The importance of vision in accurate shooting is obvious but is seldom given enough consider-ation. Other aspects of shooting receive endless attention and yet are of little value without the facility to use the eyes properly. Acuity of vision, while desirable, is not everything but it is essential for the aiming eye to be able to point the gun accurately.
Ideally we shoot a shotgun with both eyes open. The brain can then combine two images which provide us with the depth of vision to judge angle and distance. It also establishes a point on a line drawn between the centres of the pupils – our eye dominance point. If we are right-handed and shoot from the right shoulder, with luck it will be the right eye that determines our point of aim; vice versa if left-handed.
For a significant number of people this is not the case. It is generally understood that eye dominance is established at puberty, and there appears to be a higher occurrence of opposite eye dominance in women. In some cases eye dominance is never established, in others it can change in middle age; the many factors involved include fatigue and even diet. There is no problem except when it comes to shooting a shotgun with both eyes open. Simple tests can quickly establish eye dominance but most game-shooters don’t take them.
LITTLE GREEN BEAD
When eye dominance conflicts with “handedness”, what can be done? Remedies tried range from mechanical devices incorporating metal and leather to gun stocks with eccentric configurations. In the past gunmakers were keen on adding cast to the stock to bring the line of sight farther to the right or left to accommodate some degree of opposite eye dominance, but this method can be taken only so far. In a side-by-side too much cast in one direction can make the gun shoot in the other. Heavy cast causes the over-and-under to twist in the shoulder, with the same result.
Devices fitted to the gun to block the vision of the non-aiming eye, such as the Cogswell and Harrison Obliterator, did exactly what the name suggests, but binocular vision was lost. Occlusion – partially obscuring the vision of the non-aiming eye with dots or pieces of tape on the lenses of shooting glasses – meets with varying degrees of success. The dots and tape don’t remain in the same spot for long and binocular vision is not achieved. The simple method of closing or dimming one eye should not be discounted. However, it takes considerable practice to coordinate this technique effectively.
This brings us back to the best of all worlds, shooting with both eyes open. As it is something I have always been able to do, I rather took it for granted until a friend, a trap-shooter and an excellent shot, found his non-aiming eye beginning to take over, resulting in a significant loss of form. At that time I met Tim Pywell in a gunsmith’s in Birmingham. He was collecting his Holland & Holland after a minor repair and I no-ticed a small green bead fitted to the muzzle end of the rib.
This turned out to be an Easy Hit bead. It’s made from glass-reinforced polymer enclosing a length of hard moulded fibre optic material. The bars cut in the casing retaining the bead prevent the non-aiming eye registering with it. The short length of tube at the breech end also has a non-reflective coating which prevents the opposite eye seeing into it. The eye aligned with the rib registers the fibre optic bead in the shooter’s peripheral vision while he concentrates on the target. Binocular vision is achieved because the brain cannot cope with the difference in light contrast created by the bead. Rather like an auto focus camera, the bead constantly tricks the brain into maintaining the dominance of the aiming eye throughout the process of pointing and shooting the gun.
Pywell, an avid game-shooter, said he could well have suffered undiagnosed eye-dominance problems for a long time. However, with the help of the Easy Hit bead, he was shooting much better. I arranged for my trap-shooting friend to try the bead and can confirm improvement was immediate; in a very short time his scores were back to his usual high average.
The only difference in these two cases was that the game-shooter suffered with his affliction for much longer. Game-shooting is a hit and miss affair; every bird is different. Nor is it competitive. Game-shooters can sometimes become too philosophical over a loss of form and do not try to diagnose the cause. Clay-shooting is different. Performance is closely monitored, not least by those competing, and loss of form is immediately apparent and calculable. Less inclined to be complacent about a poor performance, clay-shooters look for reasons – and solutions.
The Easy Hit bead is just one example of new technology improving shooting performance. Huge strides have been made in understanding vision in relation to all sports, and there are now specialist sports opticians. The competitive shooter is already taking full advantage of this new wealth of knowledge and products available. There is no reason why the game-shot should not follow this example.
EYES THAT HAVE IT
Association of Sports Vision Practitioners