Released in mid-2022, the BlackbeardX Auto-Resetting Trigger System with Analytic and Smart Feedback finally bridges the diagnostic sensor collection from its Elite training aid, with the auto-resetting function of its original Blackbeard AR bolt carrier. The result is the same in-depth analytical view and training opportunities for the AR platform, without the cost of physical range expenditures.
In many ways, the BlackbeardX (BBX) is like its predecessor in that it remains a two-part system that includes a poly-molded facsimile of an AR-15 bolt carrier group w/charging handle, and a 30-round (approximate) magazine. These components work with direct impingement and piston rifle systems. But the sensor collection and mechanics are all about what’s inside.
The BBX features a monolithic bolt carrier group that replaces the factory AR-15 unit and the charging handle, and includes two aluminum connector pads on the bottom, with an articulating piston mechanism inside that serves to action a plunger, and reset the trigger.
As with the original, the side of the BBX bolt carrier group has control points that allows the end-user to adjust the point-of-impact and zero the laser, as well as select between intermittent beam (only when the trigger is pulled) or continual beam (always on).
The magazine itself serves as the brains and rechargeable power source for the BBX and, once inserted into the magwell of your AR-15, locks firmly into place using the rifle’s own hardware with two aluminum connector pads oriented upwards. A small pressure-button is on the bottom of one side that allows the BBX to power on and sync with the app.
The magazine uses a USB/Micro USB charging cable to recharge the power supply, with each charge able to provide up to 100,000 cycles of the overall training device. Once depleted, the power source itself takes approximately two hours to fully recharge if plugged into a wall outlet via USB adapter (not included).
How the BBX training system physically works is when the trigger is depressed; the hammer of the AR-15’s trigger assembly bumps the bolt carrier group insert sufficiently, so as that the aluminum connector pads between the bolt carrier group and magazine make contact, and thereby completes the circuit between the power source and the piston mechanism. This piston thereby moves the plunger and causes the AR’s trigger to reset in as many as 10 times per second. Simultaneously while the piston actions, the laser emits a bust of light down the length of the barrel to mark the “shot” visually.
But the BBX reset is only half the function of the device. Sensors in the BBX magazine measure the assorted angles of the rifle’s performance, and transmit that to MantisX Pistol/Rifle App (synced to smart device via Bluetooth). The app takes that data (specific to the BBX) and records it in a manner that makes it easy for the end-user to visualize and understand. The app divides the data between direction & magnitude, shot-by-shot analysis, or detailed trace.
The app (configured for the BBX automatically at the time of sync) includes
- Three BBX-specific programs; BBX Dynamics, Transitions, and Plate. Each in turn has its own sub-set of drills that stress accuracy and other key fundamentals.
- There are 14 independent drills that include; timed events, scenario-based drills, and qualification exercises.
- Three Mantis programs that range from beginner, basic, and advanced marksmen.
- Based on selection at time of purchase, laser details are:
- Red Laser: 650 nm, 60ms pulse duration, Continuous wave
- Green Laser: 520 nm, 60ms pulse duration, Continuous wave
- IR Laser: 780 nm, 60ms pulse duration, Continuous wave
The BlackbeardX Auto-Resetting Trigger System with Analytic and Smart Feedback is only available in safety red, but the laser color itself can be selected at the time of purchase for Red (featured), Green, or IR. Separately, for those previous owners of the original Blackbeard, Mantis sells the BlackbeardX Magazine Powerbank to replace the original 20-round version—or offers a trade-in program whereby previous owners can exchange their older version for the newer BlackbeardX.
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Average (3/5): With a list price of $319, the BlackbeardX (BBX) Auto-Resetting Trigger System with Analytic and Smart Feedback is unique on the market as a training device, with few alternatives achieving the same design or analytic function. As is, the BBX allows for improved training and alleviates the end-user from continually cycling the bolt or causing premature wear of trigger components to achieve the same level of training. Additionally, the BBX bridges the gap between the static training aids, by providing near-real time data analytics displayed in an easy smartphone app. The closest market alterative would be the iDryFire AR-15 Bolt/Trigger Reset Device ($199) that is similar in design, or perhaps a Trainer Rifle Cartridge ($84.99) insert from LaserLyte. But both are passive training aids that necessitate continual charging of the bolt carrier group to reset the trigger with each shot, and neither offer a diagnostic data feature. The lack of comparable alternatives, nor one that offers the level of end-user feedback gave the BBX an average price point within the market whereby one must consider what is gained in function against overall cost.
