Should I Shoot a Right-
or Left-Handed Bow? Should I Shoot a Right- or Left-Handed Bow?

Manufacturers produce bows for right- and left-handed archers, but choosing one to shoot isn’t as simple as matching it to your dominant hand. Many archers do better by shooting a bow they can aim with their dominant eye.

What is Eye Dominance?

Most people have a dominant eye, but it doesn’t refer to the eye with better vision. The dominant eye provides more input to your brain’s visual cortex. Your dominant eye relays information, like the target’s location, more accurately. The brain makes no direct link between eye and hand dominance. Most people’s dominant eye matches their dominant hand, but exceptions are common.

Determining Your Dominant Eye

It’s easy to determine your dominant eye. Just follow these steps:

  • Choose a distant object.
  • Make a thumbs up with either hand.
  • With both eyes open, place your thumb over the distant object.
  • Close your right eye while keeping your thumb still.
  • Then close your left eye while keeping your thumb still.
  • When closing an eye, one of two things will happen: Your thumb will continue covering the object, or seemingly jump to one side. Identify the eye that keeps your thumb covering the object. That’s your dominant eye.
  • Likewise, if your thumb moves off the object, that’s not your dominant eye.

Why Eye Dominance Matters

Ideally, archers aim with their dominant eye because it best relays locations. Choosing a bow is easy for archers whose dominant eye matches their dominant hand. If you’re right-eye and right-hand dominant, buy a right-handed bow. Likewise, buy a left-hand bow if you’re left-eye and left-hand dominant.

In both cases you’ll aim with your dominant eye, draw the bow with your dominant hand, and grip the bow with your other hand. Of course, you can also shoot with both eyes open, which creates a larger field of view.

Cross-Dominant Bow Selection

When an archers’ dominant eye differs from their dominant hand, they’re described as “cross-dominant.” That means they must choose one or the other when buying a bow. Their choice is an individual preference learned through trial and error.

Some archers find it easier to aim with their dominant eye while training their nondominant hand to draw the bow. Others find it more comfortable to shoot with their dominant hand and train their nondominant eye to focus on the target.

If you decide to draw the bow with your dominant hand and aim with your nondominant eye, make sure your dominant eye doesn’t take over as you aim. If that happens, your arrows will miss badly. In most cases, closing your dominant eye while aiming with the other eye solves the problem. But if you struggle to wink shut your dominant eye, try wearing an eye patch over it. Others use blinders on the side of their sight housing or hat brim. 

Many archers, however, aim with their dominant eye while learning to draw and hold with their nondominant hand. To help that transition, some try doing more with their nondominant hand to get comfortable using it. Archery coaches suggest trying to write, unlock doors, and throw a ball with your nondominant hand. It will feel awkward at first, but practice improves your dexterity.

Cross-dominant archers should visit an archery shop, and shoot both setups to learn what feels best. When you make your selection, it will take some adjustments to train the nondominant eye or hand, but it will come together with practice. Certified instructors can help improve your form to make those adjustments easier.

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