Teach me how to shoot with one eye shut


January 1, 2012, 06:31 PM
Hey guys I recently started pistol shooting after years of competitive shotgun clay target shooting. When shooting clays my method was total focus on the target with both eyes open and as long as my head was down on the stock of the gun, the gun would shoot where I was looking. I was very successful shooting like this.

Once I started pistol shooting the only was I was half assed decent was shooting with a method similar to that of my shotgun method. I would have total two eye focus on the target and I could see the three dots on my gun in a blur, but enough to kinda line them up. But the most important thing was both eyes focused on the target and staying smooth on the trigger. This works ok, especially at HD distances like less than 30 ft.

I want to learn to shoot better but I don't know how. My current method is very inconsistant at distaces outside of about 10 yards and sometimes even at shorter distances. I've tried shooting with one eye closed but I'm even less consistant like this. When I shoot with one eye shut I can focus on the front sight but then the target is in a blur. How can this produce accurate shooting? I love shooting with both eyes open especially when training for self defense situations but I also want to learn to bullseye shoot 50ft plus.

Can someone help guide on the best ways to train for different situations. Should I learn to shoot both ways one for close up fighting style situations, and the other way for long distance competition style shots? Also could you explain what your sight picture and focus is on for one eye closed and both eye open shooting. Also I am right handed and right eye dominant, just to kinda rule that out for anyone wondering.

Thanks for any help.

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January 1, 2012, 06:50 PM
Shoot with both eyes open. Some guys struggle with being able to master what you can already do. Both eyes open is always better.

January 1, 2012, 07:02 PM
I do like both eyes open better but it just seems to be worthless to me on longer distance shots.

January 1, 2012, 07:39 PM
I would have total two eye focus on the target and I could see the three dots on my gun in a blur, but enough to kinda line them up. But the most important thing was both eyes focused on the target and staying smooth on the trigger. This works ok, especially at HD distances like less than 30 ft.

Don't focus on the target, focus on the front sight. The target should be the blur, not the sights. Always focus on the sight. This cannot be overstated. If the sight isn't aligned when the gun goes off, it's all for naught.

Next thing you should think about is trigger control. Dry fire - the sights shouldn't move as the trigger is pulled and the hammer or striker or whatever falls.

Follow through. Keep your poise as if you are still shooting. Don't drop the hold, raise your head, ect. Act like you are still firing.

That's my .02 cents.

January 1, 2012, 07:43 PM
Both eyes open is almost a must with action shooting because of the peripheral vision needed and the requirement to be able to judge distance.

With target shooting at a known difference (and the target doesn't move) the above requirements aren't important, but closing one eye will cause a strain on the other eye which isn't good for fine precision. If you can't manage using both eyes, get a "blinder" for the off eye. (I've seen some shooters that just put tape on their safety glasses lens to block the vision of the non-sighting eye.)

January 1, 2012, 07:45 PM
If I'm focusing on the front sight only and the target is a blur, how do you hit those ten rings at 50ft? Also as I'm sitting here in my living room trying to do what your saying I can only focus on the front sight with one eye closed, if I try to focus on the sight with both eyes open I can't even find the front sight in between the two rear sights. The only way I can see the front sight with both eyes open is if I focus on my target and blur all three sights. I hope this makes sense. Thanks for the help.

January 1, 2012, 07:48 PM
Don't focus on the target, focus on the front sight.

What he said.

Do you know which is your dominate eye? That could help you to know which eye to focus with.

January 1, 2012, 07:54 PM
Always shoot handguns with both eyes open. Even precision pistol competitors who shoot international style and NRA Bullseye style matches shoot with both eyes open.

If I'm focusing on the front sight only and the target is a blur, how do you hit those ten rings at 50ft?

If you're talking about shooting for precision at a fixed target, then you need to set up first, and this includes getting your natural point of aim down. By the time you're actually aiming at the target, you're just using the sights on the pistol to make sure the gun is aligned correctly. Other than that, it's an issue of knowing where to hold. For instance, a lot of bullseye shooters will regulate the sights on their guns so that a six o'clock hold on the target results in a round that goes into the ten ring. That gives a pretty solid visual indicator of where to hold the gun, even though the target looks blurry.

