From the day I started this blog, almost every time I talk about dry fire on social media some one inevitably asks for opinion on the Mantis X System as a dry fire aid. I had heard of it and even asked several firearms instructors I trust about it, but hadn’t really considered getting my hands on one until very recently. Initially, I was hung up on the cost since back in that day one could easily score a thousand round case of 9mm ammo for around the same price. Even when ammo prices started to increase in 2020, I figured saving the money for another case of ammo was a better idea which was an opinion made stronger by feedback I was getting from the pistol mounted red dots I was getting into at that time. I’m not really certain what exactly motivated me to finally get my hands on a Mantis X, but I did and several weeks later here we are.
For the sake of transparency, I want to disclose that I recently became affiliated with Mantis. This means that anyone who happens to purchase any of the training products from the Mantis website after using a link I’ve published or shared will result in a small commission that helps support this blog. However, Mantis did not provide me with the X10 Elite unit reviewed in this blog post. I purchased one on my own. Mantis has not solicited this review. In fact, they aren’t even aware that I will be publishing it. As such, I have not been offered nor will I be receiving any compensation for this review.
So what is the Mantis X System? In short, it is a small device that attaches to a firearm (or a bow) and collects movement data which is sent to the mobile app installed in a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection for shot quality analysis. The quality is determined by how much the sights moved, or rather were disturbed, as a shot breaks. While the device itself may contain other sensors for data collection, I suspect the primary sensor used for collecting movement data is an accelerometer. But that’s just my best guess.
There are four different Mantis X System variants that are available at different price points. All of the variants support dry fire and analyze muzzle traces, trigger controls, and shot times. The mobile app provides training drills, coaching tips, and historical tracking. The X2, priced at $99, is the entry level variant which only supports dry fire on handguns and rifles. The X3, priced at $169, adds live fire support for handguns and rifles. The X7, priced at $199, provides dry and live fire support for shotguns only and adds smoothness analytics as well as consistency comparisons. The X10 Elite, priced at $249, combines the features of the X3 and the X7 and adds archery support for archery with a separate mobile app in addition to providing recoil analysis and holster draw analysis, shooting on the move analysis, and rapid fire analysis. Mantis has promised the addition of multi-target analysis and moving target with shotgun analysis for the X7 and X10 Elite in a future version of the mobile app. Additionally, Mantis has promised shooting on the move and rapid fire analysis for the X10 Elite in the aforementioned future version of the mobile app. However, I have not heard for a projected release date of the mobile application that includes features.
Having briefly reviewed the Mantis X System variants and feature promises, let’s take a closer look at the X10 Elite. Starting with what does one get for $249?
- The Mantis X10 Elite device,
- a BR7 barrel mount Picatinny rail for attaching the device to rifles and shotguns,
- a Universal MagRail adhesive adapter for attaching the device to archery items, pistol, and rifles,
- a USB charging cable,
- a case with foam insert,
- and a quick start guide.
As of writing, I have only used the device as a dry fire aid on a handful of pistols including a PSA Dagger, a H&K VP9, a H&K VP9 Match, and a 1911. While I was able to attach the X10 Elite directly to the rail on all of those pistols, I also picked up a a MagRail specifically for VP9 magazines which replaced the magazine base plate instead of using the adhesive Universal MagRail. There are several different magazine specific MagRail floor plate adapters and adapter mounts available as an additional purchase on Mantis website.
The only included items that I’ve used so far have been the X10 Elite device and the USB charging cable. That’s not to say, the other items aren’t valuable. I just haven’t used them yet.
Okay, that’s cool. But is the Mantis X System helpful as a dry fire aid?
In short, yes. It has some great qualities. However, it has some shortcomings and the value one gets from it will vary from one person to the next. Let me explain.
The very first thing that stood out is that the Mantis X mobile includes a handful of drills. Some are better suited for live fire, but most are also great for dry fire practice. As simple as this might sound, this is an amazing thing for shooters who are new to dry fire. The most often asked question I get asked when talking about dry fire is, “What’s a good drill to do?” Which is almost immediately followed with, “How do you do those drills?”, after a couple have been named. Each drill includes a description and most include a video link to a demonstration. This is gold for shooters who are looking for drills to shoot.
The next thing that caught my attention was the course features which starts with an “Introduction to the Mantis X System” course. I didn’t find the introductory course to be exciting, but it does introduce the primary course concept which is a series of drills to complete. Initially, I thought that was all there was to the courses so I didn’t think much of them. However after having looked through all of the included drills, I decided to look at the first listed course named “Basic Combat”. The very first thing that I noticed is that it didn’t simply start with a drill. Rather it started with a drill and performance goal in order to move on to the next drill. This presents new shooters with a challenge and something resembling a training plan which I think will keep some shooters engaged and coming back for more. While I thought a challenge and plan was a valuable idea, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a shooter can have a real completion patched mailed to them at no additional cost when they successfully complete a course. Completion of a course also earns a digital badge that is displayed on the shooter’s profile on the Mantis X website.
Another feature that keeps things fun and interesting is a Daily Challenge drill which, as the name implies, changes each day. This challenge is a little different in the sense that after completing it, the Mantis X app shows the shooter how they compared to other shooters who participated in the daily challenge on that day. I only wish there was a mechanism to view and try past daily challenges.
The app also allows you to set a daily shooting goal which is measured in number of shots and the history tab keeps tabs on how many days in a row one hits that goal. I didn’t personally find this to be as motivating as the other features to keep me coming back to the app, but I suspect some shooters will find it more motivating than me.
One last feature that may motivate shooters to keep using the app is the ability to connect with friends and compare scores. I haven’t used this feature at all because it’s not something that I have developed any interest in. However, I can appreciate it as another mechanism to keep shooters practicing frequently which is essential to developing and maintaining marksmanship skills.
