Do you have problems with eye dominance?
I do, I shoot from the right shoulder but have a left dominant eye.
If I try to shoot with both eyes open then my stronger left eye takes ‘control’ of the gun muzzles and sends the shot to the left, wide of the mark.
Different shooting instructors treat eye dominance differently
Some instructors take the easy option ands tell their student to close the dominant eye just as the gun is mounted.
Then again, you may come across a shooting instructor who demands you change the habit of a lifetime and start mounting the gun on your other shoulder.
If you achieve this then you’ll have an instant cure because you’ll able to shoot at last with both eyes open – and have binocular vision.
But what if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool one-eyed shooter?
What if you’re like me? Try to swap hands and fail? Does that mean we have to see the target through just one eye for the rest of our lives?
I have to say that dimming my left eye has never been a problem. I think you probably compensate for it and it becomes automatic.
When I’m shooting clays I do sometimes lose sight of the bird for a moment but unless I stop the swing of the gun it doesn’t cause a problem.
Enter Nick Penn – with a radical approach
Nick is the head instructor at Pennsports near Newbury. He has a point of view that many would think controversial. He doesn’t think anyone should shoot unless they have both eyes open and he’s been teaching this way for more than 20 years, ignoring eye dominance.
He says: “If you shoot with an eye closed, it’s time you stopped guessing where the target is and learned to shoot with both eyes open! Nobody should shoot with an eye closed.
“I convert between six and 10 people to my method of shooting every week, and with great success.”
How does he do it?
Nick has a five point principle.
- Never look at the end of the gun, only the target
- Keep both eyes open
- Pay close attention to stance and gun mounting – they’re vital
- Think right edge (if right-handed). Left edge if left-handed
- Make your left arm (if right-handed) do 80% of the work, and vice versa in the case of a left-handed shot
He also starts as controversially as he means to go on, announcing: “Everything that’s natural in shooting is wrong.”
Next I was instructed to shoot AT the target as you don’t see lead with both eyes open. If you do, it’s only in small amounts.
Nick then said that the computer that is my brain (I know) will then communicate with my eyes and I’ll hit the clay.
Well, I felt rather confused. Nick sent a driven bird and despite my misgivings, I did just what he told me to do.
“Both eyes open, look hard at the target and shoot at it.”
Reader, I hit it.
He then asked me why I had smashed it and I admitted that I hadn’t a clue.
That was the right reply.
I was hitting everything effortlessly
The cynical side of me thought that I’d probably have hit it anyway. But then I was given food for thought as Nick sent more and more driven birds along and I hit them all. So I had to admit he was probably right.
It was hard to not instinctively dim my left eye but on the other hand, I was hitting everything effortlessly. Result.
The ideal position for a gun
Nick advised: “The more cast you have on your gun the better you will shoot because it brings the centre rib of the gun back into line.
“The ideal position for the gun would be in the middle of your chest but this of course would be extremely painful and isn’t possible. What you’ve got to remember is that a right-handed shot naturally pulls to the left to compensate so the more cast there is, the better.
“Remember that the brain is a very complex computer and you need to rely on it to sort out your sight, not complicate matters by dimming an eye and putting everything out of kilter.”
Thinking right and left edge
As I am right-handed, Nick advised me to always think of the gun’s right edge when bringing the stock to my shoulder. Right-handers have a natural tendency to drag the gun to the left, and off line. Think ‘right edge’ automatically makes your left arm stop the drag and hold the line. Your left arm will work harder because it pushes to the right edge.
If you are left-handed, the opposite will apply of course.
As any observant shooting instructor would, Nick pointed out a couple of faults I’d acquired during my shooting and set out to rectify them. The first was that I put more weight over my front foot so that my head stayed on the stock.
Nick told me to raise my left arm higher so that it took over the handling of the gun and made it easier for me to counteract drag during mounting.
I was also taught to bring my hand lower on the fore-end to improve my gun control
Easier shooting with both eyes open
Next up were more challenging birds and Nick’s technique worked for me beautifully again and again. I couldn’t miss.
I’d never really noticed closing the eye before and I had to admit it was easier shooting with both eyes open.
Then came some crossers…
“Cant your gun to the right when turning left and do the opposite when turning to the right. Do not lead, shoot straight at the target with both eyes open” said Nick.
This was a command I found really hard to follow as all my instincts told me to put lead on the bird. I tend to shoot quite quickly and naturally use ‘maintained lead’ so Nick was trying to slow me down – not easy.
I started getting frustrated as I wasn’t hitting them consistently. Nick talked about ‘muzzling’ which means mounting the gun near the target.
Using both eyes to see, canting the barrels and ‘muzzling’ automatically places the gun on the line of the target.
The outcome is that you end up with a shorter swing but this technique does need consistent timing and rhythm.
So what did I think?
Was I converted by Nick. Yes and no.
On the one hand he had me hitting driven birds every time using his method. I felt very relaxed and confident.
With crossers it was another story. I think that was because I found it hard not to lead but leave the momentum of the gun and my brain to do the work.
It just didn’t feel right to me. Also I was tired by then so my concentration probably wasn’t what it had been.
I think more time with Nick would have solved the issue and converted me.
So would I recommend Nick? Yes. If you can’t hit a barn door with one eye closed or feel your progress is being limited then go and have a lesson.
About Nick Penn, Nick had almost given up on shooting until he decided to try with both eyes open. He worked on this technique and hasn’t looked back. You can reach him for instruction via his website Pennsport.