, the difference is relatively minor.  

The one thing I would be conscious of would be making sure you aren’t pulling shots to your dominant eye side, which is a common issue with this method, in my experience.

For what it’s worth, this is the method I use, and to my knowledge, is the most common method for professional cross-dominant pistol shooters, and I think that’s because it’s such a natural position.

This method is so natural in fact that many cross-dominant shooters arrive at this solution without being told, if they are unaware of their cross-dominance.  And if it work, go for it.

Parting Shots

And that’s something I want to be clear about.  All of these solutions can work.  You should experiment with them all and find what’s best for you.  Just be sure to understand all the potential downsides before you commit to one method, and once you pick something that works, train, train, and train some more.

Are you cross-dominant?  What do you think of these techniques?  Let me know in the comments below.

33 Leave a Reply

  • Francis

    I an a righty thats left eye dominate, I have always shot a rifle left handed. I just got into pistols about 2 years ago, im 62. I started off left handed because of my cross dominance. This never felt right so it didnt take long to change to my dominate hand, I shoot better right handed that being said, I do sometimes pratice shooting with my left hand.

    1 week ago
  • Steve

    I am a lefty who is right eyed dominant. I can shoot right but naturally go to my left hand. I have mastered shooting left with right eye with pistol but... rifle is a completely different animal. I have shot an M1 righty pretty well but using my AR's is a completely different experience. I need some tips on how to adapt. I haven't done much long gun because of it. Being a contractor every tool ever made was right handed so for 50 years I adapted to using my right but the long guns are really beating me.

    2 months ago
  • Nick

    I shoot a pistol left handed, but a long gun righty. I write left handed but throw a ball righty. Most other things are right handed with a few things I do lefty. I believe I’m right eye dominant but I feel as if my eyes battle for control. I was happy to find this article and hoping I found a solution within. Glad to see I’m not the only one with this issue

    5 months ago
  • Jim Rook

    I am 78 yrs old and have been shooting a rifle right handed (very accurately) all my life. Recently I have developed a macular problem in my right eye leaving a small blurry spot right where the cross-hairs cross in the scope while my left eye is still very clear and focused. What can I do with the aid of present day technology to keep from having to learn how to shoot left handed?

    6 months ago
  • Joel Schollmeier

    I was a left hand shooter all my life. I have lost sight in my left eye so trying to learn to shoot right. I'm 61 and finding it hard. Is there a scope or sight that would allow me to shoulder firearm on left but use right eye

    8 months ago
  • Jeff Runyan

    I’ve been in this “battle” for a couple of years now with teaching my wife basic rifle/handgun shooting and safety. She is strong right hand but left eye dominant and becomes an issue with a rifle. I will try the “tape over glasses” option but has anyone heard of “outlearning” or “retraining” your eye dominance?

    8 months ago
    • Mike Ross

      I'm strongly right hand dominant but also left eye. It was just a matter of practice. Now shooting left handed is just natural and some other things became too. As far as retraining eye dominance I'm not sure. Part of my right eye is black (what I see I mean) so it's not an option here.

      8 months ago
  • Steve Miller

    Hey Guys and Ladies. I'm crossed eyed dominant shooting right handed and left eye. I have tried these methods to compensate, but with mixed results. For trap shooting, I do the dot on the left lens of my shooting glasses. I don't want to do this for hand gun as it's not realistic when out carrying. I haven't tried it yet but was wondering your thoughts or if anyone has tried closing left eye until target is acquired, then opening to have both eyes open. Trying it at home (unloaded) and it seems to be working. Heading to the range tomorrow or Thursday to give a try. Any thoughts out there

    8 months ago
  • Jeff Adamson

    I'm cross eye dominant and I've found that moving a hand gun to the left works best for me. Shooting with a rifle scope I just use my right eye. I can adjust to having both eyes open but view the scope. Now Iron sights aren't as easy and I've actually started shooting left handed with irons. Also I've found there is no way for me to shoot a shotgun and hit anything without shooting left handed.

    1 year ago
  • Duncan McKee

    Mathew. Thank you for this. I am right handed but also fairly ambidextrous as a carpenter. I am right eye dominant. BUT my eyesight is thus: My left eye sees things in focus up until about 3 feet - 1 metre - away then my right eye takes over. This means I am left short and right long. A terrible situation. Fine when I shoot rifle with a scope but bad with irons as the foresight is very fuzzy. Pistol is the same. My right hand is the stronger and natural hand but my right eye is badly out of focus on the foresight at pistol foresight length. My solution has to be to teach myself to shoot left handed. I did this by ONLY shooting left for 6 months and bingo I am a lefty. Easy really. But I still have the problem of being right eye dominant. It is my right eye that I will want to move the foresight to. It takes effort to make sure I line up with the left. This is fine for application shooting but when it comes to speed matches I am slow to acquire because I am shooting with my non dominant eye. Damn.. But thats life.

