Which Eye Should I Close When Shooting Different Firearms?

Eye closed cover

At Concealed Coalition, we get questions all the time about all things firearms, and this is a recent one:

“If you shoot a rifle, which eye do you close?”

The Firearm Can Determine the Eye

There are a number of factors that play into which eye you close when you shoot a firearm, such as the type of firearm and your dominant hand and eye.

For instance, if you shoot a rifle off your right shoulder, you should have your right eye closed. If you’re shooting off your left shoulder, keep your left eye closed. With a long gun, your shoulders are many inches apart, so when you are using one of these firearms, you will most likely need to close the same eye as the shoulder you’re shooting off.

However, with a handgun, the dynamics are totally different. In this case it doesn’t really matter as much which eye you close because your eyes are just a couple inches apart.

Now in terms of a handgun, you may be thinking,

“If I’m cross-eye dominant, then what eye do I use?”

This is a simple question, but it can be complicated to unpack. As we previously discussed, you’re kind of forced into having the same eye closed as the shoulder you’re using when it comes to a long gun simply because of the distance between your shoulders.

But when it comes to a handgun, your eyes are so close and your hands move so freely, you can just move your gun and eye to match up. There’s no need to make a crazy head tilt or tense up your neck. Just adjust a few inches so the gun, eye, and target are all lined up, and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Eye closed while shooting a longer firearm
The type of firearm you use can determine what eye you close while shooting.

Thinking About Having an Eye Closed in Self-Defense Situations

Okay, so what about shooting with a defensive purpose, whether it’s for real or in a training scenario – should you shoot with one or both eyes open?

It depends. 

If you can shoot with both eyes open and it’s not an issue, then do so. But if shooting with both eyes open slows you down or reduces your accuracy, then maybe just opt to have one eye closed.

I can hear you now – “But Austin, you’ll lose situational awareness by having one eye closed!”

Yep, with one eye closed, you will see less. But what I’ve seen endless times with thousands of shooters in my virtual tactical simulator over the last 10+ years is that when you are shooting defensively, you will likely be 100% focused on a very narrow set of visual and practical priorities.

So close your eye, make your shot (or shots), then open both eyes back up and start orienting to your scene safety scan.

The trick to all this is to pressure test any technique or eye combination in as realistic yet practical ways. A low stakes environment is the best place where you can do this to see what will eventually work best for you under reduced time and increased cognitive load.

All this being said, if you’re interested in learning even more about responding to high stakes defensive situations, consider joining Concealed Coalition University. You’ll gain access to our massive library of courses on all things defensive living, allowing you to learn how to best protect what matters most from the comfort of your own home.

Plus, keep an eye out for any Virtual Tactical Academy courses coming to a city near you! With this system, you can run real-life scenarios in a virtual reality setting. I’ll be there to guide you and help you develop the skills you need to respond quickly and safely if the day ever comes when you’re faced with a self-defense situation.

And remember, be a guardian always and a warrior when needed.

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