Firearm & Gear Reviews

The MantisX – Part 1: Initial Impressions

The MantisX firearms training system has been around for a couple of years now. Since early 2016 I believe. And since that time it has recorded over 10 million shots and collected a wealth of data related to what people are shooting and how well they are doing it. I highly recommend reading this article, it’s truly interesting. I almost assuredly gave the MantisX a look when it was first introduced, as I do with many new firearm related products. I’ve looked at quite a few dry fire or laser training tools over the last few years in the hopes of finding something I thought would truly be useful.  As with all of these training systems, I passed on the MantisX system for two primary reasons: expense and doubt. Not that the MantisX system is prohibitively expensive at $150. When you are debating however about whether to pick this up or another 1000 rounds of 9mm ammo for the range, tools like this often get relegated to the “would like to try” category. Had I had less doubt about the effectiveness of the MantisX training system I may have purchased it much sooner. Having now made the purchase and only having a few days of exposure to it’s use, I strongly suspect it should have been in the “need” category. In Part 1 of my review of the MantisX I will give my raw first impressions of the system. In Part 2 I intend to go more in depth into the system’s many features, and in Part 3 I will be exploring the system’s value during live fire.

The MantisX firearms training system comes in a small rugged case containing a common USB power cable and the sensor itself. All wrapped up in an attractive box. I gather it used to come in a hard plastic Pelican like case and I actually read several reviewers complain that the cost of such a case was not worth the additional expense to the overall product. MantisXIronically the hard case has been replaced with a presumably cheaper softer case with no adjustment to the overall price. That is neither here no there though. The softer case is plenty sturdy and more than adequate.  The sensor itself is nothing remarkable and made from some kind of plastic or polymer. It’s not fancy and doesn’t look particularly hardy. Presumably it’s solid enough to withstand the repeated recoil from handguns and even rifles. I haven’t run across anyone saying they broke one. The sensor attaches by way of a screw that fits between the slots of the rail on your firearm. It works fine and likely lends itself to fitting a wide variety of rails.  In this day and age though, a quick release would be greatly appreciated. Nevertheless it only takes 30 seconds to remove it and put it on another pistol when needed. I have read some reports that over-tightening the sensor to the rails of certain polymer guns may deform the lower enough to interfere with the slide functioning properly. I would think these particular guns would suffer similarly with any rail mounted device that was too tightly fit. I’ve only been dry firing with the sensor so far but don’t anticipate any problems of this kind.

Once it’s on the pistol, press the button, then open the app on your phone and connect the device through Bluetooth. Once connected you set the firearm down while the sensor goes through a brief calibration and you are ready to go. It all takes less than 5 seconds and I haven’t had a single glitch. So far in my limited time with the MantisX I have only been using two modes of practice: Open Practice and MantisX Benchmark. The MantisX sensor works by detecting movement immediately before, during, and after the trigger pull. In Open Practice you simply fire at your own cadence and each shot is scored according to any movement detected. You can do any number of shots in any amount of time and there is immediate feedback for each shot along with the score.  Tightening your fingers, slapping the trigger, breaking wrist up, and too little trigger finger are examples of the type of feedback I’ve seen so far. The MantisX Benchmark is similar except that you are limited to ten shots. The idea presumably to record a periodic benchmark test of your success with your firearm. One particularly nice feature of the system is that you do not need a dedicated target. It’s not a laser after all. A target of some kind is helpful of course for practicing sight alignment and insuring the pistol stays precisely aimed.

I’ve always been a big believer in dry firing my guns. As any enthusiast knows, each gun is unique in its own way. The weight and balance, the sight configuration, the length of pull (for long guns), and of course the trigger as examples. Dry firing is tremendously helpful in developing a familiarity for the nuances of the firearm. In particular, mastering sight alignment and trigger control can be greatly enhanced by regular dry fire practice. Dry fire training though doesn’t have to consist of simply holding a firearm up, lining up the sights, and pressing the trigger. You can work on drawing from a holster, making magazine changes, transitioning from your primary to secondary weapon to name a few. A whole host of skills can be greatly enhanced with dry fire practice. And frankly, attempting to master all of these skills is likely impractical and prohibitively expensive if you intend to do them only on a range with live fire. One other often overlooked benefit of dry fire is building up the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, arms, and hands. I have noted on many occasions during the end of a live fire session that fatigue was a primary factor in the rapid deterioration of skills. What it ultimately comes down to though is developing muscle memory. You may have heard of two classic maxim’s when it comes to mastering a skill: 1000 repetitions and 10,000 hours of practice. I won’t go into the validity of either of these classic assertions but they both inherently imply a tremendous amount of practice. What I will say though, is that practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Dry fire practice is particularly suited for perfect practice because nearly every variable can be controlled. The MantisX training system, at least from my initial impressions, may be an invaluable tool to make perfect practice possible.

So what are my initial impressions? Very impressed. As I mentioned previously I have only used the Open Training and Benchmark training features of the MantisX so far. I have been practicing almost exclusively with two of my pistols: my CZ P10-C and my Canik TP9SFX – the CZ with stock iron sights and a decent duty trigger and the Canik with a red dot and the outstanding competition trigger. They are very different guns and my success on the range is very different with each. I tend to exhibit some of my common tendencies of low and left with the CZ while the Canik often produces a single ragged hole. As the pictures below demonstrate the difference appears to be confirmed by what the MantisX training system is telling me so far.

MantisX Result1

MantisX Result2

Keep in mind that the targets on the right are not specific comparisons of my results using the MantisX during live fire. They are only examples of how I often shoot with these two pistols. I have yet to have the chance to see how the MantisX works during live fire. MantisX ArticleIt does demonstrate fairly well though that I have a tendency to drift low and left with the CZ during live fire and this tendency manifests itself even in dry fire using the MantisX training system. Even the Canik during dry fire exhibits this tendency to some extent. It’s not surprising, like many right handed shooters it is a common issue and one I continue to struggle to overcome. MantisX’s own data backs this up in the previously mentioned article.  Hopefully this dry fire practice and the feedback provided by the MantisX training system will help me overcome this issue.

There are two immediate takeaways I have gotten from using the MantisX for this short time:

  • I move a lot more than I thought when dry firing.
  • My perception of these minute movements and my ability to predict their impact has been greatly enhanced.
  • The MantisX training system makes dry fire practice more fun and rewarding.

This first observation has probably had the greatest impact on my perception of the value of dry firing. In past dry fire sessions I likely have been under the misconception that my practice was more perfect than it truly was. It was practice but not perfect practice. I’m not sure if I was even capable at the time of truly judging even the minimum of effectiveness of those practice sessions.  With the help of the MantisX training system I already have a much finer perception of the minute movements of the gun as the trigger is pulled and therefore a better understanding of the impact on my shots. During open training I can very often predict a good score verses a poor score when the trigger has been pulled. This I believe is truly a leap forward in my quest to be a better shooter. Without being able to perceive your mistakes it is very difficult to fix them. The good news is that I seem to be improving. At least in regards to dry fire. As you can see from the graph on the left for the CZ P10-C, I am seeing very clear and consistent improvements over time and practice. Lastly, the MantisX training system makes for a much more enjoyable and rewarding dry fire experience. Dry fire practice is inherently boring, and even more importantly, you get no immediate feedback like you do when you put a hole in paper or hear the ring of steel. I truly feel like I’m training when using the MantisX and my time and effort seem worthwhile. That’s where the MantisX may show it’s greatest value. If it inspires me to practice when I likely wouldn’t otherwise. The question now of course, will this practice improve my performance on the range?

 

 

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