Right-Handed vs Left-Handed Bow

When first starting in archery, choosing the bow you need can be confusing, especially when learning about eye dominance. I’ve put together this guide to help you understand what kind of bow you require before buying your new bow. Most people will be right-handed and use a right-handed bow, but if your right eye is your non-dominant eye, what then? There are some rules to follow in choosing your bow. 

Hand dominance 

Hand dominance is simple, usually referred to as ‘handedness’. You’ll usually know your hand dominance. Your dominant hand is the hand you write with and use for most tasks. 

Your hand dominance affects the bow you choose, but it’s not the deciding vote. There’s no clear hand-dominance for ambidextrous people, and your deciding factor will be eye dominance. 

Holding a bow (right-handed) 

 You’ll hold a bow with your left hand. You’ll control the bowstring with the right hand if you’re right-handed. Right-handed bows are designed to be held in the left hand of right-handed archers. 

Holding a bow (left-handed) 

Similarly to the above, you’ll hold your bow in your right hand and control the bowstring with your left hand. Left-handed bows are designed for holding in the right hand of left-handed archers. 

Eye dominance 

 For the majority of people, eye dominance matches hand dominance. If that’s you, congratulations! It makes things a lot easier, but for others, it’s not as clear-cut. There are several methods to determine eye dominance. The miles test is reliable, but you can also try the porta test. 

Miles test 

You’ll need an object around 10 feet away. 

Begin by extending your arms in front of you, with your palms facing away from you. 

Line up your palms, so they’re level with your eyes. Next, make a ‘V’ shape with your hands. Center your chosen object in the V with both of your eyes open. Focus on the distant object and close your left eye. Then, open it. Then try with your right eye. If the object disappears when you close one eye, the remaining eye is not the dominant eye. 

Porta test 

The Porta test is similar to the miles test, but you extend one arm and cover the object in your sightline with your thumb. 

Closing your left eye first; if your thumb isn’t covering the object anymore, you’re probably left eye dominant. When you close your right eye and open your left, your thumb should stay on top of the object. If the opposite happens, you’re right eye dominant.

It’s important to remember that you can technically be ambiocular. It’s not very common, but if you find the target object remains in place regardless of which eye you close, you’re likely to be one of the rare few who are ambiocular. 

Choosing a bow 

Now that you’ve figured out your eye and hand dominance, you can choose your bow. You should choose based on your dominant eye. It’s simple if you’re an archer with coordinated hand-eye dominance. But if you’re cross dominant, with a different dominant hand vs. eye, there are several things to consider. Firstly, it’s easier to train your non-dominant hand than to train your eye.  

Bow parts

Let’s take a quick look at bow parts. When you look at the bow riser, if the arrow rest, bow sight pins, and stabilizers are on the left side of the bow, it’s a right-hand bow. If they’re on the right, it’s a left-handed bow. 

  • Stabilizer: Your bow will usually have a stabilizer, adding forward weight to the bow.  
  • Arrow rest: Pretty much every bow has an arrow rest; it’s where the front of the arrow sits while the string is drawn.
  • Bow sight: Archers use a bow sight. Sight pins line up the arrow and help you aim.  

The handedness of the bow is determined by the side that the arrow fires from. You might only have the arrow rest; just take note of the side of the bow it’s on. 

Some bows may have an ambidextrous riser; it’s more common with youth bows. Most adult bows are sold in left or right-hand models. 

Cross dominance 

Cross dominant archers have mismatched hand-eye dominance. Their dominant hand opposes their dominant eye; for example, an archer with a right hand and left eye dominance. 

Cross dominant archers have to choose between getting a bow that compliments their dominant hand or eye. Each option has pros and cons, but it’s usually recommended that you get a bow based on your dominant eye. It’s harder to train a non-dominant eye than it is to train a non-dominant hand. Archers are more accurate when their dominant eye is free to aim.  

Changing eye dominance 

You can’t change your eye dominance due to training, though some people report success doing this during puberty; as a rule of thumb, a left or right-eye dominant person will never experience a change in eye dominance. You need to cover your dominant eye (or close it) and train your non-dominant eye for greater accuracy. Even though you can’t change eye dominance, you can successfully shoot with your non-dominant eye. 

You shouldn’t close your eye, as you’ll distract yourself and cause muscle strain; it’s better to cover your eye with an eye patch, taped glasses, or something else. 

This isn’t the best way, though. It can work if you’re insistent on not using a wrong-handed bow. But shooting with both eyes open or with a dominant eye has greater accuracy. A cross-dominant archer with a wrong-handed bow can be more accurate than one with a non-dominant eye shooting. 

Availability

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a compound bow, recurve bow or longbow, you’ll usually be able to find it in the right and left-hand variety. Most bow manufacturers cater to both, and left-handed shooters are gaining more variety as time goes on.

Shooting with the wrong-handed bow 

 You can shoot with a right-handed bow if you’re left-handed. A left-handed person may feel uncomfortable shooting a right-hand bow because they’ll be drawing it with a non-dominant hand. If you’re left-eye dominant, I recommend using a left-handed bow regardless of your handedness. In fact, it’s preferred if you’re cross-dominant. 

You can shoot a right-handed bow if you’re left-eye dominant, but you should be using a left-handed bow. If you use the wrong-handed bow, you’ll have difficulty lining up the pins and finding a good anchor point. 

Wrapping up 

Whether you’re an accomplished bowhunter or new to archery and searching for your first bow, you should ensure you’re shooting with the right bow. 

You should ensure you have the correct bow for your eye dominance. If you’re shooting with the wrong bow for your eye dominance, you’ll face issues aiming and possible eye strain, though it can be done with the help of eye covers. If you’re not sure of which type you need, our helpful guide has outlined several methods you can use to check. 

Trey

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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