Q&A Should My Bow Match My Dominant Eye?


Marcus Valdes wrote in with this question: I was relieved that I bought the proper handed bow. Turns out my daughter is right-handed, left eye dominant. So is my wife. So should I be buying them left-handed bows?

This is where a coach needs some discernment. Just because one is cross dominant (right-handed/left-eyed or left-handed-right eyed) doesn’t mean they have to go with their dominant eye.

A good argument can be made that being cross dominant is best, even though way less than 10 percent of the populace is. That argument is you want the most important arm (the bow arm) to be your stronger arm and the most important eye (your aiming eye) to be your stronger eye. Since most people are right-right or left-left (hand-eye), this leaves them out. Only the cross dominant qualify for this setup. And then I am entirely backwards. I am right-handed and left-eye dominant and shoot right handed. (Figure it out . . . I’ll wait.) Yes, bow arm and aiming eye are both the weaker of the two.

Realize that, as a coach, you have to discern who your audience is. If I have an archer who is a gung-ho competitor, wants to be world champion, etc. I am going to treat them differently from an archer who “just wants to have fun.” If my archer is a recreational archer, I am going to use their comfort while shooting as a guide, not some theoretical best case anatomical scenario. If my archer is hell bent on winning, we will discuss how best to shoot, including the complete roles of eye dominance and handedness. (They still get to choose, which is my coaching style.) And . . . if they have been shooting for 20 years, you have to consider whether the effort required is worth the gain.

You can have the best of both world’s, though. If you have suitable low draw weight bows for them to try, let them try both ways and then they can choose what works best for them—trust me, they will have a preference. (This is also congruent with our “try before you buy” philosophy.)

Also, there are signs that one’s eye dominance is problematic (pulling the string to the wrong side of the face, shooting very wide to the left (RH archer), etc.) and we generally don’t switch beginners over until we see one of them (or the archer expresses a preference) and sometimes not even then—there are ways to cope with using one’s less dominant eye (close it half way while shooting, put a piece of cellophane tape across the glasses in front of the non-aiming eye, use an eye patch (Arrrh, pirate archery!), and there are even some commercial devices that attach to your cap or your bow sight.

Anyone else want to chime in on the role of eye dominance in beginning archery?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Q&A Should My Bow Match My Dominant Eye?

  1. Ismaeel Hansa

    I am right handed and left eye dominant. When I first started archery my coach strongly advised me to shoot left handed. Even though it was a bit difficult at first, I soon got used to it and was shooting well. After 4/5 months I moved to another club and the coach there favoured the opinion that you should pull with your dominant hand. I then tried shooting right handed for a few weeks(probably not long enough), and it just did not feel as comfortable as shooting left handed.

    • You are caught, as we say, between a rock and a hard place. You, as am I, are “cross-dominant.” Many feel this is an idea situation in that you get to use your strong left eye to aim with and your strong right arm to hold the bow (the more important arm). But, as are so many other things in archery, this is a matter of personal preference. Before I figured out I was cross-dominant I had shot for ten years and it just didn’t seem to make sense to switch to the other side of the bow. The reasons shooting right-handed feels uncomfortable may be: (a) you are more comfortable shooting left-handed or (b) you shot left-handed long enough for that to feel normal, so shooting right-handed must feel “abnormal” at least for the first few weeks.

      If you have strong desires to be an elite archer, competing nationally and internationally, I would urge you to shoot left-handed for the benefits mentioned. If you just want to shoot well and compete a little, I’d say it doesn’t really matter which way you shoot. we let kids choose which hand to shoot with when they begin and then talk to them about any changes if and only if they “get serious” about archery. If they just want to shoot for fun, it doesn’t matter. If they are mildly serious, it doesn’t matter much. If they become very serious, it might matter more, so is worth considering. Realize that for years it was “common knowledge” that no cross-dominant archer won at the Olympic Games. Then Korea let the cat out of the bag and announced that they had sent cross-dominant archers to the games and won. Sometimes folks didn’t get the memo that one can shoot at an elite level and be cross-dominant.

      I hope this helps.

  2. I discovered I was cross-dominant after shooting and competing for several years. It was both good and bad news for me. Not knowing much about eye dominance, I trotted over to the local library to find every relevant book on eyesight that I could. I discovered that it was genetic, and more to the point, unchangeable. (There went my hopes of ‘training’ myself out of it).
    The GOOD news was, I had reached a plateau in my scores, based largely on my reliable pattern of 7’s or 8’s being in a horizontal line with my 9’s and 10’s. I am RH, left-eye, and had been shooting with my left eye closed. When I experimented with both eyes open, I realized that some of the small shot alignment mistakes that were giving me those reds were easily visible when my left eye was open. However, left eye open made aiming problematic. So the “good” news for me is that I have a good chance to break through that plateau by switching to shooting leftie. (A move I will be making very soon, after a number of years out of the sport. When I asked for advice at the time, I had a lot of experienced archers tell me to put it down for a while, and start again fresh. Looking forward to getting back in!) 🙂

