Weapons ‘Fitbit’ gets a run to improve accuracy

A trial is under way to test if dry-firing with a ‘Fitbit for shooting’ can improve soldiers’ live-fire skills.

CAPTIONScientists from La Trobe University calibrate motion-capture cameras during a marksmanship training trial at Enoggera Barracks, Brisbane. Story and photos by Corporal Michael Rogers.

Personnel from 7 Brigade are undertaking a four-week training program using the MantisX training system to test its suitability for Australian forces.

The device uses a sensor mounted on a weapon to track barrel movement, trigger pull and weapon stability, then delivers a score and barrel vector for each shot, similar to the Weapon Training Simulation System.

Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) Mark Biviano, of Land Combat Faculty, bought a MantisX in 2016 to help improve his competitive pistol shooting and soon realised it’s potential for Defence.

In 2019 he ran a proof-of-concept program using MantisX at 13 Brigade and said the immediate feedback, coaching and shared network of data resonated with the group.

“The users demonstrated a significant improvement very quickly because of that very short learning loop; you press the trigger and you see feedback,” WO2 Biviano said.

“This device and application are the shooting version of Fitbit or Strava, where for every rep in the gym and step on the run you get immediate feedback.

“With MantisX, whether it’s dry-fire, live-fire or non-lethal training ammunition, every trigger press counts and data is stored against your profile so shooters can see how they’re progressing.”

CAPTIONA MantisX dry-fire training system is mounted to an EF88 during a trial at Enoggera Barracks.

He took the idea to Jemma Coleman, of Defence Science and Technology Group (DTSG), who agreed the system had potential.

“DSTG have been providing ongoing support to the human factors components of weapon design since the introduction into service of the EF88. This device has the potential to give Defence operators a better feedback loop whilst undertaking training drills,” Ms Coleman said.

“At the moment, test and evaluation trials mainly focus on accuracy and timing, usually using static drills on weapons ranges. They don’t take what is happening to the human into consideration.”

The trial started on April 22 with baseline dry and live-fire testing of participants from three groups of soldiers: non-combat corps, combat corps and infantry.

Following the training program, using only dry-firing with feedback from MantisX, shooters will be re-tested to see if it has improved their live-fire ability.

The study will also use 150-image-a-second motion capture to detail what their bodies and weapons are doing.

The trial is funded through the Land 159 weapons replacement program, looking at how dry-fire training could mitigate the cost and resources of shooting at a range and still provide skill improvement.

It will also study how soldiers take in, and act on, information during room clearances, a concept called ‘perception-action coupling’.


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