One of the first things Mrs. Untactical and I discovered when we entered the world of firearms is how darn fun it is to shoot. Maybe we didn't have all the gizmos (and we still don't) but just hitting the range and "making donuts" as I've heard target shooting referred to, was really enjoyable.
Right after we learned how fun shooting is, we learned a couple of other truisms:
- Shooting is a perishable skill
- Shooting is an expensive hobby
Today, I'm excited to tell you a little about a product that helps solve both of the problems above; a way to practice shooting to keep your skills sharper and to do so without breaking the bank. Give it up for the Mantis Blackbeard!
I don’t have to remind you how expensive (and scarce) ammunition has been because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Blackbeard helps solve both the cost and availability problems in a simple and easy-to-use platform.
What is Blackbeard? It is a dry-fire system for the AR-style rifle platform.
Why did I want a Blackbeard? I had recently received professional training on the AR. We went through various shooting positions, sling (ready) positions, single shots, multiple shots, multiple targets, shooting while moving and more, including my absolute least favorite: the off-shoulder drill. Although my instructor was sensitive to the amount of ammo we used in each drill, I still went through a fair amount of .223 in the three or so hours we worked. I was stoked! I wanted to keep working on these drills to up my rifle-handling ability.
Unfortunately, real life intervened...
Enter dry fire.
However, the problem with dry fire on the AR platform is that every time you press the trigger, you must follow that with a recharge – pulling the charging handle and releasing the bolt – so that the trigger is ready for another press.
From the Mantis website: Using electromechanical wizardry, Blackbeard allows you to take up to 10 dry fire shots per second, quickly resetting the hammer between each shot.
The Blackbeard sounded like just the ticket.
The Mantis Blackbeard arrived in a well-appointed package. If you’ve been on a journey similar to Mrs. Untactical and I, you know that firearm parts, accessories, holsters, tools, etc. seem to magically accumulate and, if you’re not careful, these things will hide from you.
There’s no danger of that with the Blackbeard. The two system components come nestled in their own custom-shaped foam cutouts inside a sturdy zippered case. Mantis also provides a few other goodies, including a small tool to adjust the laser functions and a USB charging cord.
Wait, what? I didn’t mention the system has a laser?
Actually, there are three options for the laser function. Red, green, or infrared. I chose the green laser, which I like because, well, I’m Irish!
Installation of the Blackbeard couldn’t be easier. After confirming your rifle is in a safe condition, simply drop the magazine (if one is inserted), pull the rear takedown pin, rotate the upper away from the lower, and remove the existing charging handle and bolt carrier group (BCG).
Next, insert the Blackbeard unit in place of the standard BCG and charging handle, close the rifle, secure the rear takedown pin, and insert the Blackbeard “magazine” – which provides power to the system .
Now, you are ready to dry fire!
One thing I will note, I had the Blackbeard magazine/battery plugged into my laptop for a good 12 hours before it was fully charged. Fortunately, the unit features a series of five indicators on the battery assembly so you can see where you are in the charging sequence – yet another nice touch that makes Blackbeard a pleasure to install and operate.
Remember that backyard we couldn’t use as a firing range? With Blackbeard, we absolutely can use our backyard as a range! For my first run, I stapled a couple of targets to our shed and worked through some simple ready and fire drills. Multiple shots are no problem with Blackbeard. You cannot pull the trigger fast enough to defeat the system.
The Blackbeard’s laser has two modes: always on or pulsed (“fires” on every trigger press). Remember that little tool I told you about? Use that to adjust the laser to align with your optical zero or iron sights, and to also set the laser mode that suits you. I like the pulse mode, which gives me a clear green dot on target for every trigger press.
On a sunny day, my experience shows that the green dot becomes harder to see when I stand more than 45 feet or so away from the target,
Closer in, the green dot was clean and clear to see through my Primary Arms 6x24mm scope (love the Illuminated ACSS-RAPTOR reticle design, by the way!).
Trigger performance was as good as advertised. My Geissele trigger feels exactly the same as it does during live fire. I can press, fully release, and fire follow up shots or I can press, release to the reset point, and fire that next shot.
That is one of the many great features – perhaps the best one – that leads me to recommend the Mantis Blackbeard. I’m practicing with my own rifle, using my own trigger, and able to “fire” as many follow up shots as I like, in any pattern or sequence that I need for a specific drill.
Today, the retail price of the Blackbeard is $219 as shown on the Mantis website (your price may vary). That may sound like a significant amount, but when you add up the number of “shots” in just your first few dry fire sessions, you will have easily paid for it with ammo savings.
At today's prices (approximately $0.70 per round of Winchester White Box 55 grain .223 at Academy Sports and Outdoors), you can shoot a little over 300 rounds and outspend the cost of a Blackbeard system. For us, the advantages are clear:
- We can train with and shoot our rifle any time we like
- We don't have to worry about the neighbors calling the Sheriff's department on us
- We don't have to expend our stock of rifle ammunition for everyday training
- We can dry fire train with our own rifle and experience normal trigger performance
- We don't need to pull the charging handle and release the bolt after every trigger pull
Are there disadvantages to the Mantis Blackbeard system?
We're not tactical, but the rifle is not usable as a defense weapon during dry fire sessions. If this is a concern, you could have a secondary rifle nearby or holster up a sidearm.
Functionally, the laser adjustment kept the laser point of impact a few inches below our scope's ACSS reticle. I'm not a math guy, but I'm assuming this is a result of the 16" barrel on our AR-556 and a limit to the laser's adjustment angle along the bore.
Other than that, I can't think of any other downsides. For us, the positives far outweigh any negatives and the return on investment is easy to see. We will continue to use the Mantis Blackbeard for our dry fire rifle training and, perhaps, that is its greatest advantage: it motivates us and allows us to train more frequently and more effectively than ever before.
It's great to be back and we look forward to achieving the original purpose of this site by passing on more informative content for those folks who are untactical like us.
Stay healthy; stay aware, and keep the faith.