With rare exceptions, each individual shooter has a dominant eye that must be focused on a target in order for the result to be a busted clay or downed bird.
Determining the dominant eye is the first step toward starting a fledgling shooter along a path of successful shooting. This may mean a right-handed person may have to switch over to the left hand for shooting or use other techniques to make sure the dominant eye is looking down the barrel.
There are a couple simple methods for a person to establish which eye is dominant and, surprisingly, the results are not always determined by whether the shooter is right handed or left handed.
One test is to have the subject stretch out their arms in front of them and form a triangular-shaped hole with the fingers of both their hands. Have the subject look through this hole at an object about 10 feet away, keeping both eyes open. Have them close one eye, then the other, without moving their hands. The object being looked at should appear to move, possibly out of the triangular window, when the subject closes one of their eyes. When it moves, that determines that the subject is looking at it with their non-dominant eye.
Another test involves having the potential shooter stick out their arm (right for a right-handed shooter and left for a left-handed shooter) and raise their thumb on the extended hand. Have them use their thumb to cover up a tree trunk or fence post at least 20 feet from them. When they close one eye and then the other, their thumb will appear to move off of the trunk or post when the non-dominant eye is open.
Unlike with rifle shooting, when a person is using a shotgun the more natural and effective method is to keep both eyes open. This allows for better depth perception and target acquisition; and muscle tension (caused by closing one eye) is minimized. For those who might argue with this basic premise, we suggest they spend a little time on the ball field attempting to catch a baseball fired at them when they have one eye closed.
It should be noted that eye dominance is subject to change. Age-challenged shooters or those experiencing stress, ill health or reading strain can experience a dominance shift.
The importance of determining the dominant eye in shotgun shooting cannot be understated as “shoot where you look” is the key to putting pellets on targets whether they are clay or birds.
When a shooter is focused on a target (with a shotgun that has been properly fitted to him or her) with dominant eye, the proper lead and gun movement to make a hit is much simpler to achieve. If this means a shooter has to squint or shut one eye just before pulling the trigger to make sure the shooting eye is aligned with barrel and on target, so be it.
By the Way: We recommend that a qualified instructor or experienced gunsmith be consulted in determining which eye is dominant. It never hurts to get advice from a professional.