Mantis Blackbeard Training Laser: A Little Time Goes A Long Way

Shooting is a tangible and perishable skill, but range time is a luxury for most with monetary and opportunity costs. But you don’t have to burn time and ammo to master the fundamentals and stay sharp. Dry-fire practice develops the same mental and muscle energy as real exercises and live-fire drills. A few minutes with a pack of snap caps will suffice, but if you are interested in incorporating more dynamic setups, consider a laser-activated dry fire system like the Mantis Blackbeard. Jeremy Stone from GMW tested himself on tactical rifle drills using the Blackbeard for fifteen minutes a day for a week before each run. Here is a look at how he did and how the Mantis Blackbeard works.

mantis blackbeard stock image
The Mantis Blackbeard comes with a magazine battery pack and a laser that takes the place of the bolt carrier group.

About The Mantis Blackbeard

The Mantis Blackbeard is a laser-activated dry-fire system that is compatible with any direct gas AR-platform rifle. The Blackbeard’s firing unit is a red polymer mockup of the bolt carrier group and charging handle of the AR, while the battery that powers the unit is the magazine you will use for practice.

When the trigger is pulled, the hammer moves forward slightly to hit the bolt carrier, which projects a laser down bore, which allows you to see where you hit so you can diagnose what went wrong and what went right with the shot. Laser dry-fire units are nothing new, but the Blackbeard is different as it allows rapid follow-up shots since the unit automatically resets the hammer back to the cocked position.

The standard Mantis Blackbeard comes with either a red, green, or infrared laser. The newer Mantis Blackbeard X is the same unit that is programmable through the Mantis X Pistol/Rifle app, so you can have a shot timer and a real-time diagnosis of your shooting on your phone.

For his evaluation, Jeremy used the standard Mantis unit and paired it with a carbine equipped with an LPVO.

First Shots

Jeremy started his test of the Mantis without it on the range. With little experience conducting live-fire shooting drills, he opted for a cold start with live ammunition to see where his baseline proficiency was. With the aid of a shot timer, he shot through three drills at ten yards with no repeats.

He first shot a failure-to-stop drill (two rounds to the chest portion of the target and one round to the braincase). He ran the drill with no misses in 2.95 seconds.

The second drill he attempted was the box drill. This drill requires two targets. Two rounds are fired on the left target’s body, followed by two rounds on the right target. This is followed by a headshot on each target. Although he was shooting relatively close, having to work between two targets at this close distance while sighting down the tube of an LPVO caused him to fail the drill. He shot it in 5.63 seconds but missed the second headshot.

The final drill Jeremy shot was the 1-5 VTack drill. The setup expands to three targets. The shots are ordered with one round to the left, two rounds to the middle, and three to the right, followed by four to the middle and five to the left. His last shot broke at 9.85 seconds, but he still failed the drill with one shot off paper but still on the target board.

dry fire live fire drills
Jeremy shoots his second set of drills after a week of dry fire practice using the Blackbeard Mantis.

Dry Fire And Second Try

Jeremy returned to the shop, installed the Mantis Blackbeard system, and spent fifteen minutes per day performing dry fire practice, including re-shooting the drills that he had come up short on. He repeated his dry firing sessions for a week. Then, he headed back to the range with live ammo to see if his real shooting had improved.

Dry firing is not and should not be a long-term substitute for actually shooting on the range. Although dry firing can build up mental and muscle memory, it cannot replicate the recoil, noise, and curious malfunctions of firearms and ammo that can and do happen. Even with these limitations, Jeremy’s second try at the drills was a modest improvement.

He shot the failure drill, cleanly at 2.47 seconds– a difference of about a half-second. The box drill that he unsuccessfully shot at 5.63 seconds was cleaned with no misses at 5.02 seconds. The dynamic 1-5 VTack drill was also cleaned, albeit at a slower 10.54 seconds, just over a half-second slower than on his previous attempt. The difference is that he did not miss this time. To paraphrase the famed Western lawman Wyatt Earp, “You can’t miss fast enough to win.”

Parting Shots

It is hard to take away from snap caps and dummy ammunition. They are excellent for checking the cycling of firearms, performing malfunction clearance drills, and dry fire practice–all from the comfort of home. The downside is that you have to reset the action yourself every time the hammer falls. You can get focused on cycling the action instead of thinking about the shot you just took. It also prevents you from realistically firing subsequent shots without changing your grip or your eyes leaving the sights. Follow-through can be lost, especially if you expect to shoot dynamically in life fire. The Blackbeard Mantis is a potential solution that keeps your head on the sights, eyes on the target, and your trigger pull working in the same matter time after time for the best possible follow through.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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