    1 year ago
  • John Hoskins

    Being cross eye dominant explains why when I younger and hunting, I shot behind quail when they were flying side to side. I am left eye dominant and right handed. I use the Chapman stance while pistol shooting. I only have to dip my head slightly and I'm on point. With a rifle I will close my left eye briefly, get the focus on the target with my non-dominant right eye, then reopen my left.

    1 year ago
  • Cheryl Wheeler

    Julie, I have always known I was cross dominant, but I have never been very good at shooting, probably because I won't give up my contact lenses. I'm really just a tag-along shooter with my husband or mom. For the past ten years I have worn mono vision contacts, with the distance lens in my dominant left eye. This worked perfectly well until I started needing reading glasses, as I can't wear normal reading glasses with the monovision contacts. After two years of trial and error, I discovered that using a bifocal lens in my dominant right eye, and a reading lens in my left eye was what I had been looking for. I do tend to visit my optometrist a little more frequently now, but since my contacts come in a six month supply, it's not a huge problem. I think this method could be used with glasses, and it might fix the weird proportions that you are getting with your shooting. At least it's worth a try!

    1 year ago
    • Tom

      I’m confused. You say you’re left eye dominant and then go on to say you wear a bifocal over your dominant right eye?

      11 months ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Thanks for this Cheryl, that's a really good point. I don't have any experience shooting with any kind of corrective glasses, so I'm glad you brought this up!

      1 year ago
  • Brent

    I’m left eye dominant and I can shoot with either hand. I also find myself pulling the pistol over inline with my dominant eye but at the same time some the shots are further left. Thanks for this article now I know what I need to work on.

    1 year ago
  • Julie Lindbloom

    Mr. Collins I’m looking for even more suggestions. I am the dominant right hand left eye dominant person. I also have bifocals. I still don’t have an actual good pair of actual shooting ANSI rated glasses. I have tried a pair of bifocals with the mid distance moved up and they give me a pretty crisp front sight. They kind of bother me with the weird proportions of the bifocal. I have tried progressive lens but then no crisp front sight. Plus I’m working on 2 eyes open but no good at that yet either. Very frustrating. Help

    1 year ago
    • Molly

      A large lens will make a tremendous difference with a varilux lens. The larger the hour glass shape for the progressive the easier it can be to see more clearly defined transition from distance to intermediate to near.

      1 year ago
    • Skip C.

      Hello Julie, being a progressive lense wearer I've had the "front sight focus" problem with handguns for years and have adapted through practice. However, just recently I got a new pair of progressives using the "Varilux X" formula that has brought my front site into crystal clear focus. Wow, what a difference - particularly in low light conditions. For EDC it is not practical to consider switching glasses. I wear the same ones all day, every day. For home defense, I do practice WITHOUT my prescription glasses for those possible "awakened in the middle of the night" situations.

      1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Hey Julie, I've never shot with bifocals so I can't be of any direct help, but I asked around and I've had a few people in your situation tell me that they found it much easier to switch to a monofocal pair of glasses while shooting. Beyond that, I'd say just practice, practice, practice. Maybe try something like an indoor laser trainer or something in that realm so you can get some practice in without having to go to the range and spend money on ammo. These systems are easy to use, and surprisingly affordable.

      1 year ago
  • Dave Norton

    Hello all... I'm a left-eye/right hander, and do literally everything in life right-handed except for when shooting long guns. Undoubtedly, this traces back to 'intuition' as a kid with my first BB gun, and having no one in my family to tell me it was 'wrong'. I could shoot the eye out of a gnat when young with a steady hand and youthful reflexes; and naturally carried the habit forward without any problems when I took-up trap shooting with a Rem 870 pump.. Equally though, for me, the practice also owes just as much to my youthful natural preference for supporting the fore grip with my 'strong' arm (right) - no doubt the biggest reason for shooting lefty as a kid. The practice later continued when moving to rifles, with or without a scope. In doing so the only thing that caused me to pause was then having learned of eye dominance 'after shotguns' but 'before rifles'. It's a hard habit to break as an old man, and I just adjusted to right-hand controls any way I could... Pistol shooting travails are a whole nutha' matter entirely, which still plague me to this day..I began with a .1911 .45 ACP in my right hand, right leg back, and a long stiff right arm; looking down my right arm with left eye closed. Many years ago that seemed to work OK, but then I got away from shooting for a while. Since returning to regular range practice I have never felt all that comfortable, nor honestly have I really been any good at distances much greater than almost point blank. Useless... Then I came across a video by Jerry Miculek, who very simply urged "just getting the sights in front of your dominant eye" from an isosceles stance - and let 'er rip. Doing so naturally caused me to "shift the gun past [my] midline" as suggested near the end of Mr. Collins' excellent tutorial, above. It seems to help, a bit. However! I also must confess that my 1911 grip is a little too big for my hand, my hands and forearms have become a bit wimpy in old age, and the poundage on my trigger is far too heavy (Sig P220 Carry), And I'm not so sure my sights are correctly 'zeroed', so to speak! All that has resulted in a nasty 'anticipatory flinch', and I'm actually getting worse! The cures are to be found right there in the description of my problems, so obviously I have to get all that squared-away, or it really doesn't matter which eye/hand is dominant; regardless of amount of practice! In fact, practicing with all that being wrong is no doubt counter-productive. It ain't rocket science... ;-) I'll close with the observation that all kinds of things we do in life can be executed more efficiently and effectively with knowledge of which eye is dominant; and this article has huge positive corollary benefits for all who have read it. Ne'er have truer words been spoken than when it comes to trying to teach a young 'un how to hit a baseball with consistency. I've "fixed" many a young swing by simply improving the ability to "see the ball" using the dominant eye. Ya' can't hit what ya' can't see, and the same goes for shooting - fo' sho'! Thanx again, Mathew, for this excellent article, and all the thinking it has no doubt stimulated in many a reader. Best regards...

