If you’re reading this magazine, chances are that, like me, you have a strong appreciation for firearms.
And, as with most gun aficionados, when it comes time to spend money on firearms, much of our attention is focused on gear: “Is gun X better than gun Y?” “I need to get gun Z because my favorite YouTube guru says it’s the best.”
If you think that sounds familiar, don’t be too hard on yourself. Conversations such as these have been going on since Sam Colt introduced his first repeating handgun and they aren’t likely to stop anytime soon.
An attraction to the newest, latest and greatest gadgets seems to be baked into our gray matter. However, if you ask anyone who’s advanced in their art, whether it’s photography or expertise with a weapon, most of them will tell you that skill and knowledge are much more important than equipment.
Yes, purchasing quality equipment is important. However, the best gear in the world will be next to useless if you don’t know how to use it.
Train as if Your Life Depends on It
Whatever firearm you choose, it’s imperative to train with it. Knowing how to effectively and efficiently use that weapon under stress could save your life or the lives of your loved ones. Firearms ownership is a right that comes with great responsibility.
Typing “firearms training” into your favorite search engine will present you with a dizzying array of results. Restricting your search to “firearms schools” will narrow the field a little, but it still presents an overwhelming assortment of options.
Training with a quality, experienced instructor is a fantastic way to learn how to shoot and is highly recommended. However, it has certain logistical disadvantages. Most of us will need to travel to the school and then pay for lodging and food—as well as the cost of the class and ammunition. This can add up quickly and, for many people, can be so cost-prohibitive and overwhelming that they choose to learn by watching videos and going to the range to try what they’ve seen. While learning on your own is better than nothing, it leaves a lot to chance.
Enter the MantisX
When I first discovered the MantisX training system several years ago, I was intrigued, but skeptical. I’ve been training armed professionals for more than 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of gimmicky training aids come and go. At best, they only partially delivered on their promises. Most delivered nothing at all and were relegated to a dusty shelf.
So, when the folks at Mantis claimed to be able to not only track your entire shot sequence but also diagnose issues and offer corrections, I was of the “prove it” mindset.
Prove it they did. The original MantisX could measure your pre-shot hold, the movement of the gun during the trigger press and the recoil cycle. This data was then broken down into a variety of different graphs, quantified into an overall score. Finally, some basic suggestions on how to improve that score were provided. All this was done with a small, lightweight device that attached to the rail of your firearm and interfaced with an app on a phone or a tablet.
As I continued to use the MantisX, I became better at reading the data it presented me and applying that data to improve a shooter’s shot sequence. However, my ability to use and interpret the system was not the only thing that was improving.
The software that comprises the “brains” of the MantisX system lives within the app—not within the hardware. This means the engineers at Mantis provide regular and continual updates to the software and overall user experience. I’ve lost track of all the updates I‘ve seen since getting my first MantisX module. App improvements vary from simple adjustments to the user interface and refinements to interpreting data to more-accurate diagnostics and the addition of new features.
In 2019, Mantis introduced an all-new lineup of hardware to complement its training systems.
X2. The X2 is the most economical trainer in the Mantis lineup. It’s a dedicated dry-fire trainer and does not offer live-fire shot detection. The X2 is compatible with all rifles, pistols and CO2-activated trainers and offers the full suite of training modes, drills, coaching and shot analysis.
X3. The X3 is the direct replacement for the original MantisX system. Besides offering all the features of the X2, the X3 offers these features in a live-fire shooting mode.
X7. One of the new offerings from Mantis, the X7 is dedicated to shotgun shooters. In addition to all the features the Mantis system is known for, the X7 offers a suite of analytics dedicated to mastering the shotgun. X7 analytics are handled by an all-new Mantis Shotgun Training app.
X8. This is another brand-new offering from Mantis and is a dedicated training system for archers. The unit offers a unique set of features and analytics to help you become a better shot with your recurve, longbow or compound bow. Like the X7, the X8 requires the use of a new, dedicated Mantis archery training app.
