Cross-Dominance: How to Identify the Problem

By Stefan Meyer

Human conditioning runs deep. Most individuals will unthinkingly perform an action in a way for no reason other than they have been conditioned to have a preconceived expectation as to what is the correct method. 

This will manifest in the cup-and-saucer grip most beginners use. It’s what Eddy Murphy and Bruce Willis did, and they stopped terrorists, robbers, and all sorts of badguys.

One of the most difficult examples of conditioning to overcome, is the occurrence of cross dominance. Cross dominance is an individual that might be right hand dominant, but left eye dominant. This is often completely misunderstood and ignored in training entirely.

While the research is fascinating, it’s not necessary to understand the entire process of at what time in the womb dominance starts manifesting, or that it originates in the brain stem, rather than brain hemisphere. The important thing is that the body will favour one side over another, whenever we have two of something.

Whether this is leg, eye, ear, hand, or nostril, the brain will naturally recognise input from one side more than the other. It will also favour one side over the other when requiring action to be taken. In a practical sense, this is both of extreme importance, but, once understood, becomes no more important than which shoe you will put on first.

The techniques used are varied, and there are many means to achieve a goal. The important thing is to overcome cognitive bias and recognise accurately which is the dominant hand and eye.

Hand eye co-ordination is the basis for all tasks a human will do with their hands, is simply that you don’t have to watch your hands to be able to direct them to a place, or to perform a function. When catching a ball you watch the ball, not your hands.

Typically, the natural thing to do is for your hands to move to your eyes. The dominant hand will move to intersect line of sight from the dominant eye. This forms the means by which all firearms are sighted. Sights are mounted on firearms in a way to allow the hands to bring the firearm in line with the line of sight, and then a shot can be fired accurately.

This seems very simple, but when an individual is cross dominant, and statistically around 30% of people are cross dominant, then it can create difficulty in aiming or in firing a shot accurately. In handguns this is corrected easily by simply identifying which is the dominant eye. Many people, will however have difficulty doing this. They expect to be right eye dominant as they are right hand dominant.

When using rifles, carbines or shotguns, this will possibly lead to more problems. When deploying a rifle from the strong side shoulder to the weak side eye, people will often, quite humorously hit themselves in the face with a stock. While fun to watch in a sadistic kind of way, it’s likely to lead to precious time wasted in the real world. Think in terms of a game guide shouldering a rifle to stop a charging buffalo. While on the range he has all the time in the world to line up and close his one eye, in the field it requires fractions of a second to either stop a charge, or get trampled to death.

A competent instructor will be able to teach you the techniques you require to effectively use a firearm in whatever context you might need it for. Arriving at such a training course with the knowledge of whether you are cross dominant will allow you to not waste precious time trying to determine which eye to aim with.

There are many ways to find out which is you dominant eye. Having the expectation of being right eye and right handed dominant will cause some initial confusion and difficulty. Instead of overthinking the situation, I find the best way is to take whatever technique you choose to use and repeat the exercise multiple times. Perform the action rapidly. If there is any confusion after performing the task three or more times, you are more likely than not cross dominant.

This is not gospel truth, and many people can be ambidextrous, or whatever is the opposite of ambidextrous. Also some people just have difficulty with certain physical actions.

That said, symptoms of being cross dominant might be some of the following:

  • A right handed shooter forcing the left eye closed. This excessive distortion will distort vision
  • Missing a target completely, while apparently having good sight picture. Typically missing horizontally left or right. This happens when one eye looks through the rear sight, but the other eye is looking at the front sight.
  • Right handed shooter trying to stand with the left leg behind the right leg.
  • Canting a rifle on its side before the sights can be seen.

The list above is only a small number of issues arising from being cross dominant. Cross dominance is not a problem that is difficult to overcome. Having a person look at your stance and technique will easily and quickly identify any of the above symptoms.

Once you know what to look for, there will be no problems with correcting and developing your technique.

Stefan is a scruffy, cantankerous, rude and unpleasant man who has been trapped in the gun trade and training for over ten years after some dumb university lost his registration, and he could not finish his psychology degree. 

Photo Credit – Zack’s Sports:

7 thoughts on “Cross-Dominance: How to Identify the Problem

  1. I’m left handed with a firearm but right eyed. Since I swing a bat, golf club, and throw right handed it probably is why. I’m not ambidextrous but do things with one hand or the other. I have no problems shooting a handgun or rifle (other than hot brass down my neck) with my left eye sighting and right eye closed. It does come into play when shooting with both eyes open (skeet, point shooting a handgun). At true defensive distances up to five yards no problem. But further away I start missing. Any suggestions other than learning to shoot right handed which ain’t happening. Thanks.


  2. While it’s a weak answer, getting I touch with a good instructor will give you the objective advice that will greatly assist with determining how to best use a firearm most efficiently.

    There are several factors that might be in play. Eye dominance exacerbates other problems in technique but in of itself is easy to overcome.


  3. Thanks Stefan. I have been experimenting with turning my head to the left to get my right eye front and center. I am an Vietnam Vet and retired Policeman with 29 years of service. I’ve had excellent firearms instructors over the years but none checked for dominance. I always shot expert with the revolver despite CED. I must have been compensating somehow. But sometimes it shows up at longer ranges when doing skeet or steel competitions with a handgun.


    • Something else that is neglected is eyewear. In the computer age where we all wear glasses most optometrists will set the focus distance of the lenses at reading distance. This means handgun sights, held slightly more than arms length away, will rarely be as sharp as they could be.
      Also the lens is manufactured with the focus point directly in line with the iris when we sit or stand upright. We rarely shoot with our head straight, which also means there will be a slight distortion.
      This is a possible explanation, unless you already have purpose made shooting glasses.


      • Stefan. At 67 years of age bifocals (progressive) are what I wear. In the infrequent shooting matches I attend I usually use store bought glasses with a high magnification. Everything is fuzzy except the front sight. But when I practice for defensive shooting. I have to wear my my bifocals because that is what I’ll probably be wearing in a defensive encounter. I have to find the right line to be able to focus on the front sight. Unfortunately this means the lower part of the lens and usually have to lift my head up slightly to focus the front sight. I don’t think CED comes into play here. I have and am experimenting with turning my face slightly to the left or less frequently tilting the handgun in a clockwise direction about 45 degrees to put the sight more in line with my right eye (as you recall I’m left handed). I should, just having thought of it, practice defensive shooting without my glasses on. Take care and thanks.


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