Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review

Review: Garmin Xero C1 chronograph

The best thing about the Garmin Xero C1 chronograph, apart from its obvious usefulness in measuring ammunition performance, is its simplicity. It is the easiest thing I’ve ever used to gather essential ballistic data.

The Garmin is a Doppler radar: it measures bullet speed by pinging the moving projectile with microwaves from behind. The microwaves travel at the speed of light, so they have no trouble catching the bullet and will bounce back when they reach it. The Xero C1 measures how long it takes a wave to make the round trip.

Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review
The Garmin will measure almost any projectile travelling as slow as 100fps and up to 5000fps

By comparing the differing journey times of a couple of waves or more, it can calculate the bullet’s speed. Dead easy, apparently, which is a good thing because it negates the more difficult chores we shooters have had to complete to get the same data from other kinds of chronographs. 

The Garmin does not rely on screens or sensors or any other physical items that need to be set up on or in front of the muzzle, and it doesn’t matter if you’re shooting indoors, under a cloudy sky, in broad sunshine or even at night. 

All you need to do is place the unit facing downrange, behind the muzzle and within 13-37cm of it. Press a few buttons as you follow a simple step-by-step setup procedure (see below) and start shooting. When your string of shots in finished, press a couple more buttons and you’re done. 

The Xero C1 will record data for bullets, pellets, slugs, arrows and other projectiles, in speed ranges from 30-1520m/s (100-5000fps). 

Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review
Four buttons on top of the chronograph control all the functions, and it’s pretty simple

Because it sits on the bench immediately in front of you, you can see the result of each shot as soon as you take it, displayed on the screen in large figures. 

A secondary advantage of the display is that you can tell if a shot wasn’t detected, something that has only happened once in my experience over hundreds of shots to date, and it was because I hadn’t properly positioned the Garmin.

Within its placement parameters, as mentioned above, the Xero is fairly forgiving; I had it angled too low that time it didn’t detect, but you certainly don’t need to be excessively precise about it. Muzzle brakes and strong muzzle blast don’t seem to be a problem at all. 

If you’ve paired your mobile phone and installed the requisite Garmin ShotView app, the data will be stored in both the Garmin and the phone. 

Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review
The ShotView app opens up extra options such as editing shots, adding notes and naming sessions. Note it’s been set to display metric figures: Garmin offers the choice

The data consists of muzzle velocity, extreme spread and standard deviation; you’re also shown the muzzle energy and power factor if you’ve told the Garmin what weight of projectile you’re using. 

You get the info for each shot in the string as well as the average, minimum and maximum of the string. Individual shots can be excluded from the session, or deleted, if you choose.

Using the app, which is pretty intuitive, you can add notes about individual shots and the entire session; you can also tick boxes for whether a shot was put through a cold bore or clean bore. 

The Garmin and the app will eventually reach their limits of data storage but you can use a Garmin account to store all your info on the cloud or export it as an Excel spreadsheet. 

Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review
Before each session begins, the Garmin displays a reminder of the best way to place the chronograph. Finding the right position is not finicky

Take your pick of imperial or metric measurements, too, because the Garmin will display either.

About the only thing the Garmin doesn’t do is record a bullet’s velocity as it progresses downrange, which is the remit of a handful of larger, flasher and more expensive Doppler chronographs. Not many of us have a need for this info, though. 

The controls and menu are very simple. There are four buttons on top of the unit: OK, return (and power), up and down. They’ll take you through the menu: new session, history and settings, each with their own short submenus. Nothing is confusing and you can’t get lost in it. 

A USB-C plug allows charging of the inbuilt battery. Bluetooth provides connectivity. 

Garmin Xero C1 chronograph review
Basic data collected includes average, minimum and maximum velocities, extreme spread and standard deviation

I think I detected one erratic reading from the Garmin, which just happened to occur in the session I was using to photograph the unit. You can see it in the main image with this article: The maximum speed measured was more than 150fps faster than the average. That one shot, the first of the session, was an anomaly but I think it was the chrono’s error because the next shot landed in the same hole, literally, and there was nothing else to indicate the fast shot was really anything out of the ordinary (no pressure signs etc). The good thing is, suspect readings like this can be deleted from the session.

The data the Garmin gathers is essential for proper load development, and it’s also extremely handy for assessing the performance of factory ammo and even knowing with greater certainty how your firearms and bows perform.   

The $1099 price is probably the only hurdle to making the jump to the Xero C1. You can still purchase traditional non-Doppler chronographs with their sky screens or muzzle clamps for half the price of the Garmin, maybe even less, and get the data you need.

But for the app support, simplicity of setup, reliability of recordings and the portability of the little unit, it’s very hard to go past the Garmin Xero C1. It’s what I use now for all the firearm and ammunition testing I do and I have not looked back.  




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.