Photos By Wally F. | Words By Wally F.
Prior to getting my hands on the Laser Academy I had been using their X2 Shooting Performance System for a couple of years already. An ingenious dry fire shooting aid that gathers, evaluates, corrects, and scores your dry fire sessions. For a type AAA person like myself that thrives on stats and analytical performance evaluations the X2 has been a great companion especially in a time of ammunition shortages, pandemic shutdown of ranges, and general heightening of stress for people everywhere. I found the Mantis Tech X2 an excellent stress reliever and easy training aid to use in the comfort of my only home.
Naturally Mantis Tech has pushed their hardware and software to the next evolution of interactive dry fire training with the Laser Academy. It is exactly as it sounds. A systematic progress of dry fire training designed to keep the user engaged with variety and clear levels and categories of drills to practice and refine technique. But we’re talking more than just basic marksmanship here. Laser Academy also covers movement from holster on the draw, close contacts, compressed ready, and a whole slew of other alternate positions, situations, and scenarios. All tracked, measured, and recorded for AAR after each serial.
But lets rewind back to start. Laser Academy is presented in a rugged compacted and eye pleasing hard nylon case. Along with the hard case the system it comes with I deem a home and away set-up. A large tripod and smartphone mounting bracket along with five hearty steel ring base plate mounts for the full sized (8.5”x11”) targets which I call my home ice advantage or what Mantis calls their Standard training kit. This is a set up I have on one end of my office which never really moved after I had it all set up. Getting into a training session was as easy as loading the Pink Rhino Laser cartridge into my pistol and loading the App.
The target package comes with twelve different targets ranging from IPSC, IDPA, FBI standard targets to the very useful Dot Torture, traditional bulls-eye, dart board, hostage taker, and so on. Some of the targets come in pairs which is useful for some of the multiple target drills you can do in the App. The hard case is my Away or portable package. A flexible mini tripod and smartphone mount with a handy Mantis branded wooden dowel, and the Pink Rhino Laser Cartridge. Also in the case is a sleeve which holds 5”x7” versions of the same targets that the standard kit has. The portable kit also comes with a block or blue tack putty that you can use to stick your targets to surfaces. I actually took two of the five steel ring base mounts and put those in the portable kit as I found it faster to just throw to targets up on the base mounts than to fiddle around with the blue putty.
Down to the nitty gritty. The set up of the system was fairly easy. I found the best angle at least with my Samsung Galaxy phone to register the targets cleanly was no more than 120 degrees from the targets especially when running dual target drills. The App does allow for auto camera adjustment, changing your ISO, and indicating your shutter speed as well. Now depending on the type of pistol you have where the laser lands versus you’re iron sights and eyes line up maybe slightly different. The laser will land differently if you’re shooting from a CZ Shadow2 or Lago Alien compared to a Glock 17 or M&P 2.0 just due to the height over bore difference. That’s all easily remedied with the App’s offset adjustments. If you’re using an RMR, Venom, DPP, Holosun, or other mini red dot optic (RDS), lining up the red dot is as easy as adjusting your RDS to overlap the Pink Rhino laser at the desired distance you want and you’re good to go, just remind what your offsets are if you’re going to drastically change your shooting distances. This is the same if you are using a PCC and red dot sight as well. I also tested Laser Academy with a Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm and the system worked great on that as well, which is good news for those that own FX9’s, B&Ts, Chiappas, MP5s, MCXs and so on. Basically any 9mm firearm works with Laser Academy (or whatever caliber of Pink Rhino Laser you have).
Once you’re zeroed and ready to go just make sure the O-rings on the Pink Rhino Laser cartridge are lightly oiled and the 3x LR 626 batteries and seated properly. Running the tutorial serial is straight forward and a good warm up for some of the more complicated shooting drills that the Laser Academy offers.
From zeroing you can move into the basics like bulls-eye shooting and progress to shooting from guard or low ready or holster draws. If you have a a second Pink Rhino and a friend you can duel it out with each other for a friendly competition, but most important to all of these drills is the feedback you receive from the app. Not only do you get the rounds, scores, and par times broken down for you, you also get a visual representation of the hits on target that you can you can manually zoom in on to see exactly where your hits landed for a better assessment.
For the App to recognize what target is what is the four corner QR codes that the camera on your phone scans to determine the borders and type of target you have up on screen. To help with dialing in the accuracy of the laser hits on paper. One of the drills I spent a lot of time on was the Open Shooting Multi Target mode. I’d set up two targets side by side and conducted static box shooting drill moving either left to right up and over or down and over with two IPSC targets. I also ran a traditional Box drill with a single target and moving to corners of the Box I set up. In all of these drills you can set the distance in the App of where you are shooting so the system can measure and score accordingly.
If you get tired of the 14 plus drills and 3 tutorials, which I doubt you will. There is also two courses to run from within the App as well. The Pistol Marksmanship course and the corresponding Pistol Marksmanship test. There are near endless combinations of drills and targets you can setup depending on what your training plan is. Whether it be for casual plinking, getting your split times down for your next IPSC match, speed and accuracy for steel challenge, honing your marksmanship for military or law enforcement. You can match the best target of your choice up to the best drill you want to accomplish the training goal you want to achieve.
Out of the couple thousand rounds or so that I put down range with the Laser Academy, I did experience the odd shot not getting registered with the system. Whether it was my smart phones specific camera just being a little dirty or the laser not refracting the light in the right way for the system to register a hit; is what initially prompted me to figure out the best min-max angle to position the camera for the App. I did notice the indentation on the back of the Pink Rhino Laser Cartridge rubber cover on the activation button. The dent on the button appears to be just cosmetic at this point as the Pink Rhino still fires jut fine. But I also consider the Pink Rhino and the LR626 batteries that go with it as a consumable much like a recoil or trigger spring, those high use high wear parts will need to be replaced over time.
Calculating the rough math on actually rounds fired versus virtual for me is the true tale of this review. Even if I conservatively fired 2500-3000 rounds for this review in real life for me to throw that much ammo of typical 9mm 124 grain would have cost me roughly $675cdn or about $525usd. Not counting gas, range fees, travel time, incidentals. The Mantis Laser Academy packages start at $99usd at time of print. So while nothing totally replaces putting live rounds down range, the benefits of dry fire training is very well documented. With the cost and availability always fluctuating and the status of ranges being opened or closed due to whatever your local pandemic measures are being taken in your area, makes going to your local range a major hassle.
The Mantis Tech Laser Academy System much like the Mantis X2 which I’ve had for a fairly long time is a worthy addition to my dry fire training. There are other dry fire laser “training systems” on the market which really don’t amount to much more than a video game with not much thought put behind the concept. The ability to be able to dry fire train meaningfully is something you can’t really put a price on especially in this day and age.
Find out more at Mantis Tech (https://mantisx.com/collections/laser-academy)
Reporting for TV-PressPass