Infantry: Pistol Magic

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March 5, 2019: Millions of troops and police carry pistols and many are frustrated at not being able to improve their accuracy beyond a certain point. Often others tell struggling pistol users that are problems with how they hold the weapon and pull the trigger but there has been no way to fix those problems for many users. Then technology showed up.

When smartphones first appeared it was believed there would soon be an app for improving rifle and pistol accuracy and there were. But at first, these apps were only for rifles, especially for long-range shots. Over time the technology got better and in 2016 MantisX appeared. This $150 dollar device looked like a small laser sight, of the sort attached to the bottom of a pistol equipped with a rail. MantisX took advantage of better sensor tech (accelerometers and gyroscopes) and combined these with app software downloaded to your smartphone. This combination of hardware and software provided an instant and accurate record of your shooting (with bullets or “dry” without ammo). The MantisX hardware detected the motion of the pistol up to when the trigger was pulled and, using a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to grab the data, analyzed each shot (whether real or simulated) and tells you how well you did and what you did wrong if you were making mistakes with trigger pull or how you were holding the pistol (or rifle). MantisX did this by adapting the software to a wide variety of specific pistol and rifle models. As expected, MantisX underwent constant improvements since it was first introduced and these fixes were automatically distributed via app updates.

Word of mouth and online reviews have been excellent, if only because MantisX improves shooting accuracy very quickly. Military and police pistol users, who had tried for years to improve their accuracy found their problems identified quickly and repeatedly by MantisX and that kind of feedback managed to quickly improve their accuracy where all else had failed. For pistols and rifles, the biggest problem was how you pulled the trigger and for pistols how you held the weapon was always a major factor (more so than with rifles).

At the other end of the tech/price scale, there are computerized scopes for sniper rifles costing over $10,000 but making just about anyone an expert sniper. While these can be useful the primary skill of a sniper is learning the shooting basics well and using them automatically. Another sniper skill often overlooked by non-snipers is how to select a suitable position to shoot from and have several of these available during combat. That is what separates effective snipers from target shooters. So far there has been no app for that.

A decade ago apps for smartphones began to appear that improved shooting accuracy. The first of these was BulletFlight, which was affordable, did the job and appealed to inexperienced snipers, hunters, recreational shooters and those who were just curious. The software cost $12. If you wanted to actually use it, you needed to buy a protective case ($50) for the smartphone, and a device ($25) that attaches it to the rail found on most sniper rifles and high-end hunting rifles. So for shooting purposes, the entire kit costs you about $90.

There was some concern that the light from the smartphone screen might give away the snipers position at night. But you can set the light level on the smartphone, so it won't be a problem. Besides, you are using BulletFlight (or the competing iSnipe) for long-range shots (300 meters or more), so the light from the display won't be a major risk.

Smartphones were with the troops soon after these devices were introduced and a decade ago were widely used in the combat zone. Not just for the music and videos, but also for foreign language translations. This uses special software developed for the U.S. Army and distributed to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers and marines are big users of smartphones and new ideas. A lot of troops tried out BulletFlight, even if they aren't snipers. These phone-based accuracy apps tend to be inexpensive, even if they require additional hardware (as MantisX does). The low cost means more people will try them and that was one reason for the rapid adoption of MantisX.

 


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