Top Shooting Drills and Zeroing Targets worth $47 FREE - Limited Period Offer

[Review] Mantis Blackbeard: Best AR-15 Dry-Fire System?

With ammo prices at a recent memory high, training and keeping your skills fresh is more expensive than normal — but still just as important.

Thankfully, there are other alternatives such as dry firing, manipulation drills, cool stuff with lasers, and now the Mantis Blackbeard.

Blackbeard Installed CA HD AR-15 (2)
David’s California legal home defense AR-15 with the Blackbeard system installed.

An auto-resetting AR-15 for dry fire drills sounds like a pretty amazing way to keep fresh in these trying times, but can the Blackbeard deliver?

We put it to the test to find out!

Table of Contents

Loading...

What Is The Blackbeard?

Basically, this is an auto-resetting dry fire system for your AR-15. Install the BCG/CH, install the magazine, and away you go. 

Pull the trigger as fast as you can and as often as you like and the system will flash a laser down your barrel and onto the target showing you where you “hit.”

A piston will reset the hammer so you can take another shot.

220
at MantisX

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

How Do You Use It?

Man, I just told you. You drop it in and shoot it. No, really — it is that easy. In terms of set-up, there is basically none.

As long as you know how to remove your BCG from the upper, you can install it in seconds.

Blackbeard (15)
Blackbeard magazine and BCG

No trigger mods, no fiddling, no weirdness, no hidden surprises.

As for using it to train better — the first thing I did was a mock house clearing. Because I mean, what else are you going to do first? 

Tell you what though, there isn’t a nicknack in the house that didn’t get at least double-tapped.

It’s surprisingly more useful than it sounds also. Getting to really feel what the angles are in your home is a lot different than dry runs with an empty rifle.

Man defending home with AR-style rifle
Training should be done safety, so NOT with a loaded rifle.

Outside of that, I spent a lot of time doing basic transitions and target acquisition. Moving from target to target in a static environment and putting dots on paper.

Range Report

When the system works, I really like it. It’s a very cool idea and it can actually help you train.

I would love to pair this system with some reactive targets like the LaserLyte system. 

I picked the green laser model though and it seems that the LaserLtyes don’t work with green — but green is easier to see on normal targets.

Laser Training Targets
My plan was to use it with some of these… oops.

If I was picking again, I would grab a red laser Blackbeard.

Set some of these up on target stands or in the house and go to town. You can knock out a huge amount of training in a short amount of time.

And with the cost of ammo being so high right now, the $200ish spent on the Blackbeard plus the money on the targets will be recouped in about… two training sessions.

The only gripe I have after using it is that I wish the battery pack/magazine was modeled after a 30-round mag.

As they are right now they are about the size of a 20-round AR mag.

I think that 30-round sized batteries/mags and selling extras would have been perfect for training reloads and dry fires.

Does It Help?

Even without getting to set up reactive targets, I can safely say that yes, it does help.

Dry fire training is the best bang for your buck you can get and the Blackbeard makes AR dry fire training a lot easier, smoother, and more real.

Training Suggestions

Other than LARPing through my house, and I really do recommend that as a training tool, I spent most of my time with the Blackbeard doing drills the exact same way I would do live-fire drills.

Failure to stop drills, box drills, 1 to 5 drills, 180 drills (MUCH safer to do dry firing than live firing), all of these, and more work with the Blackbeard just like they do with real ammo.

If you’re not sure what these drills are, take a look at some of the Best Shooting Drills where we go into detail!

The green dot is bright enough and lasts just long enough on target that you can see your “hits” clearly.

Green Laser
C’mon, green lasers are just cool.

While you can’t review after like you might on paper with real ammo, you at least know at the moment if you missed or not.

It’s kind of like shooting steel, but quieter, safer, and less pingy.

I would never say that the Blackbeard can replace live fire training, but it can absolutely augment it and give you another option when ammo is in low supply or you just don’t want to make the drive out to the range.

Problems

All of those nice things said…I had some major problems.

While the idea behind the Blackbeard is awesome, the construction and manufacturing have some issues.

The unit I tested the most was actually the second Blackbeard Mantis sent me. After about 50 shots the first BCG unit just seized up and died.

death vader nooo
Me IRL when something I’m testing breaks

Thankfully, the second BCG worked perfectly for at least 500 or so cycles. I hope it will last a lot longer, but so far that’s how much I’ve used it.

But the problems aren’t limited to one DOA unit.

The “magazine” is the battery pack for the Blackbeard. They are rechargeable via mini USB ports…if the ports are accessible.

Both of my batteries/magazines have ports that are grossly misaligned in the shell. The first battery/magazine’s port was so far off that it was impossible to use. 

Both units have misaligned ports. The one on the left is after I “fixed” it.

I emailed Mantis to ask what I should do and the answer was that it’s a known issue with that production run and that it’s fixed the next run.

And to fix mine, I should open the shell and shove the port into place. I did that and it did work but…come on. 

The second battery/magazine I got has the same issue, but not as bad and I was able to move it into place without having to crack it open.

Blackbeard Misaligned Ports (3)
I can plug it in now, but I mean… this is in spec? Really?

A glaring lack of quality control like this does not induce confidence in me.

Recommend?

I…do recommend the Blackbeard. I think.

The idea is awesome and as a training tool this really works. And since ammo is so expensive and it doesn’t look like it’s coming down soon, the price is easy to justify. 

However, I would say that you should go into it expecting there might be an issue with your unit.

