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Garmin Xero C1 Chronograph: The Raw Truth Review

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I’ve been wanting to do this write up for a while, so today’s the day. This is my review of the Garmin Xero C1 Chronograph, the tiny little radar chrono that’s been taking the market by storm. It’s not a small investment to make, so of course everyone wants to know if it’s worth it before dropping that kind of coin. Well, I’m happy to say that it is absolutely fantastic.

I’ve used several different chronographs over the years. As I got deeper into writing for print magazines, the need for something that was both convenient and effective was at the forefront. For several reasons, I’ve been frustrated with both my optical and magnetic chronos. For a long time, I was tempted by the LabRadar and the promise of it’s radar goodness. Sadly, it didn’t seem like it was suited to my needs.

The Garmin fixed that.

Let’s get to the bottom line up front first.

BLUF: The Garmin Xero C1 Pro

The Garmin Xero C1 Pro is a fantastic chronograph, and saves me an immense amount of time and heartache for velocity testing. Retailing for $599, the Garmin is not cheap. But it just flat out works. The companion app for my phone is an added bonus. It’s not necessary, but given how well it keeps a history and exports data for me- I love it.

Of course, not everyone needs to spring for a radar chronograph like this. I think it’s best suited to shooters who need to test a variety of firearms including pistols and rifles, and don’t always have a convenient place to do that (like an indoor range). If that’s not you, then this doesn’t need to be a priority. But if it is you, or you generally need to do testing in “challenged” environments, the Garmin Xero C1 is a winner.

My Chronograph Needs

To set up this review, let’s first discuss what I use a chronograph for. I first picked up a MagnetoSpeed Sporter years ago when I initially developed an interest in long range shooting. Knowing your velocity with any given cartridge and rifle combination is one of the most important factors for developing your dope and holds. It can’t be done without it. As my experience has shown, the velocity label on the side of the ammo box is almost always wrong.

That’s why everyone should understand their velocity numbers in general. Especially with rifles. Pistols were never that much of a concern for me, at least until I started doing writing for third party print publications. In those reviews, they require a lot of velocity and accuracy data as part of the article. So things became more “serious.”

MagnetoSpeed Sporter

For the most part, the MagnetoSpeed was fine. The sporter model attaches with a simple nylon strap that runs up and over the barrel, fastening onto the other side of the plastic block. The bayonet poking out the end has two sensors that detect the projectile passing over them to determine speed. With light-recoiling rifles like a 223 or 22LR, it never gave me trouble as long as there was enough barrel space to mount it.

Unfortunately, several of my rifles, particularly the ARs, have long handguards that prevented me from attaching the thing.

I’ve used it with several 308s and a 300 Win Mag (a Sako S20) as well, and had a lot of trouble with the bayonet slipping off the end of the barrel under recoil no matter how much I tightened it down. In the Sako’s case, it actually threw off my published results that made it into the magazine (oops!).

Where I could attach it, the MagnetoSpeed at least made indoor testing of my rifles workable. Sadly, it did nothing for pistols. When it came time for me to start doing published pistol reviews, I needed another option.

The PACT Model 1 XP

Counter to my skillset, my very first gun review for print was an “staff reviewer” piece on an Iver Johnson 1911A1. Part of the article required velocity testing, and my MagnetoSpeed wasn’t going to cut it. So I went out and bought an optical chrono, the PACT Model 1 XP.

This type of chronograph has a a pair of sensors spaced a fixed distance apart. A plastic “wing” arcs over the top of each one providing a white background for the sensor to detect a bullet passing over it. Using the chrono involves setting the unit up on a tripod about 10-20 feet in front of your shooting position, and then firing the bullet through the open space under the wings and over the sensors. To date, I’ve never missed and shot the chronograph. Yeah, that’s a common issue with this style of chronograph.

This type of unit has two major downsides for me. The first is that they work best in specific environmental conditions. Ideally, it would be an overcast day with enough light to provide the needed contrast, but not so much that it overwhelms the optical sensors. When I’ve used it, I lucked out with chilly overcast West Virginia mornings.

But that gets to the second issue: I have to use it outside. Where I live in Northern Virginia, all of my local ranges are indoors. Assuming the weird fluorescent lighting even worked with the optical chrono (it usually doesn’t) I wouldn’t be allowed to ever actually go 10-20 feet down range and set it up. For that reason, any pistol reviews I had to do always required going more than an hour away over the border into West Virginia to do velocity testing.

Radar Chronographs

The first time I heard anyone mention a radar was in the context of LabRadar. It was one of the editors at the publication discussing that they had their eyes on one. At the time, this was the front runner in a generation of radar chronographs. The idea had promise. You set the radar up next to the gun, and then it detected the bullet going downrange to give you the numbers. In theory, this would solve my issue of use with both rifles and pistols. Assuming it worked at an indoor range, it would meet that need, too.

