Do I Need A Right Or Left Handed Bow?

There’s nothing you’d like to do more than pick up a bow, nock an arrow, strap on your bow release and head for the nearest target, but there’s one major stumbling block stopping you from doing so. You have no idea whether you need a right or left handed bow.

It might seem like an obvious question, but many archers – whether they’re new to the game or established in their practice – find themselves puzzling over whether their bow is correctly orientated for them.

Should you be holding the bow with your dominant hand, or drawing the string? And why on earth do you always shoot your arrows a foot to the right of your target, no matter how carefully you aim?

Before you invest in a new bow, it’s well worth taking the time to figure out whether you’re truly left dominant or right dominant.

It’s not just about whether you’re a left or right handed person, either – your eyes play a major part in your overall dominance, and understanding this could revolutionize your shooting, whether you shoot a compound bow, recurve bow or any of the other types of bows.

Archer shooting a right handed bow

Is Your Right Hand Or Left Hand your Dominant Hand?

Before you can begin shopping for bows, you need to know which is your dominant hand. This is an easy one to figure out – your dominant hand is the one you use for fine motor skills, such as writing or using a computer mouse.

Almost everyone has a distinct dominant and non-dominant hand, though a small minority of people are ambidextrous and use both hands equally.

For those people, life – and archery – is a little bit easier. They’ll be able to shoot left or right-handed – in fact, every choice they make will be in deference to their dominant eye, which is a concept we’ll get to shortly.

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

Your dominant hand will take control of the bowstring when you’re shooting, so if you’re right-handed, you’ll hold the bow with your left hand – but this is still called a right-handed bow.

You’ll be able to pick these out easily, because the, bow sight, and arrow rest will be on the left hand side of the bow’s riser.

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

Conversely, if you’re a left handed archer, you’ll hold the bow, and carry the bow while hunting, in your right hand and draw the string with your left hand.

As with the right handed bow, you’ll be able to identify a left handed bow by looking at where the sight housing, and arrow rest sit. If they’re on the right hand side of the bow, it’s a left handed bow.

Whichever way you shoot, though, it’s important to remember that it won’t just dictate whether you buy a left or right handed bow – it’ll also impact the accessories you buy.

Are You Right Eye Dominant Or Left Eye Dominant?

eye dominance

Though most people are very aware of their hand dominance, something you might not have considered is your dominant eye.

You should shoot a bow with both eyes open. In order for this to work, you have to know which eye is dominant, because your dominant eye will take over and cause your shots to miss your target.

Knowing which of your eyes is dominant is especially important for archers because your dominant eye will have more accurate depth perception and will improve your aim considerably.

How To Find Your Dominant Eye

Finding Your Dominant Eye

To figure out which of your eyes is dominant, use the Miles Test. Put your hands out in front of you with your arms fully extended, and create a triangle with the thumbs and forefingers of each hand.

With both eyes open, look through the triangle at a distant object, or one across the room. Then, close your right eye. If the object stays in the same place in your field of vision, you’re left eye dominant.

If it shifts, repeat the exercise with your other eye. You’ll likely find that when you close your left eye and keep your right eye open, the distant object stays still.

You can also use the Porta Test, which is similar to the Miles Test, except you’ll only extend one arm and cover the distant object in your sightline with your thumb.

Close your left eye first – if your thumb is suddenly to the side of the object, you’re likely left eye dominant. Now close your right eye and open your left eye – this time, your thumb should stay more or less on top of the object.

If you’ve been bowhunting for a while, you may also have spotted the signs of eye dominance in your target practice. If you tend to feel like you want to switch to the other eye, or you continually land your arrow to the left or right of where you’d intended, you’re probably cross-dominant, which means your dominant hand and eye are on different sides.

Just as you can be ambidextrous, using both hands with equal dexterity, a very small percentage of people are ambiocular, which means that either of your eyes can adjust to take dominance in a situation.

If you find that the target object stays in the same place regardless of which eye is open, you’re one of those lucky few individuals – and if you’re able to pair being ambiocular with being ambidextrous, you’ll be able to pick up any bow and get started shooting.

How To Tell If A Bow Is Right Handed Or Left Handed

Right handed bow with quiver on right side of riser

The easiest way to tell if a bow is right handed or left handed is to hold the bow with the string closest to you. Now look at the riser and make note of where the arrow rest is. If the arrow rest is on the right side of the bow, it is a left handed bow. If the arrow rest is on the left side of the bow, it is a right handed bow.

Choosing A Right Or Left Handed Bow

If you’re lucky enough to have overall dominance – that is, your eye and hand dominance are each on the same side, or you’re ambidextrous or ambiocular – choosing a bow is a straightforward process.

But if you’re cross dominant, it can get a bit more complicated.

Chart To Help Determine If You Need A Left Or Right Handed Bow

Dominant HandDominant EyeDominanceRight or Left Handed Bow
RightRightRightRight Handed Bow
RightLeftLeftLeft Handed Bow
RightEitherEitherEither
Left Right RightRight Handed Bow
Left Left LeftLeft Handed Bow
Left EitherEitherEither
AmbidextrousRightRightRight Handed Bow
AmbidextrousLeftLeft Left Handed Bow
AmbidextrousEitherEitherEither

Left-handed and left eye dominant? You’ll need to buy a left-handed bow. Conversely, if you’re right-handed and right-eye dominant, you’ll need to buy a right handed bow.

