Right Or Left Hand Bow? Archery Hand And Eye Dominance Guide


When I first started out in archery, I got confused about which bow I needed. I am right handed, but what about eye dominance. I wrote this guide to answer all the questions you have about the bow you need and how you’ll hold it.

Typically, a right handed person would use a right handed bow, and a left handed person would use a left handed bow. The dominate hand is the hand that draws the bow string back. So a right handed person would hold a right handed bow in their left hand and draw with their right.

For most archers, choosing a bow based off their dominant hand will work just fine. But for some people, their dominant eye, isn’t on the same side as their dominant hand. For those people, and those of you who want to find your dominate eye, I suggest you keep reading.

Right Or Left Hand Dominance

Hand dominance is sometimes referred to as handedness, and is the determined by the dominant hand of the individual. Some people will already know their dominant hand, but other may use both hands for different things.

Your dominant hand will be the hand that you:

  • Write with
  • Hold your toothbrush
  • Use a computer mouse
  • Throw with
  • Unlock a door
  • etc..

Your hand dominance will not ultimately decide which bow you buy and how you hold it though. For some people, neither hand is dominate, and instead, they can use both hands just the same interchangeably. For those of you who are ambidextrous, the deciding factor for the bow you buy, will be determined by eye dominance.

If you think you may be ambidextrous, here a quick video test to help you figure it out.

What hand do you hold the bow in if you are right handed?

If you are right handed, you will hold the bow with your left hand and draw the bow string back with your right hand. Right handed bows are designed to be held with the left hand of archers with a right hand dominance.

What hand do you hold the bow in if you are left handed?

If you are left handed, you will hold the bow with your right hand and draw the bow string back with your left hand. Left handed bows are designed to be held with the right hand of archers with a left hand dominance.

Determine Eye Dominance

Around 70% of people have an eye dominance that matches their hand dominance. For those people, your answer is clear, choose the bow that matches your hand and eye dominance. But first, let’s determine your eye dominance to make sure you don’t fall into that 30% of cross dominant people.

There are two popular methods to determine eye dominance and they work very similarly. The Miles Test and the Porta Test. Either test can help determine eye dominance, but they’re so easy to do, I did both to see if the results were the same.

The Miles Test:

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away at eye level
  2. Make a ‘V’ shape with your hands by joining them and overlapping your thumbs with your index fingers
  3. Focus on a small object about 10 feet away, and center that object in the ‘V’ with both your eyes open
  4. While focused on the object, close one eye, then open
  5. While focused on the object close the other eye, then open

If the object disappeared behind your hands when you closed one eye, the open eye is not dominant. If the object remained centered when you closed one eye, the open eye is your dominant eye. Here’s a picture of me performing the miles test to give you a better idea of what it looks like. I focused on that black lamp in the back.

miles test

When I closed my right eye, the lamp was behind my left hand so I couldn’t see it anymore. When I closed my left eye, the lamp stayed in the center of my ‘V’ hands, therefore I am right eye dominant. This makes sense as I am also right handed.

The Porta Test:

  1. Extend one arm out in front of you at eye level
  2. Make a thumbs up and focus on an object about 10 feet away
  3. Cover the object with your thumb, with both eyes open
  4. Close your left eye, and make note of the objects location
  5. Open your left eye and close your right eye, and make note of the objects location again

If the object stayed covered when you closed one of your eyes, the eye that was open is your dominant eye. If the object shifted from behind your thumb when you closed one eye, then the open eye is not your dominant eye. Here is a picture of me performing the porta test.

I used the black lamp behind my thumb as my object of focus. When I closed my right eye, the lamp shifted to the left of my thumb. When I closed my left eye, the lamp stayed behind my thumb. This makes sense because I am right eye dominant, and right handed.

Just remember, the eye that was open when the object didn’t move, is your dominant eye.

Here’s a quick video explanation, they use a slightly different method that requires two people. But the fundamentals are the same.

If you didn’t seem to notice much change when either eye was opened or closed, you may have central vision. This is pretty rare, but can definitely happen. If you find that you have central vision, you can aim and shoot with either eye and get the same results. So pick your bow based off your hand dominance.

Which Bow To Choose, Left Or Right Handed

Now that you’ve found out your hand and eye dominance, you can use that to decide which bow will work best for you. For archers with matching hand and eye dominance, it’s simple, but for cross dominant people, there are some things to consider.

If you’re cross dominant, it’s typically easier to train your less dominant hand, than it is to train a non dominant eye. So I would suggest choosing your bow based off your dominant eye if you plan on practicing archery professionally or competitively.

You can do well using your non dominant eye, this is just my recommendation. I will cover cross dominant archers and their options later. For now, here’s a chart that will help you decide.

Choose A Left Or Right Handed Bow:

Hand DominanceEye DominanceOverallBow Type
RightRightRightRight Handed
RightLeftCrossLeft Handed
RightCenterPartial RightRight Handed
LeftRightCrossRight Handed
LeftLeftLeftLeft Handed
LeftCenterPartial LeftLeft Handed
AmbidextrousRightPartial RightRight Handed
AmbidextrousLeftPartial LeftLeft Handed
AmbidextrousCenterBothEither

As you can see, I suggest leaning towards a bow that will compliment your dominant eye. Most people will have matching dominance between hand and eye so this is less of an issue.

