Help! Do I need a left or right handed bow?

Anthony Cote
Written by
Last update:


The vast majority of archers are right-handed, but about 20% shoot lefty. Archery manufacturers cater to this market by designing bows that shoot equally well for either hand, which is a wise business venture in terms of retaining customers who might otherwise be lost to the competition.

Your success on the range or in the hunting blind will be determined by your equipment rather than by your handedness. Most archers shoot instinctively, without even thinking about how they are positioned.

For all practical purposes, it really boils down to whether you are right or left-handed, and that is the designation you should go with. Interestingly, shooting a left-handed bow doesn’t require any special skills; you can follow the same muscle memory as shooting a right-handed bow.

The only potential downside is that you need to be sure to carefully thread the bowstring from the right side of the bow if your handedness is opposite of the bow’s. Otherwise, you could get bowstring hand, a painful condition that is caused by using a bow with the string on the wrong side and overexerting your hand.

Hand & Eye Dominance

One of the first things to determine when picking out a bow is whether you're left or right handed. Handedness has nothing to do with eye dominance. It's simply whether you're right or left dominant. It's a much more complicated than that though.

Your hand and eye dominance relate to each other. This means that if you're right handed, you're most likely right eye dominant as well. If you're left handed, you're most likely left eye dominant as well.

The majority of people are right handed and right eyed. This is true for most males but not true for most females. You can check if you're handedness is as it should be by inspecting your writing style. If you are right handed, your letter X should have a tail that originates on the left-hand side of the page.

If you are left handed, the X should originate from the right hand side of the page. So if you're left handed, and your writing has a tail that goes all the way across the paper, starting from the left side, then you probably shoot right.

The good news is that most bows can be used by most people regardless of where they're dominant. However some bows are more adaptable than others.

Left or Right Handed Bow Choice

Deciding on what type of bow you need can be placed in the back of your mind. Most people get this wrong when they first go out to buy a bow. There are a few things that will help you decide what type of bow is best for you and your needs.

Bowfishing Cable/Pendulum or Recurve Bow

Let us start off by saying that once you have shot your first bow, the left handed vs. right handed feel of the bow is the last thing you will be thinking about, beginners are not as concerned with this as much as they are with the accuracy and ease of use. Who cares if you shoot left or right, once you learn to shoot and get comfortable with your bow, these things will become a thing of your past.

To start off with, most of the time you will NOT have to decide left or right handed because at the store you go to they will normally set you up pretty quick. Once you have your bow set up you should be able to get on target and be shooting. Like we said these things are not a big deal while you are learning or starting up, but later as you progress and become more accomplished you will need a little help.

If you have a buddy that shoots the same type of bow, i.e. Recurve, and they are left handed, it can be very helpful to them.

Cross Dominant – Bow Choice

Left Handed vs Right Handed Bow

If you are a left handed archer, using a right handed bow can be a bit awkward. The direction of the string is reversed, and the arrow hand, which is on the right side of a right handed archer, must now be on the left side of the left handed archer.

This is a problem for left handed shooters because it means that instead of their natural point of aim, which is the middle of the bullseye, they are forced to aim to the left of their intended target.

The good news is that there are a few things you can do to mitigate this problem.

Can I Shoot a Left Handed Bow Right Handed?

The answer is yes! No matter what bow you choose, you can shoot it right handed if desired. The reverse also applies. However, it is advantageous that you develop good habits and shooting a bow correctly will result in better shooting.

Practice holding the bow correctly and you will be good to go.

How to Hold the Bow

Knowing how to hold the bow and having correctly set cables is a good thing to learn but on the other hand many people shoot bows wrong regardless of their handedness.

The first thing to do when holding the bow is to find a proper grip. For left-handers, this is not too tough. The thumb and index finger naturally form a V or U shape. Right-handed shooters may find it harder to get a good grip. The easiest way to fix the grip is to take your thumb and index finger and form an L. This is done by crossing the index finger over the thumb and positioning the thumb on the top of the arrow. The second-easiest grip is Cross-handed. Cross-handed is done by positioning the right hand on the bow. The left hand will wrap around the cuff, and the middle, ring and pinky finger rest on the top of the bow. By using both the L and Cross-handed grips, general control of the bow is established.

Once you have a good grip on the bow, there is a next step, drawing the bow correctly.

How to Tell if a Bow is Left or Right Handed

Many beginners want to know which bow style they should start with. If you are right-handed it will be easier to shoot a right-handed bow than a left-handed bow. Traditionally, the string rests on the left hand. The reason a right-handed bow is easier for a right-handed shooter is because the right hand has the better eye dominance (aiming) skills. If you are left-handed, the opposite applies to you. You will prefer to shoot a left-handed bow or a right-handed bow if you are right-handed.

To see if you are left-handed or right-handed, you can do the pencil test. Hold a pencil in your writing hand. If you can draw an “X” with your pencil while still touching the tip of your pencil to the paper, then you are left-handed. If you can draw an “X” with your pencil and you don’t have to touch the tip of your pencil to the paper, then you are right-handed.

Another way is by the fork test. Use a dinner fork. Place the tines of the fork (tines pointing down) on the surface of the top of a table with the handle touching the table. Grab the handle and lay the fork down. If it turns to the left, you are left-handed. If it turns to the right you are right-handed.