You can have the best gear in the world but that isn’t going to make up for your lack of proficiency if you don’t practice. That only comes from proper and regular training. Let’s face it though, for many of us training as often as we’d like is hard. There’s the issue of time to break away and get to the range, the availability of range facilities, and of course range fees and rising ammo costs. For that reason, dry fire training is the next best thing.
The Mantis Dry Fire Training Solution
The folks at Mantis have been working to help out with that for a while now. I first ran into them at SHOT Show a few years back with their MantisX training system. This is a device that bolts on a Picatinny rail and works in conjunction with your smartphone to give you feedback on your grip, trigger pull, and other aspects of good marksmanship.
It could be used either as a dry fire trainer or with live ammo on the range. It’s a great learning tool. Well, the latest product from Mantis, the Mantis Laser Academy, takes things a step further.
The Mantis Laser Academy
The Mantis Laser Academy is a kit that allows you to transform just about any location into a practice range. Not just any range either, but a dynamic interactive one where you can compete with friends. Let’s take a look at what the kit contains:
Standard Kit Contents:
- Full Access code to Mantis Laser Academy app
- Pink Rhino laser in .380 ACP, 9mm, .38 Special, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP. or .223/5.56mm
- Complete set of 5″x7″ Laser Academy Smart Targets
- Complete set of 8″x11″ Laser Academy Smart Targets
- Mini tripod and smartphone holder
- Large tripod and smartphone holder
- Laser cartridge extraction stick
- Portable carrying case
- A set of target stand holders (5)
You have everything you need to set up an indoor dry firing training system that you can use with your own carry or competition guns. I got my kit in 9mm since that’s what my duty, primary off duty, and many of my recreational handguns are chambered in.
Once you have the dry fire training kit you can buy additional Pink Rhino laser inserts in other calibers individually. You can also get spare targets and target stands to supplement what you receive in the kit.
Set Up and Use
When you start going through your kit, you’ll notice there is no manual, just a card referring you to download the Mantis Laser Academy App in either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, depending on your device. You can also run it from an iPad or Android Tablet.
The Mantis app will walk you through setup and calibration. If you’re marginally tech-savvy you’ll be up and running in no time.
The Pink Rhino laser is simply press-fit into the weapon’s chamber after you ensure that it’s empty and the magazine is removed. Mantis notes that the Rhino is not compatible with the Ruger SR series or Hi Point pistols. Otherwise, it should work with most models.
To remove the laser for storage, or to swap it between pistols, just use the included wooden dowel and slide it down the barrel, and pop the laser free. For the Scorpion or other Pistol Caliber Carbine, you’ll need a longer dowel or a cleaning rod. The single-action Ruger’s ejector rod worked just fine for popping the laser free.
With a single action or striker-fired pistol, you’ll need to either cock the hammer or cycle the action between shots. With double-action pistols, like the Walther and the Beretta, you can shoot double-action, which is what I did most of the time. It’s good practice for that first long, harder pull. With the revolver, you had to cycle the action to get to the loaded chamber each time, so it was a little tedious.
The Laser Academy App and Training Options
Mantis provides you with a good number of training options on the Laser Academy app. There are basic bullseye courses, ones that time you from low ready or from the holster, and a variety of dueling programs you can do with a friend if you both have the gear. The options are as follows:
There are four training modes included with the free version of the Mantis app:
- Open Shooting – Single Target: Basic target shooting with scoring and the ability to store sessions to track your progress.
- Shot From Guard/Low Ready – One Shot: Starting from a prompt, this mode times your shot and tracks accuracy in single-shot sessions.
- Duel – Single Shot: You and a training partner compete to see who has the fastest draw and eagle eye.
- Bullseye – Five-shot: Untimed, no prompts, receive scores and splits from five shot rounds.
Additional Training Options
When you purchase the whole dry fire training kit you get an activation code that unlocks additional training options:
- Open Shooting – Multiple Targets: Basic target shooting with multiple target scoring and the ability to store sessions to track your progress.
