Looking for a way to vastly improve your firearms training – either as an officer or as a department? You will be very interested in this MantisX Firearms Training System review. It is a potential game-changer for both live-fire training and dry fire training.
Mantis is a new firearm accessory company based out of the Chicago suburb of Oswego, Illinois. The Mantis website describes the company as, “gun nuts, with some heavy geek seasoning and a deep passion for our families and our future.” Their first big development has been the new MantisX Firearms Training System.
The MantisX is a really fantastic shooting aid incorporating a mountable sensor and a Wi-Fi app. The MantisX sensor mounts to the shooter’s firearm from several different options. Using proprietary designs, the MantisX Firearms Training System records firearm movements during the shooting sequence for every shot made. This recorded feedback can provide immediate remediation for shooters as well as guidance towards the cause of errant shots.
I think the MantisX training system has the potential to positively affect firearms training in a manner similar to how Universal Training Munitions and other marking systems impacted force-on-force training.
Let’s dig in…
MantisX Firearms Training System
The MantisX Firearms Training System uses a compact mountable sensor designed to be attached to any Picatinny or Weaver-style rail. The system acquires shooting data on pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns, using Wi-Fi connections for real-time data. In addition, shooting strings are recorded creating a history of the shooter’s performance for review and analysis.
The MantisX Firearms Training System sensor tracks the movement of the firearm during the following critical moments of shooting:
- tracking while the firearm is held during aiming
- movement during the trigger pull
- aim point at the moment of firing
- movement immediately after the shot.
The real-time data from MantisX can be used to analyze individual shots or full strings of shooting. The feedback is based on a calibrated “zero” established by the MantisX system at the beginning of the set-up process.
Most shooters have at one time been exposed to an instructor or training aid describing what is causing shots to go off target. These charts point out where the shooter is putting in too much or too little input into their grip or trigger squeeze causing the firearm (most often a handgun) to move during trigger squeeze and recoil.
Though these charts are beneficial to make the shooter generally aware of why shots may be off-target, the information is post-shooting, and rarely provides a completely accurate assessment of what the shooter is doing to miss shots. For instance, these charts are mostly designed for one-handed shooting by the indicated hand. A 2-handed shooting stance really starts to interfere with the reliability of these charts, as support hand influence plays a big role.
This is where the MantisX Firearms Training System really shines and outperforms most other guides on the market. The MantisX provides a shooter critical information on each individual shot – before, during, and after trigger break. This information can be viewed after individual shots by instructors or shooters to identify areas of improvement.
In addition, instead of simply dialing a shooter in for static, slow target shooting, the MantisX can be used in much more complex shooting strings as well. When body movement and displacement occur, multiple targets are engaged, and magazine changes are required, the MantisX can still teach the shooter critical information about their performance (see below).
Getting Started with MantisX
When you buy the MantisX Firearms Training System you will get everything you need to set up the training aid. The MantisX system comes in a very nice Pelican 1010 storage case to ensure your sensor remains very well protected while stored or carried. Inside the Pelican case you will find the following:
- MantisX Firearms Training System sensor
- USB-to-mini cord for downloading recorded sessions to a computer/storage device
- two mounting screws – one standard-screw, one enlarged head
- one page of mounting, download, and operation instructions.
The MantisX sensor sits inside a custom-cut piece of foam inside the Pelican 1010 case. The USB cord rests on top of the sensor and will allow the shooter to store recorded shooting sessions. The USB cord is also the method of recharging the MantisX sensor, so keep that in mind for a long day of shooting.
The two included mounting screws will be stored underneath the sensor. The first is a simple standard-head screw, while the second is an enlarged head with ridges for hand-tightening. The second option is great for times when you may not have a standard screwdriver handy. Finally, a simple set of instructions is included.
Mounting and calibrating the MantisX sensor to the app can be completed in about 10 minutes. The MantisX app is free from either the App Store or Google Play. The MantisX Firearms Training System has an MSRP of $149.99. The process looks like this:
- Download the app (MantisX) from the App Store or Google Play.
- Attach the sensor to your firearm
- Turn on the sensor by briefly pressing the button on the bottom of the sensor.
- Open the MantisX app, and press “Connect.” Then leave the firearm stationary on a flat surface for a few seconds to allow the sensor to calibrate (zero).
- After calibration occurs, press the “Start” button on the app to start collecting data.
- When you’re done with a round of shooting, press “Stop” and begin analyzing your data.
- Press “Reset” between rounds of shooting to store previous data for review.
How to Mount the MantisX Sensor
Most modern semi-auto handguns come with a rail system for mounting weapon lights or lasers. Simply slide the MantisX sensor onto the rail, align the slots, and tighten the selected screw until firmly attached. Some revolvers have a rail attachment, but others may require some gun-smithing to be able to use this system. Most modern rifles and shotguns have the ability to mount Picatinny or Weaver rails, which can then be used to secure the MantisX.
