Open your eyes while shooting

by Sandy Keathley
Of all the things I teach people, both beginners and more experienced shooters, the one on which I get the most resistance is shooting with both eyes open. I know it’s not intuitive, and is sometimes difficult to learn, but the benefits far outweigh the learning curve.


  1. Twice the peripheral vision (important for defensive shooting)
  2. Clearer vision, as one eye left open compensates for the closed eye in a way that degrades a close focal point
  3. Tension is released in the face and neck, which transforms the entire psyche

Before trying this, you must know which is your dominant eye. For most people, it is the same as your dominant hand, but about 30% of shooters are cross-dominant (right-handed and left-eyed, or the reverse). To find out, look at an object (light switch or picture) on a wall at least 6 feet away.
Overlap your hands to make a triangle-shaped opening between the thumb webbings of the hands. Look at the object through that opening. Close one eye. Closing one will make the object disappear, while closing the other will not. Whichever eye allows you to continue to see the object through the opening is your dominant eye. If that is not the same as your dominant hand, you are cross-dominant. This is not a matter of learning; your brain is hard-wired this way. You can’t change it.

Some instructors believe that a person who is cross-dominant may have better results shooting a pistol with the non-dominant hand. I won’t debate that here. I am cross-dominant, and still shoot right-handed. However, I don’t dismiss that idea at all, and people should at least be open to it. There is certainly a compelling argument for shooting rifles from the weak side in that case.

Having come to grips (as it were) with your eye dominance, take aim with both eyes open. You should see two images of the gun. If not, your focal point is too close, or you are fighting with reality. There are no steps forward in this process until you see two images of the gun. Try again; I’ll wait.

Now that you see two images, which one do you use to aim? That’s why we did the eye test. Only one of the images will continue to point at the target when you close the non-dominant eye. That’s the one to use; learn to ignore the other. I am right-handed and left-eyed, so I aim over the right image and ignore the left one. Remember to focus hard on the front sight.

It takes practice to get used to this, but it is worth it. It is safe to say that all professional training organizations, whether local police, state troopers, or military, teach this concept. Spend some time on it, and you will see an improvement.

Leaning forward while shooting

by Sandy Keathley
Leaning forward. Choral singers are taught to stand while singing, and to lean forward slightly. Why? And what does this have to do with shooting? Actually, it has everything to do with it.

The reason, in both cases, is to energize the lower body. Leaning forward requires the leg muscles to flex slightly, so you don’t fall down. Not to get too metaphysical here, but this produces an internal energy, which flows up the trunk to the shoulders. Extending the arms, as in shooting, then directs that energy forward. Ideally, you would feel the focal point of that energy in your hands,  complemented by having the focal point of your vision on the front sight.

Sound crazy? Try sitting in a recliner and hitting a paper plate at 15 yards. When part of your body is resting, all of it is. Singers have known this for 200 years.

I nominally use an Isosceles stance, but with the left foot slightly forward, and lean forward on that. I find that gives me an improvement in mental focus, and in shot groups.

Try it.

Welcome to a blog about firearms instruction

Welcome to my blog!

I am an NRA Firearms Instructor, and generally work with beginners at shooting (mostly) pistols.  I often see less experienced shooters at the range, making common mistakes, so I think a useful feature here is a series of tips for new shooters. I will mix in my thoughts on other things pistol/rifle-related, and probably some political commentary around firearms issues. I also teach Concealed Handgun License classes, so there will be some commentary around that, as well. Stay tuned!