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Education / Training An eye-opener!

An eye-opener!

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Pyramyd AIR has dropped its price on the HW30 rifle. It’s been selling for $344.25, but the price has just been dropped to $299.99. That’s a pretty big discount on a really fine gun. This is an easy-cocking breakbarrel that’s going to become an all-day shooter for you and your family. It’s fun to shoot and made with typical Weihrauch quality. This sale price won’t last forever!

Today is different. Today is reader participation day.

Here’s what you need. Get piece of card stock. Right now I’m sitting in the Philadelphia airport and I used my ticket stub from the last flight, so I don’t want to hear any excuses that you don’t have what you need. Tear one of the flaps off a cereal box if you need to. Or use that losing lottery ticket.

Poke a hole through the card with a ballpoint pen. Or use a pencil or the awl on your pocket knife or just the sheer force of your will. Make a hole!

How big a hole depends on your skill and control, but the smaller the better for this exercise. I made three holes and all of them worked–even the one that was a quarter-inch in diameter. But smaller is better. We’re going to play the peep sight game.

Hold up the card so the hole is about an inch in front of your master eye. Peer through the hole you made but keep both eyes open. Look at a bright outdoor image, like a parked car or a light-colored house. Now, while looking at the image through the hole, close your non-sighting eye by squinting. Did you notice what appeared to happen to the hole? It got smaller and darker, didn’t it? It probably became non-round, too. The hole is no longer the same size and brightness. Open both eyes, and the hole becomes round and bright again.

I’m 61 years old and have been shooting for over 50 years. I’ve always read that you’re supposed to leave both eyes open when sighting, and I practiced that for decades but never really understood why. Two weeks ago, while shooting a new gun that has peep sights, I noticed that I couldn’t see the target if I closed my other eye. The peep hole was almost the size of the bull I was shooting at. But when I opened both eyes, the peep hole became large and round and bright.

After all these years, I finally understand what not closing the off-eye is all about. Maybe you already knew, but as I said, I’ve been shooting for half a century and didn’t get it until now.

Now, if that holds true for a peep sight, don’t you suppose it also applies to open sights and scopes? I do. I’ve always taught my pupils to leave both eyes open “just because.” Now I have a little exercise to demonstrate why they need to do it.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

49 thoughts on “An eye-opener!”

  1. Pretty good test B.B.
    I like it. Hows the show coming? Hope your having fun. I have always been taught to shoot with both eyes open. Another good test, is to aim at a moving target. If you open both eyes, you can trak a whole lot better, but if you close one eye, you have to focus on too many things. Lining up your sights, keeping them focused ont target, judging speed, and lead all with one eye. it can be done, but not effectively.

  2. Goodmorning B.B.,

    Got out my 3×5 card, used trusty Leatherman Tool, poked hole in center of card and followed your instructions to the letter. What an eye opener that was.:) Unfortunatley I forgot to check the chamber on the card which turned out to be loaded that resulted in a hole in the wall when the card went off.

    Seriously though, both eyes open is the only way to shoot. Folks, the next time you’re punching holes in paper try that technique. Youy’ll get smaller group sizes and less eye strain.

    Mr B.

  3. Hello BB and everyone!

    There is also other very usefull use to have both eyes opened.

    When I shot mices at close range 1-2m (3-6 feets) with my very old Cometa V I need to have both eyes open. One to see the iron sight, the other to see the mice and the barrel so I can point the irons sight ~1cm higher than the mice's head. This way I can shoot the mice in the head almost every time. I can sometimes even shoot flies this way.

    But yesterday was a sad day. Yesterday after I shoot my Spanish Whisper X (less than 2K pellets through it) near ten pellets when I cock the gun I felt a strange thing and a weird noise.

    Now the gun cocks easier, have less power and makes a dry sound when I shoot it.

    It is the spring, right?

