Ask the experts: Eye dominance and scopes

Q Does eye dominance really matter when shooting a scoped rifle? I saw a video online of someone shooting a rifle right-handed but leaning over to sight with their left eye. It looked utterly wrong but does it really make a difference? If I have a cross-dominance issue should I take steps to correct it?

A Chris says: I recently found myself helping a guy in a position similar to this, who had damaged his right eye, but still thought he had to shoot right-handed. In fact, the incredibly strained position of settling his left eye behind the scope from his right-handed position was causing far more difficulty than swapping sides completely and having a go left-handed. Although the bolt was still ‘wrong’ on his right-handed rifle, now being shot lefty, he was staggered by how easy it was to swap handedness and use his left eye in symmetrical ergonomic comfort.

Unlike a shotgun where both eyes are unobscured and able to see the target – barrels, bead and all – and eye dominance is a big factor, on a scoped or even red-dot- equipped rifle, only the master eye behind the scope can see the aiming dot or reticle. So it is impossible to confuse the images and aim off incorrectly. That said, keeping both eyes open, except in unusual lighting conditions that are overly bright, is pretty much always a benefit for balance, spacial awareness, position, observational field of view, less facial muscle strain and so on. And you can’t possibly see the aiming pointer overlaid on the ‘wrong’ image so their relative position is still correct.

Open-sighted rifles can be trickier, but you will get used to it as, unlike a shotgun, they still require a more deliberate approach with calculated ‘aiming’ rather than ‘pointing’ like a shotgun requires. The images between your two eyes are different enough to make it possible for your brain to adapt.

When using high-magnification optics, many will shut their off eye just to ease the visual strain of two vastly different images, but after time, your brain learns to ignore it anyway, and on a range shooting targets in competition, the off eye kept open might just notice wind flags varying in position, so it’s worth persevering.

The ability to shoot from the opposite shoulder/eye can be very beneficial in hunting scenarios at close quarters, and it’s a skill well worth having a go at mastering. You will soon see that your own preconception of eye-dominance problems with a rifle fade away.

Chris Parkin, Target sports journalist and optics reviewer

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