Between the rising cost of ammunition and my busy schedule, live fire training has become more scarce than ever for me. I am sure I am not alone in these issues. This doesn’t mean that I can’t or don’t train, just that I do more dry fire practice at home. Dry fire practice is very important and it really translates to better performance in live fire training.
The best dry-fire tool that I’ve used for pistols is the Mantis X. Over the years, I’ve done full reviews of their first product and later the Mantis X X10 Elite, which was an improvement over the first iteration.
Mantis X is a two-part training system. The first part of it is the hardware—a small digital tracker that attaches to the rail of your pistol— and the second part is a free app that can be downloaded on Apple and Android platforms. The digital tracker transfers your data to the app.
The Mantis X for pistols has both dry fire and live fire modes and tracks all sorts of data like movement before, during, and after a trigger press. The app also gives you tips and explanations on possibilities of why you are having the results from your practice.
Mantis X BlackbeardX
The latest offering from Mantix is something that I have been excited to get my hands on, the Mantis X BlackbeardX. The BlackbeardX transfers all of the great things from their pistol training systems over to the AR-15 platform. Something that I was hoping for became a real product. It is an advancement of their Blackbeard system and is compatible with the current system with the addition of a new magazine.
The Blackbeard system consists of two parts: a Bolt Carrier Group (BCG) that shoots out a red visible laser and auto resets your trigger and an inert 20-round magazine that powers the BCG and laser. The Blackbeard comes available as a full kit with BCG and 30 Round magazine or can be purchased with a trade-in program for customers who already have the current Blackbeard system, in which you just swap out the 20-round magazine with the 30-round magazine. What the BlackbeardX magazine offers is data collection and transmission to the existing Mantis X app on your device. The app will update itself with the new BlackbeardX.
I received the full BlackbeardX kit. It came in a nice cardboard box and inside that was the soft nylon zippered case that holds the BlackbeardX Bolt Carrier Group and magazine encased in laser cut foam; as well as the USB charger cable, tools (Allen wrench to zero the laser), and instructions in a netted pouch underneath the top of the nylon case. I like that both the BCG and Magazine are solid red to help visually indicate that it is inert and in training mode.
The BlackbeardX was made available on October 5, 2022, so it should be available by the time you are reading this. Mantis X is taking care of their previous customers of the Blackbeard by offering a trade-in program for the old 20-round magazine with the new 30-round magazine that will communicate with the Mantis X app.
Installing the BlackbeardX bolt carrier group is very simple.
First is to make sure that your AR15-style weapon system is clear and empty of any live ammunition. Next, remove your BCG and charging handle and place the BlackbeardX BCG into your upper receiver, close the upper, and insert the inert 30-round magazine. On that note, make sure to charge the battery magazine fully before you start to use it, as it can take a few hours.
With the installation complete, you have the ability to train with your rifle, set up to your preferences, with all of your accessories on board and it is completely safe. There is absolutely no way for any negligent discharge to occur as the BlackbeardX BCG completely takes away the possibility of firing off a live round. The training magazine cannot hold any rounds at all and on the off chance that a loaded magazine with live rounds makes it into the mag well, nothing will happen. It is as safe as dry fire practice can be, that I can think of, with the AR15 platform. It takes dry fire training to the next level.
Training With the Mantis X BlackbeardX
You can use the BlackbeardX with and without the app, depending on what you want to train on at any particular moment.
Training With BlackbeardX Without the App
You can practice dry fire trigger presses and see your impacts as well as the difference in Point of Impact (POI) and Point of Aim (POA) through your optic with the red laser that shoots out with every trigger press. You can do this over and over without having to pull a charging handle with traditional dry fire practice.
One of the nicest features of the BlackbeardX BCG is auto-trigger reset. In my testing platform, I have the Timney 3-pound trigger on board and practice with that. A few times I overrode the auto-reset feature. All I had to do was pop up the upper receiver and push the hammer back down to continue training. With this setup, you can run movement drills and catch the laser impacts as you go, adding accuracy to dry runs that you couldn’t do without a system like the BlackbeardX. I noticed that it really helps me know the different holds, the variations of the POA and POI at different distances by seeing the laser hit while looking through my optic.
Training With the App
Using the BlackbeardX with the app is the next level of dry fire training. It has regular accuracy practices and adds on some drills that give you data in real time. Then you can go back and see how you did with movement right before, during, and after each trigger press. Since it has the auto-reset feature, you can keep going and going without charging handle manipulations that interfere with these drills. It produces a ton of data points that haven’t been able to be tracked before the BlackbeardX.
It sounds like an airsoft gun every time you pull the trigger as it is resetting the trigger and hammer so it is also audible. Initially, my BlackbeardX was overly sensitive and detected shots from me just picking up the rifle, way before my first shots. I emailed my contact at Mantis X and was told to use the troubleshooter on the app. All I had to do was hold the power button on the magazine for a hard reset, and it worked flawlessly.
There are plenty of drills to run and you can use whatever you want for targets. My favorite drills are the transition drills. The Triple Threat drill is fun and challenging. It keeps track of all of your times and split times as well. It’s like an advanced shot timer with so much more data and information that maximizes your dry-fire training. It gives you a baseline when you start and as you go, you can see if you are getting better or worse from your previous training sessions.
The app also offers courses you can take: Basic and Advanced Rifleman. I completed the Advanced Rifleman and I had a great time going through it. It has you complete several stages with minimum shots or accuracy levels that help you with skills that you are used to and many that you are not. The Secondary over Primary drill requires you to score well with your support hand. It was very challenging for me to get the minimum score with my secondary or support hand, which was something I previously thought I had down pretty well.
I am having too much fun with the Blackbeard X and probably driving everyone in my house a bit crazy with me clearing the house and rooms at random times. I’m able to see where my shots land while looking through my EoTech EXPS 3-0 at different distances as I move around and engage targets. This gives me a much better reference than I ever had before.
The MantisX BlackbeardX is a product that I cannot endorse and recommend enough. In my experience with many training systems, it is truly one of the best out there on the market. It doesn’t produce any felt recoil and it obviously doesn’t work with live fire drills, but that is fine. Like all forms of training, it is only one part. And it takes many types of training to complement each other overall.