    I never dry fire it, rarely used light pellets (<7 grains) or heavy pellets (>9 grains). I guess it could be some micro fracture in the spring when it was made.
    Looks like I will have to use the warranty…


  4. B.B. what about those of us who shoot from one shoulder but have the opposite eye as the dominant eye? Should we still keep both eyes open, switch shoulders, or close one eye? From SavageSam

  5. I am right-handed, but my left eye is the dominant one. Yesterday, B.B. & I had several conversations & exchanged several emails on this subject. Bottom line is that the peep hole doesn't make any difference to me. I see the same amount of light, and the hole looks no different regardless of how many eyes are open.

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

  6. SavageSam,

    As Edith and yourself, I am left eye dominant and somewhat stronger on my right side (legs, arms).

    Over the last few days of shooting righty (righty stock on TX200) it has become clear to me that with this rifle I am shooting noticeably better righty. Shooting the numbers on the Gamo target righty I rarely miss a complete knock-out, whereas lefty I miss (viz., partial hit) at least 1-2 out of 5. I suspect that this is because I am far more aware of technique when shooting righty and am taking longer for the shots.

    However, the point is that switching side is do-able.

    By the way, a big reason for not closing an eye is the same reason for not tensing ANY muscle in target shooting. As soon as any muscle is tensed, all the others tend to get a little tension.

    This extra tension is typically below a person’s awareness, but can easily be shown using a biofeedback machine (I have used muscular biofeedback in my practice for chronic pain management and anxiety reduction for over 20 years). The extra tension, although often below even an athlete’s awareness, can easily translate to 1 or 2 sixteenths of an inch at 10 meters.

    Only after a person has completely relaxed all the muscles does that person have a goal to shoot for when they approach the line…until such a time, that shooter will not be aware that he is holding muscle tension every time he holds his gun.

    – Dr. G.

  7. I believe BB, and the rest of you, when you say shooting with both eyes open is better. I have shot that way and found with a little practice it becomes comfortable with less eye strain and gives me more awareness of my surrounding situation. As ZeChico says, it helps to see both the mice and the barrel. It also helps to see that bull Elk charging at you.

    That being said, closing one eye does seem to improve concentration for me. And maybe that’s because I haven’t practiced binocular shooting enough. I’ll have to say, after reading this post, I will be weaning myself off mono entirely to bino.


  8. BB and all…I guess I’m lucky in a weird way.I’m so right eye dominant my right eye looks straight at objects while my left looks diagonally.that means with sighting my left eye is used to deferring to the right one,if that makes sense!?anyway,I’m a righty so it helps,rather than hurts my shooting.so far my IZH 46M isn’t impressed though…FrankB

  9. I shoot on my basement range (8.5M) with an aperature suction cupped to my dominant eye glasses lens. Keeping both eyes open has the affect BB describes, but I am distracted by the off eye. Do I just need more practice or something to obscure my vision in the off eye while I shoot, a blinder perhaps?

    Al Pellet

  10. It is possible to train the off-eye to be dominant for certain functions but that’s assuming the off-eye can at least see fairly well even if not as well as the dominant eye. Nothing can help if the off-eye has medical conditions such as irregular astigmatism or macular degeneration. If it can’t see then nothing can be done. Anyway, when both eyes are open, the brain uses both images to sort of “fill in the blanks” in the image you’re looking at. You’re training your brain to use the sighting eye as the dominant eye and it’s not hard to do – just concentrate a bit.

    You can do a similar type exercise just reading a book – close one eye and notice the peripheral and sharpness then compare with both eyes open.

    See how all of a sudden things expand and become just a bit sharper?

    BB – pretty good idea for a short Blog while waiting in an airport and suffering through interminable delays. I speak from experience.

  11. If having your non-sighting eye open causes problems, there are a couple of solutions:

    1. Buy a shooting hat with an eye-blocking patch. The other advantage of the shooting hat is that it can block light (and movement) from the sides.

    2. Put a strip of plastic electrical tape on the non-shooting lens of your glasses. The advantage of this is that you can block only the straight-ahead view but still use the lower portion (especially if bifocals) for close reading.

