Mantis BlackbeardX Review – Data-Driven AR-15 Practice
If you have ever watched a shooter drop a field of plates like a well-oiled machine and thought, “Man I wish I could do that” then Mantis’ BlackbeardX is a tool worth considering. But, if your plan is to be the person who only takes their AR-15 out of the safe every few years to wipe away the dust, then this is not the training tool for you. Putting in just a little time every week with dryfire practice at home can make a big improvement in almost anyone’s shooting. I have personally gotten much better from a combination of taking classes and using Mantis products for dryfire practice in between those training sessions.
The BlackbeardX is designed to help provide data-driven home training, so the shooter can get actual feedback on which to build improvement. There are two main pieces to the system, which come packed in a padded nylon case. For installation details, check out our Review With The Blackbeard AR Dry Fire System from last year, as the process is unchanged. The only visual difference between the two models is that the standard Blackbeard unit comes with a 20-round size magazine. This previous model provides a laser indicator and trigger reset when shooting. The newer BlackbeardX has a 30-round magazine, providing space for the newly added electronics.
The magazine battery pack charges from a USB-type phone charger with the included cable. There are four battery life indicator lights that turn solid as the unit recharges. Like the regular Blackbeard, the BlackbeardX takes a while to charge up but has an impressively long battery life. Don’t be surprised if it lasts weeks of casual shooting. We were able to have multiple shooters get some hands-on time with it on a single charge.
Mantis’ BlackbeardX relies on a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone for passing collected shooting data to the free app. Setting up the system is easy. Just download the app, make sure that Bluetooth is turned on, and launch the application. Then, press the “hidden” button on the side of the magazine next to the little blue LED light. Blinking means it is looking for the phone. When the light turns solid, it is synced and the devices can talk to each other. You do not have to “pair” the device with a phone, just click the connect button in the app and the plastic button on the magazine.
When using the BlackbeardX, the first benefit is that you are training with your AR-15. Both “practice” and live-fire rifles have the same grip, buttstock, sights, trigger, etc. However, since we have removed the magazine, charging handle, and bolt carrier to install the Blackbeardx, it is impossible to have an accidental discharge in the garage. There are multiple ways the system can be used to keep training interesting. The green laser puts a dot on the target after each trigger pull for visual feedback. This alone allows for house-clearing drills or target shooting for accuracy against paper targets on the back wall. Also, since the system resets the trigger after each pull, the shooter can keep the rifle shouldered to shoot the AR as intended. The additional sensors build into the BlackbeardX allow a shooter to run the drills that will be familiar with previous Mantis products. This new model also adds the BBX drills specifically made to work with the newer technology.
BlackbeardX provides different ways to visualize per-shot data based on feedback from the Mantis drills. It keeps track of Delay, On Target, Transition, and Previous Target times. It is easy to compare shooting sessions to see improvement. I like to pick one element of shooting and work on it at a time, based on the score and analysis of each shot in a group. The difference between home dry fire training that ends up as “that was kind of fun” or “I guess that went well” is to actually have data on what happened. If you just want safe AR trigger time around the house, then the older Blackbeard is going to be a better fit. But, if you want to collect data and improve your times, then the BlackbeardX should help make a difference. It is available with free shipping from the Mantis website.