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

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Do you know whether you need a left or right handed bow? Do you even know the differences between a left or right handed bow and what they look like? Let’s find out.

Handedness is important. Compound bows, recurve bows and longbows (those links will take you to our roundups of the best examples of each type available in the market) are made slightly differently depending on the handedness of the user.

In order to choose whether you should shoot a right or left handed bow firstly you need to know which is your dominant eye if you don’t already know this, follow our eye dominance guide!

Next you need to determine your handedness. You probably already know if you’re left or right handed, but just in case…


Are you left handed, right handed or ambidextrous?

​You can normally tell which is your dominant hand as it will be the one that:

  • You write with
  • Works your computer mouse
  • Holds your toothbrush
  • Holds your tennis racket
  • You hold a cup with when you drink
  • You get the idea…​

There are a small number of people who can do everything just as easily with both hands, these people are truly ambidextrous.

Once you know your dominant eye and dominant hand you can determine which type of dominance you have.

Hand & Eye Dominance

  • A left handed person with a dominant left eye is left dominant.
  • ​If you are right handed and your dominant eye is the right eye you are right dominant.
  • Left eye dominant and right handed people are cross-dominant (sometimes called cross-eye dominant).
  • ​If you are right eye dominant and left handed you are also cross-dominant (sometimes called cross-eye dominant).
  • An ambi-ocular person who is left handed has partial left dominance.
  • ​If you are ambi-ocular and right handed you are partial right dominance.
  • ​If you are ambi-ocular and ambi-dextrous you’re pretty unique, it’s upto you to choose which you want to be your dominant side and which way you will shoot.

Left or Right Handed Bow Choice

Now you know your overall dominance, it will be easy to determine which type of bow you should shoot.

Dominant Hand

Dominant Eye


Handedness of Bow

Right Right Right Right
Right Left Cross Left (usually)
Left Left Left Left
Left Right Cross Right (usually)
Ambidextrous Left Partial Left Left
Ambidextrous Right Partial Right Right
Ambidextrous Ambi-ocular None Either

People with a clear or partial dominant side should find the choice easy as it will be type of bow listed in the table above.

Cross Dominant – Bow Choice

If you are cross-dominant you have a choice to make and this can come down to personal preference or age. You will have to re-train either your eye or hand dominance when shooting, the older you get the harder it becomes to re-train your fine motor skills so the natural choice is to use the less dominant eye instead and choose the type of bow that matches your dominant hand.

If you are young however you can entertain the possibility of shooting with your non-dominant hand, the best way to decide what feels best will be to visit an archery range and trial both ways of shooting.

If you have no dominance, the choice is really down to personal preference, however here are a few things to bear in mind.

Left Handed vs Right Handed Bow

A right handed bow is held in the left hand and the bowstring is drawn back with the right hand, conversely a left handed bow is held in the right hand the bowstring is drawn back with the left hand.

Bows are manufactured differently for right vs left handed people however many other pieces of equipment such as arm guards, quivers and bow string releases can be used with either hand.

There are less left handed people in the world than right handed. This is a fact I love. I mean as a left hander I wouldn’t feel special if things were split 50/50. Consequently there is less archery equipment produced and stocked for left handers throughout the world.

Although MOST bow manufacturers produce models of bow for both left and right handed people a right handed archer will find it easier to purchase and trial display models from shop stock and also find it easier to source items on second hand sites such as Ebay.

Also when shooting at a range, the chances are that if you want to try someone elses bow they’ll be right handed however it is possible….

Can I Shoot a Left Handed Bow Right Handed?

This also applies to shooting a right handed bow left handed, and the answer is yes you can do it and you may be accurate, but the arrow rest will be on the wrong side and you will have to compensate for this in your aim so it isn’t advised that you do this regularly.

Get the right sort of bow for your handedness unless you have no choice.

How to Tell if a Bow is Left or Right Handed

Examine the area just above the grip on the handle of the bow the arrow rest should be there, as you hold the bow (with either hand) by the grip out in front of you the arrow rest will be on the left side of the bow for a right-handed bow and the right side of the bow for a left-handed bow.

