Eye Dominance Explained


Unlike Target rifle shooting where there is both a foresight and a rear sight to align the gun with the target, the shotgun effectively utilises the shooters eye as a rear sight. Consequently, if this eye is in the wrong position, in relation to the gun, it will adversely effect the fall of shot. For example, if the head is too high on the stock, the shot will go over the top of the target. Using the same rationale, the eye that is over the rib, the ”Master Eye”, must be dominant in order for the shot to go in the direction where the shooter is pointing. If the“off eye”, or eye which is not over the rib, is dominant then it will effectively incorrectly identify the target through the end of the gun from the“off side”. This is best explained using the diagram shown in Figure 1

Eye Dominance
Shooting Range
Figure 1 - Left eye is dominant on a right hand shooter

Figure 1 shows a plan view on the left demonstrating that with a dominant left eye, the right handed shooter perceives that he/she is pointing the gun at the target when in fact the gun is pointing to the left. (Note: No lead has been applied to the target in order to simplify the diagram) In this scenario a right handed shooter will miss in front of a right to left crossing target.

Shotgun shell
Shooting Range

Figure 2 – Right eye is dominant on a right hand shooter

Figure 2 shows that with a dominant right eye, the right handed shooter is looking down the barrel at the target and the shot pattern is over the target. (Note: Again no lead has been applied to the target in order to simplify the diagram).

Double Images. If a shooter is not 100% dominant in their master eye, remaining fully focused on the target throughout the shot is very difficult; this is because a ghost image of the gun will appear to the off eye. The more dominant the “off eye” becomes, the more prominent the ghost image. For example someone who has central vision will see a double image of the shotgun when focusing fully on the target. It is extremely difficult for a shooter to point the gun at the target if there are two images of the gun to choose from. Clearly in a sport where applying the correct forward allowance to a target is key, this “double image” is unacceptable. The inevitable outcome of this situation is that the shooter looks back at the bead in order to remove the ghost image, which subsequently results in stopping the gun and missing behind. The images in Figure 3 demonstrate the image a shooter, with varying degrees of eye dominance, sees when focusing on a right to left crossing target.

Shotgun shell
Shooting Range

Figure 3 – A shooters view with varying eye dominance.

Identifying the problem. There are various methods of identifying eye dominance in an individual, but the finger pointing method if done correctly, can fairly accurately indicate the extent of the dominance issue. This method is carried out by the shooter standing about 2 metes away from the coach and then pointing swiftly to the coach’s master eye. This should be repeated about 4 times to ascertain an average reading. The coach will then determine the shooters finger position in relation to their eye in order to accurately gauge the effect of “off eye” when aiming the gun. The Images in Figure 4 show what the coach is looking for and how this information can be used.

Shotgun shell
Shooting Range

Figure 4 – Eye Dominance Check using the finger pointing method

Solving the problem. The first step in dealing with this issue is to fully understand the mechanics of what is going on and the difficulties it causes the shooter. Most coaches are aware of the issues associated with eye dominance and Instructors are taught basic detection and rectification techniques during the CPSA Level 1 course. These techniques may include adding Micro pore tape or lip salve to the off eye lens of the shooters glasses to ensure the master eye remains dominant over the rib. These methods offer an effective, quick and easy solution, but are limited to a short term fix and are only suited to a shooter who is having an initial lesson.

Other methods, designed to alleviate off eye dominance/interference, include shutting the off eye, squinting the off eye just before the shot is taken and even placing the thumb on the barrel to obscure the bead from the off eye is used by some. There are many products on the market which can be attached to the barrels of the gun to ensure only the master eye can see the bead. Many shooters enjoy some success with these methods; however personally, I have always struggled to find a product that completely satisfies an individual’s specific needs. There are also coaches who do not believe there is such a thing as eye dominance. A client recently told me that he had had a lesson where the coach told him eye dominance didn’t exist and he was to just focus on the clay even harder. Another alarming comment I heard quite recently was a coach telling his client that “in clay shooting you must have both your eyes open or you will miss the target”. During my research, I have discovered that that many coaches are 100% dominant in their master eye, which almost certainly has contributed to their success in the sport. I have determined that, as a result, some coaches may not fully understand the effect of the problem from their client’s perspective and consequently do not offer an effective method of correction. Figure 3 shows the extent of the problem.

I mentioned previously that some shooters close the off eye or use other methods to obscure the off eye. The problem is that by doing this, any peripheral vision is significantly reduced and eliminates any depth perception available. The solution to this problem is to use a product that will provide just enough control to the off eye so that the master eye over the rib remains dominant. It is also important to only restrict the “off” eye’s vision at the end of the gun so that the eye can still see targets appearing from the off side, while maintaining as much peripheral vision and depth perception as possible. In my opinion occlusion filters are the best product currently available to address eye dominance issues. The use of patches to deal with eye problems is nothing new and occlusion therapy has been used to treat Amblyopia, when diagnosed in children. This involves patching the good eye, encouraging the brain to use the lazy eye (or amblyopic eye) therefore strengthening it.

Eye dominance correction in shooting is of course subtly different to this; however the overall concept of encouraging a single eye to work harder is the same. These filters when used correctly create a situation where the Master eye (over the rib) remains dominant and only a single image of the gun barrel is visible to the shooter when focusing fully on the target. It also prevents the off eye trying to influence the shot as shown in figure 1. I have manufactured a pack that will assist Instructors/Coaches eradicate any eye dominance problems that they may come across.

Eye Dominance Products

Do you see two gun barrels when you focus on the target, Do you feel you are looking down the side of the Gun when shooting, Do you have to focus on the gun bead to get rid of the blurred barrels, Do you have to shut an eye to see the target clearly?

Are your scores suffering as a result? There is a good chance you have an eye dominance problem.

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