Friday, January 21, 2022

Recent Defensive Pistolcraft Post -- Shooting with One Eye or Both Eyes Open?

 Jon Low at Defensive Pistolcraft published a new post this past Sunday. Jon has a lot of good information, comments, and links, so I advise you check out the whole thing. But one item that caught my attention in particular was a discussion on focusing on the front sight and closing (briefly) your non-shooting eye. 

Notice that his left eye is shut (source).

    I don't know how much the issue is actually debated, but I know there are different schools of thought on each topic. For instance, back when pistol sights were generally small and dark and hard to see, the dominant school of thought was "instinctive" shooting, which was not instinctive but required a great deal of practice and relied heavily on placement of the feet and alignment of the body. This was taught to a high degree to FBI and Secret Service agents who, I've read, could make some pretty impressive shots while shooting from the hip. Some of you may even be familiar with Rex Applegate's method of point shooting which, while not shooting from the hip, still uses body and arm alignment to make quick snap shots without using the sights of a pistol. (See the video below). 

    There apparently is also a school of thought that claims that you should focus on the target not the front sight blade. But, as Jon points out in his comments, " If you don't focus on the front sight, it will wander off on you, and you will never notice it, because you won't see it, because you're not focused on it." 

    Somewhat related to the foregoing is the idea that you should shoot with both eyes open. The advantages to shooting with both eyes open has been described thusly:

    The increased field of vision is arguably the most important and notable benefit from shooting with both eyes open. Hunters scanning the sky or horizon appreciate being able to spot not just the mallard that’s currently in their scope, but also the one 50 feet away from it for the next shot.

    Shooting with both eyes open greatly increases repeatability. This means having both eyes open allows you to move on to the next target quickly without possibly disorienting yourself from making rapid switches between one eye being open and both.

Another article cites a former Green Beret, Karl Erickson, for the following propositions:

    When a hectic situation arises, and you need to draw your weapon, you’re going to experience physical and physiological changes.

    Most noticeably, the gun operator’s adrenaline will kick up, prompting the “fight or flight” response.

    During this response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases norepinephrine and adrenaline from the adrenal glands, which are located right above your kidneys, as shown in the picture to the right.

    Once these naturally produced chemicals surge through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases and your eyes dilate and widen.

    These physical changes occur because the human brain is screaming to collect as much information as possible.

    When these events take place, it becomes much more challenging for the shooter to keep their non-dominant eye closed.

    Thoughtfully attempting to keep that non-dominant eye shut can potentially derail the shooter’s concentration, which can result in a missed opportunity for a righteous kill shot.

    Jon disagrees with keeping both eyes open--at least at the time of the shot--explaining:

    Why the shooter has to close the non-aiming eye for the fraction of a second required to release the shot -- 

     Aiming with both eyes open causes the shooter to see a "double image".  You can prove this to yourself by sticking your thumb up at arm's length, place it over a distant target, focus on the target and you will see two thumbs, focus on your thumb and you will see two targets.  

     So, if you are focused on the target and using the wrong front sight image, you will miss the target.  If you are focused on the front sight and use the wrong target image, you will miss the target.  Murphy's Law guarantees that the shooter will be using the wrong image.  [Murphy's Law - Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time.]

     The shooter won't automatically use the image from the dominant eye, because eye dominance is perceptual, not physiological.  So, it can and does change with stress and attention.  Eye dominance is not necessarily left or right.  It can be 50% - 50%.  Or, anything in-between. Everyone is different.  Any time a person aims with both eyes open, he will get a double image.  

     Assuming a hard focus on the front sight, a person using his right eye to aim, who uses the wrong target image will be shooting way off to the left (damaging property, injuring innocent bystanders, maybe killing them).  A person using his left eye to aim, who uses the wrong target image will be shooting way off to the right.  This is why it is essential to eliminate the double image by closing the non-aiming eye.  Murphy's Law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, at the worst possible time.  So, the person shooting with both eyes open will be shooting at the wrong image, and hitting unintended objects.  No such thing as a miss, only unintended hits.  

     "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."  So, we must eliminate anything that can go wrong from our weapon system.  So, the non-aiming eye must be closed.  

    I've periodically tried shooting with both eyes open and have to agree with Jon. You can and probably will see a double image of the front sight blade and, at least for me, I have to concentrate in order to mentally shift to focusing one the correct image to use for shooting. I suppose you can train yourself to automatically can do so, but it is not as natural or as easy as simply closing your non-shooting eye when you take the shot. 

    Besides, when I switch to shooting with my left hand, as I might if my right arm was injured or tied up, I can simply close my right eye and use my left eye to align the sights when I take the shot. I suspect that if you had trained yourself to ignore the non-shooting eye image, it would be difficult to suddenly shift to try and align the sights. 

    Now, with the addition of micro red dot sights to handguns, this issue may become moot just as it has when shooting a rifle equipped with a red dot.  

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