There is no question about it, we need to do dry-fire practice more. Even professionals who shoot hundreds of thousands of rounds a year will point to dry fire as being the most effective way of establishing and building skill. The problem is that dry fire doesn’t give you instant feedback. Just like building actual muscles, it’s kind of a pain and a lot of work. 

If only there were a way to make it more fun and interactive, a way to build from the ground up, and a way to track your data over time. Enter the Mantis Laser Academy. Mantis was kind enough to send me the Mantis Laser Academy, which includes a 9mm cartridge, and so far I’ve been very impressed.

Disclaimer: When dry-fire training, remove all ammo from the gun and place it in a separate room from the training. Always point the gun in a safe direction. Know your target and what lies beyond it. Always check that the gun is unloaded before starting.



Mantis Laser Trainer
Mantis showing off their open-shooting multi-target drill at SHOT Show 2022. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

The Mantis laser system is based on a replacement laser cartridge that drops into your gun with the magazine inserted. Every time you pull the trigger, your gun “fires” a laser beam out of the front of the gun. That laser is then tracked with the Mantis App on your phone, and specially designed targets deliver instant feedback. It’s this type of instant feedback that makes the system so appealing, especially paired with the vast number of targets that they send with Training Academy.

So far, I’ve run the cartridge through my Sig P365X, S&W M&P Shield Plus, Walther PDP, and Mossberg MC2c with good results. I've spent the most time with the gun I’m currently carrying the most, the Sig P365X.

You could also use a laser gun, such as a SIRT trainer, with this system, and there are certain advantages and disadvantages depending on your point of view. I like using my own pistols to work through the exercises, but you will have to reset the trigger by racking the slide back with every trigger pull to use your own pistol. 



Mantis laser training
Everything you get in the Laser Academy package, minus the Walther PDP. You'll need to get that from (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

When you order the standard kit, you get a lot of stuff. I’ll quickly go through it here: 

  • Full access to the Laser Academy and marksmanship programs – more on that in a minute.
  • A laser cartridge in the caliber of your choosing. Currently, for handguns, they offer calibers including: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Spl, and .357 SIG
  • Two sets of smart targets needed for the app to work. One set is 8x11 and the other is 5x7.
  • Two tripods, one mini and one large. 
  • A wooden dowel, or what Mantis dubs the “laser cartridge extraction stick." Either way, very helpful to have.
  • Portable carrying case for training on the go.
  • Five metal target stand holders.


This is where Mantis starts to separate from some of the other competitors I’ve used in the past. The app features 17 drills and a pistol marksmanship training course. There are drills for single users or doubles if you’re looking to train with a partner. The training ranges from basic drills like Bullseye 5-Shot to more advanced drills like Holster Draw and Hunt, which happens to be my favorite. 

Mantis laser training
A small sampling of the targets included. You'll notice familiar targets, like IPSC and B-27, as well as more advanced ones, like Dot Torture and Hunt. Without question, the one that was the most fun and challenging was the Hunt target for this author. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

I’ve done dry-fire training before, but like the fat guy who just rolled off the couch after a long holiday season, I was a bit rusty. I decided to start with the larger 8x11-inch targets at about 4 yards. At this range, some of the targets and drills proved to be very easy while others were quite difficult. I said Hunt was my favorite target precisely because the drill calls out a number and shape you need to find. They don’t tell you to start from a low ready, but I added that because I feel like it helps speed up my target acquisition time, and I have the par times to prove I’m right. That said, if you didn’t want to start from the low ready for every call out, this drill and target will still help with target transition and speeding up your target acquisition time.

They also have a drill called Die Hard, which may have some training applications, but is almost certainly aimed at just pure fun. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to step into the shoes – err, bare feet? – of John McClane and send Hans Gruber hurtling out of Nakatomi Plaza, well you’re in luck. You guessed it. For this drill, you must unholster from your back and take out the terrorist without hitting the hostage. If taping a gun to your own back is too tough though, I’m sure you could approach it from a low-ready position, and no one would be the wiser. 

You can see all the Mantis drills here.