  3. Sarah T.

    Hey, me again, the cross-dominant gal in the convo. I’ve been shooting again for about 6 weeks as a lefty, and so far, so great! Being able to shoot with both eyes open has been a real eye-opener (pun intended, haha).
    I feel I am picking up the lefty shooting relatively quickly, and the being able to clearly see my own geometry as I align my shot makes a difference for me. (I had been blessed with many years of good coaching as a teen, so I know what I am looking for in that regard).
    I will say I have had an occasional, weird vision/aiming blip. In my first 200-250 shots or so, I had a couple times where my RIGHT eye picked up the sight-line, as opposed to my LEFT eye, and as a result I got a wickedly wild shot. I have found that I prevent this from happening if I keep my dominant eye focusing through the sight as I draw.
    Hope that helps anyone else out there working through cross-dominance issues! 🙂

    • Sarah, realize that if your eye dominance isn’t very strong then your brain will switch dominant eyes on the fly when you get a little fatigued, etc. If this happens to you (I have had it happen) you might want to include a step in your Shot Sequence to drill home of verifying your dominant eye being used. In Compound it is merely “Can I see the peep?” In Recurve it is “Can I see the string (albeit fuzzily)? The worst case scenario for an archer is to not have a dominant eye as one’s brain then switches back and forth will-nilly.

  4. Dave Beeton

    Sorry if I’m joining the thread at a late stage, but i would like some advice on this sort of issue. I am right-eye dominant, rt-handed so no problem apparently. I can’t close my left eye on its own! I also wear glasses, with a bifocal prescription. At the moment I am shooting with a covered left lens(tissue paper), but still a problem with depth of field. Would getting a separate set of shooting glasses help, if the right lens was just a single prescription, and what would be a preferable distance to have the lenses ground to? I had thought of 50yds, ie mid-distance, but I am open to suggestions.

    Dave B

    • I use trifocals at this point but I also shoot in shooting glasses. They not only fit snugly against my face with no gaps of any width, they have easily swapable lenses so I can have clear lenses for indoors and tinted ones for outdoor sun. My have a tiny dot lens at the bottom of each lens to be able to see my score card, etc. Highly recommended.

      As to the focal distance, talk to your optometrist or specialist as to what would work best for you.

      Cheers,

      Steve

  5. Raina Jones

    I am left handed and left eye dominant but use my right hand for lots of things, to the extent that I’m pretty sure that my right arm is stronger than my left. I have often been confused as to which hand I feel I ‘ought to’ be using for an activity, you should have seen my try to hold a hockey stick as a kid!

    I was given a ‘right-handed’ (or should I say eyed) bow by a friend. I started shooting with my left eye closed but since learned, before I even thought about what eye dominance I had, to shoot it with both eyes open. At first I found it actually improved my shooting and sometimes now feel I can ‘get in the zone’ and shoot fairly accurately (for a beginner!) this way.

    However, I found that, after a beginners archery course, where some changes were made to my stance, I began shooting off to the left and I couldn’t use a sight at all because I couldn’t get it left enough!

    I have now started using a left handed bow ( I like to shoot bare bow at the moment) and find it much more intuitive. However, what I want to know is: Is it possible to learn to shoot using either hand/eye? As I said sometimes I can shoot on the ‘wrong’ side with both eyes open though I’ve no idea what it is that I’m doing when I do… Martial artists and basketball players do, so why not archers?

    • There is absolutely no reason that you could not shoot either way. A great many people have switch from RH to LH bows and vice-versa. One of my current AF authors switched from left to right and now back to left. Once you know how to shoot fairly well, though, it can be a significant amount of work retraining yourself to shoot the other way, just as it would if you were bowling or shooting pool or just writing by hand, so it is not something one does casually unless just done for a lark.

      To ensure that you are shooting using the correct aiming eye, be sure that you can “see” the bowstring in your aiming eye (you should be looking directly alongside of it). I say “see” in quotes because it is inside the focal length of your eye while shooting and hence is quite fuzzy.

    • Sarah T.

      Years ago, when I found out I was cross-dominant, I asked some of the top shooters of the time what they thought. Unanimously, the answer was, “Shoot righty.” Having made the switch myself, I would also recommend shooting righty. I have found that I can align my body up better during the pre-draw and draw sequence, and also I can keep myself aligned better, even while aiming, drawing, anchoring, and follow-through. Yes, the switch “felt” a little odd at first, and I needed to work on building more muscle on my left side. Now that I have been shooting lefty for almost a year, I am loving it.

      • Most “experts” indicate that you are better off with your dominant arm as your bow arm (your only contact with the bow while the shot is ocurring). So if you are cross-dominant (as am I) you get the best of all possible situations. Your stronger arm as your bow arm and your better eye to aim with.

        On Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 11:11 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

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  6. Sarah T.

    oops, I meant to write that the top shooters I asked advised my to switch, and shoot lefty. See? I’m still confused! haha

  7. Sarah T.

    That being said, CAN I still shoot a right-handed bow? Yes, and sometimes I will, just for fun 🙂 And maybe to mess with a few people’s heads, the next time I am shooting with a group! LOL
    I’m just thinking, with what I have noticed so far about my ability to align my form and aim, i will stick to shooting lefty when I compete.

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