Sight Picture & Eye Dominance

Ready to shoot faster and more accurately?

We’ll take a look at eye dominance, sight picture, & trigger pull to finish off shooting fundamentals.

Eye Dominance

Eyes can be dominant just as with hands and legs and an important part of shooting accurately is knowing which eye is dominant.

The vast majority of people have dominant eyes that match their dominant hands, but a few (myself included) are cross-dominant.

Here is one easy test to see which of your eyes is dominant:

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Eye Dominance Test, brianenos.com
Eye Dominance Test, brianenos.com

It will be easier for beginners to start with closing one eye and using their dominant eye.

However, as you progress, you will likely find yourself shooting better with both eyes open.  It will take a while to train your brain but you’ll see benefits such as increased depth perception and orientation.

Your eye-dominance can often dictate which stance you like better.

For me, since I’m left-eye dominant and right hand dominant, I prefer the Modified Weaver/Chapman stance since it puts my left-eye more behind the sights.

Still with me?

Sight Picture

Aim a gun: Just point and shoot, right?

In the grand scheme of things, yes, that’s pretty much it.  But proper sight picture is one of those fundamental things that makes the difference between a shooter and someone that just plays with guns.

The sight picture is everything you see with your sights and your target.

There are several different types of sights but most firearms will have a notch or circular rear sight with a post or bead as the front sight.  Also very common is the three dot sight.

All of them, no matter what their setup, work on the same principle.  The front sight can be many things but usually is more contrasting than the rear sight to draw in the eyes.

Night Sights on a Glock
Night Sights on a Glock
Fiber Optic Sights on an AR15
Fiber Optic Sights on an AR15

What’s the Over/Under?

You’ll then want to make sure you have proper sight alignment.

This will vary on your sights but mostly will require you to line up your sights. Where you’ll be hitting also depends on personal preference or more likely…how your gun is set up from the factory.

Sight Image, NavyGuy
Sight Image, NavyGuy

Some people like the first one which is called the “6 o’clock hold” where you line up the bottom of the target with the top of the front sight so you can hit the middle of the target.

The second image is the most traditional and called “point of aim, point of impact” where you line up the top of the front sight with where you want to hit.

The last image is where you cover where you want to hit with the center of your front sight dot.

Where to Focus

The final question is where to focus with your eyes.

There are three choices—the rear sight, the front sight, or the target.

The correct plane to focus on is the front sight, since the bullet will go where the front sight is pointing.  Every expert in the world will tell you that you will get the best results by keeping the front sight in focus while pulling the trigger as it will really help you to keep the gun steady.

This is the main reason why a lot of front sights are distinctly colored.  When you’re correctly focusing on the front sight, the rear sight and target will appear blurry.

The best flow is to first focus on the target and loosely line up the dots on to it.  At this point change your focus to that front sight and line it up with the rear sights as well as the blurred out target.

As you slowly squeeze the trigger, focus on keeping that front sight as stationary as humanly possible.  With that front sight in focus and stationary, your shots will improve greatly.

Front Sight Focus, cheaperthandirt.com
Front Sight Focus, cheaperthandirt.com

There are also electronic sights that allow for both eyes to be open and focus only on one object.  Here is an example of a typical “red dot” sight made by Aimpoint.

Red Dot on Ultimak Rail
Red Dot on Ultimak Rail

Math Time

In the end, it’s all about keeping your sights lined up perfectly.  You should consider perfection a minimal standard in this case.  Why?  Because of an old dude named Pythagoras.

WARNING: MATH LESSON INCOMING! TAKE COVER NOW!

In a perfect world, the gun would form a straight line between the barrel and the desired target.

In reality, you’re forming a right angled triangle between the desired target, the actual target and the barrel.  The goal is to make the angle by the barrel as close to 0º as possible.  Even though, at 10 yards, even a 0.5º angle can throw the bullet 3 inches off target.

You can calculate that yourself with: Tan(Barrel Angle) x Distance to Target =  Bullet Deflection

In this example: Tan(0.5º) x 30 feet = .26 feet or just a bit over 3 inches.

If you increase the distance but keep the angle the same, you can see just how important keeping your sights lined up actually is.

Conclusion

Well that’s eye dominance and sight picture in a nutshell.  Let us know if this article helped you out and then check out what’s next in our Beginner’s Guide to Guns.

