Just when we thought nothing could boost gun sales more than an Obama presidency, mostly peaceful rioters began burning down police precincts and random businesses. Despite a steady stream of Leftist-biased “news” coverage, people have started waking up to the possibility of a mostly peaceful violent mob visiting a nearby neighborhood. Their reaction? Buy guns, lots of guns. Record levels of gun buying have created an ammunition shortage, one that does not appear to be ending anytime soon. The lack of ammunition has made training more difficult to do. Enter dry fire training.
Dry fire training is an important part of any firearms training routine. In November 2019 and June 2020, I wrote articles on the features of the Mantis Dry/Live Fire Training System (which you can read here and here). These articles detail the many training opportunities afforded by the Mantis X10 model. I continue to use that system every week for dry fire practice with my pistols. What has been missing is a complete system for the modern sporting rifle platform. That has all changed with the Mantis Blackbeard.
Every professional shooter I have talked to recommends dry fire practice. Every shooting instructor I have had has done the same. My own marksmanship has benefited greatly from dry fire practice. Movements we make before or while pulling the trigger affect accuracy. Accuracy requires a smooth and consistent trigger press while maintaining aligned sights on the target. The idea is simple, but the execution requires regular practice because this is a perishable skillset. Let enough time pass without training and those skills fade. Previously, my dry fire practice involved both pistols and a black rifle, but the latter dropped off because it was a pain to reset the trigger each time. The Blackbeard solves that problem.
The Blackbeard system is composed of two parts: the trigger resetting mechanism and the magazine battery pack. The trigger resetting mechanism looks like a charging handle glued to a bolt carrier group, and the battery pack closely resembles a 20 round magazine. Mantis says the battery pack will last 100,000 shots before needing a recharge. I can’t say if that’s true because I’ve never run one for 100,000 rounds straight, and it’s easy to throw on the USB charger every week or so. The battery has never been an issue.
The absolute best thing about the Blackbeard is you use the trigger that is in your rifle without any modifications. You train with the same trigger pull, travel, and reset. The entire rifle is consistent with what you will be using with live fire. The weight of the system is just under 15 ounces (413 g). The weight of a standard bolt carrier group, charging handle, and loaded 20 round magazine is about 25 ounces (702 g). The weight difference is minimal relative to the overall weight of a modern sporting rifle with optics. This adds to the realism of the training.
To install the Blackbeard simply remove the bolt carrier group and charging handle and insert the trigger resetting mechanism in their place. Then insert the battery pack into the magazine well. That’s it. You are ready to train. Just as with all dry fire training, triple-check that the gun has no ammunition in it before starting a training session. When the trigger is pulled an electric motor makes a little noise as the trigger resets. The first time you hear this reset it sounds strange, but as soon as you realize you can keep pulling the trigger as fast as you want to the sound fades away. Mantis states that up to ten trigger pulls per second are possible and based on using the Blackbeard this seems about right. One drill I do is practice from a low ready position. Either on my own count or with some type of timer I mount the rifle and break a shot on a wall-mounted target. Another drill is to start from the port arms position and do the same drill. This is what I used to do before trying out the Blackbeard, but having to charge the rifle after every shot was annoying. The Blackbeard solves all of that. In addition, I can now produce a controlled pair in the same exercises – something not possible before the Blackbeard.
There are four models of the Blackbeard. The basic model resets the trigger as described above. Versions are also available with red, green, or infrared lasers. The laser fires through the barrel of the rifle as the trigger is pressed. The laser beam is adjustable for windage and elevation so it may be adjusted to where the optic is pointing. The laser-equipped version adds visual feedback to dry fire practice by showing where the shot would likely have hit. The point really isn’t that the bullet would have hit precisely where the laser appears, but that you are aiming at the selected target at the moment of the trigger press. Now the user can transition between targets while dry firing, which really enriches dry fire training sessions. Note that when using targets that are very close to the user it may not be possible to adjust the laser to the point of aim – the laser runs into the inside of the barrel due to the optic offset. A workaround for this is to have one target for point-of-aim of the optic and another just below it for point-of-impact of the laser. All four models are available for order from Mantis. Prices are $199 for the no laser model, $219 for the red laser, and $249 for the green or infrared model. Mantis is experiencing some shipping delays due to the COVID lockdown impact on the supply chain as of the time of this writing.