Learn To Shoot A Pistol With Both Eyes Open And Eye Dominance

Chris aim a gun with both eyes open

What does that mean in English? Eye dominance and having a dominant eye, and using eye dominant shooting are normal. Most everyone is either right eye dominant or left eye dominant which just means your brain’s preferred eye for processing visual information is right or left. With both eyes open work together to bring you visual information relating to depth perception and spatial awareness. 

Your dominant eye is responsible for spotting small differences between your right eye picture and your left eye picture, giving you the information you need. Let’s dive into eye dominance shooting, cross-eye dominant shooting, and the difference between them.

Eye Dominance / Ocular Dominance / Eyedness
Definition: The brain's tendency to prefer visual input from one eye or the other.

Shooting a pistol with both eyes open

Learning your dominant eye

The first thing you want to know in shooting a pistol with both eyes open, are you right eye dominant or left eye dominant? Don’t book an optometrist appointment, because you’re going to find out right now.

  • Make a triangle with your two forefingers and two thumbs and hold it out in front of you. 
  • Look around the room and pick a target of your choice. 
  • Frame that target in the window you have created with your two hands.
  • Now, close your right eye. 

Did the object stay centered? If so, you are right-eye dominant. If you are right-handed, then you are ready to begin eye dominance shooting.

Chris Sajnog teaching to find your eye dominant

Did the object move out of the window? Try closing your right eye and leaving your left eye open. If the object stayed centered this time, you are left-eye dominant. If you are right-handed, that means you are going to need to learn left-eye dominant right-handed shooting. 

So, if your dominant eye and your dominant hand match, you are eye dominance shooting. If your dominant eye and dominant hand don’t match, you are cross-eye dominant shooting.

Eye Dominance Shooting

Now, what is eye dominance shooting? If you are left-handed, left-eye dominant, then you are left-eye dominant shooting. 

That simply means that you are holding your weapon with your left hand on the trigger and with your right eye closed. Your left eye dominance shooting is about lining up your dominant hand with your dominant left eye to aim down your sights with your right eye closed. 

Most likely, you are already doing this. Left eye dominance shooting should feel natural. 

If you are right-handed and right-eye dominant, then the same is true in reverse.

You should be using your right-hand trigger technique with your dominant right eye lined up to your sights, with your left eye closed, for proper eye dominance shooting.

Chris Sajnog using a pistol aiming

Cross Eye Dominant Shooting: Left Eye Dominant Right Handed Shooting

Now, what if you are left-eye dominant right-hand shooting? Cross-eye dominant shooting occurs when your dominant eye and your dominant hand are on opposite sides of your body. 

Often, it feels natural to try and use the same eye as your dominant hand and aim using only one side of your body, but if you are left-eye dominant and naturally meant to be a left eye dominant shooter, and you are using your right eye, your aim is suffering.

Cross-eye dominant shooting, which is most commonly left eye dominant right-handed shooting, is achieved using both sides of your body. 

In order to successfully aim in our left eye dominant right-handed shooting cross-eye dominant shooting example, you would cross your arms over your body slightly, holding your weapon in your dominant hand while making sure to close your non-dominant eye.

This technique can feel unnatural at first if you are not used to cross-eye dominant shooting. However, if you are cross-eye dominant and are not using the left eye dominant right-handed shooting technique, your aim is at a severe disadvantage.

Chris Sajnog using a SIRT pistol aiming with both eyes

Moving Past Eye Dominant Shooting

As we learned in eye dominance shooting, just like your hands, most people have a dominant eye, but you can train your brain to better use both eyes. That’s called Ocular Dominance

But just like your hands, you can use both eyes together to improve your threat awareness and spatial awareness. This keeps you moving fast and alert on the battlefield, and is going to make you a better shooter. And of course, it prevents you from being a Cyclops Shooter.

 When you are in a static situation like the shooting range, it’s up to you if you want to close off half your vision to line up your sights. But in a dynamic situation, you want to give yourself every possible advantage, and I guarantee, you will feel a lot more comfortable if you have spent time training your brain to shoot with both eyes open.

Learning to shoot with both eyes open

I get a lot of questions about learning to shoot with both eyes open. I’ve gone over open eyes shooting in my book and on my blog, and I know from the comments a lot of you already know how to do this, which is great. 

