Left Or Right Hand Bow: The Complete Guide To Hand And Eye Dominance

Mar 15, 2021Archery Basics

Do I need a left or right hand bow? This is one of the first questions beginner archers ask when choosing a bow. Since it can be confusing selecting the proper bow, this guide will cover everything you need to know to help you make the right choice. Why would choosing a bow be confusing? Because many new archers don’t understand the basics of choosing a bow. For instance, did you know that right-handed shooters hold the bow in their left hand? When you’re a new archer, selecting the correct bow type supports your ability to shoot accurately.

It’s a good idea to educate yourself before purchasing any archery equipment or accessories. The knowledge learned will support your ability to make choices that are right for you. Reading the information below teaches you the importance of bow-handedness so you’re sure to make the right choice. Equally as important, you’ll also understand the connection between the hand and the eye when shooting.

Choosing a Left or Right Hand Bow

Because new archers often wonder, do I need a right-hand or left hand bow, learning the details of bow handedness is crucial. Your bow choice is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when shooting. This makes it essential to learn about the differences between bow types so you can make the right choice. One of the more important decisions is understanding if you need a left or right hand bow. Just remember that it’s the drawing hand that dictates whether a bow is for left handed or right handed archers.

So how do you know if you’re actually choosing a right hand bow if you’re right-handed and vice versa? The difference between each bow type plays a large role in successful shooting.

  • Left vs Right Hand Bows. How do you determine if a bow is for a left or right-handed archer? Simply check the position of the arrow shelf. If its location is on the right side of the riser, then it’s a left-handed bow. If you’re shooting a longbow without an arrow shelf, it can be shot left or right handed.
  • Left Hand Bow. Archers need to hold a left-handed bow in their right hand. Archers use their left hand to draw the arrow back. Know that there are fewer archery equipment options available for left-handed archers. Why? Left-handed people only make up about 11% of the population.
  • Right Hand Bow. Archers need to hold a right-handed bow in their left hand. Archers use their right hand to draw the arrow back. Right-handed archers have access to more archery equipment options as they make up about 89% of the population.

Determining Eye Dominance

Everyone has a dominant eye, just like they have a dominant hand. So you’ll also need to determine your eye dominance before making a final bow choice. To learn your ocular dominance, you’ll need to figure out which of your eyes is more dominant. Visual input is what determines whether you’re right or left eye dominant. This input helps you shoot more accurately, which is exactly what you want.

Determining your eye dominance is easy to do. Simply point and focus on an object at least 20 feet away. Then, without moving your finger, close one eye at a time. Which eye sees your finger still pointed at the object? That’s your dominant eye. For most archers, their dominant hand is on the same side as their dominant eye. This makes it easier and more comfortable to shoot.

What should you do if your dominant hand isn’t on the same side as your dominant eye? While not many archers fall into this category, a few do. If you’re one of the exceptions, you’ll need to make a few adjustments when shooting.

For instance, left-handed shooters who are right-eye dominant can shoot a right-handed bow. Or they can shoot a left-handed bow and cover up their right eye, forcing them to use their left eye. Some archers recommend matching your handedness to your dominant eye, but do whatever comes naturally.

Determining Your Bow Hand

Ready to determine your bow-handedness? Your choice of bow depends on whether you’re left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous. Your dominant hand is the one you use to perform a majority of your daily functions, like drinking a glass of water and brushing your teeth. Understand that your dominant hand and dominant eye work together to establish the overall type of dominance you have.

Do you happen to be an ambidextrous archer? Archers who feel comfortable using either hand should make a bow-handedness decision based on eye dominance. What about shooters who don’t have a dominant eye? This means they can choose either a left-handed or right-handed bow. How to choose? By trying both options and choosing the bow option that feels more natural.

Have a look at the chart below to determine the type of bow that’s best for you.

Hand DominanceEye DominanceOverallBow Type
RightRightRightRight Handed
RightLeftCrossLeft Handed
RightCenterPartial RightRight Handed
LeftRightCrossRight Handed
LeftLeftLeftLeft Handed
LeftCenterPartial LeftLeft Handed
AmbidextrousRightPartial RightRight Handed
AmbidextrousLeftPartial LeftLeft Handed

Cross Dominant Archers

Are you a cross dominant archer? If the chart above tells you that you fall into the category of cross dominance, then you’ll need to make some choices. One choice is to retrain your dominant eye. Another is to retrain your dominant hand.

