I’ve never been an awesome shotgun shooter. Hitting a steel plate from long distance or making a good shot on a big game animal with a rifle is pretty intuitive for me, but swinging ahead of a clay or quail and fast-pressing the trigger while maintaining swing, lead, and follow-through often leaves me wondering what just happened. Sound familiar? If you, like me, would like to become a better shot with your scattergun, read on:
Enter the Garmin Xero S1. Think of it as your magic wand for learning exactly what’s happening every time you miss a clay bird. It’s like Doppler radar for shotguns.
WHAT IT IS
Dubbed a “Trapshooting Trainer”, the Xero S1 is small enough to fit in your range bag or under the seat of your pickup, but powerful enough to monitor clay bird flight and shot pattern. It’s a tripod-mounted device that employs a combination of sensors to track the path of a clay bird and the pattern of your shot, and then give you detailed feedback on exactly what happened. It keeps records, details trends, and manages statistics. It will conduct tournaments, manage a league, and play games for young or beginning shooters. It’ll even help old dogs like me learn new tricks.
Your first order of business after arriving at the range is to add gun profiles. You can add up to ten, each containing details on make, model, barrel length, choke type, and ammunition used. Now activate the profile(s) you’ll be using, and set the Xero in position. Details on how to do this are found in the manual, so here I’ll just note that the device needs to sit close in front of your forward foot.
When you’re set up for trap shooting the device is easily programmable as you move between the five trap positions. If you don’t have ready access to a trap-shooting facility, Garmin – in a stroke of brilliancy – included an “Upland” mode, enabling you to set up and shoot, practice, or play games anywhere it’s safe to throw clays and scatter shot. In this mode, you simply set the Xero about five feet and at 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock behind the clay thrower. Make sure the clay bird is within the camera’s view during flight, use the touch-screen to click the bracket where you see the bird enter the screen, and you’re ready to shoot.
Note: the Garmin Xero S1 can track green, orange, and pink clays in 108 and 110 mm sizes. Make sure your thrower is loaded with the right clays for the job.
PLAYING THE GAMES
In Trap Mode you can choose between three modes: practice, league, and tournament.
Practice: Standard or custom practice session, 25 shots, with feedback given after each shot.
League: Standard round of American trap. Shooters fire five shots from each of five stations. You can set the Zero to give real-time feedback, or record each shot for review at the end of the round.
Tournament: This mode is customizable to fit the rules of your tournament. The display can be set to present feedback only after a round is complete if desired.
In Upland Mode, a standard round consists of 25 clays. Up to six-shooters can participate/compete by taking turns standing behind the S1 and shooting. The device will give a shot analysis after each shot, including location, distance, and direction of the center of the shot pattern in relation to the clay. It’ll also keep score, including the number of clays hit, and tallied with a break-factor point-based score, determined by how well the clay was hit.
REVIEWING YOUR SCORECARD
After a round is complete you can pull up each shooter’s scorecard for review. It’ll give you detailed information including hit percentage, average shot distance, if your shots trend high, low, fore, or aft, and so on. Continue to the accuracy summary page and you’ll see your score as well as even more details about your shooting.
The free and very capable Xero app is downloadable from the app store. Once you’ve paired your smartphone with the S1 you can manage settings, add custom profiles for guns and ammunition, save post-shot pictures and animations, and so forth from the touchscreen on your phone.
HOW WE TESTED
I wanted inexperienced shooters for my test panel, so I recruited my friend Serge and his 12-year-old son Alex, novice shooters who had only shot clays once or twice before. The three of us put the Xero S1 through its paces during multiple shooting sessions. Here’s what we learned:
The Xero is fun. Even after a miss we eagerly anticipated the on-screen feedback, laughing and jeering at each other good-naturedly whenever there was a particularly extravagant miss. And of course, good hits were cheered as well.
The feedback was rapidly beneficial. Understanding where a shooter was trending immediately enabled him to adjust his hold, break more targets, and shoot more consistently.
Different shotguns shoot differently. This is theoretically obvious, but I was quite surprised when I switched from my 12-gauge Remington 870 (which I was trending high with) to a nice little 20-gauge SA-20 youth model Mossberg. That shotgun hit consistently low for me, but with the on-screen feedback from the Xero S1 I was back to breaking every bird after just a few shots.
The only malfunction we experienced was when the Zero failed to pick up or read a shot. That only happened a handful of times over three days of shooting, and the score was easy to edit manually. I don’t know what caused the miss-read, they happened so rarely that I could never determine the cause.
The Xero S1 is easy to use, provides valuable feedback, and is a fun referee for clay target games and tournaments. Consistent with Garmin’s reputation for creating well-made, innovative, reliable equipment, the S1 demonstrates quality material and craftsmanship. I would be comfortable recommending the Zero S1 to any shooter who wants to up his shotgunning game, novice or expert alike.