Left-Handed Bows vs. Right-Handed

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Most manufacturers design bows -- including longbows, recurves and compound bows -- for use by either right- or left-handed archers – they are not interchangeable. Accordingly, the first decision novice archers must make when acquiring a first bow is to decide which orientation is best. In most cases, the best way to make this decision is to determine your dominant eye.

Directional Differences

Manufacturers design right-handed bows to be held with the left hand, while the right hand draws the bowstring. Conversely, an archer holds a left-handed bow in his right hand, and draws the bowstring with his left. A right-handed archer draws a bow with his left side facing the target, while a left-handed archer faces the opposite direction.

Eye Dominance

Skilled archers aim with both eyes open – the front eye locates and locks onto the target, while the back eye fills in the details. Accordingly, it is important to aim primarily with your dominant eye – a left-eye-dominant archer should select a right-handed bow, while someone with a dominant right eye should purchase a left-handed bow. To determine which eye is dominant, place your hands together to form a small, empty triangle between your fingers and thumbs. Extend your arms in front of you and focus on a small object across the room. Close your left eye – if the object stays in view, your right eye is dominant; if the object disappears behind your hands, your left eye is dominant.

Lefties and Righties

Often a new archer chooses her first bow based on her dominant hand. While a novice may feel slightly more comfortable using a bow designed for her dominant hand – for example, a right-handed archer would use a right-handed bow – it is relatively easy to learn to use your non-dominant hand, if you start out that way. While an archer may feel the need to use her stronger arm to draw the bowstring, the strength of the back muscles is nearly as important as arm strength when drawing and holding a bow, making hand dominance a relatively trivial matter.

Commercial Concerns

Most archers are right-handed and use right-handed bows. Accordingly, manufacturers produce more right-handed models, which makes them more common in the marketplace. This means that right-handed archers often have more bows to choose from in retail establishments. Nevertheless, plenty of manufacturers produce left-handed models, so choose a bow that suits your eyes, and do not worry about having access to a smaller selection of equipment.