Or…are you looking for a full handgun course?  We created it just for you…full of only the important stuff and without the attitude.

21 Leave a Reply

  • Daniel Beckett

    I'm just over the crest of half a century on the planet. Which means I have aging eyes. I cannot focus on the front sight without reading glasses. In a shooting situation, bi-focals are obviously of no help. In practice, what this means is that I can't tell if the top of the front sight is aligned with the top of the rear sights. I've noticed that the problem is greatly exacerbated in the typically dim lighting of an indoor range. I can't even pick out the "night sights" on my front sights when indoors, all I see is a big black blur. Not nearly as much of a problem when shooting outside in daylight. With each of my handguns, within 3-4 shots at the range, I can figure out where I need to be. After those first couple of shots, I am typically pretty accurate at the typical CCW test ranges (15 yds, 7 yds, 5 yds). However, I would like to improve my accuracy on the first shot. Do you have any tips for those of us with aging eyes?

    2 weeks ago
  • Michael

    I know this post is a little old, but glad to see there are others with the cross-eye dominance. I am about to begin competition shooting and chose carry optics so that I can work on shooting with both eyes open. I will try the modified stance next time I am at the range.

    3 months ago
  • Sara

    Hi! I'm really enjoying all the articles--thank you so much for what you do! I'm also cross-dominate (right hand, left eye). Does this affect you when shooting rifles? I can't seem to get a comfortable position being cross-dominate and shooting rifles.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, Sara! It does affect shooting rifles with a scope since there's not really a position to enable opposite hand/eye. You can try using your weak hand and strong eye. Or use a red dot or holographic sight where you can keep both eyes open.

      1 year ago
      • Sara

        Thank you!

        1 year ago
  • Mike

    Is it possible to not have a dominant eye? It seems like my left eye may be slightly dominant, but it is so small that the above mentioned test has me testing positive for both my right and left eye. For example, if I was to aim a gun at a target with both eyes open, both sights that I am seeing look equally strong. Any input on this would be appreciated.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Take advantage! I would practice with the eye that is the same as your dominant hand. That way you don't have to change your stance.

      1 year ago
  • Travis

    Great article as usually. Keep up the good work guys.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Thanks Travis!

      1 year ago
  • Eddie

    I've always been left-eye dominant and sort of knew it intuitively. This article not only confirmed it for me, but gave me great advice to use at the range. I tried the modified Weaver/Chapman stance and shot lights out! My buddies and I played target poker on one those targets with prints of playing cards on them, and I won! Three Aces.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Awesome, glad to help out my right-handed left-eyed brethren!

      2 years ago
  • Tim

    Awesome video! Check out our reactive targets, Threat/No Threat Pivotal Trainer, swag, and more at www.triumph-systems.com!

    2 years ago
  • Kyler

    These guides are awesome! My coworker who is a part time cop and a shooting instructor told me the most important thing about guns I can learn is to 'stick to the basics'. Make sure you have a good stance and a good grip. Thanks for the articles! I'm going to read as much as I can to be as knowledgeable as I can in this industry.

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Thanks so much Kyler! We aim to stick to to the basics.

      2 years ago
  • S&W M&P 9mm Pro series elevation issue

    […] in a row directly on the bull's eye. Some guns are not set up for the "6 o'clock" hold. http://www.pewpewtactical.com/eye-dominance-sight-picture/ __________________ Amendment II: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the […]

    2 years ago
  • Rob

    Thanks! I am cross-dominant and didn't know how to stand. I will try this tomorrow!!

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Ah, another member of the cross-dominant tribe! Let me know how it goes.

      2 years ago
      • Curt

        I'm cross eye dominate. Normally I close my dominant eye to aim. Do whatever you need to to hit the target, even if it is unconventional. I have a few marksmen, snipers and sniper trainers in my family. Both eyes open and I miss every time. One eye open and I can hit a squirrel in the eye from a hundred yards. Your results may vary.

        1 year ago
        • Curt

          I may have exaggerated.

          1 year ago
  • Megan

    I'm going to the range tomorrow for the second time with my Glock 19-11. I had an instructor tell me I needed to change how I shot because it wasn't correct. I'm cross-dominant and he kept saying 'you're not lining it up right'. So nice to read an article about how it really is a thing and I'm not defective like he made me feel!!

    2 years ago
    • ehung

      Hi Mega, so glad I could help a new shooter out!

      2 years ago
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