Gear Review: Mantis Laser Academy – Standard Kit
I’ve been a huge fan of the MantisX Company since the original MantisX model debuted at SHOT Show in 2017. In fact, I gave it a comprehensive review, which you can read here. Despite being overhauled a few times and newer models now on the market, my original X is still going strong, and still a favorite training tool of mine both on and off the range.
The Mantis Laser Academy is an entirely different type of dry fire trainer. While the MantisX itself can be used both on-and-off the range, the Laser Academy turns your home (or wherever you take it) into a shooting range. Using their laser cartridge and app, you will improve your aim, get instant feedback, and save a ton of money on ammo. You can also do it in your pajamas because you never have to leave your house to use it.
The system uses your own handgun with the Laser Academy cartridge inserted (available in most popular handgun calibers as well as .223/5.56). It’s also portable so you can take it with you an train anytime using the contents of the Portable Kit which is available separately (MSRP: $99) but included within the Standard Kit.
First, the unboxing. Here’s what you’ll get with the Laser Academy Standard Kit:
- A full access code for the app (Mantis Laser Academy, available for both Apple and Android smartphones)
- Laser cartridge in your preferred caliber, selected upon ordering
- Set of 8½ x 11 smart targets
- Set of 5 x 7 smart targets
- Mini (tabletop) tripod and phone holder
- Large (standing) tripod and phone holder
- Extraction stick for the laser cartridge (you will need this!)
- Case for the portable kit (basically everything above other than the larger targets and large tripod).
- Adhesive dots to secure targets to the wall (safe for most surfaces)
When I review a product, it’s thoroughly tested. Nothing grinds my gears more than reading a review to see the author has only had the product for a few days. I’d say at time of publishing, I have just over 20 hours on the Mantis Laser Academy. Over those hours I’ve gone through the tutorials (highly recommended), fiddled around with the software settings, and worked through the various drills at differing lengths.
How it works: Controlled by the Laser Academy app the included “smart targets” automatically detect and score your Laser Academy shots. The distance to target is easily customized in the app, to ensure the software is reading and scoring your shots properly given the correct distance. You set the tripod up, with your smartphone facing the targets, start the app, and follow the voice prompts for whichever drill you chose (see below for choices), after shooting the Start/Stop target to begin. The software reads and records your shots in real-time. At the end of each session, it shows you where your shots hit on target. You can clear your target by shooting the clear/close smart target. You don’t have to walk to the targets or touch your phone unless you’d like to choose a new drill.
Four basic drills are included in the free section of the app including:
- Open Shooting – Single Target
- Shot From Guard/Low Ready – One Shot
- Duel – Single Shot
- Bullseye – Five-shot
The Pro section requires an activation code which is included in the standard kit and provides access to the following drills:
- Open Shooting – Multiple Targets
- Duel – Best of Five Series
- Duel – High Score
- Shot From Guard/Low Ready – Multi-Shot
- Bullseye – 10 Shots
- Close Contact from Holster
- Compressed Surprise Break
- Holster Draw
- Holster Draw – Par Timed
- Multiple Shots on Multiple Targets
Note: If you choose to purchase only the Portable Kit, you can purchase the full version of the app separately. I also love that you can use this system with drills geared toward drawing from your EDC holster in the Pro section as the laser is in your barrel, leaving the silhouette of your handgun unchanged.
The full-size targets in the standard kit include: (2) bullseye, IDPA, IPSC, (2) B-27, BT-55, (2) Hostage 01, Dot Torture, Silhouette Head Shot, Mantis-specific Hunt drill target, FBI Qualification, Dartboard target as well as a Start/Stop Clear/Close Control Target. The portable targets include all of the above but in a smaller, more portable 5 x 7 size that fits in the portable case for easy transport. Of note, you need to let the app know which set of targets you’re shooting before you start.
Prior to getting this kit, I hadn’t been shooting all that much. Life often gets in the way of getting to the range, and dry-firing at home is just plain boring. That all changed when I unboxed Laser Academy. There are no more excuses. Shooting is a perishable skill, and let me tell you, this was humbling, especially in the beginning. Over the 20+ hours I worked with this system, I did see improvement, both in speed and accuracy. And, it was FUN! Like my other MantisX product, it does what it says it’s going to do – improve your shooting. I haven’t combined both products yet because I wanted to focus on the Laser Academy, but I don’t see why I couldn’t use both at the same time, if I used my MantisX app on my iPad, while using the Laser Academy app on my iPhone.
You do have to rack the slide between each shot so that the firing pin is reset. One trick is, if your pistol will allow it, leave your magazine out. This will give you the ability to quick-rack it, without it automatically locking your slide back each time. While it’s not the end of the world if it does, it will take you a tad longer with each shot. After working with it a little while, it became second nature to rack on drawing. Doing this will reinforce for you that if you are a concealed carrier, you should be carrying with one in the chamber, but for dry-fire practice it’s not a big deal.
In addition to the 9mm laser cartridge I used for the testing, I also dug out a laser pistol from a different company that I’ve used for training. The Laser Academy apps sensors successfully read, recorded and scored my laser guns shots. I loved having the ability to use a laser gun that didn’t need to be racked before each shot. It also gave me the ability to work through the duel drills with a partner.
Overall, the Mantis Laser Academy is a fantastic training tool, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s innovative, intuitive, fun and it really does improve your shooting. If you put in the time, you WILL see results and improvement. It’s also worth noting that Mantis products are made in the USA.