A great advantage of the MantisX system is the ability to mount the sensor on any side of the firearm. The MantisX app will ask where the sensor is located, and then will adjust readings accordingly to ensure proper “zero.” The sensor can be mounted facing either direction. The “Forward” mount is when the USB port faces the trigger guard. When the USB port faces away from the firearm it is the “Backwards” mount.
If you have a semi-auto pistol without an incorporated rail you can use to still take advantage of this system by using the MantisX MagRail. This is a universal Picatinny floor plate for your pistol magazine and allows the MantisX sensor to mount onto the bottom of your magazine. The MantisX MagRail is an extra cost.
Next, the shooter presses the button on the bottom side of the MantisX sensor. The sensor has a small pinhole window adjacent to the on/off button. The green LED flashes indicating the sensor is on and ready to calibrate. To turn the MantisX sensor off, simply press in the on/off button and hold for 1-3 seconds. When the green light goes out you know the sensor is off. Here is the key to understanding the MantisX lights:
- Solid Green LED – Sensor is on and connected to the App
- Flashing Green LED – Sensor is on but not connected to the App
- No LED – Sensor is off or charging
- Solid Red LED – Battery is low
- Three Quick Flashing Red LED – Battery died or is dead when attempting to turn on
- Orange LED – Sensor is charging
- Green LED – Sensor is fully charged.
Connecting to the MantisX App
The MantisX system requires its free app, which can be found at the App Store or Google Play. Once downloaded to your device, press the icon to turn on the app. When the MantisX sensor is on, press the “Connect” button on the MantisX app to sync them together. Once the app is synced to the sensor, the sensor’s green LED will turn solid green instead of flashing.
The app will then instruct the shooter to place their firearm (with the MantisX sensor attached) on a level surface for a few seconds to calibrate. Calibration creates the “zero.” The MantisX app will then instruct the shooter to press “Start,” and the system is ready to record and analyze shooting data.
MantisX App Options
The MantisX App is divided into four actions, accessed at the bottom of your device screen:
The “Train” function is the fun part – shooting. As the shooter fires, the MantisX app will receive data from the MantisX sensor attached to your firearm. Individuals or groups of shots can be viewed and analyzed since the information is received immediately after each shot.
The MantisX even comes with several programmed shooting drills that are perfect for practicing the fundamentals and providing great recording opportunities for the shooter. These include:
- Open Training – Untimed, any number of shots, with precision as a goal
- MantisX Benchmark – Untimed (10) shots, focusing on trigger pull
- Timed Benchmark – (5, 8, 10 shots), shooting accurately as fast as you can
- Compressed Surprise Break – (5, 8, 10, 15 shots), trigger press on each buzzer
- Reload in Battery – On the buzzer, drop the mag, reload new mag, fire one shot quickly
- Reload out of Battery – On the buzzer, Slide locked to the rear, reload and fire one shot quickly
- Reload tactical – On the buzzer, eject/catch mag, load new mag, stow old mag, fire once
- Primary hand only – precision one-hand shooting with the primary hand, timed
- Support hand only – precision one-hand shooting with the support hand, timed.
Each one of these pre-set training sessions has an attached video to explain and show the drill to be performed. More details on “Train” are covered in the next section.
“History” is the recordings of previous shooting performances. After a string of shooting the shooter can press “Reset” on the MantisX app. This stores data from the first string, and prepares a separate record for the next string.
Scores are both numerical and mapped dots on a simulated ringed target. A running total is listed at the top of the screen. Individual sessions are dated and timed and include the number of shots and average score (out of 100) below the mapping target. A “Filter” option is available at the top of the screen, allowing the shooter to refine their study even further. The shooter can select their right or left-handed shooting, firearm type (handgun, rifle, etc.), and even live from dry-fire training.
“History” can be downloaded to your computer or another storage device for ongoing review using the provided USB cord, allowing shooters to evaluate their scores after making adjustments and compare them with previous records.
In the “Learn” section, the user will find a classic shooting wheel divided into sections. Touching one of the sections will reveal both a picture and a narrative explaining the shooting error, consistent with shots landing in that section. In addition, the method to correct this shooting error is explained as well.
In “Settings” the individual shooter tells the system how they plan on shooting so even more specific data and analysis can be provided. This includes the type of firearm being used (even entering the make/model/caliber), and which hand you will be shooting. Options for live-fire, dry-fire, and even CO2 firing (Airsoft) are provided, so the system can calibrate accordingly. Where the sensor was mounted and in what position (forward or backward) are the final specifications.
In “Advanced Settings” the user can change shot detection from “Normal” to “High.” Additionally, you can mark “Bullseye Mode” on or off. This will help achieve better results from either slow and well-aimed shots, to more dynamic shooting.
