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!
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.
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.