  12. Blinder,
    I think the point is what Dr G was talking about. It’s just one more muscle that is not tense during shooting. In target the shooter is concentrating on one spot and I guess the blinder helps with concentration on that point without the other eye being distracted with what’s going on around the background. But notice the shooter, in this case, still has both eyes open (else the blinder would be redundant).

    Any expert could change my opinion here.


  13. I recently purchased a pair of shooting glasses…not the kind that are for protection, but the kind they use in competition that have, amongst other things a sight blocker for the non-dominant eye, allowing you to keep it open with no distractions.
    I was amazed at now much more clear my sight picture was. It easily added 5 points to my scoring.
    I was amazed. I had seemed to hit a bit of a wall with my Gamo Compact and was considering purchasing a better pistol (not that this won’t happen in the future).
    But I added 5 points with a $125 pair of glasses v.s. a $1000 pistol.
    CowBoyStar Dad

  14. CJr,

    From your response above to Blinder, I see that now you understand, and can begin applying the concept to your shooting.

    If you can get your gun now, once you are in the sitting position (or whatever) and have acquired the target in your sights go over every muscle group in your body from head to toe (takes 5-20 seconds depending on whether you have done this 10, 30, or over 500 times before). If any muscle is tense, then relax it and proceed to the next group until there is no more tension anywhere. Breathing at that point becomes essential for the next stage. Now you are ready to be more accurate…Good luck.

    – Dr. G.

  15. I get sort of an overlay effect with this experiment. My right eye is so dominant that the left makes very little contribution or causes very little distraction. Too bad the right eye has the worse, pretty much uncorrectable astigmatism. One opthamologist snorted contemptuously when he saw my old perscription and proudly declared he would fix my eyesight. He did make it much better, almost perfect, but after a month of nearly intolerable and worsening headaches, I begged for my faulty vision back:).

    Sometimes do the same thing as BB’s experiments with my telescopes, so that in correct conditions my back yard is overlaid with stars, clusters, etc. Neat effect.

  16. Dual ammo rifle,

    BB did a blog on the different types of rifling. Dual ammo barrels use polygonal rifling. See BB’s blog at

    He also did a three part series on how barrels are rifled. Here is part three of that series.

    A.R. Tinkerer

  17. Kevin,

    All this time.. and now you tell me your secrets:)..
    I’ve got some groups to make smaller too!!


    When Field Target shooter, Rick Knowles came down from Washington, he turned me onto opening both eyes..

    His main reason in FT is to watch the wind flags.. both the one hanging from the barrel tip of his gun and the one down range where the pellet is heading..

    Now that’s a pro thinking… and it really takes practice to “watch” the flags and focus on the kill zone through the scope!

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  18. CJr,

    If I’m understanding Dr.G. correctly, it seems to me he is saying we’re not strong enough to hold a gun steady, but that if we relax completly the gun will be rock steady in our grasp reacting to our imputs with incredable precision. But then again I could be wrong.

    Mr B.

  19. Mr. B.,

    The object is to create as steady a platform that you can. By allowing your body to relax and by using your skeletal sytem to become the platform, you will be ready for the next stage (breathing). If you “make” a stable platform by “holding” or “gripping” then there will always be extra movement, as no human can keep a tensed body part as steady as a relaxed body part. Since all your body parts are connected, you want them all to be relaxed and unmoving.

    This is fun to practice simply by aiming…you will get immediate visual feedback at how wiggle-waggle (from muscle tension) will be eliminated when you finally completely relax. It simply takes practice, and the more that you try to do it the better that you get.

    If you are angry or worried about something then you will not be able to relax unless you have had special training (e.g., military), but if you are sad then your muscles can still relax.

    So do not initially try this relaxation technique after a frustrating day at work or if you are worried about anything. You must be able to clear the mind completely to relax…you must be able to completly focus on each body part for a second or so, with no intrusive thoughts about what happend earlier that day or what might happen tomorrow.

    So, only when you are in a good state of mind then try the relaxation technique and report back to us here…

    – Dr. G.

