I just spent 5 days training out at the sigma 3 bushcraft/survival school in Branson MO. I found almost no information on it online, and I wanted to do a quick course review for other people interested in the 2a community. These guys are semi local to me, and are pretty cheap at $600 for a 5 day class, even less so with the 35-50% discounts they run semi often. You also don't have any ammo costs or much additional class cost involved. I will link them at the bottom for anyone interested.
TLDR: Great class, I would highly recommend, and showed me some huge glaring gaps in my setups.
Day breakdown kinda looked like this
Day 1: making 4 different primitive shelters
Day 2: Water procurement, tarp setups, Fire basics
Day 3: Friction fire
Day 4: Trapping and plant foraging
Day 5: primitive navigation, natural cordage, primitive weapons
I'm going to run through each of these in a bit more detail.
Day 1 started out with an intro to the course. We had 4 instructors on site with us all week, and we actually had 38 students in the class. We covered jungle hooch (basically elevated bed made of branches), woodland sleeping bag (box on ground with leaves so you don't freeze), lean to (half tent made of trees) and a debris hut (basically a tree/leaf bivy).
They had a pretty ingenious way of teaching each of these. All of these structures were already assembled, and they lectured on their uses and how they were built. We then took the all apart piece by piece, and attempted to put them back together. There would often be pieces that had rotted out, or didn't fit due to a change in branch or tie down location. We would then go out and cut down a tree or gather what was needed to complete the project in groups of like 5. This was a great way to expedite the shelter building process so we could see and "build" all the shelters, without us cutting down the entire forest each time.
Students were allowed to sleep in any of the shelters any of the nights they chose instead of sleeping in tents that most of us brought or a hotel. I ended up not sleeping in one due to wanting to get more reps with my tent in, but it was a super cool building experience.
Day 2 started in a lecture talking through water purification methods, and how to dig wells and other considerations. Almost all of this was lecturer outside of us making a small charcoal filter out of a water bottle. Lots of good points and conversations around the pros and cons of boiling water, how to think through energy usage of different purification methods, and different concerns in different parts of the world.
We also spent some time this day going over tarp setups. They showed us how they build out their deployable ridge line out of paracord and bank line and that was probably the coolest thing I saw all weekend. It takes a tarp to a shelter in under 3 minutes if you prebuild this ridgeline right. It's something I had never seen before and a huge value to me and my car setup.
After lunch we started basic firemaking. They talked to tinder, what makes goo tinder, how you should process your tinder to start a fire. They also talked through how you want to manipulate that tinder after you light it. They spoke through different wood types, how quickly or at what heat they would burn, and stuff about wood I had never thought of. They worked through what you want your sticks to look like (pin thickness, pencil thickness, marker thickness) as you work up a fire. As well as how to rotate your sticks as you add them to the fire.
Throughout each section they had us build our own tinder bundle, and then we also build small fairy fires (just smaller than normal fires) after collecting all of our material with a ferro rods. Great balance of delivering small amounts of information, having us get hands on to complete that section, and then continuing to add on. This might be basic for many of you, but it was helpful for me to have someone cover exactly what you want in wood, and how you want to manipulate or change your tinder bundle to get a good flame started
Bowdrill day. Basically taking raw wood and starting a fire by rubbing 2 sticks together. Our instructors promised us that if we left a bad review, it would be because how frustrating bow drill day is. Bow drill isn't a super useful skill (IMO) because of how time consuming it is to create a bowdrill, but it was a very valuable class activity as it teaches a number of different skills. I spent 8 hours on this thing and never got a fire. About half of the class did have a fire by the end of the day.
We started with a log which we had to baton into a hearth and spindle. After doing that we had to whittle these pieces down to the desired shape and size teaching more knife and axe skills. We also had to identify a branch to function as a bow to correctly knot a string onto. We also had to identify a hardwood to utilize as a bearing block, so we had to baton and carve that as well.
Once all of those pieces were together we then had to do a "burn in" to start the process, then whittle and notch out a "v" to help collect char. This lead to conversations on char, properties of char, why it's useful, and a few different ways to create it. After all of that, we hoped to get a fire starting with an ember from a bow drill that would then be transferred to our tinder bundle (more tinder practice) and potentially into a fire with the logs collected (more fire making practice). I failed to make a fire via bowdrill, due to a ton of small errors on how I processed the wood throughout the drill making. I learned so much from this process overall that it was well worth the time. It was a great structured practice on a number of skills as I was also learning a new skill of bow drill.