Understand that most people choose to retrain their dominant eye because it’s the easier choice. It’s also possible to wear an eye patch or closing the non-dominant eye when shooting. Sometimes younger archers choose to retrain their dominant hand. This is because it’s easier to retrain hand dominance when at a younger age.

In fact, my dad is a cross dominant archer. He’s right handed, but left eye dominant. He chose to shoot right-handed and trained himself to aim with his right eye. After shooting for many years, he now finds shooting with his right eye to feel almost natural.

How To Choose The Right Bow

Understanding your bow handedness is very important when choosing a new bow. Below are some additional factors to consider. Now that you recognize the importance of the hand and eye connection, learning some bow buying basics will allow you to find the perfect bow to support your shooting style. When choosing your new bow, make a list of your likes and dislikes to help you narrow down your choices.

4 Types of Bows

  • Recurve: Many beginner archers choose a recurve bow as their first bow choice. In fact, this bow choice is one that’s often used to teach archery. Modern recurve bows offer the ability to take them apart, making them easy to transport from one place to another. The name comes from its distinct shape, making it easy to recognize.
  • Longbow: The traditional longbow is one that’s simplistic. They’re more difficult to aim and don’t offer shooters as much speed as other bow choices. This bow choice is best for advanced archers due to its challenges.
  • Compound: Compound bows use cables, pulleys, and cams to help archers hold a heavy draw weight. This bow choice requires strength and helps archers hold the draw weight without experiencing muscle weakness.
  • Crossbow: Crossbows are different in that they include a horizontal short bow. This bow choice uses a trigger system. This means archers can only fire once they’ve properly secured the string and arrow.

Bow Buying Tips for Beginners

  • Do Some Research. There’s a lot of bow brands to choose from nowadays. Research at least 5 top brands to learn more about the quality of each brand’s bows.
  • Set A Budget. Basic bows start at around $150. Bows for beginner archers tend to fall in the $200 to $500 range. Higher quality bows can cost upwards of $1000 or more.
  • Choose A Draw Weight. Beginners should choose their draw weight based on how much they weigh. A great tip is to select a draw weight that uses about ¾ of your maximum strength.
  • Test Your Top Bow Choices. Whether you’ve narrowed down your choices to 5, 10, 15, or more, you need to test them all. Paying attention to grip comfort, how smooth the draw cycle is, and overall hand shock will help you make the right decision.

Common Questions

Read the answers to the questions below to learn more about how to choose the right bow type.

  • Can You Shoot a Left-Handed Bow Right Handed? Yes, beginner archers can shoot a left-handed bow using their right hand. Although, this choice doesn’t allow for great aim or accuracy. Why? Because the arrow rest location is on the wrong side.
  • What Hand Do You Hold a Bow In If You Are Right-Handed? Your left hand. Your dominant hand is what determines your bow handedness. So if you’re right-handed then you hold the bow with your left and draw with your right.
  • Does Eye Dominance Matter In Archery? Yes, it matters a lot! Your dominant eye plays a large part in shooting accuracy. Every new archer needs to know which eye is their dominant eye before they actually start shooting.


Are you in need of a left or right hand bow? Now that you read the above information, you know how to make the right bow choice. You also understand the connection between hand and eye dominance. Every new archer wants to experience the best results when shooting. Using your new knowledge allows you to experience just that. Once you know your bow type, then it’s all about the fit and feel. Shooting a bow should feel natural, so be sure to keep this in mind when you’re choosing a new bow.

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  1. Ian Hamilton

    I am right-handed (ie, I hold the bow in my left hand) and I am right eyed. However, I shoot from the right side of the bow.

    I see this in the article above: “Can You Shoot a Left-Handed Bow Right Handed? Yes, beginner archers can shoot a left-handed bow using their right hand. Although, this choice doesn’t allow for great aim or accuracy. Why? Because the arrow rest location is on the wrong side.”

    So maybe I could just buy a left-handed bow, but many of the hand grips are moulded for the right hand and are uncomfortable when held with the left hand. So, do manufacturers make right handed bows the be shot from the right side?

    • Marc

      Hello Ian, thanks for the question. If you’re right handed and right eyed, I would simply switch the arrow to the left side of the bow so everything matches up correctly. It may take some getting used to if you’ve done the opposite, but the benefits of doing so far outweigh the short term inconvenience. Shooting the arrow on the wrong side of the riser could limit your potential and even pose a safety issue with the arrow flying off to the side with a bad release. Since you’re right handed and right eye dominant, I’d stick with how bows are designed for right hand archers to realize your full shooting potential. Best of luck!


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