Mantis X8 Shooting Analysis System review

A hi-tech new product with revolutionary potential?

The Mantis Shooting System is a small device that mounts on your bow, records your movements while taking a shot, and plots them on a graph. 

That simple, huh? It’s a little more complex than that. As we all know, archery is a game of consistent repetition. The Mantis is a tool designed to improve shooting consistency, by showing you what you are doing, when you are doing it right, and when you start to fade from your best form. 

The biggest plus from an archer’s point of view is that it does so with real data. So much of our sport is developed on how something feels; with the only data analysis coming from the target at the other end of the field (it’s one of the things that keeps it fascinating). The Mantis is designed to give real data from the bow side of things, covering the complete execution of the shot, including setup, release and follow through.

We often read in the newspapers about the power of AI and data to improve things; finally, we are starting to see products in the archery world. You may be thinking: that’s not for me. As they like to put it: “When performance is measured, performance improves.”

The X8 mounted on the Bow test riser

The system is relatively light and simple. Mantis comes in a small, smart case with a few accessories, but no manual. It consists of a small, lightweight plastic box about 2.5cm long which attaches to your riser and contains the accelerometers and gyrometers which record your movements. Occasionally, it will need charging via USB.

I mounted it on the Bow test riser (a Hoyt GMX) just above the clicker, although other bow locations are possible. Mantis helpfully include a  adaptor clip and an alcohol swab to make sure the area is clean and ready to attach with the peel-off sticker.

Pressing the single button on the Mantis shows a bright green light, which means it is ready to start talking to your phone. You will need to download the free Mantis app to your smartphone or tablet. The app also contains the manual and onboarding instructions for the product.

Once the Mantis X8 is on and the green light is seen, you press the ‘Connect’ button on the app to pair the two. For me, this worked first time and almost instantly. When that’s done, it’s simply a question of shooting and letting the X8 record your bow movements.

The X8 in its carrying case

I am going to spare you the images of your out-of-form editor’s back-garden-boss shots overlaid on top of each other, and instead have included a picture from Mantis’s marketing featuring multiple shots from a little-known American archer called Brady Ellison.

A shot from a human, showing inconsistency between the break and the arrow leaving the bow

As might be expected, there is a high degree of consistency to the way he sets up and executes. The system colour codes the different phases of the shot to assist with this process. It also records the cant of the bow during the shot and displays this on another screen.

It can show you the difference between the break of the shot and the point where the arrow leaves the bow, to see if you are continuing expansion through the release. You can, using a clever and quick target overlay system, record the score and the placement on the target as well.

The app has many other extended features which we don’t have space to include here (if you want to know more, the app is free to download yourself and have a nose around). 

Using the X8, I am most pleased about the clear commitment to development. Many archery apps are not much to write home about in terms of deep development and UX design, and this is perhaps the first I’ve tried that feels like a ‘real’ app rather than a home-brew job. (Mantis benefits from being a larger company that also markets a related version of the product to rifle shooters.)

Brady Ellison’s setup and execution pattern

More than that, they claim to be adding new features and updates ‘every 4-8 weeks’ rather than months or years. A recent update enabled you to check the timing of your shot via bar graph; there certainly seems to be a lot of energy on continuously improving the product. 

I would also not really recommend the X8 to beginners or novices, you really need to have a strong basic execution and a reasonable awareness of form issues in order to gain the full benefits of it, and (like most apps) it could be a distraction. Having said that, having a tool this powerful could lead to something extraordinary down the line; a complete digital self-coaching system.

Indeed, the real power of a system like this will ultimately be when it is tied in with coaching; knowing the granular detail of the issues is one thing, fixing them is another. A technical (and tech-savvy) coach will be able to use this information along with video analysis, perhaps in a hybrid training system with both one-to-one and remote coaching. 

The X8 is clearly well-developed, classily small and packaged, and relatively inexpensive in the archery scheme of things. It’s not for everyone; but if you are the sort of archer who likes to reflect and analyse, and have been searching deep for answers, it might well be more transformative than you can imagine.

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