Even for the most seasoned shooter, the training should never end but with the high cost of courses, availability of ammunition, and limited time at the range, it can be difficult to find opportunities to work in the training we need.
Mantis aims to solve this problem by offering a unique lineup of training aids, that no matter if you are training with dry or live-fire exercises, is able to provide accurate feedback instantaneously and ultimately guidance to help make you a better shooter.
If you only read this, know that the Mantis X3 is super easy to mount and take off, the initial setup is very intuitive, the available drills offer a wealth of opportunity, and the performance feedback is extremely valuable in helping you increase your shooting performance. Combine all of this together and you have a great opportunity to increase your skills and capabilities even though it may have a few limitations you should be aware of such as compatibility issues with certain holsters.
The Mantis X3 makes some big claims, and with a price tag of around $170, let’s see if Mantis are deserving of a place within your training routine or if they fall short of producing a perfect training aid.
What is the Mantis X Line Up?
Looking at the Mantis, it can be hard to understand exactly how much power is contained within such an incredibly small and unassuming black box, so what is the Mantis designed to do?
Most simply put, the Mantis line up is intended to track the movement of your pistol both before and after your trigger pull then using this data assess how stable your weapons platform in order to predict the accuracy of your virtual shot down range.
While the Mantis X3 we are reviewing today is incredibly powerful, supporting live and dry fire exercises on both pistol and rifle platforms, Mantis offers a wide range of training aids for use with pistols all the way to compound bows.
|Mantis X2||Mantis X3||Mantis X7||Mantis X10 Elite|
|CO2 Air Pistol||X||X||X|
Regardless of what platform you use, the information collected during your training session is passed over to your smartphone and processed to provide you critical advice to correct mistakes with your shooting through a range of photos and videos.
It’s arguable this feedback will never be as good as having a trained professional working on your side but it can be vital to help make up for the time between training sessions where an instructor is unavailable.
We’ll look at how much this feedback can actually help you improve as a shooter, but for now, let’s move onto the very important topic of compatibility.
What is the Mantis X compatible with and how does it mount?
Before we even begin looking at the functionality of the X3 unit and assessing its use as a training aid, it’s important to understand that the Mantis line-up of tools is not for everyone straight out of the box.
All Mantis-X products (from the X2 to the X10) are intended to mount directly to the 20mm Picatinny rail found on most modern pistols and rifles, in place of other accessories such as an under-rail light or laser, meaning if you’re missing one of these rails you may be out of luck.
Fortunately, Mantis is well aware of this limitation and offers a huge range of adaptors to help those struggling to fit their device to their weapon.
These adaptors include universal barrel mounts, custom magazine base plates, and perhaps most impressively bore mounts, which can be inserted into the barrel of almost any weapons platform for use with dry fire training.
Once you find the right location to mount the module on your weapon, Mantis makes it incredibly easy to both take on and off thanks to a simple push-button on the base of the device, which is a much-needed upgrade from the previous model which used screws to mount onto your weapon.
While the Mantis X3 may need some modification to get it working with your platform of choice, Mantis is sure to have you covered to ensure that no matter what you are training, their devices are always there to help you and never get in the way of your training.
Initial Set-Up of the Mantis X
One of the first things you’ll notice once you’ve unboxed the Mantis X3 is how premium the device and its experience feels, and for the price, you shouldn’t expect any less.
Once removed from the custom Mantis case and attached to your weapon, it really is as simple as logging into the app and connecting your device. Then you’re ready to go.
Mantis recommends first undergoing their introductory course, which consists of three training drills to help get you used to the app and data readouts, including:
- 5 Open Training Dry Fire Drill
- 10 Shot Benchmark Test
- 10 Shot Support Hand Drill
Once complete, the app quickly demonstrates how to review your training data before giving you free rein to run as many drills as you want with your training session.
While the introductory course can be extremely useful and should arguably one of the first things you do with the app, it’s worth heading over to the settings tab before starting anything.
Here, you can adjust various settings within the app, including your weapon, mounting location, and hand dominance.
The app does work without customizing the settings to your weapons platform of choice, but knowing the placement of the X3 on your weapon and your handedness helps improve the accuracy of the data it captures during training.
This dramatically improves the feedback it gives you to become a better shooter.
Mantis X Drills
One of the most appealing factors of dry fire is its ability to help build upon skills that are crucial when you get to the range, but just like when you’re at the range, knowing exactly what drills may help you can be difficult to identify.
There’s nothing wrong with using the huge amount of resources online to find and copy free drills, but Mantis goes one step further by integrating a huge selection of drills directly into their app, with extremely clear written tutorials and virtually no set up.
These drills are designed to cover everything from simple trigger stabilization and weapons presentation to even more complex drills such as sight alignment and target acquisition.
Each drill offers three different levels of difficulty, with varying accuracy and time requirements, meaning no matter what you are looking to train, Mantis has something for you.
My personal favorite drills include support hand practice, which is a crucial skill during an encounter if you’re hit, and hostage rescue drills that serve as incredibly fun time trials that help improve your draw speed, as well as your accuracy.
Drills are taken one step further as you are able to easily add other users through the app in order to compete and train with your friends.
This isn’t an area I’ve made much use of, but much like other aspects of their app, the user interface is incredibly clean making it very easy to find new users with only the tap of a few buttons.
Overall, the drills included in the Mantis app works incredibly well and provides a great starting point for shooters new to the world of dry firing, but that does not mean there is no room for improvement.
Mantis includes an open training section for those who want to track their data while following custom drills, but I can’t help but feel there should be some way to create your own drills in the app so that once you’ve moved beyond the capabilities of the app, it can still be of use to you.
