I’m not always the biggest fan of dry-fire. It’s not that dry-fire doesn’t work. It does. When done correctly, dry-fire can produce a high level of competence when it comes to weapons manipulations. My issue is a question of what results can you achieve for your effort. Hear me out for a second before you scowl and close the browser window in disgust.
My first issue with dry-fire is the fact that there can be a feedback deficit for the shooter. Plain and simple, if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for when it comes to dry-fire, you can easily reinforce bad habits instead of creating good ones.
My second beef is that with most guns you only get a single trigger pull before you have to break your grip and rack the gun. It gets tedious and can be a habit issue as well. Finally, dry-fire has a steep learning curve when it comes to safety. One misstep and you can loose a round where you don’t want one going. So as a result, I’m careful when I recommend dry-fire. For some folks the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
An Elephant in the Room
When I think about dry-fire and me, I also have to factor in the paint-drying effect. Yeah, I said it. Dry-fire can be boring. But it doesn’t have to be so.
When it comes to pistols, I’ve spent a bunch of time messing around with Mantis products. My favorite for pistols is the Mantis X10 Elite. This little unit measures firearm movement before, during and after the shot breaks during dry-fire. It can analyze your draw stroke and even measure recoil and other factors during live fire. It pairs with Mantis’ Laser Academy and provides a whole dry-fire training system. Pretty cool.
The X10 Elite can also work with long guns.
Recently, I reached out to the folks at Mantis to talk about their new product for the AR-15, the Mantis Blackbeard. The Mantis Blackbeard is an auto trigger-resetting laser module and power pack that replaces the bolt carrier group, charging handle and magazine of your AR-15. It allows for positive visual feedback during safe dry-fire practice, force on paper, or force-on-force training, resetting the hammer and allowing you to pull the trigger as you would with live-fire.
When it comes to the AR, the Blackbeard makes dry-fire safer, it deals with trigger reset like a champ, and it provides feedback in a way that makes dry-fire an immensely beneficial tool. It is available in red, green, IR and no-laser versions.
I like to look at safety in a conceptual manner. The big idea of safety revolves around ensuring that the benefits of your actions significantly outweigh the possible risks. The Mantis Blackbeard removes my concern for safety issues during dry-fire. Because of how the Blackbeard is designed, it adds additional layers of protection on top of already existing dry-fire protocols.
The Blackbeard replaces the bolt and charging handle of your AR with a hunk of plastic that cannot chamber or fire a round. In addition, the Blackbeard is powered by a battery housed in a magazine-shaped power pack. When the power pack is in place, it’s impossible to insert a loaded magazine.
While the Blackbeard’s inherent safety is robust, I’m not suggesting this replace typical dry-fire safety protocols. Instead, the Blackbeard should be considered an additional safety margin that extends beyond the repetitive verification that firearms are unloaded, and that ammunition is removed from the dry-fire area.
Strict attention to redundant layers of safety is what reduces risk. In my opinion, the Blackbeard and the way it is designed makes it ideal for dry-fire as well as force-on-paper and force-on-force use when coupled with the proper safety protocols.
Automatic Trigger Reset
So, my next issue with dry-fire is constantly needing to reset the dang trigger and cock the firing mechanism. When it comes to defensive shooting, it may not be a one-shot affair. I get that dry-fire is never going to teach you to manage recoil (please see the “Dry-Fire Safety” section to ensure it doesn’t), but we do need dry-fire to help us follow through and perfect our trigger control. Breaking our grip to reset the trigger works directly against our need to follow through.
The Blackbeard handles resetting the trigger for you, up to 10 times a second. You get to press your AR trigger again and again without ever having to break your grasp on the rifle. Not only is this convenient, but it also helps to address the follow-through issue I mentioned above. In addition, the Mantis Blackbeard allows you to work on things like target transitions without missing a beat. I really appreciate that.
The trigger is reset using battery power supplied by the magazine-shaped power supply. And this reset doesn’t change your trigger press. The reset is a bit different and took me a bit to get used to. It seems to me to be more of a solid and forceful push. I don’t think this change has a significant impact on my ability to train with the Blackbeard. However, it is worth mentioning.
Real-Time Visual Feedback
Dry-fire is difficult and intense work that requires precise attention to tiny visual details. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there to wake up in the middle of a dry-fire session and realize that I had spent the last several minutes simply going through the motions.
You have to be paying attention to what you are doing to get the benefit. The Mantis Blackbeard helps with this. Every time the trigger is pressed, the laser module is activated, and a laser pulse is released and sent from the module through the chamber and out of the muzzle. With the red or green Blackbeard units, this laser pulse is visible on the target. In the case of the infrared module, the pulse will be invisible to the eye but detected by your IR laser training system if you have one.
The real-time visual feedback that Mantis Blackbeard provides is an important training aid. One of the more difficult things to learn about the AR-15 is mastering the offset. Because of the design of the AR, the optic or iron sights sit above the bore. This means that the shooter has to compensate for this difference at distances closer than the distance the optic is zeroed at.
Mastering your hold-over is a constant challenge as it changes with the circumstances. Your distance from the target impacts the hold-over, and the size of the target changes the significance of the offset.
The Blackbeard gives an immediate indication of where your round would have hit compared to where your sights were placed. This is invaluable information that allows you to immediately correct your hold-over to get the hit you need.
This is my greatest use for the Blackbeard. I spend a lot of time with my Springfield Armory Saint Victor SBR, changing distances and target sizes ensuring that I get hits. In addition to working the offset of my optic, I am able to do exactly the same with my DBAL A3 laser. This practice is invaluable and simple to accomplish.
The best part is it doesn’t cost you any money beyond the initial investment in the Blackbeard, and you can practice practically anywhere. The immediacy of the feedback and the convenience of the system mean that developing solid fundamentals is virtually barrier-free.
If you want to take the feedback of the Blackbeard a step further, combine it with the Mantis Laser Academy training system.
From my opening, you can probably guess that I’m not the biggest fan in the world of dry-fire. Don’t misunderstand me; I know it has benefits. I also know I need to make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze. But traditional dry-fire tends to put me to sleep.
Mantis has changed that. Their systems provide feedback that allows you to make improvements in your shooting without having to have a master’s degree in shootology. With today’s busy lifestyles and the cost and availability of ammunition, the Blackbeard only makes sense.
The Mantis Blackbeard is affordable. The red laser Blackbeard has an MSRP of $219. In today’s world that equates to 365 rounds of .556. A bargain. The green and infrared versions are a bit more expensive at $249. If you are looking for daytime use at distance, the green might be a worthy upgrade as green lasers tend to be more visible. There is a $199 no laser version, but I think it makes sense to spend the extra $20 on the laser for the extra features. If you don’t want the laser, simply tape the barrel to block it.
Regardless of which Blackbeard you choose, you’re going to find it a benefit to your dry-fire program. The Blackbeard adds layers of safety to your dry-fire, resets the trigger automatically and gives the kind of visual feedback you need to improve your shooting. It’s products like the Blackbeard that make dry-fire more fun, safer and more beneficial.
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