X10 Elite. If you want to be on the cutting edge of everything Mantis has to offer, the X10 Elite is the system you should select. The X10 offers all the features included in all the other units, including the X7 and X8. Additionally, the X10 provides smoothness analytics, consistency comparisons, recoil analysis and holster draw analysis. As this is being written, the X10 is slated to receive updates that’ll provide multi-target analysis, shooting on the move, rapid fire analysis and moving target analysis.
All units are housed in a new, low-profile, lightweight polymer chassis that’s 50 percent smaller than its predecessor. Each unit weighs only 14 grams and features a tool-less, quick-disconnect lever. The built-in battery lasts for 20 hours on a single charge and connects to the smartphone or tablet running the app via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE or Bluetooth 4.0).
“ … if you ask anyone who’s advanced in their art, most of them will tell you that skill and knowledge are much more important than equipment.”
If you’re wondering about the durability of such a small, lightweight training accessory, don’t worry. Mantis engineers have dropped the unit from a height of more than 2,000 feet, in addition to running it over, dragging it behind a car and covering it in liquid nitrogen to ensure that it’s up to any training task you can put it to.
The new design of the Mantis units means that they don’t change the balance or handling of the guns they’re mounted on. When mounted to the accessory rail of a handgun, they’ll fit in most holsters that accommodate a weapon-mounted light. This is a huge plus for training that involves drawing from a holster.
Accessorize Your MantisX
What do you do if you want to use the MantisX on a handgun that has a proprietary rail system or perhaps no rail system at all? The folks at Mantis have you covered: The company’s partnered with Recover Tactical to provide rail adapters for a wide variety of handguns.
Do you want to train using a holster that’s not built for a weapon-mounted light? Mantis stocks adapters that replace the magazine floorplates on a variety of pistols from 12 different manufacturers. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, Mantis has universal adapters that can be adhered to most surfaces. Lastly, it offers a variety of barrel-mounting options for use on long guns with no accessory rails.
The MantisX system is designed to train everyone—from the beginner to the advanced shooter. When we understand what it takes to be a good shot, it’s easy to see how Mantis achieves this.
In all the time I’ve been teaching shooters, I’ve seen lots of training fads and gimmicks. I’ve trained with a variety of different instructors and watched countless videos on shooting instruction. After sifting through all that information over all those years, I’m left with only two absolutes when trying to teach someone to be a better shot.
The two cardinal rules of shooting are muzzle control and trigger finger discipline. Simply stated: To hit your target, you must point your muzzle at the target and activate the trigger without disturbing the point of aim. All other aspects of our shooting are there to support and enhance these two foundational rules.
The core of the MantisX system gauges the movement of the gun in direct relation to the activation of the trigger. Its sensors and associated algorithms measure the pre-shot movement of the gun, the hold as the trigger is being pressed, the movement during the trigger press and the post-shot movement. Every MantisX unit, from the X2 to the X10, measures this and provides data on the shot, as well as feedback about how to improve that shot.
All MantisX units also include training programs designed to enhance your fundamentals in a variety of circumstances. This is done through the use of benchmarks, timed drills, cadence drills and much more. Through each of these drills, the shooter is held accountable for every shot fired, whether it’s a dry-fire shot or a shot with a live round.
“ … purchasing quality equipment is important. However, the best gear in the world will be next to useless if you don’t know how to use it.”
As mentioned earlier, the Mantis X10 Elite offers every training feature Mantis offers. Besides the analytics offered on the X2 and X3, the X10 Elite includes some very exciting and useful new features.
Recoil Analysis opens the door to measuring precisely what’s happening during the recoil of a live shot. This feedback allows a shooter to begin to dial in areas such as grip and stance and allow them to apply their techniques quickly and efficiently from shot to shot. Recoil Analysis can also measure the effects of muzzle brakes and other accessories to determine whether each is a worthwhile addition or just a piece of gun “jewelry.”