  20. Mr B,
    Yes, exactly. He’s saying it’s in the bones. Tense muscles screw things up and become wobbly. We must relax and let our bones provide the support and not our muscles.

    He’s said this before and I never got around to practicing it but I think he’s right. It will be interesting to see the difference.

    One thing I noticed because I removed the var mag scope and mounted a red-dot scope on my 1077, is that when I fire I can see the dot move off target. When I move it back on target then relax I can see the dot move back off target again. Ah Hah! I don’t know why this wasn’t as obvious with a mag scope. I guess the dot catches my eye better.


  21. B.B.

    I had always believed this without investigating, but it’s a reminder to stop closing the non-shooting eye when touching off my pistol which I’ve started to do for some reason. What are your thoughts on hanging cardboard off the rear aperture sight to block the non-shooting eye. I suppose the theory is to remove distraction while still allowing light to enter. This was advocated by my old rifle team coach, and I’m ready to disbelieve anything that guy said. To instruct people on the importance of a sight picture, he had a girl shoot in the prone position with the rear sight removed. The result? Several bulls eyes; I think finally she started to miss.

    I took note of the price reduction in the HW30 but could only lament the days when it was $212.

    Dr. G, this is interesting about relaxation and David Tubb has something to say about this. Of course, he’s in agreement that you want to build your position preferentially on bone and not muscle. But the finer details get complicated. He actually claims to use a certain amount of finely controlled, light muscle tension. Partly this is to deal with windy conditions in the offhand. It gets complicated. And BG_Farmer’s point is certainly well-taken that you want to know when to imitate the 11 time high power champion, best rifle shooter in the world and when not to. On the other hand it seems to me that taken literally, it cannot be true that you completely relax every single muscle unless you are in a bench rest. Taken to the letter, complete relaxation would have you fall over. There has to be some tension in theory. Perhaps it’s a matter of the right tension and relaxation everywhere else.

    Breathing is also an interesting subject that I’ve studied in connection with the Russian martial artists. They do all sorts of amazing things with it. Particularly memorable is ways of restoring yourself after getting clobbered by them. Anyway, their book on the subject takes about full, total relaxation and muscle control as Dr. G was describing. They claim that one actually breathes with the whole body, not just the nose and mouth. So one is supposed to alternate muscle tension and relaxation with inhaling and exhaling through different parts of the body. I believe it is exercise number 13 that instructs one to exhale through the anus…. Not my priority.

    Volvo, if you’re looking to throw knives which is a lot of fun, I have the very thing for you, the IZH 61 of the knife throwing world which I found after some investigation and false starts. What you want is the Bushman survival knife from Cold Steel. This is a high quality knife that is made of a single piece of metal so that that hilt cannot be broken off. As with Cold Steel knives, this one is ridiculously sharp. And, by reason of its heft and perfect balance, it is the ultimate throwing knife, much better than specialized knives I have tried for this purpose. The Bushman will stick if you get anywhere near the target.

    The technique is not difficult to explain although it requires a lot of practice. It comes from the Russians of the odd breathing exercises. You want to start by grabbing the tip and cocking the knife over your shoulder. Extend the opposite arm towards the target. Step with the lead foot, rotate the hips and follow through. The knife is supposed to rotate one and a half times and hit with the point. Beginning distance is about 15 feet but requires experimentation. As you get better, you start backing up simultaneously moving your grip towards the hilt to adjust the rotation rate of the knife for the increased distance. It’s all important to wear gloves, eye protection, and a heavy leather coat for those rebounds! But when you get the knife to stick, it is very satisfying akin to a good shot with a springer.


  22. Wow, the sight does seem a little smaller, or at least darker with one eye closed. I’ve been shooting again for three years and the last couple of years I’ve been keeping both eyes open. Mainly, I’ve been more relaxed and shooting better. After while, it became second nature.

  23. Hi B.B.,
    Have a nice trip.
    This technique is often used in photography, which also helps to get the whole picture when composing. Just need time to get used to.
    Maybe it also helps when hunting with more powerful scopes.

