Eyes wide open!

By B.B. Pelletier

Since you sight a gun with your eyes, let’s talk about them.

Binocular vision – a blessing and a curse!
Binocular vision (both eyes looking at the same thing with some separation between them) gives humans their ability to judge distance. We can train this talent and actually improve it a lot, but it’s the skill that allows us to operate cars and catch a thrown ball.

When we shoot, though, having two eyes can be difficult. Most untrained shooters, and more than a few who should know better, instinctively close one eye to sight their gun. It seems like the thing to do, until you receive advanced marksmanship training. Then, you’ll be taught to keep both eyes open when you shoot.

Sight with your dominant eye
Your dominant eye is the one you instinctively use for sighting, and you are blessed if it’s on the same side of your body as your dominant hand (right-handers sighting with their right eye).

I wrote today’s posting because I read a report of a pistol shooter who was getting lousy groups because he couldn’t remember which eye to close. The answer is – neither! Learn to trust your dominant eye and leave both eyes open if you can. When the person I read about figured that out, his groups shrank to one-fifth their original size.

Which eye is dominant?
To discover your dominant eye, point your finger at a distant object and alternately cover each eye with your other hand. The dominant eye is the one that still sees the finger pointing at the distant object when the other eye is covered. Your non-dominant eye will see your finger pointing to one side of the distant object when you cover your dominant eye.

Closing one eye while sighting uses voluntary muscles (to close your eyelid), which will tire you during a long shooting session. That’s one reason target shooters are trained to keep both eyes open.

I received a recent comment asking if I was going to post any tips about accurate handgun shooting. Well, here it comes!

Shooting glasses make you look like Robocop
but shoot like Annie Oakley!

Shooting glasses to the rescue!
Special shooting glasses, like the pair pictured above, shield the non-sighting eye so it receives light through a translucent guard but cannot focus on anything. This strengthens the eye that does focus on the target and sights. If you don’t have the kind of shooting glasses shown above, simply use plain safety-type shooting glasses with a card taped over the lens in front of the non-sighting eye. If you keep both eyes open, you will probably see the target much sharper than before.

You should keep both eyes open even when using a scope for the same reason. More light strengthens the sighting eye. Only with the other eye open to see, it does get confusing! It’s something I still have to think about after many decades of shooting, so the strangeness probably never goes away completely

Even if you continue to close one eye, you’ll still be able to hit the target. But the technique of keeping both eyes open is valid. Try it and see if it helps your score.

18 thoughts on “Eyes wide open!”

  1. can you tell me do you use both eyes for a red dot scope, do red dot scopes have a parallax why does the red dot move around in the scope when you are looking at it?

  2. Yes, I do keep both eyes open when using a red dot, but I have to be honest – I have never thought about parallax with a red dot.

    I’m not going to guess about this. I’ll do some research and try to answer your question. If any of our readers know the answer, please let us hear from you.


  3. the instructions on my red dot, when zeroing is says adjust at 50 to 100 yards,

    and i don’t understand this part
    each click of adjustment changes bullet strike at a shooting distance of 100 yards by the amount indicated on the windage and elevation screw dial plates. to calculate the click value at distances other than 100 yards, use the following formula divide the distance by 100 number of yards by 100 the resulting number when multiplied by the click value stated on the windage and elevation dial plates will yield the actual click value of the scope at that shooting distance.

    should everthing be mounted with adjustable scope rings? and zeroed with them

  4. I just tried using both eyes open. I am right handed but left eye dominant. I have to close my left eye reopen the left until i can see the sight with both eyes open. but doesnt this change the way the gun is sighted? also what about my guns with peep sights I just bought a crosman peep sight from pyramyd

  5. Okay, this answer is for the Red Dot comment number 3. Don’t let those poorly written adjustment instructions mislead you. Though a red dot is different than a telescopic sight, they adjust the same.

    If your dot sight moves the strike of the buyllet one inch at 100 yards, it will move the stike one-tenth inch at 10 yards. And one-quarter inch at 25 yards. Whoever wrote that “formula” was unnecessarily complex.

    Dot sights are coarser than scope sights. So I wouldn’t use adjustable mounts for one. They should have enough internal adjustment that you don’t need adjustable mounts.


  6. This is for comment number 4, the left eye-dominant shooter. Did you notice that I avoided addressing your problem in my post? That’s because you have one of the most difficult problems shooters ever face.

    I have known pistol shooters who learned to shoot with their other hand; I have seen shotgun stocks bent several inches to bring the sight plane in front of the left eye; I’ve even seen a target air rifle with a custom scope mount that cantillevered the scope several inches to the left. All to help the left eye-dominant shooter!

    And, yes, if you try to shoot with your right eye instead of your left, there will have to be some sight corrections. What I wrote does not apply, in your case.

  7. For pistol shooting, I use a +1D clip-on, put frosted tape on the left lens, and then I can keep both eyes open. The frosted tape (Scotch “Invisible” tape) comes off easily if you want to use it on your regular glasses — one or two strips are enough for the far vision blocking (then you can still use both eyes for loading, scoring, etc.)



  8. Well, blow me down. For the past few decades, I’ve been doing it wrong… no wonder I wasn’t ever able to achieve any success in the shooting sports. I’m right handed, but used my left eye to sight. This is because the eyesight in my right eye is poor… when I squint to see something a distance away, I’ll often just shut the right eye altogether. I just assumed this also meant that my left eye was dominant.

    I just ried that little pointing trick, and I’ll be, the right eye has been dominant all along!

    Dunno if BB re-visits the comments in posts this old, but let me tell any other people visiting for the first time, reading this deep into the early blog posts has been worth it.

    ~ Matt Gabriel

  9. “Eyes wude open” Well you have opened my eyes! I am the different bird with left eye dominance. I have struggled for years, and have used a rifle scope with left eye shut. When I leave both open I cannot see the cross hairs. I really struggle with a hand gun because I am usless left handed. Suggestions?

  10. BB,

    What if neither eye is dominant, I’ve tried your pointing trick and everytime my finger is never pointing at the target, but to each side base on what eye I close. while trying to focus on the distant target my hand is out of focus or the target is.

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