Competitive Shooting

Throwback Thursday: How To Shoot With Both Eyes Open

man shooting ar-15 with red dot sight

Humans are bilaterally symmetrical. We have two sides and two eyes. This gives us the advantage of binocular vision. As the most important predator on earth, this gives us depth perception and the ability to judge range.

Closing one eye to shoot is very common and I do it for long-range pistol shots, but for most of our handgun shooting we should have both eyes open. With certain rifle sights, we may fire accurately with both eyes open as well.

Firing with only one eye open actually changes the light in your eyes — think of it as changing exposure. When you are fighting for your life, the rush of chemicals and the fight or flight response will cause your eyes to constrict. You will probably not fire with one eye closed, so you should train with both eyes open. 

The Eye Dominance Factor

When teaching a training class, I find the majority of my students are right-side dominant, right handed and they aim with the right eye. If you fire with the right hand, but the left eye is the dominant eye, it isn’t impossible to fire accurately — some fine pistol shots have won competitions firing in this manner. It just takes some head tilting and adjusting the two-hand grip — or learning to fire with both eyes open.

The standard triangle test is used to gauge eye dominance. Make a triangle with the hand and look through it with both eyes open at an object about five yards away. Then close one eye. If you still see the object, the eye you are using is the dominant eye, if not, then it is the non-dominant eye.

Even if the ‘wrong’ eye is dominant, with good eyesight, you will be able to shoot well. It isn’t that difficult to cross over the non-dominant eye to the sights in handgun shooting. With rifles and optical sights, the problem is easily solved. Optics work wonders! 

red dot sight on rifle

Benefits of Shooting With Both Eyes Open

But then, shooting with both eyes open is better. The focus must always be on the front sight, not the threat. If you are focusing on the target and not the sights, then you are setting yourself up for a miss. The draw and the stance lead to the sight picture. That sight picture should include a clear, sharp focus on the front sight and a blurred target — but not so blurry you cannot see the front threat.

The problem with closing one eye is that you are losing a significant amount of peripheral vision. This may be the blind spot that allows a threat to surprise you by coming up on the non-dominant side. You may not see an obstacle you would trip over. You also lose some of the depth of your vision and this affects your ability to judge distance. Distance judgment isn’t always important in a gunfight, but then, it could be if the distance is great enough. Keeping one eye shut increases strain on the muscles. Combine this with tension in the neck and soon your dominant eye will blur to an extent. 

man shooting pistol with red dot sight

Aiming with Both Eyes Open

When you fire with both eyes open, remember you are actually aiming with only one eye, the dominant eye, but the other eye is open in order to maintain your field of vision. When you practice, use a wide target with plenty of room to focus with both eyes, then proceed to a smaller target.

Another great aid in learning to use both eyes in shooting is to address moving targets. Have someone at the indoor range run the electric motor to bring the target in closer to you at full speed. At the firing range, hopefully you have a moving target, or fire in competition that uses moving targets or the infamous and difficult dueling tree.

Conclusion: Shooting With Both Eyes Open

These drills will put an exclamation point on the advantages of two-eyes open firing. It isn’t the simplest thing to learn if you have been squinting one eye for decades, but once learned, speed is much better.

With a red-dot sight on a rifle, the drill is even easier. You will see the red dot superimposed over the target. Press the trigger and you have a hit. The other eye will give you are greater field of vision, important in personal defense or hunting. 

Do you shoot with one eye or two eyes open? Let us know in the comments section below!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (28)

  1. I have returned to using both eyes on the target. Initially getting the target in focus was difficult but it is improving easier each day. Back in 60s in Army I was taught to use both eyes and later as a Special Agent in the US Treasury. I still have to re-learn to use either eyes on the front sight or on the target. I prefer to focus on the target.
    Enjoyed the article, thanks.
    John Everett

  2. I have returned to using both eyes on the target. Initially getting the target in focus was difficult but it is improving easier each day. Back in 60s in Army I was taught to use both eyes and later as a Special Agent in the US Treasury. I still have to re-learn to use either eyes on the front sight or on the target. I prefer to focus on the target.
    Enjoyed the article, thanks.
    John Everett

  3. I was in the military for 18 yrs and never knew that my left eye was my dominate eye. I have always shot with the right eye open Both eyes open shooting is new to me. Thanks for your article.