All of the top shooters seemed to use it- but they also had complaints. Having not used one myself, it seemed like the most common issues were that it was large, awkward to set up, suffered poor battery life, and had trouble distinguishing shots on a crowded range- especially indoors. When I asked around about it, especially for indoor use, the answer was a resounding, “don’t bother.”

That’s where the Garmin Xero C1 enters the picture. For years, the LabRadar was the only serious game in town. It looks to me like Garmin paid close attention to the needs and complaints, and then built a better mousetrap.

The Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

I started seeing chatter about the Garmin in October 2023. A few people had tested them or seen them in person, and the hype was building. The initial reviews were blunt, “Seems like a LabRadar killer to me.”

They were out of stock just about everywhere, but I managed to find one via GovX and took advantage of veteran discounting (which wasn’t a whole lot, to be honest). I placed my order in January 2024, with the unit arriving a week later. My first impression was, “This thing is tiny!”

In practical terms, it’s about the size of a deck of cards. In gun speak, it’s about one .308 cartridge wide, one .308 brass tall, and one 9mm cartridge deep.

Here are some of the key specs:

Dimensions3.03″ x 2.38″ x 1.26″ without tripod
Weight3.7 oz
Water RatingIPX7
Battery Life2,000 shots or up to 6 hours
Operating Temp Range14° F to 131° F
Memory Capacity50 sessions of 100 shots per session

Aside from syncing with a phone app, the unit also syncs with the Applied Ballistics calculators found in several of Garmin’s sport watches, like the Tactix 7. For max velocities, the Xero C1 tracks rifles and pistols up to 5000 FPS, air rifles up to 2000 FPS, airsoft pellets up to 1000 FPS, and arrows up to 600 FPS. In all cases, the chrono also produces values for kinetic energy, power factor, extreme spread, standard deviation, and average. You can also add individual notes on each shot, such as clean/cold bore and other comments.

I’ll note that it doesn’t do velocity at different points downrange like the LabRadar does. That will make “truing” your dope more difficult, but no more difficult than any traditional velocity measurement method.

Out of the Box

Packaging was basic. Just the box, the Xero C1 chronograph, a compact tripod, and a USB charging cable. It would have been nice had Garmin included some kind of carrying case to protect the display panel and radar surface, but they didn’t. So I set out to find another solution.

I ended up with a hard-sided bright orange Nanuk 903 hard case. I also purchased a custom cut foam insert that I picked up from a guy calling himself “Range Panda.” Again, I purchased it myself and there’s no connection to the seller. In all, it’s some high quality work and I’m happy to throw some attention towards the guy’s business.

First Session

My first range outing was the most challenging environment available to me. If the Xero C1 worked here, then I couldn’t imagine it not working anywhere else. I purchased the Xero C1 shortly before also picking up the B&T GHM9 I’ve dubbed Project Xyphos. The initial range trip for the GHM9 was also the first outing for the Garmin Xero C1 as well. In all, I’d fire about 200 rounds that day, with about 50 in front of the chronograph.

My local range is indoors, and I was in one of the 50-yard bays. It was a busy Saturday, and I had shooters occupying all four lanes around me (extending two out on each side). These folks were shooting everything from pistols to obnoxiously loud braked AK SBRs.

The manual states that there needs to be at least 20 yards of distance for the radar to work. So if you’re stuck on a very short range, this isn’t going to work for you.

Setting Up

I started with a quick zero and then some velocity testing. When you initiate a new session, the Garmin Xero C1 asks you what you’re shooting (rifle/pistol/air rifle/arrow/etc.), and roughly what velocity to expect. It’s not clear why it asks this, but I suspect that it helps it filter out the noise of other projectiles that don’t match what you’re doing. So if you say you’re shooting a pistol at roughly 900-1500 FPS, it automatically filters out anything going 2600 FPS. At least that’s what I’m assuming, I haven’t confirmed that.

Once you pick a cartridge, you also optionally tell it the weight of the bullet. You don’t need to do this, but adding it is what provides your kinetic energy and power factor numbers during a string. Without it, you’ll still get velocity.

Since I was shooting a PCC with pistol ammo, I selected “Pistol” and set the velocity. Then the Garmin tells you to set the device up 5-15 inches to the side and 5-15 inches behind the muzzle. You can turn off this instruction, but I found it helpful. Make sure that the radar side is facing down range. It doesn’t need to be perfectly aligned with the bore.

That’s it. Start shooting.

The Garmin detects the impulse from a shot then uses radar to locate the projectile during flight. Once it tracks it, it uses some calculation to reverse engineer the velocity at 10 ft in front of the muzzle.

To that end, it worked flawlessly. It picked up every one of my shots and gave me a reading.

Handling Interference

While I was testing, I paid attention to the display on the back of the Garmin Xero C1 to see how it handled the other shooters in the lanes around me. It was detecting the impulse from their shots, and even moved to start “calculating” the velocity, but then never actually displayed the calculation. Despite it triggering repeatedly, it never once logged someone else’s shot as being part of my string.

