How often do you shoot? I’ll bet it’s not as often as you’d like. Time constraints, range access, and expensive ammo make it difficult. But the Mantis Laser Academy eases all those concerns with a dry fire training tool you can use almost anywhere. Yes, I know dry fire practice can be very boring. But not with Laser Academy. Mantis has worked hard to keep the activities fun and interesting. You’ll look forward to using it, which isn’t something many training aids can say.
What is Laser Academy?
Mantis Laser Academy is built around three main components: the laser cartridge for your gun’s chamber, a system of smart targets, and a smartphone app. Basically, you insert the cartridge, post your targets, open the app, and point your phone toward the targets. Choose your drill and shoot it. Read the feedback. Repeat as desired. It’s a little more detailed than that, which we’ll get to, but that’s essentially it.
The Laser Academy program scores your drills in real time for instant feedback, plus you can go back and assess after the fact. The app also tracks your history so you can see your improvement over time. One feature I particularly like is the ability to input different firearms so I can see how I perform with each one. That shows me which guns I’m best with, and those I need to work on. Laser Academy is compatible with handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
The app contains a variety of drills, from basic marksmanship to drawing and shooting. You can also run marksmanship courses with a test at the end. Some drills and courses require specific targets, which Mantis includes or allows you to download through the app.
There are two Laser Academy options: the standard kit and the portable kit. The portable kit is part of the standard kit, or you can buy it separately at a lower price. This review deals with the standard kit and, by extension, the portable kit as well. It’s important to note that Mantis sent me this product to review. That fact did not influence my opinion of Laser Academy.
What’s in the Box?
Let’s begin with the portable kit, then expand it to the full standard kit.
Portable Laser Academy Kit Contents
- Soft zippered case
- Mini tripod
- Phone bracket for tripod
- Laser cartridge in your caliber choice (extra calibers sold separately)
- Wooden dowel for easy cartridge removal
- 5×7” Smart Targets
- Instruction Manual
Standard Laser Academy Kit Contents
- Larger soft zippered case
- The portable kit
- Large tripod with carrying case
- Phone bracket for tripod
- 8×10” Smart Targets
- Tacky putty-like material with which to attach targets to the wall. Easily removable and reusable.
Shooting with Laser Academy
As I said earlier, dry firing is usually boring. Until I encountered Mantis products, I could never stick with it for any appreciable time. My first Mantis product was the X10 Elite program, which I reviewed last year. I still use that program and have even combined it with Laser Academy. I’ll touch on that below.
I usually hit Laser Academy sometime in the evening, often before I go to bed. I have it set up in my bedroom with targets plastered on the walls. There are certain advantages to being a perpetual bachelor. All I have to do is pull up the app and attach my phone to the tripod. I select my drill, match it with the appropriate target, and away we go.
The app lets you know that it’s reading the targets by outlining them in blue. Each drill comes with instructions and there are often different skill levels. You can go fast or slow. Once you hit the start button, you’ll get a countdown display and then an audible prompt. It’s very simple and intuitive. I’m a technological Neanderthal and I picked it up right away.
My favorite thing about Laser Academy drills is that I get instant audible and visual feedback. Pulling the trigger elicits a sound mimicking gunfire from my phone. It’s not loud, but it’s there. You know you fired a “shot.” I love that the program incorporates sound. I can also glance at the screen to instantly see where my shot, or shots, hit the target. Upon the drill’s completion, the app gives you a scorecard with an overall score, a map of your hits, and your split times. That instant feedback makes Laser Academy engaging and fun. You can run each drill as often as you want. I usually improve throughout each session thanks to that feedback. Of course, I have to stay on it daily to maintain that improvement.
Laser Academy offers more drills than I can write about in the space available, but let’s hit some highlights. I like that the program starts with tutorial drills for basic use, accounting for a possible laser offset, which is just like knowing your holds on the range, and using targets you make yourself.
After that, you can choose open shooting drills, which are exactly what they sound like. They’re perfect for building fundamentals with a single target or multiples. Then you have the “Bell Drills,” in which you use the target printed with bells, and the app directs you to shoot certain bells to play a tune like Frosty the Snowman or Joy to the World. It’s very festive going into the holiday season.
