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Whether you’re taking your first steps as an archer or refining your shooting technique, it’s important to make sure that you’re using the correct handedness of bow for your needs. Working out whether you need a left-handed or right-handed bow is vital to building a consistent and stable shooting technique.
So can you shoot a left-handed bow right-handed? The short answer is yes, it is possible to shoot a left-handed bow with your right hand. There are some circumstances where this might be useful, but it’s usually not recommended because most bows are designed to be used with a specific handedness.
I can imagine you have several more questions on the topic.
I certainly did.
So, continue reading, and you’ll find out exactly how to approach your handedness for archery!
Should I Shoot A Bow Left Or Right-Handed?
You should always shoot a bow using the hand that works with the handedness design of the bow. Working out which handedness of bow that you require is based on your eye dominance and, to a lesser extent, your hand dominance.
Bows are not typically designed to be used with the opposite handedness that they were made for.
This is because the handedness of a bow defines the position of important components such as the arrow rest or the targeting sights on a compound bow.
The position of these parts is the best way to identify whether you are looking at a left-handed or right-handed bow.
On most recurve bows, you’ll find an arrow rest.
This component is part of the bow’s riser – the central part of the bow’s body that we grasp with our non-shooting hand to keep the bow aloft.
The arrow rest is used to hold your arrow shaft in position while you’re drawing and aiming a shot.
By noting the orientation of the arrow rest, you can determine the specific handedness of each bow.
The arrow rest always needs to be located on the opposite side of the bow’s riser to the hand that you use for drawing back the bow during a shot.
This gives you the best positioning when firing the arrow.
The arrow rest typically looks like a curved notch or a hooked protrusion that is made for laying the arrow shaft on once you’ve clipped the bow to the bowstring using your nocking points.
For compound bows, you can determine the handedness of the bow by taking note of the orientation of the targeting lens.
These lenses will always be positioned on the opposite side to the handedness of the bow.
So if you’re left-handed and will be drawing the bowstring with your left hand, the targeting reticle will be attached to the right-hand side of the compound bow’s frame.
Bows are designed in this way to give you smooth arrow travel during a shot.
Having the arrow resting on the opposite side of the riser to the hand that is drawing the bowstring keeps everything stable as you ready yourself for the shot.
For a right-handed archer using a right-handed bow, the arrow rest will be located on the left-hand side of the bow’s riser.
Your left hand will then grasp the riser below the arrow rest.
But if you use a left-handed bow and are drawing the bowstring back with your right hand, it will put you in a compromised position because the arrow rest will be positioned on the wrong side for you.
If you’re trying to use a left-handed bow with your right hand, the arrow rest will be on the right-hand side as well, messing with your shooting.
What Side Of The Bow Do You Shoot From?
You should always shoot from the side of the bow that matches up with your dominant eye first and foremost. This can usually be backed up by your dominant hand as well. When choosing which handedness of bow to use, you are selecting the hand with which you’ll be drawing back the bowstring for the shot.
Most bows, whether they are compound bows or recurve bows, are designed with a particular handedness in mind.
This means that they cannot easily be used the wrong way round and are constructed in a way where vital components such as the targeting sight on a compound bow or an arrow rest on a recurve bow are in specific positions to give the most benefit to the archer.
When we think of drawing a bow, the handedness of the weapon determines which hand we use to draw back the bowstring to ready ourselves for a shot.
In this case, it may seem obvious that whichever hand is your dominant hand in everyday life should always be the one to draw back the string.
However, your aim is the most important factor in archery, and this relies on your eyes and not your hands.
This is why your dominant eye plays a greater role in determining the handedness of bow that you need to use, rather than whichever of your hands is dominant.
It is your eye that lines up the shot and looks at the target.
Your hands can contribute to the process, but they are merely aids that help create a stable foundation to give your eye the best chance of getting a good aim.
When you nock your arrow and place the shaft on the arrow rest, your eye dominance determines which hand you use to draw the bow back and which one you use to stabilize.
For an archer whose left eye is the most dominant, they will use their left hand to pull back the bowstring, meaning that they will be using a left-handed bow and shooting from the left.
The only function that their right hand performs is gripping the bow’s handle to hold it up during the shot.
Trying to shoot a left-handed bow with your right hand won’t yield good results even if your right eye is your dominant one.
This is because the bow is simply not configured in the best way for the way that you’re trying to shoot.
The arrow rest on a left-handed bow is positioned on the right-hand side of the riser.
This means that if you’re trying to aim with your right eye, the arrow rest will actually impair your line of sight to the target, disrupting your aim.
What Handed Bow Do I Need?
The handedness that you use to operate your bow will depend on two factors – your eye dominance and your hand dominance. The former is the most important factor as it denotes how you aim the bow. Getting the correct handedness will help you create a stable shooting foundation for consistent accuracy.
To determine your eye dominance, you can perform a couple of tests, like the Miles test or the Porta test.
These involve positioning your hands or thumb in front of your eyes and focusing on a specific object a fair distance away.
You’ll then close each eye in turn while focusing on the object to determine which eye gives you the best sight quality regarding the object.
This is your dominant eye. In most cases, you should choose a bow handedness that matches your eye dominance.
So, for an archer with a dominant left eye, they should use a left-handed bow.
This should be the case even if they are naturally right-handed when it comes to other tasks like writing with a pencil or holding their cereal spoon.
It can feel odd to use a left-handed bow if you’re right-handed, but once you’re used to it, you will achieve better accuracy.
Handedness in terms of bows refers to which hand we use to draw back the bowstring during a shot, not which hand we grip the bow’s riser in.
This can be a little confusing.
Basically, if you are naturally right-handed, you will usually want to draw the bowstring using your right hand.
Your dominant hand is controlling the most important part of the bow.
Things are nice and simple if your dominant eye matches your dominant hand.
This means that you can use a bow designed to work with you perfectly.
Someone with a right-hand dominant eye and hand will find the most success with a right-handed bow.
In this case, you’ll be using your left, non-dominant hand to grip the riser of the bow during the shot, helping you achieve stability.
However, if your right hand is your dominant one, but you discover that your dominant eye is actually your left eye, you’ll need to use a left-handed bow for the best shooting results.
This means training yourself to draw the bowstring back with your non-dominant left hand, with your dominant right hand grasping the bow by the riser.
This can take a bit of practice, but it really does deliver the best shooting results because you’re using your naturally stronger eye to aim the shot.
Of course, it all starts with detecting the handedness of the bow itself. To learn how to do this, just continue reading my other article here.
While technically you can; that does not mean you necessarily should shoot a left-handed bow right handed.
Hopefully you now know why.
And when you think about it – there’s a reason why they sell both types!
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.