The Mantis BlackbeardX
It is no secret Andrew and I both relentlessly shill for Mantis products, and there are good reasons why. As I've mentioned on other Mantis product reviews, I used to absolutely HATE dry fire practice. The tedium and lack of feedback made it a chore in a world already full of chores, whereas going to the gun range was actually FUN. Enter Covid shutdowns impacting my local range on state land and ammo prices reaching almost kidney and first born levels, and I went looking for a solution to my training needs. I found Mantis.
Along came Mantis with their X series of training aids. Finally I had the feedback I craved, and with the X10 Elite's flexibility I could legitimately run dry fire drills with immediate critique of my shooting work in my home office with just about any firearm in my inventory. When my daughter started shooting her 22, we even loaded up a dummy cartridge in it to keep from hurting the firing pin, zip tied the X10 to the end of the barrel, and I let her rip for a half hour. She immediately started making improvements, and the once ponderous task of dry fire training turned into almost an interactive game for the young girl as she calmed down and focused on shooting fundamentals always chasing that higher score. Next time at the range, both of us were much improved. Still, a problem remained.
You see, dry fire training on handguns isn't pleasant, but it's downright annoying on AR platform rifles. There is little in the world more frustrating than breaking your shooting stance and lifting your nose out of the way of the charging handle after EVERY SINGLE SHOT. Yes, I did it. And yes, it annoyed me immensely. Then Mantis spat out the Blackbeard, the auto-resetting mechanism for AR pattern rifles. Much has been said of it (by me and many others https://www.mofpodcast.com/post/mantis-x10-elite-and-blackbeard ) and while the ability did exist to merge the X10 Elite with the Blackbeard, it never felt like a particularly happy marriage.
Mantis presentation from the box down is what I've come to expect, professional and very appealing. It might seem like a small thing but no one wants to plunk down money and find their new product sitting in a cardboard box. The hard case is the same dimensions as the earlier Blackbeard and Laser Academy albeit a little bit thicker. Inside I found a very familiar Blackbeard trigger reset module, and a different "battery pack" shaped like a red 30 round Pmag. This battery pack is the magic of the BlackbeardX, and I'm told by reps from Mantis that current Blackbeard owners will have the opportunity to trade in their existing battery packs for the updated one granting them BlackbeardX capabilities without having to toss the baby out with the bathwater. It's the kind of staged upgrade, while keeping as much of the old technology as possible, that really is a hallmark of a forward thinking product development team, and one I'm happy to see Mantis has employed.
Usage will be fairly familiar to a previous Blackbeard user. Remove your charging handle and BCG from your AR pattern rifle, insert the Blackbeard, smack the battery pack into the magwell, and you're immediately back in familiar territory. If you opted for the laser option, you're greeted by momentary laser projection after a trigger break and immediate reset. With the older Blackbeard, I was never able to outrun the trigger reset and I'm told several pro shooters weren't either. The X's party piece is a small button towards the bottom of the magazine on the side, and a small blue light.
Pressing this lights up the X part of the BlackbeardX, and allows you to connect the BlackbeardX to your standard Mantis app on your smart device (a quick search through your app store on any Android or Apple device should point you in the right direction). That done, the app immediately identified I was using a BlackbeardX, and opened a series of drills that were not previously available tailored specifically for the BlackbeardX. Gone was the shot delay I had to program in (read about that in the above link to my Blackbeard review), and now I can happily pop off as many reps as I please as fast as I can without the shot delay excluding shots AND without the X reading the trigger reset as a false shot. The marriage of Blackbeard and X is now complete, and far more intuitive and cohesive than my previously cobbled together solution.
The first two drills (More info here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtOjzqDjJno&t=443s ) I ran were the BBX Dynamics, and the 1-5 drill. Both drills follow a familiar mantra to Mantis's other drills for the X series of training aids. Turn your volume up, select a drill, read instructions, hit START, wait for the buzzer. Again, all very familiar, but the post drill information was eye opening. Total time is pretty self explanatory, but you also see the familiar Shot Score and now Delay. Shot Score is a composite of how direct your path from one target to another was (did you go in a perfectly straight line, or meander around hunting for the target) and whether or not you overran your target (did you stop on a dime, or go past the target then back track). This is exactly the sort of feedback that was never possible using the MantisX in combination with the standard Blackbeard, which was only able to track movement immediately before and after the trigger press, but having an immediate trigger reset and no need to manually cycle the rifle this sort of transition from target to target becomes feasible. The Delay score is a total time you spent on target for this string in which you sat there, staring at the target NOT SHOOTING. This is a common issue with shooters that wait to fully stabilize their sights before taking the shot. The enemy of good enough being perfect, this feedback is there to help encourage you to get the shot, and move to the next target.
To run the drills shown above, I set up targets in my living room/kitchen (excuse the mess, just came back from Prepper Camp and still unpacking and putting things away) given a worst case scenario home invasion scenario; three assailants, fanned out, at different distances. As you can see from the video, I'm first coming up from low ready, and I apparently have a tendency to hit the brakes prematurely and meander towards the target. This, I suppose, is better than overrunning the target, but still something to work on. My Delay time of .43 seconds across ten shots isn't anything to be upset about, I'm definitely getting the shot, just taking a little long to get to the shot. A total score of 95.2 is something I'm fairly happy with. Note I've been running these drills for an evening and now a morning, I was hitting low 80's at first with far more delay time, but the BlackbeardX is serving me up the criticism I need and driving me to improve.
For the 1-5 drill, you see some of the same issues, but with a notable overrun on one of the targets. Again, the BlackbeardX is tracing my path to target, and between targets, not only critiquing whether or not I yanked the shot but my transition between targets. Splitting a 1 second delay across four target transitions I'm not unhappy with that performance, and I'm growing to really appreciate the feedback I'm getting. I also dropped this package on my wife (who is NOT an experienced AR shooter, Hell with a deer rifle though) and she had little trouble putting on a perfectly respectable performance. What surprised me, was when her eyes lit up and she wanted to run the drill again, and again, and again. The once ponderous, and tedious chore of dry firing has my wife chomping at the bit to run drills, and that is the ultimate praise I can hand to Mantis and their product line.
Who is BlackbeardX for? I would happily argue it's for anyone. The interface is intuitive, the drills familiar, the entire system is cohesive and well thought out. The feedback given by the entire system is exactly what someone wanting to push themselves in the realm of tactical or competition shooting needs. It is the little tattle tale that points out your bad habits, and the friendly voice of encouragement that rewards you putting in the work. Details on pricing haven't been announced yet, but Mantis did inform me that for existing Blackbeard owners the option will exist to either purchase ONLY the magazine which effectively upgrades their existing Blackbeard to BlackbeardX capabilities, or trade in their current magazine for the BlackbeardX magazine. With those options in place, I think Mantis has done it again, offered us another tool in our training toolbox we never realized we desperately wanted until the creative geniuses and the engineers got together and cooked it up. Cruise over to Mantis at https://mantisx.idevaffiliate.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=173 and make an investment in your training and preparedness.
Phil "Take My Money" Rabalais