Review: Mantis BlackbeardX Training System
You may have heard of one of the Mantis products, such as the Mantis X or the X10 Elite training systems, but Mantis recently released an upgrade to their Blackbeard AR-15 training system that combines the functionality of the Mantis X with the Blackbeard – hence, the BlackbeardX.
In a nutshell, the Mantis BlackbeardX allows you, as an AR-15 gun owner, to practice shooting indoors with instant feedback on how well you are doing. The original Blackbeard replaced your AR (rifle or pistol) system’s bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle with a single part that allowed dry fire without charging (pulling back the charging handle, sliding it forward to engage, then releasing the bolt) or changing the trigger weight or feel. The system’s rechargeable battery pack resembled a 30-round magazine, and installed in the magazine well the same as a real magazine. The new BlackbeardX retains the functionality and appearance of the Blackbeard, but adds a laser-aiming spot and the Mantis X training system for immediate shot feedback. That feedback is from the laser spot on your target with each of your trigger pulls, and through the Mantis X system app on your portable device (cell phone, etc.). A fantastic feature of the original Blackbeard that is retained in the X version is that you don’t have to charge the gun after every trigger pull – the system automatically re-cocks the hammer after each shot!
Of course, if you had the Mantis X, you could have attached it to the forend of your AR to take advantage of that mobile device application-driven training system for live fire training, as well as dry fire training. You would have had to recharge the gun between shots during dry fire, however, and you wouldn’t have the laser spot for shot feedback (or to use with the Mantis Laser Academy).
Mantis Blackbeard X Training System
What Mantis has done with the BlackbeardX is bring similar convenience and capability to your long gun as they created for your guns through the Mantis X10 Elite system. See my review of the X10 Elite for the details of how it opens a new world of shooting training to a user, without the expense of ammunition and trips to the range. The major difference between the BlackbeardX and X10 Elite systems is the Blackbeard system, as detailed above, replaces the bolt carrier group and charging handle of the AR-type firearm, whereas the X10 Elite mounts externally to the gun. Therefore, you can use the X10 Elite for dry fire as well as live fire, but the Blackbeard is for dry fire only. Of course, when you get ready for live-fire drills, replace the BlackbeardX with your BCG and charging handle, mount an X10 to your AR and head to the range.
The BlackbeardX is packaged in what I call a travel case, as it is robust, zippered and compartmented. Inside the case, the “magazine” and charging handle/BCG device have their own separate cutouts in the foam lining, with the quick start sheet and laser academy information residing in an enclosure in the case “lid” along with the USB cable for charging the battery.
The system battery and Bluetooth components are in the magazine; it is a good idea to charge the batteries before using the system the first time.
The batteries in the BlackbeardX I received were nearly dead, and required a bit of time to recharge as indicated by a series of lights across the top of the magazine. The more lights that are illuminated, the closer the pack is to a full charge. While you are waiting for the battery pack to charge, you can get your AR ready and install the charging handle/BCG device into it.
I chose to use a Colt Sporter AR-15 as my rifle for this review, but the system should fit into any AR-15 pattern firearm, rifle or pistol.
Installing the Mantis BlackbeardX
Double-check that the gun is clear, with no ammunition in your work area. You won’t need a magazine, of course. After clearing the weapon, use the correct procedure to remove the charging handle and BCG – pull back on the charging handle, cocking the gun, and then lock the charging handle in the forward position. Release the bolt to go forward into battery, but do not pull the trigger because the hammer needs to be in the rear, cocked, position prior to removing the takedown pin or pins.
Open the upper receiver, remove the charging handle and BCG, insert the BlackbeardX replacement, close the upper receiver back to its position on the lower receiver and pin it.
When the battery pack is charged, simply insert the BlackbeardX magazine into the magazine well of the gun; make sure it is firmly seated. Before using the system, install the free Mantis smartphone application on your mobile device and get ready to pair your device with the BlackbeardX.
When you are ready to use the system, press the power button on the lower left side of the magazine to turn-on the BlackbeardX. Be sure the LED on the side of the magazine near the power button turns-on. At that point, you can Bluetooth pair the Blackbeard X with your mobile device. Once your device and the BlackbeardX are paired, you are ready to use the system.
To recap a bit of my earlier review, once you upload the Mantis X application and create the Bluetooth connection to the Mantis system (BlackbeardX or X10 Elite) installed in/on your firearm, you can access many different scoring and training programs on the app. The Mantis sensors precisely detect movements of the gun and track those motions for a very brief time, as you pull the trigger until it breaks. As the tracking takes place, the gun unit transmits that information to the app. This allows the app to integrate gun pointing and gun movement into information in its sub-applications.
In my review of the X10 Elite, I addressed the advantages of including dry-fire in your training regime. Saving ammo costs is really a minor part of it, believe it or not. The real advantages are the ways the MantisX system makes dry fire training much more useful and effective.
If you are serious about improving your AR marksmanship skills, be sure to add effective dry fire to your training workouts, and be sure to add the BlackbeardX to your AR system!
Learn more about the Mantis BlackbeardX. MSRP: $319
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