The pistol marksmanship course was a fun experience as well, but one packed with real-world benefits…



Mantis laser training
Unfinished basement project aside, the targets and course were easy to set up and could be set up nearly anywhere you have a solid backstop. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

Another huge added benefit to the Mantis Laser Academy is the Pistol Marksmanship course. I found this to be fun as well, but it also got very challenging, especially when they break out the dot torture on you. After messing around with the individual drills enough to have some fun, I thought I would get serious. It was time to take on the Pistol Marksmanship course. I started with the 8.5x11 targets from 4 yards away, as this is what Mantis advises. They also say if you use the 5x7 targets you should move up to 2 yards. I could see advanced shooters getting a challenge from increasing the distance while keeping the 5x7 targets.

The first night I trained on the pistol marksmanship course, I spent about 20 minutes getting through the first half of the course, and it was all fairly easy. That is, until the ninth level of the course. Then they broke me. It was the Hunt target again, but I had to hit every shape in order starting from the top. I took the next 10 minutes angrily getting halfway down the target only to miss on one and have to start over. After I started consistently missing on the first or second shot, I chalked it up to training fatigue (not to mention real fatigue) and put the system down to go to sleep for the night. 

The next night, after I put my daughter down for bed, I happily trotted down to the basement eager to take on the challenge again. Was I actually anticipating and enjoying my dry-fire training? I was! I wanted to pass the test, and I wanted to get faster. This is perhaps the most striking endorsement I can give for the Mantis system and the Laser Academy. It actually makes you look forward to your dry-fire training instead of putting it off. 

With a renewed sense of vigor and a set of fresh eyes, I set off on taking down this type of dot-torture drill. But the drill had other plans, and I was once again relegated to the frustration of not passing the test. Something was happening, though, because I was continuing through this journey. I was becoming faster. The trigger pull was easier and less manipulated. Just like a basketball player who continually works on their shot, I was slowly getting better.

By the third night, I was determined to get over the hump and finish the course. Eventually, after a few more attempts, I was able to pass this drill and move on. To my surprise, the rest of the course felt easier after this drill that I was stuck on. 

My overall impression of the Academy is that it’s well worth the money and time well spent. It can guide you from the fundamentals all the way to the advanced drills. It does that while you still have fun in the process of training to possibly protect your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Mantis laser training
I passed! Though the 92% score is a bit deceiving since it doesn't count all the times I failed on the Hunt drill. Further, some of the drills, like the last one, force you to get a perfect score in order to pass. Perhaps the hits could be graded differently on those lessons. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/



Mantis laser training
The larger of the two included tripods works a lot better than the smaller one, but there is still something to be desired here. This is the maximum height of the larger included tripod. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

There is no such thing as a perfect product, and I don’t think that stops with dry-fire training tools either. There are a handful of improvements that would be nice to see as the product evolves over time. 

More ability to notate your logs/track different guns – I wish there was a way to go back into the drill and edit metadata after it was over. It would be nice to be able to add the gun I was using, the distance I was at, and the types of targets. This would allow me to set different benchmarks for different guns. I see this ability as a real game changer for both myself and the app because it would allow me to tailor my training.

Daily reminders – Another nice option would be if the app could send me reminders to train. I get it. I shouldn’t need this reminder. But with so many other apps these days competing for attention and also sending me notifications, it seems like an easy win.

Built-in schedule – Building off the point above, it would be nice if there were a schedule of sorts. The same way an athlete would consult a trainer about the best way to build muscle, it would be nice to be able to have some more input from Mantis on what drills to train on which days and what the goal of the training is. Think of it like a pistol marksmanship course stretched out for 30 days and focusing on a single drill each training day to improve skills.

Better tripods – This one may be more of a pet peeve than anything else, but I suspect other users will have the same sentiments about the tripods included. Now, I’m not saying Mantis should include a top-of-the-line Manfrotto, but anything other than this cheap Chinese junk would be nice. 

For its part, the larger tripod does work enough to be serviceable, but just barely. The travel tripod is basically worthless. Nearly every modern smartphone will probably prove too heavy for the tripod. Then there is the matter of setting it up and having it hold the phone and actually work. Setting the travel tripod up resulted in so much frustration for me that I ended up not even training that day because I had spent so much time tooling around with it. Long story short, if you want a nice tripod to hold your phone, you’ll likely need to invest more.


Despite a couple of areas for improvement, the Laser Training Academy has proven to be an awesome new training product to add to my arsenal. I’ve had a ton of fun training with it. Like I said earlier, this makes me want to dry fire more, which isn’t something that I normally look forward to. The combination of targets, drills, and the ease of using the system has made this fun and well worth the money.  

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