Data Analysis and Feedback
The Mantis app provides a huge library of training exercises, making it an extremely valuable tool for your smartphone. However, what truly sets it apart from other apps and training aids is the feedback Mantis provides. But, is the feedback of any value to you as a shooter?
From the main page, the X3 gives you an overall score, time between shots, and a visual representation of your shot from the moment you start squeezing the trigger all the way through to the reset.
This page is useful, however, to actually implement the feedback into your training we need to move over to the next two pages in order to get a full breakdown of your shots.
The first page is arguably the most important as it provides you with an overall score for your entire training session and connects you to the world of training advice offered by Mantis.
All of the guidance included on this page is incredibly clear with both written and video instructions, demonstrating both the right and wrong methods of shooting so you can easily make corrections.
Moving on from your statistical data, Mantis provides visual tracings of your shot so you can directly see weaknesses in your stance and any tendencies you have to pull your weapon off target.
Tracing like this works exceptionally well in dry fire, but is perhaps even more useful during live-fire exercises as the Mantis provides critical information regarding how you handle recoil to get better consecutive shots downrange.
It would be nice to see a greater breakdown of your results within the app, such as the average time between shots, but all the information provided to you (both within the app and on the Mantis website) is extremely valuable and can be of great value to help make you a better shooter.
Will Mantis help you shoot better?
So, now knowing how easily the Mantis X3 is to use, as well as the information it provides to you, we come to the biggest question of this review.
Will the X3 help you shoot better?
From my experience with Mantis, this has to be a resounding yes, as it addresses the biggest weaknesses commonly associated with training alone, which is the potential risk of developing negative habits that cannot easily be unlearnt.
It’s not a perfect trainer and could never completely replace a full course. However, when you can’t get to the range, or find time with an instructor for whatever reason, it works as an excellent tool to keep your skills honed and your shots accurate.
One of the most common times I find myself using the Mantis X3 is when I’m abroad in areas such as Europe, with extremely tight gun restrictions.
This is largely because of the X3’s ability to work extremely well with CO2 air pistols, meaning even when I am unable to physically get my hands on a weapon, my training does not have to stop.
Whatever your style of training, the Mantis X3 is arguably one of the best additions you can have to your set up. But, no matter how powerful the X3 is, no tool is without its limitations.
Let’s look at some of the weaknesses you might run into if you go with the Mantis training aid.
The limitations of Mantis X
All in all, the Mantis X3 is a great tool whether you are completely new to shooting or a seasoned veteran, but no tool is without its weaknesses.
We’ve already discussed compatibility issues with the Mantis X3 and the lack of custom drills within the app, but on the whole, Mantis takes great steps to prevent these from getting in the way of your training experience.
So what can slow you down and prevent you from training?
The biggest problem we’ve run into during our time with the Mantis X3 has come in the form of detection.
Although rare, the Mantis will occasionally fail to recognize a trigger pull during dry fire exercises meaning it is possible to go through an entire training session with almost no data collected to show for it at the end.
Mantis again address this on their website, claiming between an 80% to 97% detection rate, but I’ve found whenever the X3 runs into trouble, it’s often as easy as recalibrating the device or restarting the app to get everything running smoothly again.
Even with problems such as this, it’s hard to fault Mantis in their delivery of the product.
As they continue to develop both the app and detection algorithms, pushing out regular software updates to users, it’s safe to say this detection rate and more importantly, the overall user experience is only going to improve with time.
Finally, the last problem most people may experience with the X3 again comes back to an issue with compatibility, but this time with holsters.
As most of us will mount the X3 on the front rail of a pistol, the added material can prevent your weapon from being placed in a holster and therefore make it difficult to practice weapon presentation.
If you already run a weapon light as part of your EDC, the X3 should still be able to fit comfortably within your normal holster.
But for those of us who run without a weapon-mounted light, or have custom fitting holsters, we’re left either needing to buy a base plate adaptor to free up the front of our weapon or invest in a new holster.
All in all, even with the problems you may run into with the Manis X3, it’s hard to criticize the company as they truly are one of the best out there for addressing customer feedback and continually striving to make one of the best training tools on the market.
Alternatives to Mantis X
Mantis offers an extremely unique tool for training that is extremely hard to beat except by time with a well-trained instructor. As with anything, this comes with a price and may not be for everyone.
Fortunately, while the X3 is a relatively niche tool, there is still a huge amount of alternatives available on the market to augment your training and help take you to the next level.
We’ve talked about these alternatives in an earlier article. Almost all other devices rely on lasers to provide visible feedback during your dry fire training in order to predict where your round would hit at the range and help you assess how well you are shooting.
The system is expensive, starting at just over $100. It integrates much easier into your weapon system but fails to offer anywhere near the amount of information provided to you by Mantis.
LaserHIT is another alternative training aid that aims to fulfill an almost identical role as the LaserLyte, but it goes far beyond the simple target system by using the camera of your smartphone.
This allows the system to go one step further than both the Mantis and LaserLyte through recording your shot placement in order to provide scores based on both your accuracy and shot time.
The data you collect from either of these devices struggle to rival that of the Mantis, but for just over half the price of the X3, they may be a great option for those looking to take dry fire more seriously without investing huge amounts of money.
Training at the range can go a long way to help you improve as a shooter, but to truly get the most out of your weapon, dry fire exercises are critical to helping you hone the fundamentals and become the best shooter you could possibly be.
While expensive, Mantis offers an extremely unique tool that goes far beyond the alternatives available on the market to help you get the most out of both your dry and live-fire training, meaning no matter where you find yourself, the training never has to stop.
If the Mantis X3 has got you interested in the power of dry fire as a training method, be sure to check out our recent article as we give you an introduction to dry fire and its safety.