I must inform you before you read this article that I am a left–handed skeet shooter and this article is from a left–hander’s point of view, but all shooters who suffer from crossfiring on targets can benefit from the solutions it offers.
hen the lead looks perfect and the shot is fired and you miss, the likely culprit is called a crossfire. A crossfire occurs when the wrong eye partially or totally takes over the lead. Just like gun fit, it is important to initially determine your master or dominant eye. While I recommend two–eyed shooting, many have been known to shoot well with one eye closed or using a patch. The drawback to those methodologies is peripheral vision and depth perception are somewhat diminished.
A crossfire problem normally takes place when an individual is right–handed and left–eye dominant or vice–versa. Some individuals have been known to start shooting with cross–dominance issues and never know it until they begin to miss a lot of birds in the field or targets in competition. While crossfiring can result from simply misdiagnosing which is the master eye, it can also result from a couple of other circumstances, such as weak or equal eye dominance.
In each case, eye dominance may shift partially or totally without warning to the off/non–shooting eye as a result of poor lighting or just being tired. The brain makes an interesting targeting system: It can make subtle sight–alignment changes without any indication whatsoever to the shooter. This can be very frustrating and the lead can look perfect but the target is missed.
Let’s start with a simple recommendation regarding your shooting glasses. In less–than–optimum lighting conditions, always wear the lightest possible shooting–lens color so your pupils will be as closed–down as possible. This improves depth perception. For those of you who are camera buffs, that is why you take a picture with the smallest possible lens aperture on a camera, say F16, as it makes the picture in focus for the greatest distance (depth of field). Here are some other ways to reduce the tendency to crossfire. There are basically three ways:
Squint the off/non–shooting eye or simply close the non–shooting eye.
Wear a patch affixed vertically on your shooting glasses so the location of the patch prevents your non–shooting eye from seeing the front bead.
Choose to install a crossfire–elimination sight (my personal preference).
One inherent disadvantage to the first and second solution is a slight deficiency in peripheral vision and depth perception will result. Some people say because games such as skeet are shot at such short range, typically 21 yards, a loss of these capabilities is insignificant. I believe it makes a big difference when it comes to shooting Doubles.
One of the disadvantages I personally experienced with the patch was, depending upon the size and type of patch, I attempted to shoot “around” it. Further (and I know you are going to think I am crazy), I actually attempted to form a sight picture by looking “through” the patch.
The solution I found most satisfactory was something called a crossfire–elimination sight. There is a photo of the sight with this article. My particular sight is made by Meadow Industries and consists of a 4½″ sight that affixes to your rib using double–sided tape. The first part of the sight is a 2″–long piece of colored plastic rod used to gather light that can easily be seen down the rib. To the rear of the light rod is a groove (some sights have a tube). The purpose of this groove is to prevent your non–shooting eye from seeing the front bead.
I know what you are thinking: How is that possible? Take my word for it. Once the sight is in place, the only eye that can see the colored front bead is your shooting eye. One other advantage to installing this type of a sight is you don’t have to remove the existing front sight bead. You simply stick the new sight right up snug behind it. Those of you who are really particular about your sight picture may ask if the fact the sight is slightly raised on the rib affects your point of aim, and the answer is not that you would notice.
The main attribute to using this sight is you can keep both eyes open, giving you the best possible peripheral vision and depth perception. One of the drawbacks I have heard from people is the red insert is so bright they cannot look at the target. The sight kit comes with replacement inserts in light green and white and they can be easily changed out.
In the photo of the Crossfire Eliminator (right), you can see the center bead and a portion of the side of the barrel, not the red dot or front bead. In the lead photo (above), you can see the front bead. In the first case, you can’t see the red dot because you are looking at the sight picture with your non–shooting eye.
Using a crossfire–elimination sight allows you to keep the beads, as seen only by your shooting eye, in what I call your “mind’s eye” while focusing totally on the target. By shooting only using the red front bead, crossfiring is eliminated or at least significantly reduced.