  4. At 67 yrs old, my vision has changed over time, and not for the better. I had my optometrist make a set of shooting glasses so that I can focus on the handgun sights with my right eye, and down range with the left eye. At first I had to make my brain switch between the two site pictures. After 45 minutes of shooting, the brain took over and I was back to drilling a 1 inch target at 50 feet and beyond! Back to enjoying range day with my pals!

  5. I am US Army Veteran and I also worked in different fields of law enforcement. From a patrol officer then on to becoming an NRA instructor. I finished my career as a Range Master and Master Armorer. I was always one of the odd people who are ambidextrous. I shoot a long gun left handed and usually shoot a handgun right handed. But I could shoot long guns and handguns with either hand. It really came down to my comfort zone. However, ever since my time in the US Army, I was taught to shoot with both eyes open, and I still do to this day. I now have 4 grown children and I taught them all the exact same way to shoot. When I was still an NRA instructor, I saw the (one eyed) shooting technique all the time. However with plenty of patience, I was able to teach (most) of them to shoot with both eyes open. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to serve my Country and to also serve my fellow men and women. As Always just my opinion. May God continue to Bless the United States of America.

  6. I’ve been shooting with both eyes open most of my life but I do it differently than explained here. I focus on the target and not the sights. When focused on the target you have a clear view of it and there will be two guns. Just center the target between the two gun barrels without focusing on the guns, keep focus on the target. In doing so, you have left to right centered on the target then adjust the level of the gun for the correct height. You’ll have a clear view of the body from head to toe and can see what the hands are doing. Using the sights with one eye closed blocks the view of everything below the barrel. Your hands are large enough to block the entire view of the lower body and can’t see what the hands are doing.

    In the mid to late 80s I had an all metal, good quality CO2 pistol that shot pretty well. One day I was sitting on my front porch shooting the aluminum tag on a power transformer in the alley behind my neighbor’s house across the street at about 70 yards when some friends showed up and asked what I was doing, so I explained I was shooting the aluminum tag on the transformer. I told them, this is what it sounds like when you hit the steel transformer and this is what it sounds like when you hit the aluminum tag, totally different sounds when I shot them. I handed the pistol to one of them and asked him to try it and told him he had to aim at the upper section of the transformer to hit the tag on the bottom. He attempted to take aim when he discovered there was no rear sight on the gun. It fell off and was lost long ago. He couldn’t even hit the transformer, let alone the small tag on the bottom. I explained to him how to shoot with both eyes open without using the sights and he was able to hit the transformer but never hit the tag due to lack of vertical adjustment experience.

  7. Here’s one for you. I shoot handguns with my right hand and all else but shoot rifles with my Left hand. My dominant eye is my left eye. Go figure!

  8. A point not mentioned is injury during a gunfight or taking cover at the corner of a wall. This would force you to either shoot left hand/left eye or right hand/right eye. I train for both even though I am a natural lefty. How would I aim lefty or with both eyes if shrapnel damaged my left eye? The sights on the gun do not have to be adjusted as long as you use hand and eye on the same side of the body.

  9. My husband and I just recently took our first shooting lessons and we are both right handed but left-eye dominant; our instructor taught us both to shoot by closing our right eyes – oh, and we both wear eyeglasses. It was difficult to focus with only one eye and then the dominant eye out of focus because of our sightedness. I’m interested to try shooting with both eyes open and see if I can get the hang of it. I think having the sight in focus would be helpful if I can train my brain to rely on the left eye while keeping the right open.

  10. I am right eye dominant and shoot right handed. I shoot bullseye competition. I shoot both eyes open. The only way I can describe what I see is both my eyes are on the target but my right eye sees and lines up the sights but its almost like you see it but are not concentrating your focus on the sights but a sight picture on your target. I have not shot red dot sights but just today bought my first one for my 9mm CMMG Banshee. Being as I have never shot a gun with red dot, I am trying to understand the technology and what my sight picture should be. If I understand this correctly, its basically what I already do with iron sights but instead my picture is going to have a red dot in it as I look at the target.

