How to Tell if a Compound Bow is Left or Right Handed?

In a right-handed world, it can seem like there’s no consideration for people whose dominant hand is the other one! From right handed desks to constantly smudging your hand as you write, a left-handed person has to accommodate most things and gadgets to using them the best way they can.

However, we have good news for left handers – when it comes to purchasing and using a compound bow, you are encouraged to buy one made just for you. You don’t need to use a right-handed bow to learn to shoot arrows or join your friends on a hunting trip.

A compound bow is a complex and well-designed tool that is the pinnacle of current archery technology. It’s quite an investment, so you want to purchase one that’s perfect for you. Bows were designed thousands of years ago to work organically and interactively with the human body. Choosing the bow that’s best for your dominant hand is the single most important decision you can make before purchasing.

In this article, we’ll go over the key ways you can tell whether a compound bow is left or right handed.

The Bow Direction is Determined by Your Draw Hand

Since it’s confusing to know which bows are for left- or right-handed shooters, we’ll break down the difference. It’s all about your dominant hand being the draw hand.

Hold the bow in your non-dominant hand. For right handers, this is your left hand, and for left handers, it’s your right hand. When you draw back the arrow, you would therefore be drawing it back using your dominant hand. Your non-dominant hand simply holds the bow steady and in position, whereas it’s your dominant hand that’s doing the vast majority of the work drawing back the arrow.

So, you’d choose a bow based on the hand that draws back the arrow, not the hand that grips the bow.

Find Your Eye Dominance

In addition to your hand dominance, you’ll also want to know which eye is dominant. In archery, your dominant eye also helps determine whether you need a left- or right-handed bow. It works harder than your other eye, has better vision, and gives you a competitive edge if it correlates to your dominant hand.

Why would that be?

About two-thirds of shooters are right-eye dominant, with the remainder third being left-eye dominant. To determine which is your dominant eye, think of which eye you’d instinctively use if asked to look through a telescope or microscope. You can also perform a simple Porta test.

Hold your thumb in a ‘thumbs up’ gesture and center it on an object at least twenty feet away. Close your left eye and notice if your thumb is still centered on the object. That means you’re right-eye dominant. If you close your left eye and your thumb has moved off the object, then you’re left eye dominant.

  • Right Eye Dominant – Right handed bow
  • Left Eye Dominant – Left handed bow

But what if your dominant eye doesn’t match with your dominant hand?

That is called being cross dominant. At that point, most expert archers suggest you learn to shoot a bow that’s in alignment with your dominant eye, rather than your dominant hand. It’s easier to input muscle memory into your dominant hand than it is to change your line of vision.

Your dominant eye, also called the ‘power eye,’ should be perfectly in life with the bow string and arrow shaft. If you instead choose a bow based on your dominant hand instead, you’ll find you have to adjust the horizontal point of aim to make up the difference. Rather than aiming straight ahead, you’ll have to aim to either the left or the right. It’s easier to practice with your non-dominant hand than to constantly make these small adjustments when target shooting.

The younger you are, the easier it is to learn to use your non-dominant hand to shoot a compound bow. Practice and determination will soon help you learn how to do this – and your dominant eye will be focused on the target each and every time.

Physical Differences in Bow Design

There are telltale physical signs that a compound bow is made for a right-handed dominant user versus a left-handed dominant user.

With the bow in your hand, take a look at the shape of the arrow rest. It’s normally slightly curved in a modified crescent shape. A left-handed arrow rest will be curved towards the left, while a right-handed arrow rest will be curved towards the right.

This design makes sense, for when you are using a left-handed bow, your left hand is drawing the arrow back. The rear fletching of the arrow sits lightly against the arrow rest. In that position, it becomes obvious as to whether the bow is made for either a left or right-handed user.

Also, the risers on a compound bow will give you a clue as to which are right or left handed. The shape is specifically designed to be held in one particular way. Most compound bows are not designed for ambidextrous use; they are specifically for one dominant hand.


Most compound bow manufacturers have specific left and right-handed bows, and if you have any questions, you’re welcome to contact them before purchasing to make sure you’ve selected the correctly aligned model. If you are cross dominant, then we suggest you try out both left and right-handed bows before making your final selection. You might surprise yourself by definitely preferring one over the other. Whichever one feels the most comfortable and helps you hit the target the easiest is best for you.

We guarantee you’ll feel very comfortable using the compound bow that’s best for your dominant eye and dominant hand. Now, if only they made spiral notebooks that opened the other way for left handers.

So, what kind of bow are you looking for?

I have articles about bows for beginners and bows for woman, maybe you should add some kind of sight to your bow also.

About Brad Harris