MantisX System Gives Real-Time Shooting Feedback

GunLink-MantisX_1333Recently, Casey from MantisX reached out to GunLink to tell us about their system, which they describe as “a firearms training system that mounts on the rail of your gun and gives you real time feedback via an app on your smart phone,” going so far as calling it “most innovative development in personal firearms training in years.”  Bold claims, to be sure, but Casey was confident enough in the system to send one over for us to try out.

First of all – what exactly is a MantisX?  You are probably familiar with the ubiquitous Pistol Correction Targets.  Our Pistol Correction Target posts have seen hundreds of thousands of pageviews the GunLink Forums and the GunLink Blog, and have been shared far and wide on other sites, gun stores, and ranges.

When Casey first contacted us, the MantisX system was essentially a feature-packed, electronic, “smart” 21st century version of the targets that have been around decades (it has since gotten even better).  It works by attaching the MantisX device – packed with sensors, gyros, and other electronic wizardry – to your pistol and connecting it wirelessly via bluetooth to your Android or iOS smart device using their free app.

With the device attached and connected, the sensors inside of the MantisX unit track movement of the firearm before, during, and after your shots, analyzes them, and presents them in a variety of formats through the app.  

More than just a Correction Chart

GunLink-MantisX_16000We have received a lot of positive feedback on the printable correction targets, but they have some obvious limitations.  They often involve a lot of walking back and forth to see how you did.  Unless you have a laser trainer and sharp eyes, the paper targets aren’t much use for dry fire.  They give you an idea of where you were pointing the pistol when the trigger broke, but not what you were doing before or after that instant.  The MantisX solve the vast majority of the printable targets’ shortcomings.

Configurable to work with either dry fire or live fire, the MantisX shows you exactly what you did with your pistol throughout the entire process of aiming, trigger pull, and follow through regardless of whether you are at the shooting range or in your living room.

Start a shooting session and the app tracks the movement of each shot in the session.  End the session and it presents you with an intuitive display of the results in several formats.

Results Display

GunLink-MantisX_27000The first result display is essentially an electronic version of what you would get if you were plugging away at the printable targets with live ammo – a tally of how many shots (each with a score from 0-100) you got in each zone with suggestions on why you might have hit there and what you might do to fix it.  If it stopped there, the MantisX would be neat and it would be handy, but it wouldn’t be really groundbreaking.

The next display is a bit cooler:  A chart of how high or low your score was, how your score compared to your average score for that session, and why you got that score, which is based on how much movement you imparted into your shot during your hold and during the actual trigger press.  Hold the pistol steady while you’re aiming and your score goes up.  Move less while you pull the trigger, and you hit where you aim; it isn’t rocket science but it is very useful information.

GunLinkMantisX_1024The third display is especially good:  A map of target with an illustration of where you were pointing your firearm during your shot.  You get a green line that shows you what you were doing while aiming, a yellow line that shows you what you did while pulling the trigger (the few milliseconds right before the trigger breaks), and a red line that shows you the follow through after the shot.

Minimize the green line and you’re pretty good at holding the firearm on target; minimize the red line and you know you kept it under control under recoil; minimize the yellow line and you’re hitting bullseyes every time (presuming that you aimed well) – and that’s where most people mess up.  Right here is the really valuable information.

Pew Pew (and Click Click)

GunLink-MantisX_14004We spent the first part of our time with MantisX doing dry-fire drills around GunLink HQ, mostly supplemented by a LaserLyte LT-PRO laser doo-dad.  We mostly used a Taurus Millennium G2 for this since it will “fire” with every trigger pull without having to manually reset the trigger by cycling the slide.

Using the laser emitter with a target that stores and displays “hits,” we verified that hits shown on the target matched where the MantisX app thought that they would hit – and they did with surprising accuracy.  The MantisX is “blind” in that it doesn’t have any kind of camera to see where it is pointing, or to pick up laser hits; it only uses motion sensors to pick up what the shooter is doing during the shot.  Aiming at the ten ring and hitting low-left?  You can’t blame the gun – the MantisX busts you for pushing low-left during your trigger pull.

GunLinkMantisX_1038Once we were confident that the MantisX was giving valid readings about shot movement, our shooters spent a few days busting (snap) caps in various objects around the GunLink HQ, paying attention to the faults that the app reported, and improving.  Shooters with a lot of movement during trigger press who paid attention to minimizing that movement, unsurprisingly, improved their scores.

Next, we hit the range with the MantisX configured for live fire mounted forward-facing on the rail of a Glock 19 (the app is configurable down to that specific setup).  I was a little worried about how the device would hold up since it stuck out slightly past the muzzle.

Worries about the MantisX getting powder burns (or blown apart entirely) were unfounded.  Other than a little carbon fouling that wiped right off, the unit came away unscathed after a couple hundred practice rounds.  The MantisX picked up around 90-95% of the live ammo shots that we fired (we’re not sure why it missed others) and the results in the app were about 85-95% accurate with regard to where we saw the shots going on paper, with the incorrect readings mostly being relatively small deviations of a few degrees.

Constant App Improvements – New Features, Drills, Skill Progression

One of the things touted by the company was the promise of frequent updates to the smartphone and tablet apps.  We, of course, having seen far too many similar promises accompanied by abandoned projects, didn’t believe it, but MantisX has really delivered on the app.

Obviously, the first thing we did when we first got the device was to see if it accurately read how well it read good shots on target.  This was immediately followed by seeing how well it read intentionally terrible shots.  It turns out that the terrible shots were there to stay because bad sessions couldn’t be deleted – something we thought was a major flaw and we told MantisX as much.  What do you know… the next app update allowed for removing bogus shot groups.

Minor updates like removing bad groups aren’t the only things they change either.  The company continues to add legitimate improvements to the software, like baseline skill measurements to track your shooting improvement and drills that incorporate training skills like weak and strong hand only shooting, surprise breaks, reloads, and more.

Overall Impression

GunLink-MantisX_54797I will admit that I was a little dubious at first glance, but after receiving the MantisX and putting it to use, we were actually pretty impressed by it.

MantisX is like a trainer or a brutally honest range buddy.  Although the feedback and correction advice may not be as thorough as a bona fide instructor staring at you while you shoot, it also won’t set you back upwards of 5-bills for a weekend with it.  It also won’t blink during your shots, lie about whether you pulled your shot, or give you a hard time on the ride back from the range.  It watches what you do and gives you an honest assessment

The system is very compact and packs a feature set that we would otherwise have only expected from a much larger, more complex, and more expensive system.  Technology is moving fast and MantisX appears to be keeping up – take a look at the feature sets and price ranges for other practice/training systems available over the past few years.  In addition to being across-the-board more affordable, the MantisX not only incorporates the major features from many of those systems (and then some), it is a tiny unit that attaches to your firearm and uses the phone that is already in your pocket.  No complicated wired devices, projectors, cameras, computers, or lasers required to tell you your movements before, during, and after your shot.  On top of all that, where most similar systems are for dry fire only, the MantisX gives you these measurements during live range practice as well.

Anyone who is serious about their handgun (or any firearm) skills, should be doing frequent dry fire practice and hitting the range as often as possible.  Shooting is 100% a perishable skill.  For the price of several boxes of ammo, the MantisX delivers honest, accurate feedback that will help improve both types of practice whether you are a beginner or further along in your skill development.

With the price, the flexibility to easily attach it to multiple firearms and connect to multiple phones, we don’t see much reason not to add one to your range bag, especially if you have a few range buddies willing to kick in the cost of a box of range ammo for a helpful device to share on shooting trips.

Learn more at or check out the app in the iTunes store or Google Play.

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