The team over at MantisX knows that if there are any two factors preventing folks from perfecting their marksmanship these days, they are too little time spent at the range, and the seemingly ever-increasing price of ammunition. And really, can you blame people? Between work, family time and the usual household chores, most simply do not have time to spend on their own activities and hobbies, much less one that requires driving to a distant location, then dumping money downrange with every shot. MantisX, already well known on the bullseye circuit for their precision shooter training aids, has now released a tool that will optimize time spent dry firing at home, and even live firing at the range.
The MantisX is really quite the range partner, and my use of the word partner here is intentional. It gives more complex and multifaceted feedback than some coaches I’ve met. Run, as so many things are nowadays, via an app on your smartphone, the MantisX module clips to a Picatinny rail on your firearm (rifle or pistol), whence it transmits data via Bluetooth to the aforementioned smartphone. Is your firearm not equipped with a rail? Not to worry; MantisX is one step ahead of you, and offers an exhaustive line of barrel-mounted rail adaptors, training magazines with railed baseplates, and every other configuration you could possibly think of to get the MantisX module mounted to your firearm of choice. Once mounted, press the button on the bottom, wait for the green light to start flashing and hit “Connect” on the app. In a few short seconds, you’ll be connected and ready to roll.
The first thing you’ll notice about MantisX is the options you’re immediately greeted with. There’s Open Training, MantisX Benchmark (10 precise shots), Timed Benchmark (five quick but precise shots), Compressed Surprise Break (tests shot reaction time), Reload In Battery, Reload out of Battery, Reload Tactical, Primary Hand Only and Support Hand Only. While Open Training is obviously the best for getting consistent feedback on your average range day, all these other options allow you to target specific aspects of your shooting, and they do so while logging all your information so you can track progress. If that weren’t enough, three courses are also offered on the homepage: MantisX Introduction, Basic Marksmanship and FBI Qualification. Overwhelmed yet? I sure hope not, because this gem of a training partner is just getting started improving your shooting.
Once you click into one of the training programs, the real customization begins. You are greeted with three preliminary categories to set. Choose between Dry Fire, Live Fire and CO2; Right or Left Hand; and module-mounted Forward or Backward. Feel like you need a little more precision? Click “Settings.” Inside settings, you’ll still be able to set the three previously mentioned categories, but also quite a few new ones. Choose whether you’re shooting a rifle or pistol, what kind of gun you’re currently shooting (for logging purposes), and select where the module is mounted. Still want more? Hit “Advanced Settings.” While this may seem a little in the weeds, there’s actually a fairly important setting in here I think users should be made aware of.
One of the four settings in the “Advanced” category is “Shot Detection Sensitivity.” During dry fire, while the vibration incurred by a double-action strike is almost always enough to trigger the system, even on the factory-set “Normal” mode, I found that it was less reliable when shooting a lighter single-action. If you bump this setting to high however, (which does come with the risk of more false positives, though I didn’t personally experience any), the module works every time, even on the large-framed FNX-45 which served as one of my test guns, despite the fact that its size severely dampens vibration. Okay, enough with the settings, let’s move on to actually using this thing.
As I no longer live somewhere I can shoot in my backyard, my first use of the MantisX was in dry-fire mode. A few words of advice are in order. First off, make sure this thing is fully charged. Total charging time takes two hours, and the device will run for 12 hours on one full charge, but I would recharge it after every several uses, even if the light hasn’t quite turned red yet. In my experience, the device is more likely to miss shots and experience other such connectivity issues when the battery is weak. This is far from an inconvenience, as it takes quite some time for the light to deplete anywhere even close to red. Second, even when fully charged, the MantisX will occasionally not record shots. While this may not have been the module’s fault, and could in fact be due to the Bluetooth connection of my aging smartphone, simply disconnecting and reconnecting the MantisX will fix it, regardless of which party the issue was coming from. Should problems persist, there is a very helpful section in settings titled “Not Detecting Shots?” which will test your connectivity issues, identify the problem, and get you back up and running.
Once everything was performing smoothly, the MantisX showed its worth. Every shot is quantified into a numerical score, theoretically from 0-100 (though I did actually manage to shoot a couple shots poorly enough to get the scale to go negative, just to see if it did). Any shot over a 90 qualifies as a “Good Shot” or a “Great Shot,” while any shot below that mark will come with a shot critique. This could be “Tightening Fingers,” “Heeling,” “Too Little Trigger Finger,” “Anticipating Recoil” among others. Despite trying my utmost, I don’t think even I managed to run through all the possibilities.
In addition to this, the MantisX app logs a ton of other information about each shot. One screen shows exactly which direction the gun’s motion trended before the shot. Another is half bar-chart and half connected dot-plot. The bar chart demonstrates numerically how much Trigger Press Movement and how much Hold Movement went into every shot, while the connected dot-plot tracks your score from shot to shot. A third screen shows a drawn path of the gun’s movement on top of a target, with color coding to demonstrate what was trigger motion, what was hold motion, what was recoil, and a small white x to denote where the shot was released. If you hit the play button in the bottom left, you can watch it play out in real time. Hit the trash can on the bottom right, and the shot will delete. Yet another screen shows the module’s motion in real time, tracked by moving dots. Finally, the most simplified screen shows your score on every shot, split times between each, average score, total time and how much hold or trigger motion went into each score. The fact that this software can run off a phone, and does not need an actual computer to operate, is nothing short of mind boggling. After 185 shots of dry fire, I decided it was time to do things live.
To me, this is where the MantisX really shines. The market is currently flooded with dry-fire training devices (though none, in my humble opinion, offer the level of feedback of the MantisX). What there are precious few of, however, is live-fire training systems. I won’t recap what I talked about in the dry-fire section, you know how the MantisX system works by now, but what I cannot express enough is how much this feedback’s value is amplified when it comes during live fire. I tested the system out on two different pistols, the FNX-45, and the Walther P22. From the follow-up shot after a tactical reload, to precision groups, to strings of timed fire, the feedback was instantaneous, and for the most part, dead-on accurate. Sure, every now and then the follow-up comment would be something like “Possible Causes: Too Little Trigger Finger” when you know for certain you were pulling almost past the crease, but that’s the beauty of this system. When you have reason to find fault with the comment, you can scroll through reams of data collected in real time, to deduce exactly what happened for yourself. For the most part however, the comments themselves were totally accurate.
The only area of difficulty I had with the device was in occasional connectivity problems. I noticed that, particularly in the more complicated training scenarios such as Reload out of Battery, where there are a lot of different vibrations the module has to not confuse with a shot, my shot would occasionally not register. For the most part, this problem was solved by simply moving the phone a couple inches closer on the table, leading me to believe that it could simply have been data loss over the Bluetooth connection, and thus was possibly just an issue with my particular phone. Either way, it was a simple and easy fix.
If you want a product that can improve your shooting at home, and keep coaching you when you hit the range and are dealing with added factors like recoil and report, the MantisX system is for you. It squeezes the most information possible out of every shot, and presents it in an easily digestible fashion, so you can strive to fix mistakes and improve with every single round, or sequence of motion. Check out this, and the full line of MantisX products here.