2018 Guns & Gear Top Picks: Top-Ranked Dry-Fire Trainers
Dry-fire training should be part of every shooter’s training routine. It helps build the fundamentals of shooting and reinforces muscle memory. Enter technology, which offers a variety of high-tech lasers, laser-friendly targets, and apps that allows shooters to train in the comfort of their own homes, without the cost of going to a range and, further, without incurring the cost of ammo. The beauty of dry-fire training is you can do it any where you want and at any time. No loud noises, just the clicking of tripped firing pins and a flash of red laser, though some apps and target do have sound effects. Here are the best-ranked products we evaluated in the October 2018 issue:
Laser Ammo SureStrike Premium Kit 9mm, $150
GUN TEST GRADE: A
What sets this laser cartridge apart from the others is that you can buy optional caliber adapters, so the 9mm laser cartridge can be configured to train with 40 S&W, 45 ACP, and 357 SIG ($12.94); 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO, and 300 Win. Mag. ($39.95); and 12 and 20 gauge ($39.95) shotgun adapters. Inserting the cartridge was similar to the other laser cartridges, and the shooter could use just the cartridge or install the pipe extensions and add the safety cap. We found that field-stripping the pistol to remove the cartridge and attached pipe was the best way to disassemble the set up. The SureStrike performed well and worked with every press of the trigger.
Our Team Said: Though the most expensive, the SureStrike offered better construction and an added level of safety with the threaded pipe extensions and safety cap.
Laser Ammo LaserPET, $120
GUN TEST GRADE: A
The Laser Personal Electronic Target (PET) is a standalone laser training target that is used in combination with the SureStrike laser cartridge or any other laser cartridges. It worked with the LaserLyte and CheapShot, too. The PET is about the size of a smart phone and is made of plastic. It comes with a stand so you can set it up on a flat surface, and it has a hole in the back to hang it on a wall, and it can be attached to a tripod. We found that we needed to aim precisely with the LaserPET to score a hit. The target cards decrease the size of the laser window. We used the LaserPET to practice our draw from concealment by setting it on the Shot Time mode, and we could see our time decrease from 2.01 seconds to 1.62 seconds over the course of one training session. The Magazine Change/Burst Shooting gives you 5 seconds to make a magazine change and hit the target or hit the target as many times as possible in 5 seconds. With the Beretta, SIG, and Arex, we could use the double-action triggers, but with the striker-fire pistols, it was a time suck to reset the trigger every time.
Our Team Said: The LaserPET helps you record hits and times, and this makes the training more valuable because you can chart your progress. This allows you to train in ways you cannot at a public range.
iTarget, Target Sled and Laser Bullet Package, $89 iTarget Quick Draw, $5
GUN TEST GRADE: A
The iTarget works with both Apple and Android devices. It comes with a plastic base that holds the smart phone in front of the target. You need to download the free app to your phone and make sure your phone’s camera has permission to use the app. We had issues until we realized we needed to go into our phone settings to give the app permission. The system uses the iTarget app, the camera in your smart phone to view a target, and a laser cartridge. The camera of your smart phone captures the laser hits on the target and saves them to the phone. The first step is to fit the target area into the phone’s screen, then specify the bullseye area using the phone’s screen. This second step tells the app the area to be scored. Then the shooter sets the distance he will be shooting from. As the laser hits the target, a subtle gunshot sound is made and a hole appears on the phone screen. The shooter can track his progress by saving the target image to the phone, or you can share it with your friends for bragging rights.
Our Team Said: We liked that this system provided a holder for your smart phone, which makes using these apps easier. We also liked the ability to save targets and refer to them after multiple training sessions to see our scores.
Mantis Tech Mantis X, $150
GUN TEST GRADE: A
The Mantis X trainer (MantisX.com) is quite different compared to the other trainers. It can provide immediate feedback on each shot you take, whether dry-fire or live fire. It uses a sensor that attaches to the Picatinny-style rail of any pistol or rifle. If your firearm doesn’t have a rail, an optional barrel mount or floor plate attachment is available ($14 to $25). For revolvers, the floor plate attachment can be attached to the revolver’s butt. The sensor uses a built-in battery and is charged via a USB cable. Battery life is about 8 to 10 hours. It is made in the U.S. and has a two-year warranty. The sensor comes in a zippered hard case along with a USB charging cable.
Our Team Said: We used the Mantis in live- and dry-fire training, and we felt this trainer provided the best data collection, plus it offered recommendations on how to correct bad shots.