Mantis X May Not Always Hit the X
Shot Show is an annual trade show for the firearms industry. It’s one of the largest in America. Thousands of people come to set up booths and convince buyers and media that their product is the best thing ever. The main floor is dominated by the massive giants. The companies that everyone has heard of, with the products that everyone has seen. But stretching out are corridors and smaller rooms. They contain the smaller booths and smaller companies. These are what interest me. I’m the kind of person that is much more interested in what some little guy is doing in his mom’s garage than what stagnant rehash Colt has cooked up in their massive facility. These are the guys that have put everything into their product and believe wholeheartedly in it. When you go to these booths you’re talking to the inventor, or their business partner, not some person who’s paid to sell something devised by a team of engineers. That’s how I found Mantis X. Tucked into a corner with a table and large banner. It immediately caught my eye. The name is ambiguous. It could be anything, and I kind of like that. I walked up, introduced myself, swapped cards, and listened to a pitch from a kid. A kid my age, maybe younger. We talked for a bit, he answered my questions, showed a demo of his product on a CO2 powered BB gun, then handed me a sample unit. He told me to give it a try. No strings, no T&E agreement, nothing. Just take this and use it. I was floored, how could I not love that?
You see, the Mantis X is brilliant. It’s a simple plastic box with a single button. It clamps onto the rail of a handgun, then uses internal sensors to track the movement of the pistol. As you fire, points are plotted on a diagnostics target that shows up on a companion cell phone app. Have you ever seen one of those diagnostics pistol targets where a circle is split up into sectors that say things like “too much trigger finger” and “breaking wrist up”? In a nutshell, that’s what this thing is. Except the Mantis X is the futuristic version that allows you to get the same results during dry fire as well as live fire. This way you get the same feedback whether you’re running 5×5 drills or shooting the bad guys on TV with an empty gun. That promise of efficiency and ammo savings is more enticing than Scarlette Johanson in a leather catsuit. I love gadgets, and I love ingenuity. Personally, I would love to see more electronic training aids. The industry is behind when it comes to electronic devices, and we have a long way to go before we catch up.
As I said before, the Mantis X is a little black box that clamps onto any pistol with a Mil-Spec Picatinny rail and even some without. A cross bolt locks it in place. It is turned on with the single button at the bottom, then it connects with a free app on the user’s phone. The gun is placed on a flat surface for calibration, and you’re nearly ready. Jumping into the “Settings” tab allows you to select between right or left handed shooters, dry or live fire, and the mounting orientation. The “Train” tab shows that familiar diagnostics target. Around it are buttons to “Share” and “Reset” your target, as well as a “Start/Stop” button, and an area that displays a score. Pressing start allows you to begin plotting points on your target. As you pull the trigger a dot will pop up in a sector of the target, and at the center of the target words will pop up to tell you what you’ve done wrong, or “Great Shot!” if you’ve done absolutely everything perfectly. As points are plotted you can touch the sectors where dots are plotted. This will bring up a photographic demonstration of the problem as well as a brief explanation on how to correct said problem. Once you’ve fired off your desired string of shots you can hit the “Stop” button. Calling up the “History” tab shows a comparison of all the critiques you’ve gotten over the life of the device, as well as how many of each you’ve gotten, and how your latest score compares to your average score. This allows you to easily determine what your biggest problem is so that you can focus more directly on remedying it.
This is where the unfortunate trouble begins. I really like the Mantis X, I really want it to work well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I’ve had the Mantis X mounted on a Sig P226 as well as a Glock 19. In dry fire mode, the shots seem to be charted randomly around the diagnostic target. Roughly 1/3 of the Glock’s shots fail to register. Even when clamping the gun to a table to ensure zero movement it’s anybody’s guess if it will register a “Great Shot!” or insist that I was “Breaking Wrist Down”. Or maybe it won’t register anything at all. Live fire doesn’t do much better.
I’ve fired a couple hundred rounds of ammo through my P226 with the Mantis X installed. Here’s a sample of the results of those shots fired. The sample is 30 rounds. The shots were fired from 15 yards. The rounds were fired slowly and deliberately. after the first couple of shots I would pay more attention to what I was doing. I’m 100% sure I was not slapping the trigger, and I was absolutely following through with each shot. I checked my finger’s position on the trigger and ensured that the trigger was centered on the pad of my fingertip. Looking at the in-app target and my actual target, there are some noticeable differences.
In the end, the Mantis X just doesn’t function well enough to justify its $149.99 price tag. While I think the concept is solid, the execution is not. I would love to see further development of the Mantis X. I think products like these are exactly what our industry needs to continue to grow. Perhaps in a year’s time, the Mantis X will be a fully functioning gadget that works consistently and saves money at the range, and if that day comes I will eagerly welcome it with open arms and an open mind.