    I am in the process to get a new gun and need your advice.
    I am thinking about a RWS 34 or a 34 panther. I have read you review for 34 panther for a couple of times. But still not sure which one to get. I care more about accuracy, so the cosmetic differences doesn’t matter to me. Both looks fine.

    It seems that you think panther is quite different from plain 34 based your previous experience of woodstock 34.
    But your woodstock 34 was older model from years ago? Is that right?
    In other words, have you tested any woodstock 34 currently on Pyramyd AIR web site?
    If so, are they any different in testing? especially in accuracy?

    Thanks a lot.

  24. Matt,

    Thanks for the recommendation for knife throwing. I’ve noticed all good knife throwing acts require a partner, so I will try and recruit Bg farmer post haste. Bg farmer I will need you in something seductive, I’m thinking Daisy Dukes and a tube top. : 0 )


    B.B. sold me on the Makarov pistol, but sometimes it takes more than his boyish good looks and charm to make a sale.

    Overall I continue to be very pleased with PA. I think they have progressed a long way from the first order I placed for pellets that required an adult signature. (Use a vacation day for pellets?) Or the Patriot that they did not double box and arrived with a large pressure mark. Those were both many many years ago.

    Some current feedback:

    I’d like to see the option to send rifles to UPS stores at check out. I know you can input a separate delivery address, but I doubt most people realize that for $2-$3 your local UPS store will accept the delivery and hold it for you. This eliminates the need to stay home all day peering out the window, fearful of using the bathroom as you may miss Mr. delivery man…This also is probably safer than the dealer that allows you to simply verify your age on line and doesn’t require an adult signature.

    Also it’s nice to see the HW30 price drop, but it’s still not quite in line with the competition. Another vender offers the HW30S for $299.99 and the S denotes the Rekord trigger vs. the lesser Perfekt trigger on the HW30. I know Beeman was going to start bringing in the “S” so maybe PA just hasn’t updated the web site? Price isn’t everything, but in this economy it is becoming more and more of an issue. Cheapest (not best) deal I know of on an HW30S is $220.74.


  25. Matt,
    I agree you need some muscle tension to shoot:). Dr. G’s method sounds useful, though, in spirit at least, even if not taken completely literally. The “trick” would seem to be keeping your body positioned with the least strain, e.g., to cite a well-know technique, supporting the weight of the rifle with the elbow against the ribs, so that you are not lifting the weight of the rifle or even “holding it up”, simply maintaining the arm in the correct position, assisted even in that by friction.

  26. Just make sure you remember to grip and tense up when firing a tactical shotgun loaded with a 3 1/2″ buckshot. You’d think the artillery hold is good for something that resembles a cannon but nope… that’s a good way to get hit in the face with receiver of the shotgun. :]

  27. Guys, some good conversation going on here. B.B. would be proud. Anyways. on the subject of eye opening. I am the weird one. I am both eye dominant. I can shoot either eye just as well. And i do. I prefer my right eye, b/c im right handed, but my left eye percieves more color. My left eye wears a stronger contact, but it is clearer than my right. Im just one weird man. I need to figure out how to shoot right hadned with my left eye on the bottom, and my right eye on top.

  28. Brody,

    Try pointing at an object about ten feet away with your index finger, your arm fully extended, and both eyes open.

    Then close one eye at a time. You should see your finger and the item line up with one eye, but be off to the side with the other eye.


  29. Volvo, i have tried that before, but both fingers point at it. its really weird. Also something else weird, when i long jumped in track, they say jump off your strong leg. I said how do i know which one is my strong leeg. He said stand there, and when i push you, the last leg, to hold your weight, to keep you from falling, is your strong leg. He did it 4 times, 2 right, and 2 left. Really weird.

  30. BB.

    I have decided I will either buy an HW77 or a TX200. I like the TX better in every way except for one detail that is quite important to me: open sights. I want to have open sights on my rifle because I like the challenge, and because Ill be doing some short distance target shooting (10 m.), just for fun, obviously. I figure I can put a Beeman Sport Apperture Sight on the rear of a TX, but is there any way of puting a front post on a TX?
    Is the only other solution to buy an HW77?