It’s something I talk about a lot, and l know it can be a bit challenging. The hardest part is to describe exactly what you see when you shoot with two eyes. 

A big part of learning this skill is training your brain to use new visual information. That sounds intimidating, but really, moving past eye dominance shooting and the left eye dominant right-handed shooting problem is possible with a little bit of time and attention to how your brain works. 

Chris Sajnog holding a SIRT pistol aiming with both eyes

With your eyes open, you will have two sight pictures when you are aiming. A lot of you are telling me all the time, “I have two sight pictures, what do I do to get rid of one?”. Two sight pictures are good, this is part of the whole point of open eyes shooting, but you will have to train your brain to ignore some of that information and only pay attention to one sight picture. 

So you don’t want to get rid of that second-sight picture, but you do want to train yourself to only pay attention to one while you are aiming down your sights. Learning how to shoot with open eyes means you will have to re-learn how to aim using these new visuals. This is actually easier done than said. 

With this video, I hope I think you will better understand what I’m talking about and how to master this skill. So, I want to not just tell you, but show you what I see when I shoot with eyes open.


Blinding me with Science: the science of dual eye dominant shooting

If you are interested in the science of shooting with two eyes, Julie Golob digs into this more on her blog as well. I had a chat with her and Barbara Baird on The Won episode #83. Another great resource for evaluating your eyes and how they relate to your aim is Eye on Performance sports vision training.

Not everyone is going to be able to shoot with both eyes, but now you should have a better understanding of what you should be looking for when you’re training.

Two Warnings on eye dominant shooting

I should also note that you need to be able to shoot well with just one eye open before you start trying to shoot with both eyes. It’s like trying to learn to juggle while riding a unicycle: probably impossible, and you’re going to waste a lot of time looking very stupid doing it. 

Before you dive into shooting with both eyes, spend time dry fire drilling or on the range utilizing your eye dominance shooting techniques. Learn to crawl before you walk, and learn either eye dominance shooting or cross dominant shooting, like our left eye dominant right-handed shooting, whichever reflects your eye dominance and hand dominance.

You need to learn to do each one separately before you put them together. If you are just starting out as a marksman, get your basics down before you shoot with two eyes. You will have a much better time if you work on your aim with one eye first. There are lots of great resources on this blog and in my book The live-fire range is also the worst place you can learn to shoot with both eyes. Your time, money, and energy would be much better spent practicing dry fire. Not until you have trained your brain during a dry fire should you start slinging lead downrange with both eyes.

Chris Sajnog showing him as a cyclops

Is It Better To Shoot With Both Eyes Open?

Training Time: Both Eyes Shooting

The question is, Is It Better To Shoot With Both Eyes Open?. You will know this by training yourself to overcome eye dominance and make the most of your abilities as a marksman starts with learning to read the visuals you will have both on the range and the battlefield. One of the things you can do to help train your brain to work with two sight pictures is to practice two eyes aim with a pencil. 

Take your pencil and aim it like a dart, pointing to a target, with eyes open. Then, close your non-dominant eye and see how far off your aim is. Try this a few times to train your brain what you’re looking for when you aim your sights with both eyes. 

Then try it the other way, aiming with your dominant eye and then opening both eyes to see what you should be looking for when you aim. You can do this drill anytime, anywhere, and if you get used to seeing how you have to aim to be accurate with both eyes, you will save yourself time, money, and frustration when you finally take this skill to the shooting range.

 This is one of many Optic Drills you can do at home, any time, that I recommend for strengthening your eyesight. A lot of people think that as you age, your eyesight has to deteriorate and that this is just a part of life. 

When I started to notice my own eyesight giving me trouble, I did some research and discovered that notion is just false. The eye is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs training and exercise to stay healthy and effective. 

Do you have any challenges with eye dominance shooting, cross-eye dominant shooting, left eye dominant right-handed shooting, or shooting with both eyes open? Let me know in the comments.

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Retired Navy SEAL Dr. Chris Sajnog, a Master Training Specialist in the Navy, was hand-selected to write the US Navy SEAL Sniper Manual. After retiring from the Navy in 2009, he earned a master’s (MSc) in Health and Human Performace and a doctorate (D.Sc.) in Applied Educational Neuroscience.

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