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Mantis BLACKBEARD [GEAR REVIEW]

Mantis BLACKBEARD [GEAR REVIEW]

Disclaimer

This blog post and other posts DO NOT constitute or form an instructor-student relationship between the author (me) and the reader (you). Online education can only supplement in-person formal instruction, it cannot replace it. It is your responsibility to understand the firearm laws in your area and to follow the Firearms Safety Rules.

Traditional AR Dry Fire Training

Dry Fire training should be an integral part of every serious gun owner’s training regimen. Dry Fire training enables you to practice the fundamentals of marksmanship and weapons manipulation without spending money on ammunition.

While Dry Fire training is great, it does have its fair share of shortfalls and the potential to ingrain bad habits. Moreover, it is often performed in a manner that violates the firearms safety rules. 

Bad Habits

Since Dry Fire training does not use live ammo, your firearm’s slide or bolt is not going to cycle automatically. This requires you to manually cycle the action between repetitions. This manual cycling can ingrain bad habits that will translate into poor “muscle memory” when conducting live fire. 

Safety Violation

Chances are, if you practice Dry Fire, you violate at least one of the Firearms Safety Rules. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I started using training aids that render my firearms inert during Dry Fire training. 

Mantis BLACKBEARD

Before receiving the Mantis BLACKBEARD, I thought the aforementioned challenges with AR Dry Fire training would just be something to work around. However, the BLACKBEARD enables you to build good habits while also training safely.

The BLACKBEARD is an auto-resetting action for the AR-15. It replaces the Bolt Carrier Group, Charging Handle, and Magazine of your AR enabling you to train with your actual trigger while also rendering the AR inoperable. 

Affiliate Disclosure

I am a Mantis Affiliate and receive a small commission if you purchase one of their products using my hyperlinks. However, this is an honest review, and I am confident that that the BLACKBEARD will benefit anyone looking to improve their AR skills. 

Trigger Reset

Thanks to some creative engineering, the BLACKBEARD resets the AR-15 hammer, enabling the user to Dry Fire with their actual trigger group. With the BLACKBEARD, the take-up, weight, and reset are exactly the same as if you were firing live ammunition. 

Laser

In addition to resetting the trigger, the BLACKBEARD emits a laser out of the AR bore just like SIRT pistols. You have the option of no laser, Red laser, Green laser, or IR laser. The difference between the no laser and red laser option is $20, so I recommend you go ahead and get the laser model. 

Battery

The power source is contained within the magazine. It is rechargeable, provides battery charge status, and Mantis claims that each charge will last 100,000 resets. The battery also provides additional weight, bringing the AR weight closer to that of a fully loaded AR. 

Traditional Dry Fire training with an unloaded AR can also build poor muscle memory due to the difference in weight between a fully unloaded AR and an AR loaded with a 30 round magazine. This weight discrepancy changes the inertia of the firearm and can result in poor mechanics during live fire. 

Mantis BLACKBEARD Battery
Battery charging outlet.
Battery Life Indicator

High Visibility Safety

As mentioned before, I am a big fan of safety devices that render a firearm inert during training while also providing visual indications that the firearm is non-functioning. I like the visual indicators both to reassure you and others during training that the firearm is inert. The BLACKBEARD does this, providing clear indications that the gun is rendered inert when viewed from any angle.

Height Over Bore Training

Height Over Bore refers to the distance between the bore axis and the sight line. This distance is negligible on many handguns with factory iron sights; however, the Height Over Bore on an AR can be around 2″.

Height Over Bore Comparison

This difference between sight line and bore axis must be accounted for when engaging targets at close ranges (typically 15 yards and in). If you fail to compensate for this offset by placing your point of aim directly on the intended target, your shots will strike low. Therefore, training is required to apply the correct “Hold Over”. 

Prior to being introduced to the Mantis BLACKBEARD, I was unaware of any method for training appropriate Hold Over without using ammunition, since you never truly know where the muzzle is oriented. However, the BLACKBEARD enables you to train for this offset without the need for live fire. 