Day 4 was all about food. Getting food through primitive traps, modern traps, and then plants all around you.
We started talking through primitive traps. What to think around the size of trap and how to tailor your trap to what you are hunting. Some conversations around how to camouflage and set your traps as well. We started with a deadfall trap. They showcased how to make and set the trap, and then turned us loose into the woods to find the materials needed for the trap, and to make our own. This was practice again in whittling and processing wood, just reinforcing stuff from the day prior. After we finished those and had it checked off, we move on to the figure 4 trap, same thing there on making another trap.
After we covered primitive traps we had a lecture on the conabear and yoyo traps that are more modern. After a short primer we were turned loose with some of these traps to practice setting and getting a general idea of their uses. Lots of good stories about how much more effective modern traps are vs primitive ones and how they had seen them used side by side. I am going to invest in some of these modern traps for sure just to have around "just in case"
After modern traps we also worked through snares, snare uses and different ways to catch small game with snare wire. Another good discussion, but less hands on as we were fairly crunched for time.
After lunch we came back and just did a plant walk of the area. talking around what plants and trees are around. How many are edible vs poisonous and different medical uses for certain things. I realized how much I have to learn about plants and trees in general and how useful that information can be on just picking items for firewood. It's a weakness I hope to continue to improve on. This walk lasted several hours and it's amazing how many different plants are really out there that can be eaten, or will kill you if eaten.
Day 5 had several hours of rain. We started the morning going over primitive cordage, or how to basically make rope out of grass. It was pretty cool to make it, but like all primitive projects we did over the weekend, it really made you appreciate buying good made somewhere else. It's a lot of work to make something that does the job much worse than $1 worth of paracord. It is a cool skill to be able to make that stuff on the fly if needed.
After rope making with our hands for about an hour we moved on to making some "primitive weapons" We basically made a 4 point spear for fishing and self protection. It was another good project to go into the woods, find a tree to cut down, and then baton and process it. More reps at a skill while learning something new. We then brought it to 4 points and spent some time whittling them all to spear points. After that we made "throwing sticks" which is basically just throwing sticks at small game. Nothing earth shattering there, but a fun activity to try.
We then moved on to some primitive navigation with sun location and time telling. I think they did pretty well here, but I was honestly a pretty poor student. I had not slept the night before as we had a hail storm that kept me up in my tent, and I was kinda burned out from the week. I do plan on doing more landnav via compass and pace counting in a class later this year. It's a skill worth brushing up on.
Main takeaways from the class:
Everything in this class was simple, but way harder than it looked.
Nothing we covered was overly complicated or difficult. I just need to take the time to hone my skills with practice. I would kinda equate this to gun classes and dryfire. Nothing about shooting is hard, but you have to put in the time and get the reps to really get comfortable with it. I made huge bounds in this class, and know what I want to work on practice wise in the near future.
Making stuff yourself takes forever, and is worse than store bought.
Natural made cordage takes a long time to make, doesn't do as well if wet, and is not nearly as strong as paracord. Conabear traps can catch much larger game, are much more likely to trigger correctly, and much more likely to trap an animal than something made of sticks and rocks. A bow drill is a nightmare compared to a ferro rod or lighter. I'm going to put in more of this material than I have already as it's just so valuable to not have to make in the field. A $14 conabear trap could feed you for weeks and is likely a better investment than another box of 9mm or something similar. The class really broadened my thinking about what I should be storing in case of zombies or some other worldwide problem.
I need to be investing in more non traditional schools like this.
I tend to only think about shooting when I am looking at classes to take. Going from a 7/10 to a 7.5/10 in a shooting class is way less valuable to me than going from a 0/10 to a 4/10 on other skills. It also gives me dramatically more homework and things to work on an learn. I will probably be focusing more on medical, sewing, metal working, and other non traditional skills in the coming years. I have already signed up for a SERE class out at Sigma 3 and my dad is already attending the wild crafter class with my mother to learn more on the plant identification side.
I need to use my kit more
I had knives, tents, sleep gear ect and have for years. In the week of training was the first time I had camped in a thunderstorm/hailstorm. I really learned what I liked/didn't like about my knives, and I added some additional fire starting and other kit from what I learned. Reps are more important than anything and I'm going to add some of these skills to the rotation instead of just dry firing all the time.
Anyway, thanks for reading the wall of text for anyone that got here. If you have any specific questions let me know and I can try to answer them.
Link to the school and class I went to in Branson MO