- Duel – Best of Five Series: First shot on targets wins a point in best out of five competition.
- Duel – High Score: Fastest accurate shooting round against an opponent.
- Shot From Guard/Low Ready – Multi-Shot: Starting from a prompt, this mode measures your reaction time and tracks the accuracy of your shots.
- Bullseye – 10 Shots: Records scores and splits for 10-shot sessions. Untimed, unprompted.
- Close Contact from Holster: Fast and accurate shot from the holster to the close contact position.
- Compressed Surprise Break: Develop a fast shot in response to the start signal.
- Holster Draw: Fast and accurate shot starting from the holster.
- Holster Draw – Par Timed: Fast and accurate shot starting from the holster, against a par time.
- Multiple Shots on Multiple Targets: Develop speed and accuracy on multiple targets with multiple shots.
Automatic Range Time
Set up is pretty simple, and the app walks you through it. Attach your phone to either the tall tripod or tabletop tripod and bring up the app. You can use your tablet, but you’ll need a heavier tripod than what is provided in the kit.
There’s a calibration screen that makes sure your camera can see the target. Once you install the laser in your pistol, just pick a shooting program from the app and it will walk you through it. You’ll see your hits on the phone screen and the app will score you for points and time.
The best thing about this setup is that it’s extremely portable and fast to set up. I initially had my “range” set up in the basement, but it’s pretty cold down there in the winter. So, I moved it up to my den where it’s more convenient to use and a lot warmer.
Although my den isn’t huge, I still had room to set everything up and could use the smaller 5×7 inch targets to counterbalance the shorter range. I can also back out into the hall if I need more space.
The Striker Fired Handicap
The timed drills are a bit handicapped with a striker-fired pistol, as you have to manually cycle the slide between shots. You can still work on honing your own time but it’s still going to be much slower than firing with live ammo on the range. If your primary concern is trigger control and hits that isn’t a big deal. Although, if you’re competing against a friend make sure you both have the same handicap.
You don’t have to break your firing grip to cycle the gun with a double-action auto. You will be working with the long heavy DA pull for each shot, however.
Revolver Range Tips
Revolvers work great with this system since they index by either cocking the hammer or stroking the double-action pull. If you really want realistic training, though, you’ll need to buy five or six Pink Rhino cartridges to fill your cylinder. At $39.95 each that can definitely add cost to your dry fire training system. But compared to the price of ammo, it should still pay for itself in short order.
It’s worth noting that the Mantis FAQ mentions that the Laser Academy should work with other brands of red or green lasers as well. If you already have something else on hand, that may cut down on purchasing any extra laser units.
Is the Mantis Laser Academy Worth It?
At the end of the day, only you can justify what you’ll spend on training. At only $149.00 for the kit, with the starter caliber of your choice, I’d suggest the Academy is a bargain though.
Realistically you’re going to pay that much for live-fire training in a couple of sessions when you factor in ammo and range fees. Once you get the Laser Academy your only real cost is the occasional LR626 battery replacement. The Pink Rhino cartridge uses 3 batteries, and a ten-pack runs for around $5 online.
With the Mantis system, you get to practice with your guns, your holsters, and your sights—any time you want to. You can get a quick 15-minute session in before work in the morning, after work, before or after dinner, or even late at night if you do shiftwork or are a night owl. Since this is an indoor system, it can be set up anywhere and used whenever you like.
If you work for a police department or security agency you could even set it up in a spare room or office. That way folks could train with it on break or on training days. It’s a very low-cost training system that gives you much better feedback than basic dry fire practice alone.
Not only do you get the trigger time in and build the muscle memory, but you can actually see how your accuracy is, and make sure you’re doing things correctly.
More training is never bad, and the Mantis Laser Academy makes training easy and affordable. Rather than dropping your cash into the next tacticool accessory, maybe apply that money to something that will really help you use your guns proficiently instead.
For more information, please visit MantisX.com.