How to overcome ‘wrong’ eye dominance

Left-eye dominant but right-handed, Lucy O’Sullivan has spent a fair amount of time working to overcome the problems that presents. Here, she shares some of the tips and tricks she’s learned

As technology changes and gets better so has the eye cross dominance devices

As a left-eye dominant archer I have spent years struggling with eye dominance. I have been squinting all of my archery career, but over that time I’ve found there are a few things that you can do to help cover up the issue.

So what is eye dominance?

Eye dominance is the tendency to prefer one eye to the other one. Usually if you are right-handed you will be right-eye dominant. However, it doesn’t always work this way. Both brain hemispheres control both eyes, but one will always take charge. Dominance appears to change depending on direction of gaze due to image size changes on the retinas, and there are also some cases caused by myopia, amblyopia and sometimes even migraine sufferers, although most research would suggest that eye dominance is due to the dominant eye being challenged more.

How do you test for eye dominance?

All archers should be tested on eye dominance in their first archery lesson, but you can test it at home very easily.

The most common test is the Miles test – the archer extends both arms and brings their hands together to create a small opening between their hands (usually a small triangle). Then, with both eyes open, they focus on a distant object through the opening. They then slowly draw their hands back to their face and whichever eye the hand comes back to their dominant eye.

You can actively change eye dominance by suppressing the dominant eye such as using an eye patch, or, in more extreme cases, opt for laser eye surgery.

Gun shooters have been using this kind of technology for years

Overcoming cross eye dominance

Aiming in archery is a fine motor skill. Lucky archers who are right-eye dominant and right-handed (or left-eye dominant and left-handed) actually have the option of keeping both eyes open during shooting. Not only does this enable more light be ‘let in’, you have double the visual information being fed into the brain to help reaction and aiming, and the dominant eye will always take over so your aim will be led with that eye.

Now unlucky archers who prefer to shoot right-handed and who are left-eye dominant (or vice versa) do not have this option. They either have to opt to change to be the “wrong handedness” or close their dominant eye.

Choosing the latter can often be a hindrance as your facial muscles have to work harder to keep the dominant eye closed during your shot. I myself have shot many years with my left eye closed, but this can often start opening mid-shot and I have to remind myself to force the eye shut. As you might imagine, this isn’t very useful in a sport reliant on aim! So what handy things have been used by archers to ensure this doesn’t happen?

An easy-to-apply patch, the stickers are simple to use on shooting glasses

What are your options?

There are many options available to archers to overcome the cross dominance, such as

The “pirate” eye patch

The clip onto hat eye patch

The clip onto glasses eye patch

A piece of cardboard clipped onto the hat

A piece of tape over glasses

A sticker over glasses

You do not need to block out all of the light with an eye patch, as I mentioned above cardboard can be just as effective, it just needs to be something that relaxes the dominant eye. It presents the dominant eye with an unchanging visual field containing nothing of visual importance and allows the brain to focus solely with the weaker eye. However, it can often cause irritation and frustration until the brain starts to adapt to not being able to use the dominant eye.

A great reason for why many archers may opt for an eye patch or cover, as opposed to closing the eye, is that you can train yourself to have both eyes open, thus having the same benefits of letting more light in but being able to focus with the weaker eye (see the picture with the targets unfiltered and filtered, this is how cross dominant archers see the target).

Before the Off Eye sticker Lucy had to squint, which used facial muscles

As archery has progressed aiming aids such as Pilla glasses have started being utilised in archery. Gun shooters have used this technology for years, and I myself was one of the first UK shooters to use this simple technology for archery.

As technology changes and gets better so has the eye cross dominance devices. No longer do you need bulky clips attached to your hat or Pilla glasses, there are things as simple as stickers now that relax your eye. A great company called “Off Eye” have used this concept, and noticed I shot with Pilla glasses with one eye squinted shut. After sending me a few samples I now shoot with the Off Eye stickers and it is great!