If you’re cross-dominant, it’ll all come down to matters of personal preference – and plenty of experimenting.

The best way to get a feel for what might work best for you is to visit an archery shop, where you’ll be able to try a variety of left-handed and right-handed bows to see what feels the most natural.

In many places, you may also be able to shoot archery targets, which is a boon for cross-dominant archers, as you’ll be able to try out drawing with your non-dominant hand.

Choosing A Left Or Right Handed Bow For Cross Dominant Archers

archer shooting a right handed bow with dominant eye closed

For most people, eye dominance will match hand dominance – so if you’re right-handed, you’ll likely find that your right eye is dominant, too.

But it’s not uncommon for there to be a mismatch – in fact, roughly 30% of the global population has cross dominant hands and eyes.

If your eye and hand dominance don’t match up, you’ll probably need to make a few adjustments to your shooting technique. For example, if you’re right hand dominant and left eye dominant, you could try shooting a left-handed bow or using an eye patch or glasses stickers to allow you to shoot right-handed with your right eye, or you can shoot with your left eye closed.

Alternatively, you might prefer to clip a blinder to your sight housing or hat to allow your non-dominant eye to take precedence. It’s worth taking some time to try out all the possibilities at an archery store so you can find what works best for you.

Generally speaking, most people find it easier to prioritize their dominant eye and train their non-dominant hand to draw the bow. 

This is just a case of changing your hand orientation – your dominant hand will now hold the bow in position, while your non-dominant hand will take charge of the action.

What is a Cross-Dominant Bow?

It’s possible, in some cases, to convert a right-handed bow to be left-handed, and vice versa, keeping the sight aligned with your dominant bow but switching the arrow rest, where the arrow sits, to the opposite side to help you shoot with your dominant hand.

This is a much harder – and potentially very expensive – job on a compound bow, and most cross dominant archers find it easier and more effective to retrain their non-dominant hand to draw the bow.

If you decide to prioritize your dominant eye and retrain your non-dominant hand, practice on a daily basis by completing simple tasks, such as throwing and catching a ball, opening and closing doors, or writing with your non-dominant hand.

Can A Left Eye Dominant Person Shoot A Right Handed Bow?

Archer shooting a right handed bow with both eyes open

It’s absolutely possible for a left-eye dominant person to shoot a right-handed bow if they’re cross dominant, but it’s usually not quite as straightforward as shooting a left-handed bow, which would allow the archer to use their dominant eye to aim.

The way your eyes function when they work together is simple: your dominant eye locks onto where an object is, while the non-dominant eye makes use of being offset from the object to measure the distance.

That means that no matter what you do, your non-dominant eye will always give you a slightly off-center view of where a target is, though blocking off your sight in your dominant eye by wearing an eye patch or glasses sticker can improve the situation.

Can A Right-Handed Person Shoot A Left-Handed Bow?

Yes, a right handed person can shoot a left handed bow, especially if they are left eye dominant, and they may well find it easier to adjust to than using a right-handed bow and having to aim with your non-dominant eye.

We should mention that it can be awkward to draw a bow with your non dominant hand. It will take a lot of practice to become proficient and care should be taken to avoid accidentally dry firing the bow.

How To Tell If A Compound Bow Is Left Or Right Handed

It’s easy to tell which way a compound bow is oriented before you even pick it up. First, take a look at the bow sight. Most sights on compound bows are positioned on the opposite side to the orientation of the bow – so a right-handed bow will have the sight on the left.

Likewise, the arrow rest, will be on the same side as the sight, so if you see the arrow rest on the left-hand side of the bow, it’s a right-handed compound bow. 

If you can these elements on the right-hand side of the bow, you’re looking at a left-handed compound bow.

If there is a bow mounted quiver attached to the bow’s riser, it will be on the opposite side, so if the quiver is on the right, it is a right handed bow.

This is the same on all compound bows. It doesn’t matter if it is a single cam vs dual cam compound bow. They are all the same.

Final Thoughts: Do I Need A Right Or Left Handed Bow?

Whether you’re a left-handed person with a right dominant eye, a right-handed archer with a left dominant eye, or your hand and eye dominance are perfectly in sync, there’s a compound bow or recurve orientation to suit your needs.

While some archers may find they need to rejig their hand orientation to finesse their set-up – for example, drawing with their left hand even if they’re right-handed – understanding your overall dominance will help you make major improvements to aim and accuracy, whether you’re bow hunting or target shooting.

Ultimately, it’s all about knowing your unique needs, fine tuning your bow as much as you can, and then logging those all-important hours practicing your skills.

Now it is time to pick up that bow, grab some arrows and some field points and start practicing your shooting form.

Click here for a guide to the best recurve bows.

Photo of author

Ron Parker

Ron is an archery instructor and expert bow hunter that lives with his wife and kids in central Ohio. When he is not teaching archery or in the woods bow hunting deer, he is writing informative articles for DeerHuntingGuide.net.

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