Garmin Xero C1 Pro: The New King of Chronographs

in Authors, Gear Reviews, Mike Dickerson
Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph with tripod
The New King of Chronographs: Garmin’s Xero C1 Pro

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

This remarkably small, accurate, and easy-to-use unit just made your chronograph obsolete.

Chronographs are must-have tools for serious shooters, but they have always been part blessing and part curse. Some require you to set up and perfectly align sensors and shades on a tripod downrange. They require favorable lighting to work, may blow over in a stiff breeze, and have a distressing tendency to get shot. Bulky, fragile bench-top radar units take up a lot of room at the bench, can be prone to picking up phantom shots, and are finicky in requiring precise alignment to work. Units that attach to barrels can cause a shift in the point of impact.

All of these chronographs have just been rendered obsolete by the new Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph, which has none of these issues. Let’s get this out of the way up front: I believe the Xero is going to fundamentally change the shooting world and dominate the chronograph market. Some call it revolutionary. I call it the best invention since pizza and the answer to this gun writer’s prayers. Here’s why.

Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph on shooting bench with Champion shooting rest and Benelli Lupo rifle
Garmin’s Xero C1 Pro chronograph is forgiving of positioning on the bench. It only needs to be pointed toward the target and placed within 5-15 inches of a rifle and 15 inches of the muzzle.

Compact Size

The Garmin Xero C1 Pro is essentially a miniature Doppler radar unit that fits in a pocket. The main unit (minus its supplied miniature bench-top tripod) measures just 3 inches by 2.38 inches by 1.35 inches. Set up on its little tripod, which has grippy rubber feet, it stands less than 6 inches tall and has a footprint of 5 ½ inches. With a tripod attached, it weighs just 5.6 ounces. These are all my measurements.

The Garmin Xero’s small size represents a remarkable feat of engineering on Garmin’s part, and that translates into a chrono that you can take anywhere. It means no more lugging of bulky equipment to and from the range or in and out of airports. More importantly, for traveling hunters, it means you can get accurate velocity data no matter where you hunt. That can change significantly at higher elevations, where thinner air reduces drag and flattens trajectory. Local barometric pressure plays a role in this calculation, and that changes as weather fronts come and go. With the Xero, you simply get the average velocity for your load at your hunting location, enter that into a ballistics app and you’re good to go with the confidence that you know what your bullet is going to do at a distance.

Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph with Armageddon Gear protective case
The Xero C1 Pro is a stunningly compact unit that you can take anywhere. It easily fits in this Armageddon Gear protective case, which is designed for the unit and measures just 10 inches long by 5 inches wide.

Easy to Set Up

The Garmin Xero C1 Pro is easy to set up and quite forgiving of positioning on the bench. Just place the unit facing the target so that it is 5 to 15 inches from your rifle and within 15 inches of the muzzle. In my testing, the unit was not finicky. This is the first chronograph I have ever used that, thus far, has never failed to pick up a shot. It has not picked up phantom shots, even though I had, at times, other shooters shooting within 6 feet of me. The unit seems to know that it is only supposed to read shots from the rifle it’s next to.

In use, default settings on the display show the velocity of the latest shot in large letters, with minimum velocity, average velocity, and maximum velocity in smaller letters across the bottom of the display. Happily, I was able to go into settings and easily change the display to show the current shot along with standard deviation, average velocity, and extreme spread, which are more useful data points to me. You can also change the display color to white or black and adjust the backlight brightness.

Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph display with selections for rifle, pistol, bow and air rile
When beginning a shooting session, the Xero C1 Pro prompts you to select a rifle, pistol, bow, or air rifle.

The Xero C1 Pro Has Excellent Accuracy

You may be thinking this is all too good to be true, and you may be questioning the accuracy of this little unit. Garmin says the Xero delivers 0.1 percent accuracy, which means it will read within 2.8 fps accuracy for a bullet moving at 2,800 fps. I believe it. In testing alongside a chrono I’ve used for decades, readings were quite close between the units. A major ammunition manufacturer tested the Xero alongside the sophisticated radar they use to build ballistic profiles for their ammo, and found the Xero’s readings to be spot on.

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Use isn’t limited to rifles. At the start of a session, the Garmin Xero C1 Pro prompts you to choose rifle, pistol, bow, air rifle, or other. I’m not sure what “other” entails – perhaps the speed at which you can throw your old Chrono downrange? When shooting a handgun or bow, select that mode and shoot 5 to 15 inches above the unit (the bottom is threaded ¼-20 so you can screw it onto any standard tripod).

Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph display showing shot velocity, average velocity, standard deviation and extreme spread
Default settings on the Xero C1 Pro show current shot velocity along with minimum, average, and maximum velocity. The author easily changed the settings to show the current shot velocity along with average velocity, standard deviation, and extreme spread.

Simple Controls

Four buttons atop the Garmin Xero C1 Pro allow you to navigate through the intuitive on-screen menus that prompt you to make the right selections. There’s a power/back button, up and down buttons to scroll through choices, and an OK button to make selections.

READ MORE: The Smartest Watch for Shooters and Hunters

When first using the unit, go into the settings menu where you can select measurement units (FPS, MPS, or MPH) and display color/brightness. You can customize displayed data fields, as I did with my Xero. You can select a display language and tell the unit if you want it to prompt you to enter bullet weight at the start of a session, or shot string. This comes in very handy, as you’ll see in a moment.

Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph display showing bullet weight
The Xero C1 Pro gives you the option to enter bullet weight before each session. When paired with your cell phone with Garmin’s ShotView app, this allows the app to calculate kinetic energy.

It Pairs With an App

In the settings menu, you can pair the Garmin Xero C1 Pro with your cell phone via Bluetooth to use the nifty Garmin ShotView app. The app is easy to download and use. It organizes and allows you to edit all of the data you have selected on the Xero and then some. If you elect to enter the bullet weight before a shooting session, it will calculate kinetic energy. You can exclude shots from calculations, designate clean/cold-bore shots, and enter notes about the load used or environmental conditions.

One feature of the app I like is the ability to easily export data as a CSV file. I tested this by emailing a file to myself and opening it in an Excel spreadsheet. It showed a shot-by-shot breakdown with speed, variation from average, kinetic energy in foot-pounds, and power factor. For shot groups, it showed average velocity, standard deviation, and extreme spread, along with session notes.

Garmin ShotView app showing groups fired with different cartridge bullet weights
Garmin’s ShotView app stores your shooting sessions and provides a host of useful data. You can export data as a CVS file so you can view all of your data in an Excel spreadsheet.

Long Battery Life

Garmin rates the Xero C1 Pro’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery for 6,000 shots or six hours of use at the range. I used it for several extended sessions without recharging, and the battery life indicator only went down about one-quarter of the way. Garmin supplies the unit with a cable that plugs into a USB port on a computer or an AC adaptor for recharging.

Chronographs don’t like rough handling, but the Xero is a tough little unit. I accidentally banged mine around a couple of times with no ill effect. The Xero has an IPX7 water-resistance rating. That means it can be submerged in water up to 3 feet deep for 30 minutes. A little rain should not bother it. Temperature operating range is 14 degrees to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

Garmin ShotView app showing data for a three-shot group
This view using Garmin’s ShotView app shows data for a three-shot group. It lets you exclude shots from calculations, designate clean/cold-bore shots, calculate kinetic energy, and enter notes about the load used or environmental conditions.

Aftermarket Accessories For the Xero C1 Pro

One measure of a new product’s success is how quickly aftermarket accessories appear for it. That’s already happening with the Xero.

My only gripe with the Garmin Xero C1 Pro is that it doesn’t come with a protective case. I remedied that with a new case from Armageddon Gear designed specifically for the Xero. It’s a hard case sewn into 500-denier Cordura nylon and has more than an inch of open-cell foam padding. The padding, laminated to air mesh, protects your investment and enables you to safely take it anywhere. It also has a pouch to store the recharging cable so you can always have it handy with the unit. The case measures 10 inches long by 5 inches wide.

Other aftermarket accessories, such as a variety of Arca or Picatinny arms and mounts for attaching to firearms, tripod ball heads, and the like, are already appearing.

Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph with supplied bench-top tripod and charging cable
The Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph comes with a bench-top tripod with rubberized feet and a charging cord.

Final Thoughts on the Garmin Xero C1 Pro

The Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph isn’t exactly cheap. It has an MSRP of $599.99, but it’s worth its weight in gold. The price tag certainly isn’t slowing down orders. At this point, demand exceeds supply. The first production run completely sold out, and I had to wait a month or so to receive mine.

It was worth the wait. The Garmin Xero is becoming the chronograph of choice because it is so compact, accurate, reliable, and easy to use.

This Xero is a hero.

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