January 1, 2012, 08:01 PM
uhoh. Sounds like you MIGHT have an eye dominance issue. With shotguns, it's not as pronounced. With rifle,pistol sites, it becomes a problem. Pick an object on your wall about 10 feet away, point your finger at it with both eyes open, close one eye at a time, whichever is looking right down your finger to the object you are pointing at is your dominant eye. If you are right handed and left eye dominant, it can be a bit difficult to shoot rifle/pistol with both eyes open and your weaker eye may not focus well when shutting the other eye for one eye closed. I have to scope everything nowadays being old as dirt and all but I shoot handgun left handed because of the eye dominance. I am naturally left handed but in the dark ages when I was young, they converted all of us lefties over to right handed so it wasn't that hard for me to switch up. But I still shoot bow and rifle right handed. If it is an eye dominance issue, you will just have to train yourself with a lot of practice. If you really find you are having a overly hard time with it, try switching up to left handed handgun shooting.

T Bran
January 1, 2012, 08:14 PM
How is your vision ?
One of the first signs that I needed glasses was not being able to see both sites and the target clearly. One would blur if I focused on that one the target would blur and so on drove me nuts till someone suggested an eye exam. They were rite things are better now that my shooting glasses are prescription.
Have your eyes examined you may be surprised what you have been missing.
Best of luck.

January 1, 2012, 08:48 PM
I'm right eye dominant and right handed and as far as vision goes, I've never had a eye exam but I don't think I have poor vision. I want to stay as a two eye shooter but I still can't focus on the front sight like this. If I try to focus on the front sight with both eyes open my eyes automatically just put the rear sights in focus and the front sight is no where to be found no matter how I move my head or the gun. Now if I move my eyes to the target then I can see the front and rear sights in a peripheral blur. I'm not sure if I'm explaining my problem in a way that you guys can understand it, but thanks for the help anyways.

January 1, 2012, 10:10 PM
Only one way - practice. Start with dry fire. You should be able to focus in the front sight easily enough. Focus long enough that the front sight is the only item in focus. You say you are right eye, right hand dominant, so this should be easy with either both eyes open or right eye open only. Using one eye would be required if you are cross eye dominant. Who suggested you shoot with one eye?

January 1, 2012, 10:16 PM
no one, I just can't focus on the front sight with both eyes open, I can only see the two rears. Its weird because I am right handed right eye dominant, I've done all the little dominant eye tests.

January 1, 2012, 10:20 PM
For pistol, you focus on the sights. The error budget for sight misalignment is very small. The target? Don't worry about seeing it clearly.

January 1, 2012, 10:24 PM
Ok thats exactly what I'm trying to do but I can't find the front sight with both eyes open to focus on it as stupid as that sounds. I can only find the front sight if I look at the target and peripherally blur the front and rear sight.

January 1, 2012, 10:40 PM
Put a piece of scotch tape (the kind that isn't perfectly clear) over the left lens of your shooting glasses and see if that helps. Once you train your brain/right eye, things might get better.

January 1, 2012, 10:42 PM
thanks for the info, i'll try that.

January 1, 2012, 10:45 PM
I would also tell you to go for an eye exam and explain your problem to the Doc. He will set you up with a pair of glasses that will work for your needs when shooting.
I bet your eyes are the problem, I was seeing the sights about like you and they were the problem for me.

El Mariachi
January 1, 2012, 10:51 PM
Wow, great thread. My own vision totally blows, I'm right handed, surf goofy-footed, shoot left handed, can't 'wink' my right eye (which has better vision) so I shoot with just my left eye open. Needless to say.....I'll never be a sniper....:D

Frank Ettin
January 1, 2012, 11:21 PM
Hey guys I recently started pistol shooting after years of competitive shotgun clay target shooting. When shooting clays my method was total focus on the target with both eyes open and as long as my head was down on the stock of the gun, the gun would shoot where I was looking. I was very successful shooting like this.... And I've also done more than my share of competitive clay target shooting. I even shot at the Grand American in Vandalia one year. And that's how I shoot clay targets (or pheasants).

But I'm also an NRA certified instructor in Basic Handgun as well as some other handgun classes. And I've been a competitive handgun shooter in USPSA competition and Cowboy Action Shooting. When shooting a handgun, I shoot with both eyes open and focus on the front sight. (When shooting a scoped rifle, I focus on the reticle.)

January 1, 2012, 11:25 PM
I just don't understand how im supposed to focus on the front sight with both eyes open. If I try to do this I have to squint my left eye to see the front sight. Now I know what your thinking, but I am NOT left eye dominant. All dominant eye exercises show right eye domination. Plus all the years on shotgun shooting with both eyes open wouldn't have worked if I was left eye dominant.