The technique I use with my crossfire sight is as follows: Mount the gun aligning the center and front bead in the customary figure–eight configuration. Focus hard on the colored front bead until the entire sight picture is clear. Any blurring may mean you still have the non–shooting eye involved in the sight picture. Once the picture is clear, shift your focus from near to far, go to your “look point” and call for the target. The exercise you went through should be sufficient to keep your dominant eye in charge of the sight picture. Remember, if the red insert is too bright and distracts you from focusing on the target, change to either the light–green or white insert.
The shooting eye has a fair amount of obstruction in front of it with the stock, receiver and barrel. Be sure to keep the aiming point of your gun low enough to see the target come out with your dominant shooting eye. Under normal shooting circumstances, that probably means keeping your barrel aligned with the bottom of the high–house window and at the bottom of the low–house window (except for Low–5 and Low–6, where it is suggested your hold point be aligned with the top of the low–house window in order to avoid excessive gun movement).
For left–handers, be cautious in the late afternoon when the sun can shine directly in your shooting eye. This can cause disparity between your shooting eye and non–shooting eye, causing you to crossfire.
Always remember when using a crossfire eliminator to look down the barrel with your shooting eye and line up the center bead with the front colored bead in the standard figure–eight configuration. You can momentarily squint the off eye if necessary to clear the sight picture. Take your eyes to your look point, shift your focus from near to far and call for the target. Move when you see the flash of the target, not on your call.
Some of you may be saying “I thought we weren’t supposed to look at the beads!” When Todd Bender shows shots down the barrel through the camera on his video, what do you see? The view consists of the barrel, beads and background, as well as the target. Using the camera, just like your eye, you see everything, but your primary focus is on the target. So I am going out on a limb here by saying the beads are part of your sight picture and make up part of the lead, even though your primary focus is always on the target. I call it “keeping the sights in your mind’s eye” while focusing totally on the target.
In order to improve your ability to get your crossfire sight clear, make sure you are not mounting your face too far back on the stock. It is recommended one’s nose not be more than 1" back from touching the pistol–grip hand. By ensuring you are at least that close to the receiver, the crossfire sight bead will be clearly seen with the dominant eye.
Recently, I had an interesting experience on High–2 where I began to crossfire for no reason. Frustrated with myself, I decided to try something different in order to get back on my game. I began to focus both my left eye (shooting eye) and my right eye on the front bead at once. I mounted my gun at my break point and focused both eyes on the front bead. I pivoted back to my hold point with my eyes positioned the same. Then I shifted my eyes to the distance and called for the target. That process seemed to get my eyes positioned properly. On High–2, what I seemed to be doing was allowing my off/non–shooting eye (to the right of the barrel) to take over the lead (remember, I’m a lefty).
By focusing both eyes on the front bead before shifting my view into the distance, I seemed to be forcing my dominant eye to stay down the barrel and not shift to the non–shooting eye right of the barrel. For a left–hand shooter, it is easy to do this, as the target on High–2 moves very quickly to the vision of the right eye.
My experience with the Crossfire Eliminator sight has been a positive one, but I don’t think any one methodology is perfect. I like this solution because I am unencumbered by a patch or closing one eye which, as I mentioned earlier, can sacrifice both peripheral vision and depth perception, especially in Doubles.
The Crossfire Eliminator is simple to install. You can also purchase some replacement double–sided tape if needed. If you don’t like this solution and want to remove it from your rib, don’t try to pry it up with a sharp blade, as it might damage the bluing on your rib. Simply get a small length of monofilament fishing line and drag it between your rib and the sight, and it will come right off. Be sure to follow the installation instructions regarding cleaning the oil off the rib where the sight is going or it won’t stick.
When the lead looks perfect and the shot is fired and you hit, you have overcome the crossfire. Try the tips in this article, and you may find your cross–dominance issues will no longer plague your shooting.