I’m all about easy ways to train. When I reviewed the Mantis Laser Academy earlier this year, I found it to be a great way to train in the convenience of your own home. Specifically, without the cost of ammunition or the need for a range. Now I am happy to be one of the first to tell you about the Mantis BlackbeardX.
The Mantis BlackbeardX
For my first Mantis review, I had the 9mm adapter, which worked for a variety of handguns, and my Scorpion SBR. However, Mantis also had their Blackbeard system that works with the AR-15 platform. The Blackbeard uses a replacement training bolt and magazine and actually resets the trigger on each shot.
Now Mantis is taking the Blackbeard a step further with the addition of dynamic shooting modes with its new Blackbeard X.
The X Factor
If you already have a Blackbeard, you’re familiar with the excellent training modes already present with the system. The Blackbeard X still does all of the original training modes you’re used to but adds in a dynamic shooting mode.
This allows you to train on multiple target engagements and track how fast and smoothly you can transition between targets. New modes become available on your Mantis app as soon as you insert the new magazine.
The system consists of a replacement bolt and magazine assembly. Specifically, the red bolt replaces your regular bolt carrier and charging handle. It ensures that you can’t have live rounds in the gun. Likewise, there would be no way to fire one, even if one somehow remained in the chamber when you swapped carriers.
The red color is a visual confirmation that the gun is in training mode as well. If you can field strip your AR, then you can swap out the Blackbeard parts in seconds.
Slightly Different from the Original
If you have, or have looked at, the original Blackbeard, you’ll know that the training magazine was in the format of a 20-round magazine. The X model is easily differentiated since it’s patterned on a 30-round magazine.
The magazine is rechargeable via a Micro USB port on the side of the magazine. Charging it provides power to the bolt mechanism as well. A Micro USB charging cord is included just in case you don’t have a dozen or so already lying around the house from other electronics. Although, since it’s good for 100,000 shots between charges, you won’t need to look for that cable often.
If you already have a Blackbeard system, Mantis hasn’t left you hanging. You can buy a BlackbeardX mag from Mantis without having to buy a whole new kit. This gives you two mags so that you can practice reloads. Or they’ll also have a trade-in program so you can swap out your old Blackbeard mag for a BlackbeardX mag. Keep an eye on their website or social media for that program.
Blackbeard X Installation
Once you swap out your bolt carrier, you just need to insert your BlackbeardX mag into your mag well. I used my SIG M400 SBR for testing, but the system will work with any AR that uses a standard mag and bolt carrier. You’ll hear the bolt activate when the mag is inserted.
The bolt does a couple of important things. It engages the hammer to reset it between shots, and it has a laser that will show on the target when you fire. There’s a power button on the side of the magazine body that also activates Bluetooth. Make sure that’s on and then open the Mantis app on your smartphone or tablet.
When you hit the train button, you’ll see the list of training programs. At the top is listed BBX Dynamics. If you had the earlier Blackbeard, this will be a new option for you. More training options will be coming in the future as well.
Since I had used the Mantis Laser Academy before, but not the Blackbeard, I started with some of the basic drills. I ran a few drills on the 20-second benchmark, Shot Timer, and Open Training to sight in my device and get used to the system.
Aligning and Sighting In
If you don’t see the laser when you fire, or it’s coming out in a disbursed flashlight-like pattern, you may need to align the laser to your weapon’s bore, using the windage and elevation adjustment. I had issues with this at first, but a quick call to Mantis’s helpline got me squared away.
Sighting in after that was fairly simple. Just watch where your laser is hitting in relation to your sights and use the provided Allen wrench to adjust the windage and elevation via screws that are accessible through the open ejection port.
There’s also a switch that lets you select the laser function. You can either have it always on or just activate it with the trigger pull. The laser is available in red, green, infrared, or no visible light modes, depending on your preference. I chose green as it’s generally easiest for me to see.
Time to Engage
Once you’re sighted in, it’s time to shoot. While the Mantis BlackbeardX will work with the Laser Academy targets, they aren’t a requirement. You can use any targets you like with the BlackbeardX in the BBX Dynamics mode, or no targets at all.
If you always dreamed about shooting your spouse’s stupid knickknacks in the family room, feel free. All you need is an aiming point. Distance doesn’t matter either since the BBX Dynamics program is analyzing the technique of the shooter.
I used a Shot Placement Target from Advanced Gunslinger Industries that’s designed for multiple target engagement. I used magnets and stuck it to my storage cabinet in the basement. It worked quite well for the BBX Dynamics drills since it gave me multiple targets to transition between.
The Dynamics mode tracks two basic things: time between shots and economy of motion. The goal is to get on target fast with a minimum of wasted motion. You pick how many shots you want to fire and how many targets you want to engage, as long as it’s at least two.
Once your firing string is complete, you get a basic score and a list of times. Where it gets interesting is when you go into the History mode and look at the details.
Knowing the Score
You’ll see a list of your recent courses of fire, and when you select one, there are a series of charts and tables you can look at. The first is the basic one you see at the end of the shot sequence. Next is a series of diagrams showing your hits and the transition path between targets.
When you first view each shot, an animated line shows you the exact path your muzzle took before coming on target and firing. Optimally it should be a straight line between the two points.
The next chart breaks down how long you spend on each phase of your shooting. These phases include movement, how long you’re on target before you fire, and a few other things.
The data is good, but I do wish there was a better breakdown of what the various colors on the charts represented. If it’s there somewhere, I didn’t find it. Still, there’s lots of useful info; plenty enough to figure out what you need to work on most.
The BBX Dynamics results pretty much let you self-assess. You can see where you linger too long on target and where you overshoot or aren’t taking the shortest route when moving between targets. You can compare your results to prior sessions as well, so you can track improvement.
If you run some of the other drills from the original Blackbeard system, they’ll give you some further analysis. Not only do you get results but also suggestions on what you may be doing wrong. If you click on those suggestions, you’ll get a page describing the error and ways to correct it.
So, even if you buy a BlackbeardX for the dynamic shooting, don’t overlook the regular drills.
Train on Your Time
If you love the ability to train where and when you want, then any of the Mantis products are worth checking out. But if the AR is your primary platform, and you want to hone your speed and efficiency for multi-target engagement, then the Mantis BlackbeardX is a must-have tool.
One of the best things about the system is that it lets you train using your gun. You get invaluable training repetitions with your stock configuration, your sights or optics, and especially with your trigger.
I’m not going to say that the Mantis BlackbeardX is inexpensive, but if you compare the cost to a case of 5.56mm ammo, it makes sense. You’ll get a lifetime of training for about the cost of half a case of decent 5.56 these days. The BlackbeardX will start shipping on October 5th and carries a price tag of $349.00.
For more information, please visit MantisX.com.