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How To Tell if a Compound Bow is Left or Right Handed

a picture of the diamond archery provider

For those who are new to the sport of archery, choosing the right bow can be quite intimidating. The process of making such a decision is often tedious and filled full of factors that must be carefully considered. One such decision is that of whether to purchase a right hand or left-handed bow.

Physical Differences in Bow Design

When trying to decipher whether a particular bow is right or left-handed, there are several visual cues that can be of assistance.

Many of these cues relate to how a bow’s accessories are positioned in relation to the bow’s riser.

  • On a right-handed bow, accessories such as arrow rests and bow sights will be positioned to the left of the riser. Right hand archers hold the bow in their left hand.
  • On left-handed bows, these accessories will be positioned to the right hand side of the riser. Left hand archers hold the bow in their right hand

Even on the best compound bow, a slight variance in the shaping of a bow’s riser can also be noticed.

This variance will come in the form of an indented shape, in roughly the same location as the bow’s sight will be mounted.

This indented area will recess inward on the left side of the riser for right-handed bows and the right side of the bow for left-handed models.

Choosing A Bow That Fits You

Diamond Edge Pro compound bow

When choosing a bow for purchase, it is important to carefully consider hand/eye dominance and to understand what role these factors play in your decision-making process: Which hand is your dominant hand and if you´re going to use the right hand or left hand to hold your bow?

Well, just to be clear – if you purchase a right hand bow, but find out later that you´re more comfortable holding the bow with your right hand … You´re screwed…

There are cases of people having cross dominant hands/eyes but that’s more the exception

The most important thing to remember, however, is that no one is excluded from the sport of archery based upon hand or eye dominance.

A nearly infinite number of both right and left-handed bows are available on today’s market, providing ample opportunity for all who wish to begin their archery journey.

In order to make a determination in this regard, you must first understand how to tell if a compound bow is left or right-handed.

Likewise, a determination must also be made as to whether the shooter in question is left or right hand/eye dominant.

Although a significant number of shooters are right-handed, those who are left hand or eye dominant are also taken care of – A vast number of left-handed compound bow models are now offered, which makes it easier than ever before to find the perfect bow to suit your needs.

The Bow Direction is Determined By Your Draw Hand

When speaking of the differences between how a left-handed shooter and right-handed shooter handle a bow, one is simply referring to the hand with which an archer draws their bow string. This can be confusing to some, as many assume the contrary to be true.

For example, a right-handed archer actually holds the grip of his or her bow with their left hand, while drawing the bow string with their right. Likewise, a left-handed archer holds their bow’s grip with their right hand, while drawing the bowstring with their left.

A right-handed archer holds his bow with his left hand, a left handed archer holds his bow with his right hand

An archer draws a bow with their dominant hand due to the extra control over the draw cycle which this provides.

An individual’s dominant hand/arm is naturally stronger than that of their non-dominant side, which aids in one’s ability to smoothly and effortlessly complete the draw cycle.

Find Your Eye Dominance

Although many new archers instinctively assume that their choice of a left or right-handed bow is based solely on which hand is dominant, there is much more to this equation.

Your eye dominance is, in fact, far more vital to bow selection than hand dominance.

Every individual has one particular eye which offers a greater degree of input to their brain’s visual sector.

This is referred to as one’s dominant eye.

It is very important for an archer to distinguish their dominant eye, as this eye will provide a more direct line of sight when aiming.

In general, the vast majority of archers are right eye dominant. However, approximately ⅓ of archers are instead left eye dominant.

For those unsure as to which eye is their dominant eye, there is a simple, yet highly effective test which you can conduct.

The Porta Test

The Porta Test allows you to distinguish eye dominance in a matter of seconds. Simply hold your thumb or index finger upright in front of your field of vision.

You will then focus on a distant object while closing one eye at a time. Whichever eye can be closed without making your finger appear to have moved outside of your center of vision, is your dominant eye. 

Another simple way to test for eye dominance is to hold both hands out in front of you, forming a diamond shape with the index fingers and thumbs of each hand.

You will now look through this diamond and focus on a distant object. While remaining focused, bring your hands toward your face, while observing which eye your hands naturally drift toward.

This eye will be the most dominant.

For more on eye dominance testing, be sure to check out this video.

If the results of these tests indicate that you are right eye dominant, then a right-handed bow will be needed. Likewise, if you are found to be left eye dominant, then you should consider the use of a left-handed bow.

Occasionally, cross-dominance can become evident during such testing.

Cross-dominance is when your dominant eye and dominant hand do not match. In these cases, it is highly recommended that an archer selects a bow based upon their eye dominance, as opposed to their dominant hand.

In the case of cross-dominance, extensive practice will help develop the muscle memory required for accuracy, despite being forced to draw a compound bow with your non-dominant hand.

However, this is still much simpler than attempting to visually compensate for the distorted line of sight provided by the sole use of your non-dominant eye.

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