The Off Eye stickers attach to your glasses with ease, much like a car window sticker that can come off easily. The concept is simple; if you focus on a target with both eyes open, and hold up your fingers slightly separated in front of the dominant eye the target can only be viewed properly with the weaker eye. The dominant eye is blinkered and is looking through “venetian blinds” or a “picket fence” – the image is there but not 100 per cent.

Off Eye’s process uses the ability of the brain to filter the target, and using the different stickers you can decide which strength of filter you need to use to block out enough of the target, by shifting a little or a lot of strength to the weaker aiming eye.

A trial of Off Eye stickers did the job of keeping Lucy’s naturally dominant eye from interfering with her shot

What now?

Well, if you’ve read this far and are thinking of trying something to help with any eye dominance problems of your own, I’d recommend starting off with something attached to your hat or glasses. If you really want to up those scores you can use the better technology of the “picket fence” or “hatched” Off Eye stickers and shoot with both eyes open, really learning to rely on the weaker eye. Obviously with any new training it’s best to start at a close range for a few weeks before you begin training the brain to aim from further away with that weaker eye.

Remember, it is no longer a case of having to squint that eye shut, there are options available to you without having to change your bow to the “wrong handedness”. 

This article originally appeared in the issue 114 of Bow International magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store

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17 comments on “How to overcome ‘wrong’ eye dominance
  1. Tim Whiteside says:

    I found your article fascinating, thanks

    My dominant eye is my right eye and it manifests itself by my brain pushing the left eye out of the way. Mainly when I’m on a computer but it happens often (even when talking to people)

    I’ve discussed having surgery to stop my left eye continually pointing outwards (unless I consciously correct it) but surgery is a bit drastic and its probably best to leave the muscles well alone, (at least I can pull it back if I want too)

    So I’m looking at ways of training my left eye to be the dominant one (to see if I can encourage the muscles to become stronger so my brain cant push it out of the way.

    I’d prefer not to use patches, have you any suggestions?

  2. PJM says:

    I’m right handed, but my eye preference is for the left. I have always been aware of this fact, but I became fully aware of it when I started to work as a photographer: all camera’s are easier to use for right eye preference.
    My question: could there be a biological reason why some people, i.e. a minority of ca. 30% (?), have left eye preference?

  3. Frank Hynds says:

    Your article is very interesting. There are so many archers who don’t know what eye is dominant, and don’t know it’s better to shoot with both eyes open.

    I shot for the first 4 years of my career with one eye closed due to cross dominance.

    I then made the decision to teach myself to ignore my dominant eye. I did this by aiming initially with my dominant eye closed, then once I had aimed roughly I would open both eyes then aim accurately. After a few days I found I could aim without closing my dominant eye and have aim this way since.

  4. Kent McKay says:

    Well this is a good start for me , I have a combination of issues . I shoot left handed compound bow with a peep , I am right eye dominant , Due to cancer surgery my rh eye doe not close and I am paralyzed on the rh side of my face . I am unable to close my right eye with out the left being closed and when I open the left the right also opens , no more facial nerve on rh side . I have been trying a blinder and have tried an eye patch but am having a really hard time making it work. Any ideas???

  5. Richard Williams says:

    any recommendations for those that are right handed, but have lost vision in their right eye?

    • wolf volke says:

      this is the same problem i have richard.did away with my peepsight and now use a hindsight setup in line with my left eye and the front well.

  6. Chris MacDonald says:

    I have just started to do archery and I found out that I am left eye dominant but I am right handed.
    I am currently using a right hand bow but thinking about changing to a left hand bow in an attempt to become a better shot.
    I was left handed as a child but went to school in the days when they hit the back of the hand with a ruler or cane when the left hand was used to write or draw. To this day I still eat left handed but use my right hand to complete most tasks including playing a guitar.
    I don’t think that using a left hand bow will be too hard for me to learn to do but it will be a bit of an inconvenience as I have purchased two right hand bows already.

    • M Kimball says:

      I’m in my 70’s started archery 1 1/2 years ago. Doing instinctive archery (see I was right handed and left eye dominate. With instinctive archery you have both eyes open. No sights, no sighting off arrow, etc. Just look where you want to hit and shoot. Eventually brain figures it out. About 6 months in my dominance began to change. After 1 year fully right handed, right eye dominant. About a month ago started learning to shoot left handed. Took about 4 weeks to become comfortable although with weaker bow. Check out instinctive archery, Slavic draw.

