Review: Mantis Blackbeard AR Dry-Fire Training System

by
posted on November 15, 2021
mantis_blackbeard-4.jpg

Electronic firearms training devices enhance dry-fire practice by providing visual feedback. Now, a new laser device for the AR-15 from Mantis improves dry-fire practice for rapid-fire stages by also resetting the trigger for true semi-automatic action. AR-15 competitors can finally practice the timing of rapid-fire stage shots during dry-fire practice with the Mantis Blackbeard.

The Mantis Blackbeard’s two units store in a protective hard foam case.


Blackbeard is a two-piece unit, an integral laser and mechanical device replacing the AR-15’s charging handle and bolt carrier group (BCG), and a battery unit that takes the place of the magazine. Four metal contacts, two on the bottom of the laser unit and two on the top of the battery, make the electrical connection. Both units are a deep red color, showing at a glance that the rifle is in a safe handling condition.

The battery is about one-half-inch longer than a standard 20-round magazine, and is rechargeable via an included USB cable that plugs into any so-equipped device, such as a computer. Mantis claims 100,000 shots per charge. The upper unit “fires” a green laser that is adjustable for windage and elevation. A tiny two-position switch selects between constant-on for adjusting, and flash-once when the trigger is pressed. All three controls are accessible through the AR-15’s ejection port when the device is installed. Mantis includes an Allen wrench for making elevation and windage adjustments, which can also serve to flick the miniscule, recessed switch.

Center sights to laser

Dry firing the Blackbeard in the home will require adjusting your sight settings, particularly the elevation, to take into account both the sights’ height above the bore line and the distance from the muzzle to the target. The laser sends a beam of light in a straight line, whereas the rifle’s sights are adjusted for lobbing a bullet in an arc to strike a target at a specific distance. Sights (and reticles) above the bore line mean the laser “dot” will appear well below the target at close range.

Mantis Blackbeard
Blackbeard’s upper laser unit includes a mechanical device to reset the hammer with each shot and works as fast as 10 shots per second.


In my A2-style, iron-sighted National Match AR-15 with the rear sight set at its 200-yard zero and a target mounted four feet away, Blackbeard’s laser “dot” struck about 2.5 inches below the target with a six o’clock hold. Moving back to 20 feet, the laser still struck 1.5 inches low. It was necessary to run the rear sight up almost to its stop, and dry fire from 40 feet away in order for the laser to hit center X with a six-o’clock hold sight picture.

Installing the Blackbeard in my flat-top National Match AR-5 mounted with a Hi-Lux XTC scope produced the same initial results, as both rifles’ front sight and reticle centers are 2.4 inches above bore center. To strike target center required adjusting the scope’s elevation up 100 clicks (25 minutes) and dry-firing from 20 feet away.

AR-15 dry-fire training system
Laser adjustments and mode selection are accessed through the AR-15’s ejection port. A green laser dot flashes on the target when the rifle’s trigger is pressed.


Moving Blackbeard next to a flat-top AR-15 carbine mounted with a 16-inch barrel and red-dot-type optic 2.1 inches above bore center required a little adjustment to the laser’s elevation and windage. The laser’s green dot and the optic’s red dot superimposed on the target center at a distance of about 15 feet.

Trigger feel

Dry firing is not just about sight picture, it is also about trigger control. Blackbeard is a mechanical, as well as electronic, device. It does not interfere with the trigger’s takeup or release, and these feel no different than when dry firing without Blackbeard. However, Blackbeard’s automatic mechanical hammer reset function produces a much different trigger “feel” after the shot, with two additional audible clicks and accompanying taps to the trigger that are felt through the trigger finger. What the dry-firing shooter hears and feels first when pressing the trigger is the normal click of the hammer release, which is stopped by the Blackbeard device. The device then immediately “kicks” the hammer down to reset it, which the shooter hears and feels in the trigger finger. Then, when releasing the trigger, the shooter hears and feels a third tap, as the disconnector releases the hammer to re-engage the sear.

Green laser
Laser adjustments and mode selection are accessed through the AR-15’s ejection port. A green laser dot flashes on the target when the rifle’s trigger is pressed.


In dry firing without Blackbeard, there is no automatic reset—we must manually cycle the charging handle—so all the dry-firer hears and feels is the single hammer fall. When live firing, the sensations of automatic reset and disconnector release are masked by the noise and recoil. With the Mantis Blackbeard, the dry-firer feels a tap-tap-tap to the trigger finger with each shot.

Timing training

This automatic reset of the hammer by Blackbeard is a boon to practicing rapidfire stages when dry firing. Lacking a Blackbeard, simulating 10 rapid-fire shots isn’t possible without manually cycling the AR-15’s charging handle for every shot, which we don’t do in live fire and which means dry-fire rapid-fire practice isn’t fully realistic. With Blackbeard, the shooter can remain in position and practice the proper timing of 10 rapid-fire stage shots, which is a critical aspect of High Power competition, as every competitor who has ever watched a target descend into the pits with one round still in his or her magazine knows.

The laser unit has adjustments for centering the laser light beam in the bore, and a constant-on/flash-only selector.


Mantis’s Blackbeard provides the dry firer with instant visual feedback on where a shot landed on the target. Shooters of action-oriented competitions can also add the Mantis X Laser Training Academy app simulator. High Power competitors might want to add the Mantis X Firearms Training System, a kind of e-coach that offers diagnoses of errant shots—why you landed that shot in the 7-ring. Either combination can make what may be the most comprehensive dry-firing self-training ensemble available to AR-15 competitive shooters today.

Retail price of the Mantis Blackbeard is $199 and is available directly from Mantis. Visit the Mantis website for more information and promotional videos.


Read more: 2021 Shooting Sports Showcase Product Round-Up

Latest

Powell Remington 1
Powell Remington 1

Brandon Powell Secures High Over All Title At 2024 NSCA Southeast Regional

Team Remington shooters shine at 2024 NSCA Southeast Regional, including Brandon Powell winning the Main Event HOA, plus Madison Sharpe as Lady Champion and Wendell Cherry as High Veteran.

Register Now For The NRA Range Development & Operations Conference

Registration is now open for the NRA Range Development & Operations Conference in Denver, Colo., Jul. 31-Aug. 1, 2024.

New: Real Avid Tools For AR-10 Rifles

Real Avid announces new tools for servicing AR-10s, including the Smart-Fit AR15 Vise Block with Sleeve for AR10, plus the sold-separately Vise Block Sleeve and Pivot Pin Tool.

2024 CAT Games: U.S. Rifle, Pistol Athletes Earn 16 Medals

USA Shooting had a medal bonanza at the 2024 Championship of the Americas, with athletes returning to the U.S. with 16 total medals. The competition was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Mar. 31 to Apr. 8.

Theo Ribbs Claims FITASC Title At NSCA Southeast Regional

Theo Ribbs of Team Winchester wins FITASC High Over All title at the 2024 NSCA Southeast Regional, held at Forest City Gun Club in Savannah, Ga., Apr. 9-14.

NRA Conducts More Than 70 Competitions: 1931 National Matches

At the 1931 National Matches, attendance continued to grow, thanks in part to growing publicity for the event from different types of media around the United States.

Interests



Get the best of Shooting Sports USA delivered to your inbox.