If you want to have a look at my favorite bows, visit these links to get an idea of what a decent bow looks like. I’ve spent a lot of time and money finding great bows for a decent price, and these are what I’ve found that I can recommend.

How Tell If A Bow Is Right Handed Or Left Handed

Look towards the bow’s riser with the bow string closest to you.  Look for the arrow rest, stabilizer, and bow sight pins. If these parts of the bow are on the left side of the riser, it’s a right-handed bow. If these parts are on the right side of the riser, it’s a left-handed bow.

Parts Of A Bow To Look For:

  • Stabilizer: Your bow may or may not have a stabilizer. They add forward weight to the bow, helping balance the bow for the archer.
  • Arrow Rest: Almost all bows have an arrow rest. The arrow rest is the where the front of the arrow sits while the bow string is drawn back.
  • Bow Sight: Almost every bow has a sight or sight pin, even youth model bows. Archers use the sight pins to line up the arrow with their target.

The side of the bow the arrow is fired from determines the handedness of the bow. You may only have an arrow rest, that’s fine, just take note of which side of the bow it’s on. Here’s an image to demonstrate.

Notice how the arrow is resting on the left side of the bow as it’s pulled back. This is a right handed bow. So the archer will hold the bow riser with their left hand, and draw back on the bow string with their right hand.

Just remember, right handed bows fire from the left, and left handed bows fire from the right.

Some bows can be both right or left handed if they have an ambidextrous riser, I see this more with youth model bows. While other bows are sold as either left or right handed versions of the same model.

For example, The bows in my Favorite Compound Bows and Favorite Recurve Bows lists have options for both left or right handed bows of the same model, ambidextrous risers, or will be left or right handed only.

Cross Dominant Archers

Cross dominant archers are archers with an eye dominance that doesn’t match their hand dominance. Their dominant eye is opposite their dominant hand. For example, an archer with right eye dominance who is left handed is considered a cross dominant archer.

Cross dominant archers have a tough decision to make. Get a bow that compliments their dominant hand, or one that compliments their dominant eye. Either option can work, and the answer is personal preference. But typically, it’s recommended that a cross dominant archer get a bow based on their dominant eye.

Cross dominant archers can either shoot a bow with wrong handedness, or close their dominant eye while shooting. It’s recommended for cross dominant archers to train with a wrong handed bow, rather than shoot with their dominant eye closed or covered.

Getting a bow to match the dominant eye is preferred because, for the most part, it’s easier to train a non dominant hand than it is to train a non dominant eye. Also, archers are more accurate when their dominant eye is closest to the bow string when aiming at a target.

Can You Train Your Other Eye To Be Dominant?

No, you will not be able to train your other eye to be dominant. Rarely will a person’s eye dominance change from one eye to the other due to training. The rare times eye dominance can change, is around puberty and when a person reaches their late 40’s.

Even though you will not likely change your eye dominance, an archer can still be successful shooting with their non dominant eye. They will need to shoot with their dominant eye closed or covered, and train their non dominant eye to be more accurate.

Some Ways An Archer Can Cover Their Dominant Eye:

  • Closing The Eye (not recommended, causes distracting face muscle strain)
  • Eye Patch (like a pirate)
  • Clip On Eye Patch (clips onto hat or glasses)
  • Tape Over Glasses (opaque tape or sticker)
  • Piece Of Cardboard (clipped on to hat or glasses)

This is not recommended, but can still work for archers that don’t want to, or can’t, use a wrong handed bow. Archers who shoot with both eyes open, or with their dominant eye, tend to be more accurate. A cross dominant archer using a wrong handed bow, will be more accurate than an archer shooting with their non dominant eye.

Archery can be used to improve your eyesight, if you still feel like you want to train your non dominant eye rather than using a wrong handed bow, check out my Use Archery To Improve Eyesight article where I show some archery drills that can help improve an archers vision no matter which eye they decide to shoot with.

Can A Left Handed Person Shoot A Right Handed Bow?

Yes, a left handed person can shoot a right handed bow. In fact, for cross dominant archers, this is the preferred shooting method. Although it’s still possible to shoot a right handed bow, if a person is left handed and left eye dominant, they will be far less accurate.

If you are left eye dominant, I suggest you use a left handed bow no matter what your handedness, or hand dominance. A left handed person shooting a right handed bow will feel uncomfortable because the will be drawing the bow string back with their right hand (non dominant hand).

Can You Shoot A Right Handed Bow With Your Left Eye?

Yes, you can shoot a right handed bow with your left eye, but this is not a recommended shooting method. If you are left eye dominant, you should be using a left handed bow. Otherwise, you will need to close or cover your dominant eye, and train your non dominant eye for accuracy.

Although it is possible to shoot a right handed bow with your left eye, you’re going to have difficulty with bow sight. Lining the pins up to be accurately on target, and finding a good anchor point may become frustrating.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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