  31. SavageSam,

    This has no bearing on the master eye. But shooting through a peep must be more difficult when you have that problem.

    Either eye will function the same with this test. I just confirmed it with my non-master eye.


  32. Alex,

    I’m not trying to be a smartalex. But after reading my comment I can see how it might come across that way.

    The TX has no provision for a front sight (dovetail).

    The TX is a classic and used more than any other springer in FT.

    This gun is without iron sights because it begs for a scope. Scope makers have long since realized that airgunners that buy a TX (and other quality airguns) want to be able to shoot at short range distances as well (like 10 m.) so they have made scopes that can adjust down to 10 yards! A scope with variable magnification and parallax adjustment was made for this gun.


  33. Andy,

    While making the TV show, I had the opportunity to shoot a wood-stocked 34 that Paul Capello tuned. It was super-smooth and a delight to shoot!

    I still like the feel of the synthetic stock better than the wood one, but that’s just personal taste.

    So the wood-stocked gun is just as nice as the Panther.


  34. Thanks B.B.
    So you think the current models of 34 and 34P has same accuracy?
    That is the most important factor for me.

    Also in the 34P review you felt the 34P has a choked barrel. Do you know if that’s true for 34 woodstock?

    I am just not sure if the two guns ‘mechanical’ part are exactly same or not. Don’t know if it makes sense economically for RWS to have two different mechanical parts for almost same model.

    Thanks again.

  35. Andy,

    I own both the 34 wood and 34 Panther (recent models). The action on both the rifles is identical, so their is no question of difference in accuracy. Both my guns have been tuned by Mike Melick and are very smooth.

    The 34P is a little longer and hence I prefer the wood version which is easier to cock and carry. But with the 34P you do not have to worry about scratches and dings on the stock.

  36. Dr.G.,

    You are right relaxing muscles leads to more accuracy. Just did some trigger time concentrating on no extra tension in this old body and adjusting its position so that I was applying no pressure on the gun to keep the scope on target which was a 1/4″ sticky dot at 16 yards.

    I’d acquire a good sight picture both eyes open and my body relaxed. Then I’d close and open both eyes. If I was holding the gun properly and staying relaxed the cross hairs would remain on target throught the exercise.

    Yes folks it does work. Perhaps Dr.G. would give us his thoughts on breathing.

    Mr B.

  37. Alex,

    I think the TX 200 MKIII deserves a variable scope with a low power at the bottom end that allows you to shoot at the close ranges you mentioned. It should have AO, not be too short (to create eye relief problems) and not be too long (to interfere with pellet loading).

    Did you read the guest blog on the TX 200 that guest blogger Gino did awhile back? He put some enormous scopes on both of his tx 200's (one in .177 and the other in .22). Since the tx 200 is already a heavy gun I wouldn't opt for the huge scopes he put on his guns but that's personal preference. If you intend to use your tx 200 for FT you may opt for high magnification scope with large objective like Gino did.

    The leapers scopes are a great value especially the TS platforms (designed for high recoiling spring guns. TX 200 is considered a medium recoiling spring gun). The Centerpoints are also a good scope. They're fairly heavy scopes (look at the weight in the specs) and many come with illumination. In my experience, illumination adds weight & gadgetry and is rarely useful. 3x-9x is a middle of the road scope and the 3x-12x is a very popular magnification range for a scope.

    Although Pyramyd AIR doesn't carry it, I would encourage you to look at the Bushnell Legend, 5-15×40. This is a great value for great glass and it's only 15.8 oz. and 14.5" long.

    Whichever scope you choose remember to get rings to match (either 1" rings or 30mm rings depending on the scope you choose) and a scope mount. A quality one piece mount would be my preference with a scope stop. Remember your TX 200 has 3 holes to choose from to insert your verticle scope stop so you have a lot of flexibility in mounting.


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