Another Garmin Breakthrough

Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph—smaller than a box of ammunition, a third the weight, and usable under all conditions. What more could you ask?

The latest in chronographs

by Terry Wieland

As a general rule, new technology is not at the top of my list to write about.  For one thing, it’s largely disposable.  What you might gush about today will be old hat in a month or two, and considered hopelessly passé—even quaint—in a few years.

This is not the case with, for example, the Beesley sidelock shotgun action, which was the foundation of James Purdey’s success, has been in production since 1881, is still being made today—and is still considered the last word.

By comparison, look at a computer from 1981, or 2001 or, dare I say it, 2021?  Nowheresville, or soon to be.

But, I am going to make an exception for the Garmin Xero C1 Pro, a personal chronograph that is, for now, the last word in measuring velocity for the average shooter.  It’s a honey and, as far as I can tell, has tamed every problem I’ve had with chronographs in almost a half-century of using them.

As you can see from the photograph, it’s small and compact—roughly the size of a deck of playing cards—and comes with a small tripod for setting on the bench, where it sits about a foot to one side, and a foot behind, the muzzle of the rifle, pointing down range.

The ShotView display on author’s iPhone.

And that, essentially is it:  It measures velocity by Doppler radar, so you don’t have to shoot through a screen or anything (and worry about hitting it).  The velocity is displayed on a small screen facing the shooter.

Older chronographs depended on screens or reflectors, and sunlight, shade, and clouds could play havoc with them.  They were usually set up on stands in front of the shooting bench—awkward, at a public range with other shooters, a range master, and the need to cease fire to make an adjustment.  They didn’t work well in rain, and a high wind could, and often did, blow them over.

My experience with chronographs goes back to the late 1980s, when the Shooting Chrony arrived on the scene and changed everything.  It was pretty basic—a folding box with cardboard screens that sat on a tripod.  Folded, it was about 10 inches by six by three, which was very convenient.  You had to be careful not to hit the screen or the unit itself, and it displayed the velocity on a liquid crystal screen readable for ten or 12 feet.  There was no memory, so each shot had to be recorded by hand.

Still, it was a huge lurch forward because it put accurate velocity measurement in anyone’s hands for about a hundred bucks.  The Shooting Chrony is still available, albeit considerably advanced, and can still be had for less than a C-note.  No sign of inflation there!

New James Purdey & Sons side-by-side, built on the Beesley action, in production since 1881. Now that’s technological longevity.

The traditional chronograph ran into its first serious competition a few years ago with the Lab Radar.  It’s a Doppler unit that sits on the shooting bench facing down range.  It cost $500—considerably more than conventional chronographs—but has no screens and requires no tripods.  I never had one.  They came along about the same time as Covid and its supply-chain hang-ups.  A couple of friends got them, however, and reported some difficulties.  I don’t know the details, but one guy at least went back to using his Pro Chrono.  I heard Lab Radar had overcome the glitches and I was all set to pursue one when Garmin came out with its Xero C1 Pro.

Having had some experience with Garmin’s Xero S1 radar for trapshooters (Sporting Notes #50, November, 2021; Sporting Notes #52, December, 2021; Sporting Notes #140, June, 2023) I could hardly wait to get my hands on the rifleman’s C1 Pro.  For the record, it sells for about $600.  Velocity and other data of each shot is displayed on the screen at your elbow.  It also works with an app, “ShotView”, for your smart phone.  Data from a string of shots is automatically sent to the app, where you can call it up and view shot-string information in more detail.

Capacity?  The unit will handle dozens of strings involving hundreds of shots.

Reliability?  An acquaintance got a Xero C1 Pro and tried it with 120 consecutive shots without a hitch.

Not a definitive test, I know, but I think it’s a pretty good indication of what the unit will do.  And there is not a single excuse for going to the range without it, since it takes up about as much space as a small box of ammunition, and weighs less—5.8 ounces versus 19.4 ounces for a box of .308.  You could, literally (!) slip it into your pocket.

The last word?  Almost certainly not, in technology terms.  Competitors will spring up, capabilities will multiply, prices will come down.  But for now?  For six hundred bucks?  State of the art.

Gray’s shooting editor Terry Wieland realized years ago that technology can reach a practical ideal level—think the Leica 1600 laser rangefinder—long before it reaches a technological zenith.  Sometimes enough is not just enough, it’s just right.