“Grass week” refers to the Marine Corps tradition of expansive dry-fire practice prior to heading to the range for yearly qualifications. The phrase “grass week” is often met with dread among the saltier among us, as the fierce boredom it inspires is something to behold. Sitting in the cold or heat, sweating or freezing as you take “shots” at a multitude of targets painted on the sides of bright white barrels.
Imagine dry firing your rifle for hours at a time at a non-moving target that never changes. It’s proven to be effective, but most of all, it’s boring. Now, a little company called Mantis is trying to make your grass week a lot more entertaining and even more effective with their Blackbeard system.
Mantis is all about the dry fire. They produce various products that allow you to improve your shooting via dry-fire training. The Blackbeard system takes dry fire to the next level. The biggest and more boring problem with dry fire is the absolute lack of feedback. You just pull the trigger and hear a click. Then manually cycle the action to reset the hammer and do it again. This is what makes grass week so boring and so lame. And that’s where Blackbeard comes in.
How the Mantis Blackbeard works
The Blackbeard is a two-piece system made up of a “bolt” and a battery. The bolt replaces the bolt-carrier group and charging handle in a standard M16/M4 series firearm. For safety’s sake, the Blackbeard bolt is bright red, so it’s impossible to mix it up with a real bolt.
The battery is shaped to fit the magazine well of the M4/M16 series rifles and connect to the bolt to provide it with power. Why does it need power? Well, the Blackbeard bolt does a few things. First, it automatically and rapidly resets the trigger of your rifle. Every time you pull the trigger, the Blackbeard catches it as it travels and then automatically resets it.
This eliminates the need to use the charging handle for every shot. The reset works fast enough to reset the trigger 10 times a second. This means the Blackbeard will work with the automatic or burst function of your service rifle.
The Blackbeard bolt also “fires” a visible red laser (green is also an option) as soon as the trigger is pulled. This allows you to actively see where you would theoretically hit when firing live.
Individual Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen can zero the internal laser to coincide with the zero of their optic. The windage and elevation adjustments are easily accessible through the ejection port of the gun. You can also set the laser to constant to make zeroing quick and easy, especially between a number of troops.
Beyond grass week with the Mantis Blackbeard
The Blackbeard would make grass week a whole lot more efficient, effective, and even entertaining. That’s true, but you’d be silly to think that the device couldn’t be used elsewhere. It cycles much like a semi-automatic rifle, and troops could easily use the device for practical training.
As an infantryman, I didn’t have a day job in the Marine Corps, so to say. We often trained at the barracks, and something like the Mantis Blackbeard could have easily and effectively improved barracks training. I imagine many military jobs do not receive enough combat training simply due to time and the availability of training resources.
The Mantis Blackbeard allows you to minimize the cost and need for training areas by mimicking realistic rifle action combined with a reactive system. Set up some old Ivan targets or even paper targets at the barracks or common areas, and you can execute combative drills with your rifle.
As a Marine stuck on a ship for 11 months, I can certainly see the Blackbeard as a means to spice up training in environments not always conducive to live-fire exercises. You can practice room clearing, marksmanship, combative drills, and more with a two-dollar piece of gear.
Since it’s a safe piece of training gear, individuals could walk through various scenarios. This includes rapidly escalating events, de-escalation, vehicle checkpoints, and so much more.
Train, train, train
Smart leaders train their troops smartly. Gadgets can only take you so far, but the Mantis Blackbeard seems to be a tailor-made solution to training in non-training environments. Yelling bang as you run around the quad can only be taken seriously for so long. The Mantis Blackbeard doesn’t require blanks, ammo, or yelling bang to work.
Charge the battery via a USB charge, and boom, you’re ready to rock and roll. Not only will it make grass week better, but it will also make all dry-fire training better. It has a permanent spot in my range backpack.
According to Mantis, plenty of military forces have purchased the Blackbeard. It warms my heart to see commanders seeing the training potential in this simple drop-in device.