Shooting with both eyes open is another one of those topics that newer shooters seem to have issues with. Yes, that’s a photo from a movie, but it illustrates exactly what we’re going to discuss, shooting with both eyes open. Once again I believe the real issue is improper prior habits. Somewhere along the line Grandpa or somebody told you to close your non dominant eye so it is easier to see through the eye behind the optic. The problem is, that practice is not conducive to accurate shooting, especially at distance. By closing one eye you are contracting a muscle and that requires you to split your concentration between keeping the eye closed and making the shot. It creates muscular strain which can be distracting as well.
Why Shoot With Both Eyes Open?
The point of shooting with both eyes open is easy to comprehend, the point is keep it simple. You have enough to worry about with proper execution of the fundamentals of marksmanship without having to add additional sources of distraction to your pile of tasks. You really don’t need to close one eye in order to focus on the other. Your brain is perfectly capable of allowing you as the shooter to focus on the eye that is presenting the information you feel is necessary to completing the shot. So shooting with both eyes open is certainly a very attainable goal. One eye is looking down the side of the scope at a distant target, the other eye is looking through your magnified optics and presenting better information.
Closing one eye just brings about problems. There is something called sympathetic reflex where the things we do on one side of the body are transferred over to the opposite side. For example if you make a fist with your left hand, often the right hand will contract slightly as well. So forcing one eye shut will often times, without you necessarily knowing it, make you squint slightly with the eye behind the scope. Holding the non dominant eye shut is a conscious decision so it requires part of your attention to maintain. That takes your attention away from things you need to be paying attention to such as your breathing and trigger press. When shooting with both eyes open you can use that extra brain power and attention to focus on what matters!
Tips on Pulling It Off
I think the problem people have with shooting with both eyes open stems from where they practice it. I’ve noticed through live fire and dry practice that if the distance to the target is fairly short, it can be very hard to focus on what your dominant eye is seeing. I think this issue stems from people attempting to do dry fire practice with long hallways, dots on the backyard fence, etc. The closer the target, the harder it is to get your brain to stop focusing on the eye that has a good picture of the target, and to use the overly magnified image from the eye behind the optic. So how can alleviate some of this?
For starters, use the longest distance between your position for dry fire practice and the target as possible. Next up dial down the power on the optic. If your field of view increases your brain will start to view what you see through the optic as more relevant than if you just see a giant blurry target. Make sure you adjust your parallax down to the lowest setting. On lower magnification this will help sharpen up the image through the optic even when the target is closer. Another thing you can look into purchasing is something called the IOTA (Indoor Optical Training Aid) which will allow you to focus your scope down to much closer distances than without it.
When it comes time to do dry fire practice, or even live fire shooting, focus on the strong eye behind the optic. It really is that simple. It seems harder but only because we are used to overlaying the image we receive from both eyes. It can feel awkward at first to consciously disregard information from one of the eyes that is open. That’s where the whole “squeeze the weak eye shut” thing comes from. I’ve found it helpful to put as much focus as possible on the position of the crosshairs. Really focus on where they are on a real time basis, notice if they drift a bit as you breath, watch which way they shift as you alter your body position before the shot.
When you really concentrate on the position of the crosshairs in relation to the target, even with both eyes open, you will start to see that your brain begins to ignore the information coming from the weak eye. That’s because you’ve prioritized the information being received by the right eye. Squeezing your weak eye shut will begin to take its toll as time goes on. Whether you are watching the conditions and planning your shot or just moving from one stage to another in a match. As fatigue starts to set in it will become more difficult to squeeze that eye shut without it affecting your performance.
Wrapping Up Shooting With Both Eyes Open
This is one of those things that gives people trouble but really shouldn’t. You can shoot with both eyes open with a lot less effort than you might think. The key is not to set yourself up for failure. Don’t practice with a dot on the wall 5ft away from the optic. Your brain is not going to like the conflict of trying to focus on an eye that is offering largely useless information that is out of focus. Try to set your target up farther away when space allows you to, dial down the magnification, and set the parallax as low as you can. If space isn’t something you can come by consider investing in something like the IOTA that will help you get the optics focused on targets that are closer.
This is largely a shooting skill driven by concentration and will. Shooting with both eyes open will be easier to pull off the more you do it so perfect practice makes for perfect performance. The freebie bonus benefit of shooting with both eyes open and putting a lot of concentration into the position of the reticle through the strong eye is obvious. That’s where the majority of your concentration should be anyway! Don’t allow yourself to fail to notice the reticle moving off target because you are allowing your attention to wander to other tasks. It happens more than we would like to admit!