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Field Tested: Garmin Xero S1

Field Tested: Garmin Xero S1
Using radar, the Xero S1 provides shooters with detailed feedback on what’s happening with every shot.

Every shotgun shooter has, at one time or another, been in a slump. The frustration of missing birds or targets and not understanding why can be haunting, but Garmin’s new Xero S1 Trapshooting Trainer offers a sophisticated solution to determining what’s happening once you pull the trigger. And, it has the potential to forever change the way we perform on the trap range and practice for hunting season.

The Xero S1 uses radar to capture an image of both a clay target and a shot string, and this provides hunters and shooters with detailed, near real-time feedback on what’s happening with every shot. What’s more, the technology is user-friendly, and data regarding your shotgun performance is displayed immediately after the shot on the Xero S1’s five-inch touch screen. The system also records analytics about your shooting performance, and it’s customizable to fit the needs of both upland hunters and trapshooters. Using Bluetooth connectivity, the Xero S1 can also communicate with your smartphone via the Xero app, making a catalog of your performance available at your fingertips.

Getting Started

Technology is only as useful as it is user-friendly, and Garmin knows this as well as any company. The company’s GPS-tracking devices are designed so that anyone—even the tech-illiterate—can use the basic features without having to study a manual for hours and hours. The Xero S1 works in the same fashion. The unit rests on a tripod near the shooter, and after pressing the power button, a menu guides you through the process of language selection, date/time settings, and developing your gun profile. Once that’s complete the screen offers the option to operate in either trap mode (with practice, league, and tournament options), or upland mode. The upland-mode setting allows the shooter to measure accuracy using personal electronic trap throwers, and records scores for multiple shooters (only the primary shooter’s score will be recorded on the Xero app). Touch-screen operation and easy-to-follow menus make operation simple, and by pairing the Garmin Xero S1 with the Xero app, you can examine your shooting analytics anytime, anywhere.

Garmin Xero S1 display screens
The Xero S1 displays hits and misses for the round, target distance, break factor, and reaction time.

“As someone who’s spent a large part of his life freezing somewhere in the middle of a prairie in pursuit of birds, I feel confident saying this is the most incredible piece of outdoor technology I have seen since I started in this industry,” says Garmin Marketing and Sponsorship Specialist, Rehan Nana.

What It Offers

After firing, the Garmin displays reaction time first, an important factor for improving your upland-hunting skills. The difference between a clean kill and a missed or injured bird is a matter of tenths of a second, and improving shot speed and accuracy makes us more effective and efficient hunters. The Xero S1 also keeps a record of hit times for the shooter, and indicates (using green or red lines on the display) time data for hits and misses. After displaying reaction time, the screen provides information on the target’s distance, break factor, and records hits and misses for the round. Break factor keeps score (with varying points awarded for smashes, clean breaks, chips, and misses), and indicates the direction and distance of the shot string relative to the target. Analytics are stored on both the machine and the app. After five minutes of inactivity, the unit shuts down automatically, unless you’re in the middle of a round.

Practical Applications

Gone are the days of hopelessly wondering why you’re missing targets or enlisting the aid of a coach who may or may not be providing you with accurate information to improve your shooting. Competitive trapshooters are meticulous, and they’ll likely pore over each detail of the shot record to try to smash every target, every time. Upland hunters can benefit from the Xero S1, too. When I tested the unit, I learned two important things—I tend to shoot behind angling targets, and my reaction time is closely tied to the direction of the target’s departure. On straightaway shots, I shot, on average, a couple tenths of a second faster than I did on angled targets. By examining reaction time and target distance (both of which are automatically displayed), I realized that a couple tenths of a second might mean 10 more yards on a shot—enough distance to make the difference between a dead bird and a miss.

Another practical application is that the shooter can determine how their point of impact differs from one gun to the next. With a trap gun shooting a 60/40 pattern, I was more consistent than while shooting a field gun with a 50/50 pattern. Not surprisingly, most of my misses with the field gun were low on targets, and this reminded me to adjust my shooting to the individual gun. Feedback is limited to outgoing shots, though, and not high overhead shots, hard crossers, or springing targets.

The Xero S1 comes with a ball mount and short tripod, but the ball mount has a ¼"-20 thread pattern, so it fits on most standard camera tripods.

There’s no question that the Xero S1 will revolutionize trapshooting, and it offers upland hunters a great way to practice prior to the season.

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