Then you have your classic “bullseye” drills, which are exactly what they sound like, and, yes, Mantis provides the appropriate targets. I like the “Hunt” drills, in which the app prompts me to shoot five different shapes from the guard position. I like it because it has me quickly acquire the target each time, which makes it a bit more difficult since I have to look at my phone for the prompt. It forces me to quickly scan and make the shot. Feedback includes accuracy, overall time, and split times.
The “Duel” drills are great, assuming you have someone to duel with. My son and I often run those when he visits. We particularly like the “Duel Hunt” drill. Then you have emergency reload, holster draw, transition drills, malfunction drills — you name it. Laser Academy has everything I want. But there’s one drill I haven’t officially run yet.
That drill is the “Die Hard” drill. If you’ve seen the greatest Christmas movie ever made, you’ll remember the part where John McClane tapes his Beretta 92 to his back, approaching the evil Hans Gruber with his hands behind his head. He then surprises the terrorist by whipping out the Beretta and doing his John McClane thing.
Well, Laser Academy has that drill. You tape your gun between your shoulder blades, put your hands behind your head, and get busy on the prompt. It only works with the right target, which I haven’t yet printed out. But I tried it anyway and, brothers and sisters, I’m terrible. It’s super hard. Partially because you have to use a lot of tape. Beretta 92s aren’t exactly light. You can do it with other guns, but I’m a purist. Sue me.
Anyway, I have to get the basic motion down before I could even hope to try that drill. But my ego demands that I do so. And who doesn’t want to be John McClane?
I mentioned that I sometimes combine Laser Academy with my Mantis X10 Elite program. The latter uses a different app, so I pop it up on an older phone and use them both. The advantage of that is I get the Laser Academy instant feedback combined with the grip and trigger pull analysis on the X10 Elite. What’s not to like?
The only drawback I’ve experienced with my Mantis training programs is the need to rack my pistol’s slide after every trigger pull. That has always been an issue with dry fire, and you have to be careful about muscle memory. I’ve seen instructors talk about how they can tell when some of their students dry fire because they sometimes reach for the slide after firing for real. I’ve caught myself doing that once or twice.
So, I fixed that issue by doing most of my dry fire training with a Taurus G3 Tactical pistol with re-strike capability. It’s not exactly the same as the normal trigger pull, but it’s close enough that I can fire fast shot strings and get realistic split times without having to manually rack the slide. Nor do I have to reacquire my grip each time. I also use my Beretta 92 and IWI Jericho II in double-action mode. I get the repeat shots and I learn to control the DA trigger on both guns.
The improvement I’ve seen from using the Laser Academy and X10 Elite programs has carried over to my SA striker guns, and I don’t have to unlearn the muscle memory of reaching for the slide. I occasionally use those guns with the program, but I’m selective about what drills I run. But that’s what I do. You can do it however you like.
Just Get One Already
To say that I love the Mantis Laser Academy would be an understatement. I get quality training while saving time, gas, and especially money. I can shoot hundreds of “rounds” per day if want. There’s no way I could do that with live ammo. And it’s fun. The nature and variety of the drills mean I never get bored. My son will come in sometimes and ask if I want to play “laser tag.” The answer is almost always “yes.” If I’m busy, he does it on his own. We both benefit from it, but we get the most fun and results when we compete. That’s one of Laser Academy’s greatest strengths. Bragging rights are a big deal.
So, if you’re looking for a great way to train, without spending your entire paycheck on ammo, check out the Mantis Laser Academy. Honestly, it pays for itself in an hour’s worth of training. You can get in hundreds of shots in that hour. How much would you spend on hundreds of rounds of live ammo? How much money will you save in a year? Of course, dry fire can’t replace live training, but when properly used, it can help develop the fundamentals you need to maximize your live fire.
If that sounds like a good deal to you, give the Mantis Laser Academy a try. Lucky for you, Gun Mag Warehouse has them in stock right now. Do it for John McClane.