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Thanks for the kind words Dave! Good luck with the practice!

      1 year ago
  • Tim Lange

    I am left hand right eye, gotta be different! :-) I started shooting (last May) with my left eye, had problems till I got glasses that would let me focus on the front sight. I changed to turning my head slightly and use my right eye. This gets me on target faster and feels better.

    1 year ago
  • Edward

    I am left eye and right hand. I overcome this by holding the firearm in my right hand and turning my head slightly to the right thus bringing my left eye more towards the center of my line of sight.

    1 year ago
  • Hank Webbb

    I'm right handed but left eye dominant. Great for golf but didn't understand my problem until I read your article. When I first began to take an interest in guns and shooting I used to close my right eye because it just worked better. After I really got hooked I trained myself to shoot with both eyes open. After reading this article, I immediately set up my LaserLyte indoor target practice range that I use with their semi compact automatic pistol. I moved the gun a little to my left and I was AMAZED! Can't wait to get to the range this weekend. Thank you very MUCH!

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Glad I could help! I'm so happy that worked for you, please let me know how it goes this weekend!

      1 year ago
  • Brandon

    I'm cross-dominant to an extent (right hand/left eye) as I have been able to shoot, bat, golf, and most other things with both right and left, except for throwing and writing. I never had a choice in the eye use as my right eye has had poor vision since I was a kid, so I was able to adapt early on in my life. The only problem I ran into shooting was when I first used a scope and had no choice but to shoot left-handed, and now it's the most natural way for me to shoot. Pistol shooting was always interesting since I couldn't follow the "examples" that most people try to teach, but I found the method you mention to work best. Thanks for this article!

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Hey Brandon, I'm glad this worked for you! I too find it easier to shoot long guns left handed a lot of the time, particularly rifles with irons or non-illuminated sights. Switching to illuminated reticles on all my rifles helped my non-dominant eye tremendously when it came to focusing. I highly recommend Vortex for a good, entry-level illuminated reticle scope with clear glass if that's something you want to try out.

      1 year ago
  • Skip C.

    I too am cross-dominant: Left-eye, right hand and never knew there was a term for this "affliction". As a kid 50 some odd years ago, I was told I'd never be a good shooter - shooting lefty and operating controls righty. I'm still not a GREAT shooter and my practice, practice, practice has allowed me to manage reasonably well - decent groupings but slower than optimal times. And now more recently with my CCW, add concealment and draw into the equation and PRACTICE is paramount for staying a half step ahead... I'd be keen to hear Matthew's comments on concealment and draw for us "cross-doms". Thanks!

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Hey Skip, for me I was lucky enough to have a trainer who immediately diagnosed my issue, and helped me fix it when I was starting out. As far drawing from the concealment and working on my draw in general, I found that having a solid gun belt and doing everything I could to carry in a consistent position helped a lot. Other than that, if you can tell me a little more about the issues you've been having, I'll be happy to try to help, or barring that, find someone who can.

      1 year ago
  • Bill

    Thanks for posting this. I'm right handed/left-eye dominant and I struggled in basic training many years ago until one day I tried shooting the M16 simulator left handed and it was quite a revelation. As a newer pistol shooter, I've been struggling with this constantly. I've found that bringing the weapon over more to my left eye and touching my right bicep to my right cheek as a reference point has helped. Keep up the great work!

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Hey Bill, thanks for sharing that story. You raise a really good point about using your chin as a reference to get a consistent sight picture. I definitely should have mentioned this in the article, but a lot of people who shift their weapon like you and I, or those that turn or tilt their head, will use their chin or cheek as a way to index their head to the same position every time.

      1 year ago
  • Joe L

    I am right-hand, left-eye dominant. Shooting handguns with Isosceles stance with the center-line shifted is by far the easiest. Chapman is doable, while Weaver is most difficult. I've found that using a fiber-optic front sight helps the most i(n any stance) to overcome the cross-dominance. As for shooting long guns, the real difficulty is using irons or non-illuminated scopes. I tend to just shut my left eye.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Thanks for sharing what works for you! And yup...for long guns with higher magnification I have to shut my left eye.

      1 year ago
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