Shooting and Scoring with the MantisX
During the “Training” session the shooter will focus on the fundamentals and proper shot placement. Each shot provides detailed information on firearm movement prior to the shot, during trigger pull, at the point of firing, and after the shot is fired. The MantisX Firearms Training System records information covering these topics:
The “score” for each shot is based upon how consistent the shooter maintained their firearm during trigger pull in comparison to the MantisX sensor’s leveled zero. Think of it as the sensor monitoring a laser’s position on target, just without the laser.
The closer to the sensor’s “zero” when the shooter fires their weapon, the higher the shooter’s score (out of 100). MantisX developers advise a perfect 100 is almost impossible due to the shooter’s natural arc of movement, so don’t go crazy trying for 100!
The “direction” for each shot is determined based upon where the barrel was pointing prior to, during, and after the shot. This information is then sent to the app for recording and will show up in two graphs.
The first graph is like a laser pointer recording of the movement of the firearm during the phases of the trigger pull. The blue line indicates the movement of the firearm while being held prior to the shot. The yellow line indicates movement during trigger pull and firing. Finally, the red line indicates firearm movement after the shot has broken. This type of information really helps the shooter or instructor understand any deficiencies in grip, stance, trigger pull and more.
The examples in the pictures above were from a string of rapidly fired shots. The blue lines indicate I was bringing the handgun back down onto target fairly consistently. The yellow line indicates once I was on target I did a pretty good job of maintaining an accurate aiming point while squeezing the trigger. The red line reflects the recoil and movement of the pistol after the shot. Considering the shots were rapid-fire, I’m pretty happy with this string of scoring.
It’s interesting to see the movement after the shot breaks is first to the right, and then upward. This tells me I’m putting a little extra squeeze in my trigger hand, and it will eventually affect my ability and speed to get the pistol back onto the target for follow-up shots. Overall though, the MantisX showed I was moving the pistol in a fairly centered manner and was able to lock onto my target and squeeze off a round with good shooting fundamentals.
The second graph places lighted bars in the sector the barrel was pointing during the shot on the shooting wheel scoreboard. My 25-shot example above recorded most of my shots with the muzzle pointing down and to the right. My overall score of only 50.4 shows this string of shots was not very accurate to the “zero” obtained by MantisX sensor during calibration.
However, there is some important information from the data above that would likely be missed if an instructor was simply relying on watching the shooter, and then examining the results based upon a paper guide. Though most of my shots are down and to the right, there are a significant number of shots showing down and to the left.
This particular 25-shot string was a multiple target exchange, moving to and using cover, and incorporating magazine changes. This was also under time constraints. With all that movement there were times my support hand was putting too much input into the shot and that is when my shots went down and to the left (I am a right-hand dominant shooter).
Now I have a much clearer picture of my shooting performance, and can even go back to individual shots (matched up to where I was at the time of the shot), and learn more about my body movement, and hand movement during those shots. With that information, I can really start dialing in my weaknesses and start getting even dynamic shots on target more accurately! This type of information is often missed by other shooting aids, particularly the ability to analyze individual shots rather than just a group as a whole.
The final piece of feedback from the MantisX system is the “Suggestion” on how to correct identified deficiencies. In the picture above MantisX has suggested the cause of my poorly aimed shots is “Tightening Grip.” This is located in the lower-left area of my phone screen under the “Possible Causes.” I can now use this information to practice making shots without over-input from my grip and then compare with the results from these strings of fire.
Sure enough, I know I tend to get a little excited in rapid-fire and multiple-target scenarios, which leads me to tighten my grip a little too much during trigger squeeze. This information also lets me know I sometimes overcompensate with my support hand. This is a tendency I have to overcome, especially when I’m fighting the clock to get my shots finished. With this information, I can begin to train these bad habits out of my shooting stance while on the range, and not out on the streets where it really counts!
The best method of using the MantisX Firearms Training System is to begin slowly. For the best results the shooter should exercise the core fundamentals of shooting:
- Breathing control
- Proper grip
- Sight alignment and target acquisition
- Trigger squeeze
- Recoil management
Firearms Instructor Application
When I showed off the MantisX Firearms Training System to my local Range Master and Firearms Instructors, they all were intrigued but also curious about the application. Once I began to shoot with the MantisX and we could see the results displayed immediately after each shot, they quickly began to see the benefits of using this shooting aid during instruction.
By recording individual shooting scores, the instructors can guide a student shooter before and after each shot with much more clarity. Instructing the student to take shots one at a time, or in a slow and methodical aimed method, the firearms instructor can watch the shooter directly and then refer to each shots score and muzzle tracker. The instructor can pause the shooting cycle if the movement is too great, and spend time explaining the shooting errors with the student using the graphs from the MantisX.