- Comfort – Average (3/5): The BBX had several elements that performed adequately (or of average) from a comfort aspect, specifically the ease and speed in which the BBX was set in place (necessitating no tools and allowed full use of current rifle), and the visibility of the red laser emission at the target. That said, there were significant limitations on the laser’s brightness, with it evident that the device was intended for indoor environments only. Outdoors the laser light, even on continual beam, was diffused by ambient light and couldn’t be identified at the target over distances greater than 10’ or more depending on the level of available sunlight. Also, the laser light emission was lost inside the black ink of the target. Elsewhere, the speed at which the mechanical plunger would reset the hammer adequately kept pace with the rate in which the end-user could depress the trigger. There were several instances whereby riding the “wall” of the trigger did cause a hesitancy in reset (a probable conflict between the position of the hammer and the plunger at the time of action), but full range in trigger length-of-pull allowed for consistent reset. The buttonology of the app itself was comfortable and flowed easily, with the display of data and results easily understood, although some of the flow-through (such as a “back” button) was absent in some of the drills.
- Durability – Good (4/5): The outer shell to the bolt carrier group and the magazine of the BBX were made in a similar material as that of other polymer-based magazines that gave it an appropriate (or average) level of durability for hard use items. This helped mitigate impact from usage, as well penetration from oil or lubricant based solvents. Some seams and edges were a bit rough, as evident of the mold process used to manufacture the unit. Over usage and time, there was some staining noted on the bolt carrier group’s exterior shell due to carbon residue left inside the upper receiver from previous live fires—but this predominantly was wiped off. The BBX magazine did sustain some superficial marring from magazine drills against the magazine catch and well, but otherwise could be what is considered normal wear. Otherwise, over the period of evaluation, the mechanical device and contact pads remained in good working order and provided consistent function, with no evident signs of wear. Moreover, the point of aim of the laser consistently held zero throughout.
- Functionality – Good (5/5): Functionally, the BBX allowed for easy installation and automatic trigger reset, while training the fundamentals of marksmanship and more advanced techniques on the app. Elements like sight picture, trigger squeeze, target acquisition, and follow-through were easily emphasized with visual recognition from the laser emission when combined with cardboard silhouettes or wall targets (not included). The inclusion of analytic data to visualize performance, drills, and recommendations for improvement also expanded on the BB’s functionality. This made the auto-reset function and app data of the device pay off in dividends and save/effort time by not necessitating cycling the bolt after each shot. With the inclusion for those with the original Blackbeard, the BBX now gave the option of using the previous spare magazine the added benefit to practice magazine drills and build muscle memory. However, the app drills for magazine reloads and several other drills had some conflicting language and conflated live-fire drills with those utilizing the BBX. Additionally, while doing reloads, the powerbank magazine automatically cycled the trigger reset twice to signal positive connection—thus effecting the timed event. Suggestive language was made to Mantis to improve the drill and account for the functional cycle of the BBX as part of this drill. Otherwise, the app itself had a vast amount of opportunity for end-users to include walk-through tutorials, drills, and qualifications that could greatly expand on an individual’s skill. Mantis is aware of the language in some drills as confusing and has some lengthy work-arounds, but also stated they are working to revise some of the text itself. One thing is end-users will require to either purchase some of the Mantis paper targets for more advanced drills (typically using multiple targets) or create their own as some BBX drills were specific to a pre-programmed format. It would be interesting to see if Mantis could now work in a version of the BBX for those working on precision long-gun development, now that the BBX allows for carbine training, while the X10 Elite allows for those working pistol or archery.
- Weight – Good (4/5): The entire BlackbeardX training kit (without case) weighted in at 15.5 ounces; but individually the magazine w/power supply came in at 8.8 ounces, and the bolt carrier group itself weighed just at 6.7 ounces (almost the exact same weights as the original Blackbeard). This means that for less than the weight of a fully loaded AR magazine/steel bolt carrier group/aluminum charging handle end-users can get seemingly endless dry fire cycles to train with—on an app that has seemingly endless opportunity to develop and maintain skill. Given that each full charge of the power cell provides 100,000 “shots” per cycle, with current market cost of .223 ammo at $0.73/round (PMC 55gr), this translates to thousands of dollars saved. In contrast the iDryFire AR-15 Bolt/Trigger Reset Device is similarly 8 ounces, but has a smaller, internal power supply with no magazine. Other training devices for the AR are smaller and lighter, but lack the complete functionality of the BBX and training app.
Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via High Ground Media, LLC, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
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