    I learned to shoot 3 ways and it depends what type of shooting I am doing as to what technique I use. The first way I already explained. Long distance, sniper type shooting, its one eye, my right one, looking down the scope, left closed. Close quarters its point shooting, no sight picture. Point at the threat and pull the trigger. Point shooting takes lots of practice.

    Any tips or insight anyone can give me on the red dots would be appreciated.

  11. My situation is unusual, although probably not unique. I am right-handed and right-eye dominant. Following cataract surgeries on both eyes in late 2019, distance vision from my left eye proved to be slightly better, without correction. I chose the lens-replacement option to accommodate distance vision. I read with drug store “readers”.

    Here’s where it gets complicated. My middle vision (e.g. computer screen or pistol sights) is short of clear. I have old “computer glasses” that are still useful. However, for practical reasons, I practice shooting without prescription glasses because that is how I’m likely to enter any gunfight or similar situation. Ergo, I have trained myself (requisite head tilt, etc.) to shoot left-eye dominant, because it’s the better eye.

    Even so, I do my best to keep my right eye opened enough to maintain some degree of peripheral vision, without compromising my aiming. As I said, it’s complicated.

  12. I shoot with one eye closed, and have tried to shoot with both eyes open with minimal success at any significant distance. As best I can tell, I don’t have a dominant eye, or at least not a consistent one. When I try to aim with both eyes open, I see the rear sight and target double (when focused on the front sight) which presents a totally confusing sight picture. Maybe with a lot more practice, I could learn to ignore certain parts of the double vision, (like – ignore the target on the right and the rear sight on the left, or is it the other way around), but figuring out what parts to ignore also takes some time if trying to sight quickly such as in a self-defense situation. The good thing is that I can close either eye very quickly and completely. So I struggle along, closing one eye.

  13. What do you think of the 35 Remington round. I had a nice lever action chambered in that round and it was probably the best javelina I’ve ever used.

  14. There is another set of circumstances that you skipped: no dominant eye. I am ambidextrous and have no dominant eye. All of the tests for a dominant eye fail. I have to shoot with one eye closed, because otherwise I see a double image and that causes shots to go wild. If you have any compensations for shooting with no dominant eye, I would be glad to hear of them.

  15. Neat BUS , i know they are offset , and XS , but what are they called ? ( can’t find them , looks SUPER rugged)

  16. My dad, who years ago. was a shooter and trick rider in Monty Montana’s wild west show, taught me how to shoot this way. It even worked well in Nam with a “Ma Deuce” 50HB! LOL Because of glaucoma and toe loss of most of my vision in my right eye, it doesn’t matter I still am a dead on shooter. Good article, thanks.

  17. I’ve been HIGHLY accurate by using only one eye. I’m trying your two-eyes-open technique but it’s blurry with double vision. I appear to be shooting left of center with two-eyes-open. It’s not working for me.

  18. I have been using one eye but I’m switching today. Been hearing quite a bit about this topic lately. Thanks for the information.

  19. There are techniques/exercises to train from having cross dominance vision which are very effective. Instructions are readily available online.

  20. Great article, and an important topic. I achieved success by first visualizing it in my mind, this was after struggling for months on the range. I started short meditations focusing on shooting with both eyes open, after a few weeks, I returned to the range and was surprisingly accurate with both eyes open! It has made me a better marksman than ever using this technique. Now on to my rifle for the same training. Stay safe out there folks!

  21. I would like to read about 70 yr olds with glasses to regain their shooting ability. At times with bifocals it’s hard to get your head just right to shoot. Is there a good secret to it ?

  22. I NEVER close one eye to shoot. Not ever, no matter how close or far the target is. I was taught how to shoot by an old war dog, my father. he couched it in language I could understand. When I had shoulder surgery nd had to shoot right handed, I taught myself how to switch eye dominance. I”m normally left handed, left eye dominant. BUT, if, for whatever reason, I have to shoot right handed, I can make my right eye dominant and STILL keep both eyes open to shoot.

  23. The triangle test seams to be symmetrical with both eyes. Is there a recommended Size the triangle should be? Great instructions! Article is full of insight that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks

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