See, the problem with Hold Over training is that the necessary Hold Over is a function of how far away you are from the target. Thus, you need to do hundreds of repetitions at varying distances until you have ingrained the muscle memory to apply the correct Hold Over for any given close distance. Doing this under live fire conditions can be distracting due to the countless holes you will be punching through the target. Couple that with the number of reps necessary (resulting in expensive range sessions), and many people do not practice this important skill. 

However, with the BLACKBEARD, you can practice thousands and thousands of repetitions, each giving you clear feedback as the laser strikes the target. Mantis does not currently advertise this as a benefit of the BLACKBEARD, but I would argue it is one of the most significant, particularly for military and law enforcement professionals operating in close quarters environments. 

Height Over Bore Example
Height Over Bore Illustration Using Mantis BLACKBEARD in Zeroing Mode. The top circle is the EOTech reticle and the bottom dot is the bore axis.

Critiques

Full disclosure, I reached out to Mantis and asked if they could send me a BLACKBEARD for testing and review. I am a Mantis Affiliate, but this is an honest review. With that being said, I have very few critiques of the BLACKBEARD but here are the ones I do have.

POI Shift

After a few thousand reps of dry fire, I was able to notice a slight shift in the laser’s Point of Impact. This shift wasn’t very significant but it was noticeable. I believe the shift is due to the vibration caused by the hammer striking the reset device. The laser POI adjustment dials do not have a positive tactile click and this vibration may be causing them to twist slightly. Again, this was only noticeable after thousands of repetitions and is easily adjustible. 

Build and Construction

The overall build and construction feels solid and the plastic outer seems to be some sort of composite that will not crack easily. However, I initially had some concerns with some imperfections along the seams where the two outer shells of the BCG/CH body are joined (depicted below).

In the image, the two sides are tightly joined near the front, but they split near the mid portion. This gap can be compressed if I squeeze the two sides together, and I believe it may be due to slightly oversized internal components. 

I do not believe this will be an issue, considering the fact that the entire unit will be held in place by the AR’s upper receiver and the fact that the unit does not move once installed. Though, I would like to see future models with a uniform seam.

Double Fire

The BLACKBEARD is designed to briefly emit a laser beam every time the trigger is pressed, and it does this well. However, sometimes the laser fires a second time during reset. I do not fully understand the mechanical and electrical cycle of events for each shot, but the sensor seems to be activating occasionally upon trigger reset. 

For the type of Dry Fire training I use the BLACKBEARD for, this does not hinder my training. However, if the device were to be used with any computer system intended to record the laser, then it might pose an issue by registering two shots instead of one. 

Laser Disable Feature

This is not a design flaw but rather a feature request. The BLACKBEARD enables the user to switch between Dry Fire mode that activates the laser for each trigger press and Zeroing mode that causes the laser to stay on for POI adjustments.

I would like to see future models with the option for turning the laser completely off and just doing a trigger reset. This could be useful if someone wanted to use the BLACKBEARD in any type of training, where you don’t want to accidentally fire a laser into someone’s eye. A workaround could be simply taping the muzzle to block the laser. 

NOTE: I am not telling you to point a functional firearm at someone in training; however the BLACKBEARD renders an AR inoperable, so use your best judgement. 

Recommended Zero

The BLACKBEARD allows you to adjust the windage and elevation of the laser. It is not a bore sight, therefore you should adjust the BLACKBEARD to your sights, rather than your sights to the BLACKBEARD. 

I recommend you get your sights zeroed beforehand. If you are using a 50/200 yard zero, then use one of our zero targets to adjust the BLACKBEARD with the appropriate offset. If you are using the 10 yard or 25 yard zero targets, simply hold your point of aim in the center of the smaller black box and adjust the laser until it is in the center of the grey box labeled “POI”. 

Affiliate Disclosure

I am a Mantis Affiliate and receive a small commission if you purchase one of their products using my hyperlinks. However, this is an honest review, and I am confident that that the BLACKBEARD will benefit anyone looking to improve their AR skills. 

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