I don’t know how many more units are in the production run that have the jacked-up ports, but it’s likely non-zero.

smile to sadness

If you get a Blackbeard from the fixed production runs, I think you’ll be set. But right now it’s a roll of the dice.

If you do end up having problems with it, Mantis is very easy to work with and has a great customer service department to help you out.

220
at MantisX

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What do you think? Leave your rating below.

Readers' Ratings

4.47/5 (43)

Your Rating?

Conclusion

The Blackbeard isn’t as good as it should be. I can’t deny that and in my opinion, Mantis has dropped the ball a bit on this. Granted, I don’t know the full story and there are always challenges in production.

But to my mind, these should be sold as blems at best until the ports on the batteries are fixed and the DOA issues resolved.

Fix It

At the same time, when it works — it really works. The idea is awesome, the training is solid, the price is fair considering how much you’ll save in ammo, and it’s just fun on top of it all.

If you own an AR-15 for home defense, I would strongly recommend the Blackbeard — just expect there might be some quirks when you get it.

220
at MantisX

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What do you think of these laser systems? Let us know in the comments! Need more dry fire worthy lasers in your life? Check out our guide to the Best Laser Targets & Ammo and our review of the Mantis X.

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

20 Leave a Reply

  • Bedrock

    I’ll wait a few months then.

    Maybe a follow up review?

    January 29, 2021 11:25 am
  • Leith

    David, thanks for the review. I assume the Blackbeard system should work with my new FM-9 AR pistol?

    January 29, 2021 11:17 am
    • David, PPT Editor

      If your FM-9 uses a Glock or Colt magazine well, the Blackbeard system will not work with it. It requires a standard AR-15 mag well for the battery. It also might not fit the chamber of an AR9, I didn't test that part.

      January 29, 2021 12:56 pm
  • Matt Kozatek

    Hi David,
    what a great piece and review on laser dry-fire.

    I looked up some info and found 1 other laser dry-fire set-up.

    https://nextleveltraining.com/product/sirt-bolt/

    I was wondering if Pew Pew could do a review on this, or more models out there?

    Great idea, but as you stated, the QC is lacking on the Mantis model. I am very interested in getting a laser dry-fire set up.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    January 29, 2021 9:14 am
    • David, PPT Editor

      I'll add it to the list and see if we can get one!

      January 29, 2021 12:56 pm
      • Curt

        I agree with Matt, I'm curious about a comparison between the Mantis Blackbeard and the Nextleveltraining SIRT bolt. I think you need that to satisfy the goal in the title of the article.

        March 16, 2021 5:54 am
    • Just Tellin Like It Is

      The SIRT bolt is absolute garbage. It is a weak design, a pain to install, doesn't provide a realistic weight and reset and is expensive. I have 2 and I, frankly, hate them.

      April 3, 2021 9:27 am
  • Tom

    David,
    Great Article.
    Here's a thought, can you see if it will work with the ELMS G-SIGHT system? Just the targeting system through the APP on the phone.(see if the app registers the hits) That could give someone pistol and an AR-15 applications. G-Sight is currently trying to perfect an AR-15 laser option for their system. Food for thought.

    TX.

    January 29, 2021 3:38 am
  • Travis C

    I’m fascinated, and it would help me a lot, O think. Even if there’s some kinks to work out. Did they take it down from their website? I can’t see it listed anywhere as a product they sell.

    January 28, 2021 5:28 pm
  • Jeffrey Shlakman

    How long does the battery last before it needs to be recharged?

    January 28, 2021 5:28 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      I don't know, but I did at least 200 "shots" of training and it still showed 4/4 bars of power. So I would say that battery life is pretty good.

      January 28, 2021 7:14 pm
  • Nick

    So it's a sirt bolt. But not as good. Got it.
    The red laser sirt is $140 right now.

    January 28, 2021 5:21 pm
    • Kenneth Swartz

      The way this reads it should work with any aftermarket trigger. Wherefrom what I've read (I've not gotten either yet) this would work with a specialized trigger like a binary.

      January 28, 2021 6:20 pm
    • Jeff

      I have a SIRT Bolt w/green laser and love it. In fact, I bought 5 of them to be used in our firearms training courses. It works great and you can see the laser out to at least 200 yds. The battery is contained inside the bolt and it is easily replaceable. The SIRT AR-Bolt has the red laser option too.

      January 28, 2021 6:47 pm
      • Matt Kozatek

        Thanks Jeff. Just saw your reply/info on the Sirt model.

        January 29, 2021 9:16 am
      • skaitz

        Does using the SIRT Bolt w/green or red laser any way damage or cause unusual wear on a normal AR-15 setup?

        February 2, 2021 1:39 pm
  • Mike

    Without at least a 1year warranty I would have to pass

    January 28, 2021 4:50 pm
  • Brian Woodward

    Great review. I happened to be in Phoenix last weekend and a gun shop I found out about had one set up on one of the owners personal AR's for people to try out. I like the green laser they had it set on. I did notice that when I dropped the mag (battery) it had a bit of a problem connecting again. It took the guy about 5 times dropping and reloading the battery. I do think that at this price point, things should work better and more consistently. Still, I am interested in picking it up. I am really good with fab work and don't mind making small changes to make things work well.

    January 28, 2021 4:43 pm
  • sound awake

    if you listen close
    *real close*
    you can hear that california or whatever compliant rifle pleading:
    "p p p please...k k k kill me..."

    January 28, 2021 2:33 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      Ya but the noise of hits on steel drowns it out at least. Silly commie guns.

      January 28, 2021 2:50 pm
New to Guns ? Check out our beginners guns video course. Start Now