I don’t know what voodoo Garmin did to make that happen, but I was impressed.

Data Output

Now for some output, which I think is really cool. My other chronographs are “dumb” in that they only track a string of shots on the device itself and then I have to delete it before the next string so that it doesn’t mix up data like averages, extreme spreads, standard deviations, etc. The Garmin separates every string into its own “Session” and keeps it distinct from the others.

It kept a continuous sync with my phone throughout testing. I will add that this particular feature requires you to log in to your Garmin account (or create one if you don’t have it). I already had one due to my long time use of Garmin fitness products, but I understand a lot of people don’t want to deal with setting up an account for something that could just store locally on their phone.

That said, this feature dramatically sped up my testing process.

What I found really nice was the export feature. Once you’ve logged a session, you can view and edit it in the app at any time later on. If you want, you can export it as a .csv file for opening in any spreadsheet editor. Here, you see all of the same data for any particular string, but also even more detail like the specific time for each shot, deviations, notes, and any flags you’ve added to it. Being a spreadsheet, you’re also easily able to add new columns and perform other calculations as well. It’s neat stuff for a data nerd like me.

Second Outing

My second trip with the Garmin Xero C1 was more traditional. I needed to do testing on a 308 bolt action for the magazine, and so headed out to Peacemaker National Training Center in West Virginia. It’s the closest location I have available with ready access to a 100 yard range. I set up on a lane at the 100 yard line and got busy.

The first thing that stood out to me was how much more time efficient the process was. In the past, I had to handle velocity testing with the MagnetoSpeed separately from accuracy testing. With the MagnetoSpeed, the bayonet hanging off the end of the barrel was not conducive for shooting groups. With the Garmin Xero C1, it’s totally disconnected and standing alone to the side, not touching anything. That makes it convenient for doing both velocity and accuracy at the same time. I think I shaved off at least a 30-45 minutes of time from testing this way.

In all, I fired another 30-40 rounds in front of the Garmin Xero C1. This time using the rifle settings rather than pistol. It went about as perfect as it could, with again no interference from surrounding shooters causing issues.

By this point, the little chronograph has more than proven its capability to me.

What I Haven’t Tested

I won’t say I’ve fully shaken this thing out yet. There are a few tests that I’ve not tackled prior to writing this review. So, in the interest of full transparency, let’s discuss those.

First, I’ve not pushed the limit on how quickly I can fire shots and still have the Garmin pick up the string. My style of testing involved one shot and waiting for the result to pop up before shooting the next one. I’ve seen other folks push this cadence a bit and fire strings of five shots before the first one shows up. Apparently it works ok, with few (if any) dropped shots. Just be aware that I’ve never actually tested that part of it out. I also don’t really see the point in doing that.

Second, I would like to test it out again at an indoor range and shooting a rimfire. I’m curious if it could maintain a signal lock on a much smaller and slower projectile amidst the noise of other shooters around me. I have every reason to think it would work, but just haven’t done it.

Third, one commenter asked about shotguns. I have no doubt that it would handle slugs just fine, but I’ve not tested it with buck or bird shot. Some quick research on shotgun enthusiast forums shows mixed results, probably because it’s not suited to tracking multiple projectiles. I’ll have to give this a try sometime.

Wrapping Up

So that’s my experience with the excellent Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph. So far, the thing has been nothing short of exceptional. It’s compact, silly easy to set up, accurate, and I love the data logging features. I truly believe that Garmin, of all brands, has come out with something that’s going to rock the industry for years to come. Other companies, including LabRadar, are back on their heels. It’s notable that LabRadar recently released renderings of their smaller next generation model, the LabRadar LX, designed to compete with Garmin. They’re charging the same price and even lowered the price on their legacy doppler model.

Should you invest in one? If you’re a serious shooters who routinely needs to get velocity numbers, then it’s probably worth it. Whether that means you’re a reloader trying to tune a load for a specific purpose, building dope charts for a variety of rifles, or just need to test a bunch of different guns for writing- the Garmin makes it easier.

That said, I’m also not going to say you need one. If you don’t have the same environmental or range considerations I have to contend with, then you can certainly get by with a less expensive option like the PACT Model 1. If you’re only shooting rifles, then a MagnetoSpeed can be had significantly cheaper and will probably still serve you well. Probably.

On the other hand, if you value the convenience and time savings the little Garmin provides, and you can accept the $599 price tag, then I think it’s an incredible piece of gear.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Matt, Great write up and quite timely for me; since I’m in the market for the Garmin. The manner in which you presented the data screens, etc. was most useful. Was about ready to purchase a Lab Radar last November and then I saw the Garmin hit the market. Decided to hold off purchasing the Lab Radar and wait to see how things shook out with the Garmin. I haven’t seen anything negative on the Garmin. This would be the 3rd chronograph for me and it pains me to purchase another one. The other 2 are non-functioning. Looks like the… Read more »


Any idea if it can be used with a shotgun for shot loads?

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