Frank Ettin
January 1, 2012, 11:47 PM
I just don't understand how im supposed to focus on the front sight with both eyes open. If I try to do this I have to squint my left eye to see the front sight....Some people have trouble doing it. I don't, and I know many people who don't, but vision issues can get complicated.

A lot may have to do with how strong one's eye dominance. I'm right handed and strongly right eye dominant. My wife, on the other hand is left handed and weakly left eye dominant. She's also a trapshooter. She needs to put some tape on the right lens of her shooting glasses, because as she tires, her right eye tries to take over.

Try some dry practice (triple checking that the gun isn't loaded). Try squinting as necessary to focus on the front sight as you press the trigger. The after a bit, try opening the left eye some. You might be able to gradually reach a point at which you don't need to squint your left eye.

This will probably take some time. And it would probably be best to try this in small doses. So try spending 10 to 15 minutes every other day (or ever day) doing this. Give it a week or two and see where you are.

January 2, 2012, 12:00 AM
Fiddletown your posts have been more than helpful. I never thought about being weak right eye dominant. I've never had eye dominance problems before, BUT I have never tried focusing on something so close to my eyes before. Maybe that is causing my left eye to go dominant. Also I just thought about this...I'm right handed but I kick left footed. So maybe my brain is having a hard time trying to keep my right eye dominant. Thanks fiddle, and everyone else who replied.

January 2, 2012, 12:10 AM
JBrady, do the eye dominance test again, but I bet there's nothing wrong with your eyes. And one of these day I would love to do a study... anyway...

Let's talk about one eye at a time to start and then work on the difference when two eyes are involved.

1) Each eye has one focal plane, just like a camera. If the eye is focused on the front sight, the target will be blurry and so will the rear sight, but it will be a little less blurry since it is closer to the object that is in focus.

If you focus on the target, both front and rear sight will be blurry, about equally so, since the taget is usually much further away than the end of your arm.

The brighter the light when you are shooting, the more your pupil closes, letting in less light. Just like with a camera, the smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field (more things at different distances are more in focus). When there is less light the pupil opens to let in more light, reducing the depth of field and exaggerating the focus on a single object. Just a like a pinhole camera where everything is in focus, from near to far away, people shooting with tiny apertures on 50ft rifle targets can use this to their advantage since the front sight and target can both be pretty much simultaneously in focus.

I've even seen tiny apertures that you can stick to your shooting glasses that pretty much do the same thing.

2) Being that we are human and have forward facing eyes and binocular vision, with a great amount of depth perception (it really helps predators to have depth perception). It also makes us naturally "target focused" creatures, with both eyes tracking the object of focus. One effect of binocular vision is that everything that is not in the plane of focus is seen in double. It doesn't matter if the object is in front of or beyond the object of focus.

3) Now when we involve two eyes in the pistol shooting process you have probably noticed the following two scenarios, which I will present visually.

In the first picture I present a "front sight focused" gaze. When you focus on the front sight you will see one front sight, two rear sights, and two targets. So no, there is nothing wrong with your eyes, this is totally normal.

So, one may ask... which target do I shoot and which rear sight do I line up with the front sight? If you are right eye dominant you shoot the target on the right and line up with the rear sight on the left.


In the second picture a "target focused" gaze is represented. Here you will see one target, two front sights and two rear sights. (This is similar to the "floating sausage" optical illusion when you focus on the wall and bring your two index fingers close to each other but not touching.) So in this scenario it's obvious which target you're going to shoot... there's only one. But which set of sights do you align? If you are right eye dominant, use the ones on the left. (But you'll see in a moment that this isn't at all critical.)


You can try both scenarios for yourself with an unloaded gun and a safe backstop.

4) Now for my own thoughts. Since I was a baby and have been looking at and pointing at objects, my brain has been trained to be target focused. I look at the object and point at it, or throw something at it. It doesn't take very long for your brain to TOTALLY IGNORE the double vision of your pointer finger when being target focused. If I look at an object on the opposite side of the room or across a football field and reach out my pointer finger an "touch it", I can close my non-domonant eye and I have still got my pointer finger right "on" the object. My brain TOTALLY IGNORES the image on the retina of my non-dominant eye. This is a totally natural part of being a human being.

When people teach "front sight" focus they are, IMO, trying to train against the evolution and design of our eyes and our brain and the years of training that we have given ourselves in our own eyes and brains while not shooting and try to force them to do something else.

