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Competitive Shooting as Immersion Learning


Immersion learning is an educational approach that teaches concepts by placing learners into an environment that focuses on the exposure to — and absorption of — knowledge through multiple, layered experiences. One of the most recognizable and effective uses of this technique is learning a foreign language. Students are placed in an environment (such as a home, a classroom or even the native-speaking country itself) to learn firsthand through constant and direct exposure to the language.

The Concept of Immersion Learning

When you think about the concept of immersion and being trained to learn in this manner, the students are essentially surrounded by the language and are required to read, listen to and use the proper terminology and words. And in this context, if people mess up, they are pretty quick to learn their mistakes. The instructor and/or the native speakers will detect the errors and hopefully provide the correct things to say. If the students work hard and pay attention, they can quickly pick up on even the most nuanced details of the language. But if they don’t practice and try, they don’t progress. In fact, they probably don’t do much of anything at all!

Immersion can be a very powerful learning experience since the exposure to all the correct and incorrect grammar and usage is all around the learners for whatever period of time they are part of it. And there have been many studies showing very positive results from this somewhat aggressive style of learning, provided the students also received explicit instructions and expectations regarding the target information. The result is often a dramatically shortened learning curve and a much higher level of retention, which are both very beneficial for language acquisition.

The Connection to Competitive Shooting

All of this got me thinking. Even though there are some folks who don’t believe in the value of competitive shooting as a learning tool, I believe it is a beneficial form of immersion learning focused on the proper, effective and safe use of firearms.

For instance, even if you carry a gun every day, you are not constantly on high alert, seeking out attackers at every moment, nor are you actively involved in shooting while living out your normal life in the 360-degree world. But even though a match takes place on a 180-degree shooting range with cardboard targets, competitive shooting puts learners in the place where they have to use the rules. And shooters have to know what is right and what is wrong. The shooters are essentially surrounded by safe gun use and forced to listen to and use the proper skills and rules. And in this context, if people mess up, they are pretty quick to learn their mistakes since the RSO and/or the other competitors will detect the errors and hopefully provide the correct things to do. Sometimes that results in a penalty, some lost points or even a match disqualification. And sometimes that results in a category win or perhaps a bump up to another level.

Basically, for the amount of time that folks are involved in a competitive shooting match (and specifically as they are working through the specific stages), the learners are completely immersed in a world of safe and efficient use of a firearm. And it’s amazing how much learning can take place in that timeframe. I personally believe that gun owners can benefit immensely from this type of immersive learning. And the result is often a dramatically shortened learning curve and a much higher level of retention. If you ask me, both are pretty beneficial when it comes to handling a firearm.

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