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Shooting: One-Eyed or Two? - Firearms Practice

 

When responding to a stimulus, 80% of sensory input derives from the visual sense. This process requires the use of both sides of the brain in order function. Both the left and right hemispheres of the brain share the information acquired through visual input. When shooting one-eyed, shooters don’t get the full picture. As a matter of fact, without the use of both eyes, many visual functions are limited. Many shooters initially learn to shoot with one eye and it is a habit that is hard to break. The benefits of shooting two-eyed, however, make learning this skill worthwhile.

Drawbacks of Shooting One-Eyed

Should I shoot with one eye or two eyes?

There are many disadvantages to shooting with one eye. For those who carry concealed, they do so for self-defense or defense of others. Closing one eye negatively impacts the visual system. Visual acuity decreases, as does depth perception, balance, and spatial orientation. These are important tasks that must not be sacrificed during serious situations.

Shooting with one eye will decrease the speed and efficiency of information processing. This means that it takes longer for the brain to process the information needed to react. In critical situations, our brain cycles through a process known as the OODA loop(Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).

Shooting with two eyes is a hard habit to break.
Photo by: Sara Ahrens

This is important for threat assessment and reaction time. In addition, after addressing a target, the shooter needs to determine the effectiveness of their actions, and identify the existence of other threats.

Benefits of Shooting Two-Eyed

Shooting with both eyes openShooting with both eyes aids survival. Research has found that both eyes will remain open during a shooting. This is instinctive and cannot be controlled. Therefore, it would be advantageous to learn to shoot with both eyes before being faced with a deadly force situation.

 

 

Shooting with both eyes open has many benefits.
Photo by: Michael Ahrens

Even though it’s instinctive, practicing the skill increases success rates. The eyes are complicated organs. They are offset, each interpreting visual stimuli from a slightly different perspective. Each eye takes in visual stimulus, and the information from each eye is transmitted from separate sides of the brain to the other. Field of vision occurs when both eyes converge. This convergence allows us to see in three dimensions, determine distances and speed, allow for spatial orientation, and assists with balance.

Our visual sensitivity and hand-eye coordination increases when binocular vision is employed. Visual sensitivity is the ability to respond to physiological changes. This sensitivity provides the shooter with the ability to respond to changes in the environment. It is more than twice as great using both eyes (duh, right?). The shooter will experience an increase in efficiency in hand-eye coordination, also known as visual-motor task.

When addressing a target less than three feet it is virtually impossible to determine distance. So determining distances up to 25 during a shooting situation can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Distances beyond three feet can be judged only by visual cues, which require moving the head back and forth. Individuals with monocular vision are often unable to drive because of being unable to determine distances, they are seven times as likely to be involved in accidents than other motorists.

The use of two eyes in low light situations can increase one’s success when addressing a target. Many shooting situations occur in low light situations. The eye contains cones and rods. The rods are dominant in bright lighting conditions, where as rods are dominant in low light conditions. The rods are what allow the eye to see detail. The more lighting decreases, the more prominent the cones are in the eyes. This diminishes details that may be necessary for determining whether or not an object presents a threat. Using two eyes while shooting or even assessing a threat, allows for more light to enter the eye. This additional lighting increases our ability to see more details, thus decreasing the OODA loop.

One Eye Or Two? Survey Says...TWO!

Learning to shoot with two eyes has many benefits

Shooting with both eyes open is a skill worthy of learning
Photo by: Michael Ahrens

Clearly the research indicates that the benefits of learning to shoot with two eyes have a significant positive impact during shooting situations. Shooting with two eyes will improve hand-eye coordination; allow shooters to determine speed and distance of a threat. It allows for spatial orientation and allows us to maintain balance. In addition, it increases our field of vision and shortens our OODA loop in low light situations. Since it has been proven that shooters will leave their eyes open in a shooting situation it is best to practice the skill before it is needed. And although this was probably not the intent of an old adage - it certainly applies; two eyes are better than one.

 