If you are shooting NRA Bullseye Pistol matches, you might be able to show that front sight focus might be something that the top shooters do. But many of them also block the vision of their non-dominant eye with a shield or tape on their glasses. (Like I said, I would like to so a study.)

But when something startles you and you turn to look, or when you are threatened by someone coming toward you and making overt threats, trust me: you will be target focused. With both eyes open.

Wouldn't it make sense to train that way?

When I point my pistol I see the target in full focus with both eyes. I bring my pistol up to align my sights with the target. My brain finds the dot on the front sight and puts in on the center of the target. My brain also TOTALLY IGNORES the double image of the pistol that is in my non-dominant eye (just like it does when shooting clays). I am aware of only one target and one set of sights. The sights align on the target and I press the trigger.

One more thought... red dot/holographic sights are very popular these days... world class action pistol shooters in unlimited classes are shooting with them... ever wonder what they are focused on? They are immensely popular on solders' rifles who are engaging in close quaterters combat... I wonder what their eyes are focused on?

I bet they're not staring with both eyes at the sighting device on their weapons. This makes them faster on the target by doing something that is already so natural a baby can do it - focusing on the target and putting their "pointer finger" on it.

Flame away.

January 2, 2012, 12:10 AM
Don't let the picture discourage you, but you might thinks about a set-up like this: (And no laughing, it works......:eek:


January 2, 2012, 12:14 AM
JBrady555, try this, next time you are shooting handgun, try a few left handed. It will feel weird at first but since you do seem to have some lefty capabilities (kicking lefty) you may find it a lot more easy than you would imagine. Try using a left stance Weaver body position and try with both eyes open then with your right eye shut. As I said, it will feel awkward at first but give it a few magazines to get the feel. You might be surprised at the results as I was. With pistol scopes, I have absolutely no problem now picking up the target in the scope with both eyes open both quickly and properly. If this does work for you you will be patting yourself on the back in no time with much improved grouping on targets.

Good luck

January 2, 2012, 12:16 AM
Wear an eyepatch! I'm not joking! Find out which is your dominant eye and which isn't, and wear an eyepatch on the recessive. Competitive shooters do that sometimes.

January 2, 2012, 12:17 AM
Deadin, you just scared one of my Rotties with that picture!!! :D

January 2, 2012, 12:39 AM
wow thanks for the great info everyone, I'll be trying everyone's advice. Kludge yours really hit home, because when you went into depth at the end of your post on how you shoot, its EXACTLY how I shoot. Makes me just think I need to practice more, maybe not paying enough attention to trigger control could be pulling me off the targets more than my eyes.

January 2, 2012, 12:54 AM
I shoot with both open and its all about the front sight. I would also like to add if you want to shoot one eyed put tape over your weak eye of your shooting glasses.

Pete D.
January 2, 2012, 07:17 AM
Very nice thread.
Kudos, especially, to Kludge for his expansive and well thought out post.
One of the important differences between shooting a shotgun with both eyes open and a pistol with both open is related to the idea that in the shooter/shotgun system, the shooter's eye is the rear sight. How well the shotgun "fits" the shooter or how well the shooter has adapted to a particular gun determines whether the gun shoots where it is pointed. Thus, a very common, and accurate, comment about shooting a shotgun is that you don't aim a shotgun, you point it. (plus the fact that the targets are moving).
Keeping both eyes open eliminates "sympathetic" dilation of the pupils, in a sense, "stabilizing" both eyes and minimizing muscle tension. If the non-aiming eye is "blacked out", it will dilate open. The other, open, aiming eye is affected by this....it wants to dilate open a bit also. The more open the pupil is, the shorter the depth of field. When aiming a pistol, we want as much depth of field as possible, hence the use and popularity of adjustable apertures like those from Merit and Gehmann.
(A related digression - back in the days of the Cold War, when any type of competition between the USA and the USSR became a battleground for warring philosophies, the Russians invested tremendous time and energy in the shooting sports,especially in "International Pistol" match shooting.
One of the enduring benefits of that time is the publication of A.A. Yur'Yev's "Competitive Shooting". There is extensive discussion of the eye and it's function in the aiming process - chapter 8. it is worth reading. ISBN 0-935998-53-5.)

About aiming and front and rear sights and the targets.....though there are three elements in the system, it is an optical impossibility for the eye to focus on more than one of those at a time. We focus on the front sight as it allows the greatest precision. Notice the big difference between that and shotgun shooting wherein the focus is on the target, sight alignment having been taken care of by mounting the gun.

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