A quick test for visual cross dominance in the shotgun sports
Friday, August 04, 2017
If you grew up rifle hunting or shooting handguns, chances are you closed one eye to aim at the stationary target. Typically, a right-handed shooter would close his left eye for a visual alignment with the bead or sight of the firearm.
The shotgun sports are different. Unlike rifle or handgun shooting, shotguns for wing or clays sports involve a moving target that's coming from any number of directions and flying at unpredictable angles and speeds.
This dynamic demands that both eyes remain open to make a successful shot so you can see the target's entire path of travel through your peripheral vision. The sooner you see the target, the better your odds of hitting it.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple for everyone who wants to participate in the shotgun sports. Many people who shoulder a shotgun suffer from a problem called cross dominance.
Although we don't realize it, most of us have a dominant eye — meaning that one eye is stronger than the other. The problem generally resolves itself pretty well in our day-to-day activities, evidenced by the fact that it's never really an obstacle in tasks such as driving or reading.
But cross dominance can dramatically affect how successfully you shoot a shotgun.
Because of the moving target presentations, the shotgun sports are a binocular activity — meaning that you keep both eyes open. So when you shoulder a shotgun in preparation for a target, you look down the rib where the muzzle bead should align with that eye.
But suppose you're a right-handed shooter with a dominant left eye. Instead of a clear picture of the rib, bead and target ahead of you, the bead and rib could be misaligned, even to the extent of appearing disjointed. If so, you'll never hit the target.
When a right-handed person shoots with both eyes open but is left-eye dominant, his left eye will control where his gun points. You'll end up shooting in front of a right-to-left target and behind a left-to-right target.
Some instructors will recommend that, although you're a right-handed shooter, move your gun to shoot off the left shoulder for proper eye/bead/rib alignment. That’s not as simple as it sounds because the right side of your body is physically stronger to handle the gun, plus your brain is already wired for a right-handed visual acuity.
Other fixes from professionals include partially occluding the left lens of your shooting glasses with a smear of Vaseline, special "Magic Dots" or semi-transparent tape. The thinking goes that by partially blocking your left eye, your right one assumes a stronger role in tracking the targets.
The trick here is to apply the occlusion in a way that helps you align the beads and rib with your eye — often a trial-and-error procedure.
Another recommendation if you're a right-handed shooter is to blink your left eye immediately before pulling the trigger. That shifts all of the visual focus to the right, dominant eye while preserving the bifocal target tracking of both eyes until the very last second.
This often works, but timing is everything. Close the left eye too soon and the entire target disappears.
Without professional input, it can be difficult for people to determine their eye dominance. You'll be missing targets not really knowing why. But there is a simple eye-dominance test you can perform on yourself.
Extend both arms in front of you. Form a triangle by overlapping both hands but leave a peep hole about two-inches wide. Look at a distant object (stay focused on it). With both eyes open slowly bring that triangle to your face without trying to influence its direction.
You'll discover that the triangle has probably moved toward one eye more than the other. The eye favored by that triangle is likely your dominant eye.
So, if you're a right-handed shooter and the triangle has moved to your left eye, you now have a starting point to remedy the problem. The solution of blinking or occlusion really depends on the shooter's physiological and psychological preferences.
Regardless, you should certainly see an improvement in your wing and clays results.
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