Left handed vs right handed bow
Left vs right handed bow

Which bow to choose?

Now you know which handedness you need, take a look through our articles where we’ve rounded up the best recurve bow and the best compound bow, we have something for every price range and every type of user from hunters to target shooters and most importantly we tell you which handedness they’re available for.

Hi there! I'm a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. You'll often find me at my local archery and shooting ranges honing my skills.

18 thoughts on “Help! Do I need a left or right handed bow?”

  1. Now I’m more confused, the article says a left handed bow is held in the right hand and a right handed bow is held in left hand…. the picture seems Roy show the opposite…or am I just confusing myself?

    • Yep, I think so! The hand you use to draw the string is the handedness of the bow. Held in left hand, drawn with right hand = right handed bow and on a right handed bow the arrow rest is on the left side (the side closest to you). Hope that helps!

  2. Hold the bow and look where the arrow rest is. If you are holding the bow with your right hand and the rest is in the same side as your thumb, then you are holding a right hand bow. To use this, you need to hold it by you left hand and hold the string with the right. The rest will be on your back hand side. This way if you hold the bow horizontally in front of you, the arrow will rest above the bow. The left hand bow would be the opposite.

  3. stupid question but when your buying equipment for the right-handed bow
    do you buy right-handed equipment like the sights, rest?

    • Most sights and attachment are interchangeable, but not always. Also as stated above left handed bows are harder to acquire, and so are the left specific equipment. Most of what you see will typically be right handed. Hope this helps 🙂

      • Dan – That is a left handed bow being held in the off hand. If the Arrow Rest is on his thumb side, it is on the right side of the bow meaning the bow is a leftie.

        There is actually discussion that ancient shooters would hold the bow in their left and load the arrow on the right. Leading to being able to load faster and lead to more mobile shooting.

  4. Confusing. I am right hand dominant and right eye dominant but feel my left hand is better to hold the bow and draw with the right. Would I sight and draw on the same side of the bow?

  5. i use a long bow without noches
    i rest the arrow on the right side of my bow by letting it rest on my left hand
    i am right handed
    i pull back the the bow with my right hand

  6. Hi. I’m a right handed person that shoots a left handed bow. What I mean is that I do most things with my right hand. However, I eat left handed, hold a cricket bat left handed and hold a bow in my right hand with the string in my left hand. How I know this is I bought a beginner 20lbs ambidextrous recurve bow and started shooting right handed. After about 2 days shooting right handed I decided to put the bow in in my right hand, the string in my left and here’s the big BUT… I put the arrow on the left handed side of the bow and hit my target instantly. I am now at least three times more accurate with this set up than when I use the normal right or left handed set up. But now I want to upgrade to a 40lbs recurve bow and I don’t know whether to buy a right or left handed bow or if there is like a special type of bow for people like me.
    Pls Pls Pls help.

  7. Left or Right-handed bows have nothing to do with your hand dominance… It’s all about your eye dominance. So, if your dominant eye is the left one, you will draw the string with the left hand so the back of the arrow will be nearest to your “good” eye and you will be ablo to aim properly. That’s the point.

    Left eye dominant? Left-handed bow (held with right hand. drawn with the left one).
    Right eye dominant? Right-handed bow (held with left hand. drawn with the right one).

  8. Im about to buy mt first bow, and each time I’ve been out ive shot right handed (ok total of 4 times maybe). But guaranteed always hold bow with left hand.
    I play golf and cricket like a right handed but am naturally left.
    When I go to pick up the bow, it’s always held in my left hand.
    However when ive fired a shotgun, I use my left hand as my trigger finger.

    Do I go with what feels more natural?

  9. Some advice, please. Looking to get back into archery. I am right-handed left eye dominant. Just recently purchased a left-hand bow but it feels very awkward and difficult to pull (only45draw). It is more comfortable to shoot a right-handed bow but my accuracy is not too good. Any suggestions?


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