Winged Wisdom: Dominant Eye Or Dominant Hand?

by Kate Ahnstrom

or anyone in the boomer generation or older, you’re probably keenly aware that southpaws were seriously frowned upon. The sisters in Catholic school infamously carried a ruler at the ready to “reinforce” writing with your right hand. The military didn’t even entertain the fact you may need to shoot a gun as a leftie. Standard issue is, well, the standard. My dear father, a Marine, was forced into shooting right-handed, no two ways about it.

   Fortunately, the times they are a changing. Thank goodness. This month, we will make some of your heads explode, some will let out a long sigh of relief and others will just sit and stare at the words in this article in total disbelief. Hang on kids, this is gonna get bumpy!

   I’m a firm believer in continuing education. I hold certifications in shotgun instruction from the NRA and Paragon School of Sporting. Over the past 13 years in the industry, I have had several incredible mentors from across the country. I love to learn and find new ways to better assist my students in learning. Continuing education is critical so that we can grow and expand our knowledge and bring that to our students/clients. This “new method” is still in the research and development phase but so far, it’s been amazing.

  Shotgun shooting is a pointing gun sport not an aiming one. This is why gun fit is important and that gun fit is determined by which side of the body you utilize to hold the gun. (As a sidenote, gun fit only goes so far because as soon as the shooter changes their stance, even slightly, the gun fit changes. This will be another article for another month, though.) The eye needs to be centered and flat on the rib so the shooter can hit where they are looking and not have the sight picture obscured. Two feet of steel and wood will create havoc throughout the swing, if you can’t clearly see the bird. Staring at that two feet of steel and wood versus your target will also create serious havoc. 

   This is where traditionally, the shooter will put the gun up to their dominant eye, regardless of their dominant hand. If they are a matched set, right eye and right hand or left eye and left hand, then no biggie. What if they are cross-dominant? Right hand and left eye or left hand and right eye? Depending on the level of dominance in the off eye, they may be asked to shoot two eyes open under the dominant eye side or they may choose to shoot with their dominant hand and use something to obscure the vision in the true dominant eye. A piece of tape, a dot, even ChapStick smudged on the dominant eye side will allow the sub-dominant eye to take charge and lets the shooter keep both eyes open. 

   Is this all necessary or even correct? This is where I’m gonna lose some of y’all. Stick with me though, as I’ve started to use a new line of thinking on select students with an abundance of success.

  Shoot from your dominant hand, not your dominant eye. WTH?! Yes, I did just say use your dominant hand and not your dominant eye. (Insert mind-blown emoji here). I’ve been chatting with various high-level competitive shooters and other very well-known instructors. I was flabbergasted to learn several are cross dominant but shoot according to their dominant hand. The brain is an incredible computer. The number of calculations it can achieve in a nano-second is almost impossible. Allowing the naturally dominant hand to be in charge of the swing allows for better control and a smoother swing. 

  The clay sports are a visual game. We are wired with stereoscopic vision that allows for a fantastic peripheral field. When you allow yourself to focus with all your heart and soul on the target, you understand what is required at the break point and you have a great hold point, you will break the target. I just had another student, cross dominant and using both eyes wide open have a very successful lesson crushing it on the course. While this may not work for everyone, as I never subscribe to a one fix fits every shooter style of instruction, it will certainly be a game changer for many of you. 

  Get out to the course. The weather is wonderful! See how it works and if you really need to bother with dots, tape or shooting with the weak hand. Be sure you know how to correctly read your target and have a bulletproof hold point. Put all your focus on that pesky pigeon and let your natural ability to see and assess the situation take hold. 

    If you get stuck or aren’t sure how to read your targets, you know where to find me! Good luck and great shooting.

Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Virginia and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.

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