Can you shoot a right-handed bow while left-handed?

A right-handed bow should always be shot right-handed. If you shoot a right-handed bow left-handed the riser will block the view while aiming your bow. With practice, it can work, but you will be less accurate than when your bow fits your handedness.

Although the bolded section above covers the basics of the question, there is much more to consider. New archers often think they need a bow that matches their handedness, but your eye dominance is just as important or maybe even more important.

Before we continue though, we need to discuss some basics. Such as, what we mean by a right-handed bow and what the differences are.

How you hold your bow when you are right-handed

When you shoot a right-handed bow, you hold the bow in your left hand and the string in your right hand. The reverse is true for left-handed bows. Therefore, the hand that holds the string determines the handedness of the bow.

People tend to be stronger in their dominant arm since they use this hand more in daily life. That’s why most people prefer to draw with their dominant hand. As we will discuss later in the article, this is not always the best choice.

The differences between a right-handed and left-handed bow

The major difference between a right-handed bow and a left-handed one is the arrow’s placement. On a right-handed bow, the arrow is placed on the left side of the riser. The reverse is true for a left-handed bow.

This is important because we generally use two eyes while aiming the bow. The dominant eye will look through the sight. The non-dominant eye however will look past the sight at the target. If the riser is on the wrong side the non-dominant eye could not see the target. The riser would be blocking the view forcing you to shoot with one eye.

Shooting a right-handed bow, while your right eye is dominant
Shooting a right-handed bow, while your left eye is dominant

How to choose between a right-handed or left-handed bow

It is recommended to shoot a right-handed bow if your right eye is dominant. If your left eye is dominant, it’s recommended to shoot a left-handed bow.

Although it would be ideal if our eye and hand dominance matches this is not always the case. When your left eye is dominant while you are right-handed you must choose which one you should favor. Before I can give my recommendations, let’s first discuss why both handedness and eye dominance are important considerations.

Handedness/hand dominance

Everyone knows which hand is their dominant hand. It’s the hand you use for writing and doing most daily things that require only one hand. This makes your dominant hand stronger and more dexterous. Try for example to use a pair of scissors with your non-dominant hand. You will quickly find out how much training your dominant hand has.

Hand dominance can significantly differ in strength. Some people have weak hand dominance. These people can use often write with both hands and use scissors with both hands. This is often the case for lefties, as many things are designed for a right-handed user, they often have to use their right hand for many tasks.

There are also some people who do not have a clear dominant hand, this is called cross-dominance. This is very rare though, as many people train one hand to be dominant.

Eye dominance

Eye dominance tells you from what perspective you see the world. If your right eye is dominant, you see the world from the perspective of your right eye. The left eye will add more details and depth perception to the image you see.

Since you see the perspective from your dominant eye this is the eye that should look through the sight. Therefore, your dominant eye should be in front of the string.

Some people have a rare condition where neither eye is dominant overall. This means that one day the left eye is dominant and the other day the other eye is. This is very impractical for archery.

Don’t worry if you don’t know your eye dominance, I will give you a simple test later in the article.

Conclusion

So, what is more important, is your hand dominance or eye dominance? Although it would be great if there was a clear answer to that it is a very difficult topic. As mentioned earlier, some people might have a very strong dominant hand, while others have no issue using their other hand.

Taking all this into consideration, I recommend the following bows dependent on your situation:

Hand dominanceEye dominanceRecommended bow
RightRightRight
RightLeftLeft
RightCross dominanceRight
LeftRightRight
LeftLeftLeft
LeftCross dominanceRight
Cross dominanceRightRight
Cross dominanceLeftLeft
Cross dominanceCross dominanceRight

You can see that the table clearly favors using a right-handed bow over using a left-hand bow. This is primarily because it is much easier to find gear for right-handed archers. Still, if your left eye is dominant, a left-handed bow is the preferred option.

How to test eye dominance

This is the method most archery instructors use while testing eye dominance. At some beginner courses, it’s even the first thing they let you do. But as I mentioned, I believe it’s better to first learn the basic technique. If you want to test your eye dominance, simply follow these 4 steps:

  1. Put your hands in front of you and form a small triangle out of your hands.
  2. Look through the triangle at a recognizable spot on the wall such as a painting or a clock
  3. Now close your left eye while staying in this position and check whether you can see the spot
  4. Open your left eye and close your right eye and check whether you can see the spot

If you have the dominant eye open, you will still see the spot. If you have your non-dominant eye open the spot will disappear behind your hand.

What if my bow doesn’t fit my handedness

So, what should you do if your bow doesn’t fit the recommendations above? Let’s say you have a right-handed bow laying around, while it’s recommended to shoot left-handed. Of course, it’s recommended to just switch to a left-handed bow.

But if that is not possible, you can also shoot a right-handed bow with your left hand. The major difference is that you will have to close one eye to make this work. The grip can also be less comfortable as it’s made to be used with the other hand.

Although it’s not ideal, it can work if you do not have the money to invest in another bow. When I was just getting started I did just that and it worked fine.

But of course, when you buy a different bow, make sure that it fits your handedness and eye dominance!

Q&A

To finish this article, I would like to answer some frequently asked questions. Please let me know if you still have questions after reading the article. Just leave your question in the comment section down below and I will send you an email once I have replied.

Is it bad to close one eye while shooting a bow?

Although it’s recommended to shoot with two eyes open, you might need to close one if you shoot with a bow that doesn’t match your eye dominance. This is not a big issue, but you might see the target slightly less sharply as you only use one eye.

When both eyes work together, they can see more clearly. If you ever have an eye exam you will clearly notice this. Still, if you cannot make it work by keeping two eyes closed, don’t be discouraged to just close one eye.

Since I have cross-dominant eyes, I always must close one eye. And I can still shoot my bow just fine! I explain the pros and cons of shooting with two eyes open in more detail in the article below:

Shooting with one vs two eyes open

Are shoot-through compound bows ambidextrous?

Compound bows with a shoot-through riser are not ambidextrous. Even though the riser runs along both sides of the arrow. The cables of the bow are guided away from the field of vision.

Therefore, you will still have to close one eye if you shoot a shoot-through compound bow with your wrong hand. Your field of view might not get disturbed by the riser, it will still get disturbed by the cables.

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