    • Irv says:

      Hi Chris,
      just saw your post while searching for information re: left handed with dominant right eye, while shotgun shooting. I’m trying to relearn to shoot right handed.
      What got my attention was the fact that you were forced to write right-handed. That also happened to my brother (late 1930’s) and, as a result he started to write backwards, from right to left. It had such a negative effect on his schooling career. When i started school 5 years later that practice was not in effect as I write left handed but had to keep paper angled so I smudged everything I wrote while keeping my wrist hooked.

  7. Mike says:

    I have amblyopia and my right eye doesn’t see that well. This article is pretty useless because it assumes your right eye has perfect vision. Often people with left eye dominance are that way because their right eye has vision issues, or no vision at all.

    With guns there is something called a cross-eyed or cripple stock. Its essentially a gun handle with a bend in it to allow for the gun shaft to align with your left eye. Unfortunately there is no equivalent in archery. Its a shame because somebody could design a bending peep sight optic that you could mount to a bow which would allow left eye usage on a right handed bow.

    Since no such technology was invented, I did the only thing you really can do….. I bought a left handed bow and learned to shoot left handed. Surprisingly shooting a bow left handed felt a lot more comfortable than Shooting a gun left handed. I suppose that’s because with a left handed bow, you’re technically using your right hand for aiming while your left hand is used for drawing the string back. Unlike a gun where you typically use both hands and your dominant shoulder to place aim.

  8. Randy says:

    Where can I get the blinds or picket fence stickers

    • Stephan H says:

      google search for “off eye” you will find what you’re looking for. Also, I have just Lymans EyePal, which helps shooters focus on iron sights. They also have one intended for bow shooters.
      Good luck, I recently lost about 40% of my left eye vision (including focal point) due to an arterial occlusion. I have to completely retrain to shoot right handed.

  9. M.P. says:

    Great article.
    I watched a video on TGS on youtube recently about eye dominance.
    Having been to the high street eye folk, I’ve been referred to hospital.
    Strangely enough my eyesight is actually not too bad in either eye (I do wear glasses) but my left eye is so dominant that even wearing a patch over my left eye, results in my right eye also seeing a darkness that is my right eye still being overly dominant. I’m hoping wearing the eye patch at home a lot more will help. Time will tell.
    You can also get exercise cards to improve a lazy eye and make it work in conjunction with the dominant eye to stop the weaker eye drifting.

  10. IL says:

    Or… shoot left handed. You’re pulling a string back not writing cursive. Shooting with your dominant eye rather than your dominant hand will greatly improve your shooting ability without having to resort to drastic tricks. It’s not that hard, I’ve been doing it since I was eight. Close one eye, have someone toss you a ball, close the other eye, have someone toss you a ball. If you cannot catch the ball with the same ease and accuracy with your nondominant eye as you can with your dominant eye, you should be shooting with your dominant eye, not your dominant hand. This is the advice of my college team archery coach, who also happened to be a former Olympic archer.

    • Alex says:

      I’m really glad to read this comment! This is the second article I’ve read on this site that discusses eye dominance issues and potential fixes. I’m right handed, left eye dominant, and the first thing my instructor told me was that I’d be shooting left handed. He said I could be good shooting righty, but it will always make it harder to be great. I thought it was sort of odd that just changing the hand you shoot with wasn’t mentioned at all in this or the other article. I guess it works, but it definitely doesn’t sell eye patches.

  11. Eric says:

    I noticed recently that my eye dominance switched from left to right. Weird. Probably due to laser surgery to my left for glaucoma. I am right handed. A friend told me I should shoot with a left handed bow. So I did and getting used to it didn’t take long at all. Now next week doing eye surgery again for the same thing. Probably won’t change my eye dominance but I am trying to decide to try to change back to left hand domination again and keep my bow or go buy a new one.

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