"Get out and train!" That mantra is heard a lot in the pro 2A community. And it should be. If you own a firearm learn how to use it. If you plan to carry a firearm on a daily basis, you better be intimately familiar with it. God forbid you ever need to use your firearm to defend the lives of yourself and those you hold dear, but if you do, you better hit your mark as many times as it takes to live another day.
Marksmanship Fundamentals. Shooting is fun, but safety comes first. Hitting what you are shooting at keeps you safe as well as innocent bystanders. I feel that sometimes the fundamentals can get lost in all the social media, cool guy and cool gal images we are bombarded with daily. Dump the mag, get the sexy shot and # instagramthatshit. I am just as guilty.
So back to where we started. Get out and train… but don’t neglect the fundamentals. Not everyone has the budget or time to travel to a top notch training facility with a seasoned instructor. Those are priceless opportunities, but if you are anything like me, you have a busy life, a family and a budget. I should probably start sticking to mine… I digress, but the point is often we find ourselves not getting to the range as frequently as we would like. And when we do get there to throw a few rounds we might be by ourselves. Sometimes it can be hard to critique one’s self. If you have developed bad habits along the way, your self-analysis could actually be hurting your performance. I have some bad habits when it comes to shooting (I think most of us do) and they are hard to identify sometimes. They can be even harder to break.
That’s where training aids come in. There are lots of them out there. They could be something as simple as inducing a malfunction with a spent piece of brass on range day or daily dry fire practice in your home (keep that live ammo out of the equation!). Training aids can also be had in more complicated (and costly) options such as laser pistols and computer programs. Freaking laser beams ya’ll! If used properly, training aids can be very helpful. Not as helpful as your favorite instructor screaming at you to, "Get that gun up!", but helpful none-the-less.
Personally I dry fire a lot and will sometimes use a SIRT laser pistol based off the Glock 17. It’s purple. Don’t judge. While walking the booths at Industry day at the range this year I came across another training aid that showed promise. My editor and I were talking and walking and the Mantis booth caught our attention. They had a little dry fire shooting gallery set up using their MantisX Firearms Training System. Looked like fun. We took turns using the MantisX system with a CO2 operated pistol. We were shooting at a target that was about 48 inches away and getting data on a tablet showing us who was shooting better. While I won that competition the results weren’t stellar. I think I averaged 87 out of five shots. Humbling. But, I still came out on top.
How does it work? The MantisX system provides real time data to the shooter. The system is implemented using a few simple steps. First attach the device to your pistol or rifle of choice using the accessory rail. The device is smaller than a typical weapon mounted light and attaches easily. Next turn it on and connect it to your phone using their free app. The app works with Android and iOS. Tell the app what you are shooting. Rifle or pistol. You can use the system for dryfire, CO2 or live fire. Just tell the app. Right or wrong handed, position of the device and location. Label your firearm from a drop down menu. Shoot. Collect the data. Simple.
The device analyzes your shots based on your first point of impact. Shoot a string of shots at the same spot every time. That is the goal. The system will take each shot and break down the movement of the firearm and provide you with a score, graphs, pie charts and suggestions of how you could improve. It looks at your trigger press and break. It will show a breakdown of where your shots hit with a Possible Causes suggestion. For example, as a right handed shooter that hits left it will suggest, "Too little finger on the trigger." Or maybe the shots are high it will say, "Tightening Fingers." Regardless how you score you will always get feedback on how to improve.
Does it work? Absolutely. I received a test sample and put it to use on both dry fire and live fire sessions. I don’t have a CO2 pistol (need to fix that). I was impressed the MantisX was able to register the dry fire as the sound of a dry fired Glock isn’t that loud. At the live fire range my concern was other shooters affecting my score. On my first trip to the outdoor range I had two other shooters a few lanes down. Their shots had zero impact on the MantisX or my score. I cannot say for certain how it would perform at an indoor range as I have not shot at one with it.
I found the system provided legitimate feedback. I even purposefully tried to make the MantisX give me a specific critique. I squeezed the hell out of the pistol on my shots. It told me I was tightening my fingers. I purposefully flinched. It told me I was anticipating recoil. I could then look at my phone and see the results in a variety of ways. How did my gun track? What does my trigger press movement and hold movement look like? Score, impact location relative to aiming point and overall history. I would then correct using the system’s suggestion and my score would improve.
Now I must also say, it will always give you feedback. I don’t think I ever saw it say, "Hell yes! Keep doing that!" Even when I took my sweet ass time it would give me a suggestion. And probably warranted as I never scored 100. Not even sure if that is possible… My best average score on a five shot string was 94.0. Compare that to a score in the 70s and it is very easy to see what improvements need to be made.
Sounds expensive, but it’s not. It can be had for $149.99 (blaster and smart phone not included). It comes with the MantisX smart sensor, charging cable, little carabiner instructions all wrapped up in a micro pelican 1010 hard case. It comes with a 45-Day guarantee. I would say it is well worth the investment and is a great way to get honest feedback. While my time with it was focused on getting self-critique, it would also be a useful tool for someone working with a new shooter. Start them on the fundamentals and dry fire, then work up to live fire giving them tangible information they can process because they can actually see what they are doing. This could also be useful in group settings such as agency training sessions. I could see academies using this to track how the recruits are improving during their firearms courses of instruction. The great thing about this system is it is expandable. The algorithms could be improved, more movements can be analyzed and more information processed which is more data translated back to the shooter. That is the beauty of technology. I think Mantis has a winner on their hands. But more importantly, they can help you become a winner. And winners are Ricky Bobby approved.
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