TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

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Garmin made some real shockwaves when it introduced the Xero C1 Pro Chronograph. It fits the advanced technology of a radar chronograph into a handy little pocket-sized tool with a simple setup and operation. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype.

Chronographs @ TFB:

Disclosures are essential in any review, but there are not any for this one. I bought this chronograph and paid the full retail price. My only interaction with Garmin was a brief conversation with one of their reps at the SHOT Show, and they have no idea that I am writing this review.

Background

For many years chronographs were all more or less the same, a box with two screens above it set up down range. The chrono needed to be far enough from the muzzle that the muzzle blast would not cause issues, but close enough for the round to fly through the opening in the chronograph arms without hitting anything. These units tended to be rather finicky and only worked in certain lighting conditions. Because these chronographs used a sensor that “saw” the bullet pass between the screen, some indoor lighting would interfere and prevent a reading

The next generation of chronographs used different technologies. The MagnetoSpeed chronos are attached to the barrel and read the bullet passing over two sensors. I own and have used the MagnetoSpeed Sporter for a few years and in quite a few of my gun reviews. That is a good tool overall, but lining it up with the appropriate offset and sensitivity settings can be a little finicky.

The other new competitor was the LabRadar. It uses a Doppler radar to track the bullets as they fly down range. However, some users reported having issues with aligning it, and with triggering the unit to search for a shot. The aftermarket provided some accessories to address those issues, but there were also a lot of shooters who loved their LabRadars.

Garmin Gets In The Game

Garmin is best known for its range of wearable tech devices, like running watches with heart rate monitoring and GPS, and the ForeTrex GPS devices you have probably seen on the wrist or rifle stock of some GWOT cool guys. They started to get into the hunting/shooting scene with tech like a drop-compensating sight for archery, and devices with integrated Applied Ballistics tech like the Tactix 7 smartwatch.

Then Garmin dropped a bomb by introducing the Xero C1 chronograph. It promised to be tiny, sleek, and to have the ability to detect projectiles of all sorts without calibration issues. I had to know if it would live up to the potential it promised so I bought one. It includes a short USB-C cable for charging and a small bipod with standard threads.

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Firing up the Xero C1 is simple. Just press the power button to turn on the unit. You then select the type of projectile, be it archery or rifle. The next screen prompts you to select the rough velocity range of your projectile. The next screen can be skipped, but it lets you enter the bullet weight for accurate energy calculations. I always put that info in to help keep track of my data. The final screen offers instructions on where to place the chrono relative to the barrel. After that just shoot and watch it track the shots, which it counts as it goes. The screen also displays information like the running average velocity of the shots.

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Indoor

I work at a 25-yard indoor range, and the Xero C1 comes with me every time I am there. Generally speaking, it performs incredibly. It is easily the best chronograph I’ve used indoors. It just simply works. There’s no fiddling with settings or alignment or placement to avoid interference from the range lighting. 

Now, it does not work absolutely perfectly on every shot. Sometimes the Xero C1 fails to pick up a shot when a neighboring lane is shooting in the same velocity band. I noticed this most frequently with pistol shooting. Between shots, there is a brief time when the Garmin processes the data. If an adjacent lane shoots just prior to your shot, it might not record a value while it sorts out whether or not the projectile came from your lane. Garmin’s logic tends toward throwing out potential errors rather than counting them, which I agree with. I would much rather end up with 9 readings instead of 10 than have 14 readings instead of 10 and have to guess which ones should be thrown out. 

These errors can be minimized by shooting on a different velocity band than a neighboring lane (e.g. gather your rifle data while your neighbor is shooting a pistol). The other trick that seems to work well is aiming the Xero C1 off to the side away from the interference source. This works best if you are on an end lane or if one adjacent lane is open. 

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Outdoor

This part will be short. Using the Xero C1 on an outdoor range is totally drama-free. It just works. It doesn’t read shots from neighboring lanes. From switching the unit on to collecting good data takes seconds. Different barrel lengths and calibers all worked fine. Everything from a suppressed 11.5-inch AR up to a .300 Win Mag has read perfectly.

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Load Development

Some shooters find great joy in load development and spending hours attempting to drop their standard deviation and extreme spread numbers as low as humanly possible. That’s not me. I want the best results that are easily obtained. 

A lot of my reloading is for competition service rifle shooting. One of the classic loads for that game is 24 grains of Varget (or similar) powder with a 77-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet. It shoots great in every gun I’ve ever tried. 

However, Varget is hard to find and very expensive these days. I have been looking at replacement options and picked up a few different types to test. One morning before the shop opened I had about 30 minutes to kill. I was able to shoot 8 different loads, logging the velocity data on each, in that block of time. That is far faster than would have been possible with other chronographs, and the ability to export data meant I didn’t waste time writing down data. 

Full Auto Testing

The Xero C1 does such a good job catching shots in a chaotic environment that I decided to take it up a notch. I dumped a whole magazine on full auto through the Brownells 733 upper while the chrono was recording. It caught two of the 30 rounds, which is honestly more than I thought would register. This test proved very little of substance but it was an excuse to shoot a machine gun so that was enough for me.

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

The App

Garmin’s ShotView app is an integral part of the Xero C1 system. Once the app is installed on your phone (it’s available for iOS and Android), there is a simple Bluetooth pairing process with the chronograph. The recorded shot strings don’t transfer in real time, but move over as a batch when you access the app with the Xero C1 turned on. The transfer process is quick and a green status bar in the top right corner shows the progress. That data can also be exported in a spreadsheet format.

While the app is functional, it is a weak link. In time it will probably improve as Garmin continues updates. One feature I would love in the app is an integrated group measurement tool. There are several other phone apps that do a great job of measuring groups. Linking those groups directly to the chrono data would be exceptional. Whether you prefer to just go through the data on a phone, or if you want to export everything into Excel, having accurate group size data linked to chrono data without manual input would be awesome. I hate paying for apps, but would drop $10 to add that feature.

Another feature that would make the app better is more organization for the saved data. All strings are saved in chronological order, but that list can get very cluttered with strings that look the same but aren’t. Adding folders to organize those results by date, type of project, or specific guns would be much cleaner.

The app could also benefit from having smart tags for various guns. Currently, you can rename each group manually. That gets pretty cumbersome. Users would benefit from creating labels or tags for different guns in their stable that could be put onto a string rather than having to write it out. This also could potentially move onto the Xero C1 as a setup option (e.g. picking “Mk12” or “PTR-91”) to tag on a string when creating the data rather than on the back end. 

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Conclusion

The Xero C1 is the best chronograph available today. The only area where I can’t weigh in yet is longevity, but that is only because the Xero C1 has only been out for a few months. Given Garmin’s track record with outdoor electronics, I am confident that it will last. 

Go buy one of these. It is simply better than the other options on the market. The first time I used the Xero C1, it felt like moving from a PlayStation 4 to a PlayStation 5. But that was wrong. It’s more like moving from a PS3 to a PS5. If you want a small, portable chronograph that just works with little to no drama, go buy a Xero C1.

TFB Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph



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