The collection of “History” is an excellent tool for instructors who work routinely with the same shooters. Prior to each new instructing session, an instructor can review previous shooting history and set a plan of action for more specified instruction based upon that individual shooter’s tendencies.
The real-time movement tracker is perhaps the most advantageous feature of the MantisX, and why it really excels over other options. The tracker allows the shooter to see how they are moving during the shooting cycle. Sometimes guidance from an instructor is not enough or could be misinterpreted in some fashion. Showing the shooter their firearm movements allows them to see exactly how and why their input is effecting their shot placement. As the student improves it is also a great way to track progress.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned shooter, starting off shooting slowly with well-aimed shots allows the MantisX to provide the most accurate information about shooter movement during the firing sequence. From those best-aimed shots, the shooter can learn the most accurate information on their deficiencies.
The MantisX can be calibrated for left-handed shooters, so there is no need to try to flip the results and make them fit into the right-handed shooter’s model. Though not designed for off-handed shooting, I found I could spend a little extra time analyzing the results and still gain good insights. The results are not exact though, so it’s best to simply use the MantisX when calibrated for one particular shooting style.
Dry Fire and the MantisX
Dry firing is an excellent form of firearms training. I know there some shooters who swear against it, and even some firearms manufacturers that caution against it, proper dry firing can produce amazing benefits to the shooter’s accuracy and completion of the fundamentals. When properly conducted, dry firing can allow the shooter to see the movement in their firearm during trigger pull. From the observed movement, knowledge can be obtained to correct the movement, to the point of nearly eliminating movement during the trigger pull.
The MantisX system is particularly designed to provide feedback during shooting exercises, but the makers specifically mention dry-firing in the instructions. The ability to use the MantisX during dry firing is huge. In addition to simply watching for movement while practicing trigger pull, the MantisX will add incredibly detailed data and feedback to dial shooters in. All of this training can be performed at no cost of ammunition, and in the comforts of home or the shooter’s preferred training area.
If you are looking for a MantisX system purely for dry fire training, I recommend you look at the Mantis X2 system. Check out the article Mantis X2 Review: Dry Fire Done Right for more information.
An interesting training combination would be the MantisX system and the Civilian Training Ammunition from UTM. The training ammo is designed for close-range training without the need for more expensive centerfire ammo. Read my UTM Civilian Training Ammunition review to see if that product might work for your training needs.
Potential Limitations of the MantisX
The MantisX Firearms Training System has a huge potential for improving the shooter’s ability to correct shooting errors and get better with the shooting fundamentals and accuracy. However, I did find a few potential limitations of the system.
The MantisX relies on a calibration “zero” based upon the calibration of the firearm starting in a still and level position. Conducting static and well-aimed shooting drills allows the MantisX its best chance to produce high-quality data and feedback. However, if the shooter is conducting more dynamic drills with more movement, the data requires much more effort for insight.
For example, the 50.4 score (pictured before in this article) would seem to indicate a wildly inaccurate string of shooting. That was during the moving, displacing, magazine changes and multiple targets drill. However, two observers watching my shot placement noted my shots were striking within a well-defined target zone.
We use the F-TQ19ANT-MCSD target for qualifications and targets with human picture overlay for other training. The white, rectangular box across the upper chest is the primary targeting area. My shots were striking in this area, despite my less-than-ideal shooting platform (and muzzle control) recorded by the MantisX. Obviously, being only 5-7 yards away is a big factor.
In addition, it is quite frequent during position shooting (standing, kneeling, sitting, prone), or shooting around barricades, for the firearm and shooter’s body to be canted off to one side. Non-level angles can create a shooting platform misaligned with the original calibration, resulting in somewhat skewed results.
The MantisX Firearms Training System has proven to be a very valuable range tool. Even for experienced shooters, the MantisX will be able to record and identify any shooting weaknesses and provide good recommendations for correction. Unlike paper shooting guides, the MantisX data is much more detailed and useable only milliseconds after each shot.
Shooters can monitor their electronic devices for results after each shot. Instructors/observers can quickly point out deficiencies and remedies. Data can immediately be placed into action on subsequent shots for more accurate shooting.
History logs are also an enormously beneficial feature. The MantisX allows a historical review of problems, as well as your successes. Graphing allows shooters to track progress and set goals.
Everything from slow and deliberate shots intended for accuracy and best results, to a full-on shooting, moving, and displacing drill, the MantisX was able to provide important feedback to help me understand my shooting platform.
If you only shoot 1-2 times a year and are happy if most of your shots hit the target somewhere, this may not be a tool for you. For everyone else, the MantisX could be the difference-maker in better shooting fundamentals and more accurate shots. BlueSheepdog recommends the MantisX Firearms Training System.
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