Holster Draw Analysis measures all aspects of the draw stroke. This is done via a timed program in the app. The analysis provides data on the time taken to establish a grip; the pull to clear the weapon from the holster; the time to get the weapon horizontal; the time from going horizontal to getting on target and the time the shot is actually broken. Each segment of that process is broken down, individually timed and presented—not only in a graph that highlights and compares each of these areas, but also depicting a line trace of each presentation of the weapon.
“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.” – Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785
If you’re a brand-new shooter, all this talk of graphs, algorithms and advanced analytics might sound overwhelming. In reality, the MantisX system couldn’t be simpler to use:
- Attach the Mantis unit of your choice to the gun.
- Connect it to the app on your phone.
- Provide some basic information on attachment points, orientation and training modes.
- Begin. The app will walk you through each program step by step and provide instruction along the way. It’s that simple!
As your skills improve, and your familiarity with the data you are being given increases, the more you’ll get out of whichever MantisX system you’ve chosen.
Is the MantisX system perfect? Of course not. There’s no such thing as the “perfect” training system.
Fortunately, the folks behind Mantis understand this. They’re dedicated to providing the best training experience they can and are continually improving their software and developing their hardware to meet that goal.
Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an advanced shooter, the MantisX system has something to offer anyone with the desire to become a better shot.
The Mantis X10 Elite comes equipped with everything you need to get started.
Each Mantis unit comes packaged in a tough, compact case. The case is small enough to fit in a range bag and cradles the MantisX unit in precision-cut foam. Also included in each case is some Mantis swag, as well as a USB recharging cable. Additionally, the Mantis X10 comes with the BR7 adapter, which is used to fit the MantisX to a shotgun, rifle or other round-barreled firearms.
The new design of the Mantis units utilizes a universal spring-loaded lever to attach it to any standard accessory rail. While this tool-less design will work with almost any firearm that includes a rail, that leaves a lot of firearms that’ll require the use of an adapter.
Adapters are available to attach the MantisX to proprietary rails, magazine floorplates and anything with a flat, clean surface. Mantis also sells a wide variety of accessories from holsters and snap caps to laser training aids.
The “brains” of the MantisX system are located in the apps. The apps are free downloads that can be found in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. There are no hidden fees or additional features hidden behind a paywall. Your only cost is the purchase of the MantisX hardware. Apps receive regular, free updates—which means your MantisX unit will always have access to the latest software and training developments.
Mantis also offers a unique trade-in program for when it’s time to upgrade your hardware. Purchase your new MantisX unit, send in your old hardware, and a credit will be applied toward the purchase you’ve already made.
Lastly, each MantisX unit comes with an unconditional, 45-day, money-back return policy.
- Weight: 14 gr. (0.49 ounce)
- Attachment: Lever Quick Disconnect
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Apps: MantisX; MantisX Shotgun; MantisX Archery
- X2: $99.99
- X3: $169.99
- X7: $199.99
- X8: $149.99
- X10: $249.99
Black Hills Ammunition
While dry fire practice is important and should be a consistent part of your training program, it will never replace training with live ammunition. Live fire practice introduces things like increased noise levels and recoil which add elements to your training that cannot otherwise be duplicated and are necessary for the development of your shooting skills.
There is an overwhelming amount of ammunition on the market. Some of that ammo is of outstanding quality while some of it is highly questionable.
Black Hills Ammunition has been in the business of producing high quality ammo since 1981. Today, they produce a full range of newly manufactured practice, self-defense and match grade ammo. As this is written, all branches of the U.S. Military purchase their 5.56mm Match Ammunition from Black Hills.
In addition to their ammunition made with brand new, premium components, Black Hills also offers a line of remanufactured ammo. This ammo offers the shooter all of the quality that Black Hills is known for at a reduced price through the use of recycled brass cases.
Whether you need budget-conscious training ammo, premium quality self-defense, match or hunting ammo, Black Hills has what you need.
You take your training and defensive responsibilities seriously. Choose ammunition that is as serious as you are.
Black Hills Ammunition
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July, 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.
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