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Comments

What about front sight focus? If a person is predominantly right eye dominant and right handed, that mix works great for accuracy at a 7 yard or further distance. Shooting with both eyes open would be best for instinctive shooting. Eye dominance can play a direct role on the shooters target placement. There is no ability to shoot front sight focused with both eyes unless you are cross eyed. My thinking may be old school, but its obvious you only use your dominant eye in an absolute follow through of the shot by focusing on the front sight.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:30 PM by JOHN LEWIS
I have always shot using both eyes. Makes it easier when you shoot both left and right handed.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:32 PM by Mark
All well and good with open sights, dos'nt work so well with a high power scope
Posted @ Wednesday, July 31, 2013 7:11 PM by Mike L
I find it more effective to train weak arm, strong arm ( ambi) and when shooting right hand aim right eye and vice versa with practice it works!!!  
Posted @ Thursday, August 01, 2013 2:08 AM by wayne
John, maybe I don't understand your question? When you say the 'mix' are you referring to shooting right eyed, right handed, or with both eyes open? I don't understand the necessity of being crossed eyed to shoot with both eyes open since where our eyes meet on a specific visual stimuli like a triangle. Crossing your eyes would only be possible if your front sight is very close to your nose. I shoot with both eyes open and I am right eye dominant. I focus on my front sight and my target is blurry, as it should be... unless Im at close distance, where it is all point shooting anyhow. Im not crossed eyed and it was a tricky skill to acquire but worthwhile given that its going to happen in a deadly force situation anyway. Initially I tried to learn this method by placing clear tape over my lens on the non-dominant eye in order to allow light in and teach myself to focus with my right eye and keep the left one open. I then transitioned to take the tape off. Initially to train my eye not to pick up the sight with my left eye I had to slightly turn my head just so the left eye was a little further back (this is with a handgun) so my right eye would pickup the sight. I too was a two-eye hater, but now that Im on the other side I see the benefits. In the long run, do what makes you comfortable I'm simply suggesting there may be motivation to change.
Posted @ Friday, August 02, 2013 1:02 PM by Sara Ahrens
John, Are you talking about parallax vision? If you are having double vision, you may be looking at your target, not your front sight. Parallax vision occurs when using a blow gun and focus on your target...you'll see two blow guns and aim right down the middle.
Posted @ Friday, August 02, 2013 1:14 PM by Sara Ahrens
Sarah, 
Sorry for the confusion.Your article covers shooting both eyes open for all firearms- I am primarily referring to handgun shooting when I mention right hand/right eye- or left hand/left eye. As you said- focus with the dominant eye on the front sight of the handgun and your target slightly blurred. A right handed person with left eye dominancy will have one 2 choices. Either learn how to shoot left handed, or compensate for the misaligned lineup of the left eye focus on the front sight-by physically turning the head or "moving the gun over" to hit the intended point of impact. Your drill to utilize both eyes is absolutely essential in shotgun shooting as it is a target focused, both eyes open practice. Rifle shooting can be enhanced with both eyes open when looking through an optic with the dominant eye and keeping the other eye open to assess the surrounding area in your target zone.
Posted @ Friday, August 02, 2013 9:31 PM by JOHN LEWIS
Hi Sarah, 
Great article! Will you be able to attend the next ILEETA Conference? If so, can you attend my Reduced Light Instructor class and cover the opening presentation on vision dynamics with me? 
Posted @ Saturday, August 03, 2013 2:32 PM by Benjamin Kurata
BEN!!! If you are inviting me to be your assistant Ill be going hahaha!! Let me know, otherwise I'll find something training related to teach.
Posted @ Saturday, August 03, 2013 6:38 PM by Sara Ahrens
John, I'm not left eye dominate but many shooters are, and as a firearms instructor I have found people who cannot shoot both eyes open for whatever reason it may be eye dominance issues, mental obstacles, or just a lack of willingness to try. I shoot all three firearms categories both eyes open but as I wrote this article I will admit my thought process was focusing on the armed citizen who may be involved in a shooting. But it is beneficial for them all as you pointed out. Thanks for the discussion!
Posted @ Saturday, August 03, 2013 6:50 PM by Sara Ahrens
Are the principles the same if you wear a corrective contact lense for distance on your dominant eye and a near contact lense on your non dominant eye?
Posted @ Monday, August 26, 2013 8:56 PM by Jan Stallings
Can a person do this two eye open shooting witha scope???
Posted @ Saturday, September 07, 2013 12:22 PM by Stephen Tharaldsen
TWO EYES OPEN FOR BOTH SHOTGUN AND PISTOL
Posted @ Tuesday, September 10, 2013 12:57 PM by Joe
Jan, My initial instinct is to respond yes...but that is based on an assumption that your corrective lenses are so different in order to create a normal visual field. It is a skill you will certainly need to practice and if it proves to be too challenging perhaps one eye closed is the best option. An optometrist can better answer your question. You are an anamoly...so try it and let me know!:)
Posted @ Sunday, September 15, 2013 9:11 PM by Sara Ahrens
Stephen,  
A shooter can train themselves to shoot with two eyes using a scope. It is tricky for many people who have always used a scope with one eye. The benefit of this is the lighting, whereas the main point of this article is more about our physiological response to a life and death situation.
Posted @ Sunday, September 15, 2013 9:16 PM by Sara Ahrens
Great article i couldn't agree more on the topic. However I believe you got the cones and rods thing backwards.
Posted @ Sunday, December 29, 2013 5:55 PM by brandon bishop
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