While obviously there is a lot I like about the Mantis X, there are some things I don’t like. The first thing is that the mobile app can be a little confusing and frustrating to use. For example, when one starts a drill one can toggle three different settings before starting the drill. These things are:
- The mode: dry or live fire
- The hand: right or left
- The position of the mantis device
These settings are important for analyzing the quality of the shot, tracing muzzle movement, and providing coaching tips. This seemed pretty straight forward to me until I noticed the “Support Hand Only” drill makes the hand toggle button bounce. I’m not sure if this means I need to change it to the left hand before shooting the drill or what. The instructions and demonstration video don’t really clarify that setting. So I have no idea if I’ve ever set up that drill correctly before doing the drill.
The other thing to notice on the drill screen is that the gun being used for the drill is displayed in a subdued color right under the three setting toggles. This is hard to see and notice. You can change the firearm used for the drill by touching the named firearm directly on the drill screen (which isn’t very obvious to me) or going to the settings. However, since I find it hard to notice it is easy to forget to do which logs the results of the drill with the wrong firearm in the historical data and it’s not something I’ve found a way to correct. This might not be a big deal to some folks, but it will diminish the value of the historical data for some folks like it has for me.
Another thing that I found frustrating was the ridiculously short amount of time given to set up for the next shot in one of the reload drills. I had no idea that the delay between shots was configurable. Later, while digging through the settings, I learned that one can configure the delay time between shots in the advanced settings area of the settings screen. There are two delay settings. One for reload drills and another for all other timed drills. While that’s helpful since the reload drills take the most effort to set up between shots, there are some non-reload drills that take more time to set up than others. For example, the hostage drills require the shooter to return the gun to the holster between each shot compared to the compressed break drill which starts with the gun on target between each shot. Setting the delay timer to short makes drills like the hostage drills frustrating because it rushes the shooter. Setting the delay timer to long makes drills like the compressed break feel like an eternity between shots. It would be nice to be able to configure the delay for each drill individually on the drill screen where the other settings are managed.
The combination of these little nuances and details not only leaves room for improvement, but it can create a barrier of entry to folks who are technology adverse.
These little shortcomings will be a bigger deal to some shooters than others so it’s something to keep in mind when deciding if the Mantis X System is for you.
Some of you who are still reading may have noticed that I have yet to touch upon any X10 Elite exclusive feature. I shall do that now. The only exclusive feature I’ve used this far is the Holster Draw Analysis and I like it. It records the time it takes to draw a pistol and fire a first shot from a signaled start. It also breaks down each draw into timed phases as follows:
- Grip: time from signal until strong hand grip is established
- Pull: time from grip until the gun is started to be pulled from the holster
- Horizontal: time from the pull until the gun is horizontally level
- Target: time from horizontal leveling until the gun is steady on the target
- Shot: time from being steady on the target until the trigger breaks
I’m still not entirely sure what to do with the data, but it’s been interesting to see where the time goes.
I suppose the real question is does this X10 Elite exclusive feature the additional $150 price tag over the dry fire only X2 variant or the additional $80 price tag over the X3 unit? Maybe. Knowing one’s draw to first shot time is an extremely valuable data point for armed self defenders that can inform critical decisions in a justified deadly force encounter. This feature in the X10 Elite unit provides a precise enough measurement for that data point through either dry or live fire practice. The only other reliable way I know to get this data is to use a shot timer during live fire and tabulate the 1st shot time from those drills to get a good idea of what that time is. The shot timer method requires the shooter to do their own analysis and data collection. Addition to having access to a shooting range where they can effectively use a shot timer and shoot drills from the holster. Most ranges, which are open to the public, will not allow shooters to work the holster. Even if one has access to a range where they can work from the holster, there is the matter of being able to run a shot timer without picking up “shots” from other shooters. Not to mention there is also a cost associated with renting space at a range every time the shooter wants to perform this type of analysis. As such, I think this feature is worth the extra cost for self defense practitioners who don’t have access to a range where they effectively measure this data point.
I personally wasn’t a big fan of the coaching tips provided by the system. They remind me a lot of the shooting correction chart that has been floating around for a long time which attempts to diagnose the shooting problem by the location of where a shot lands. For example, a right handed shooter who breaks a shot left is diagnosed as “too little trigger finger”. I do like that the system scores a shot by how much the sights were disturbed right as before the trigger breaks and the muzzle tracing provides the direction the sights were disturbed. However, I haven’t found the shooting correction diagnosis particularly any more helpful than working on actuating the trigger in a controlled manner straight to the rear without imparting movement to the handgun while applying as much pressure as possible with the support hand to negate deficiencies in trigger actuation. I’m not saying the coaching isn’t helpful at all, I simply didn’t personally find much value in it.
With all of that said, there is something else that I should mention. My impression of the Mantis X System so far is that it is best suited to help develop fundamental accuracy. It excels at that task. It’s also pretty good at developing speed and reaction time. All of these are good things which lay a sound foundation for practical shooting which is important for many competitive shooting sports and armed defense practitioners. However, there is a lot more to practical shooting than accuracy, speed and reaction time that the system and its drills don’t seem to address. I don’t say this as a knock on the system, but I think it’s important to acknowledge its limitations. Perhaps my opinion will change when some of the promised future features are introduced.
All of this brings us to the question that started this blog post, is the Mantis X System effective as a dry fire aid and ultimately worth the investment? Well, it depends. I think it is a fantastic value for shooters who are looking to improve their fundamental marksmanship accuracy, this will likely be especially true for shooters who are new to dry fire drills and intermediate level shooters who haven’t developed their ability to call their shots. I can’t imagine advanced shooters who have already developed strong marksmanship accuracy getting anywhere near the same value out of this tool and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they get bored with it quickly.