November 03, 2023
I bet I heard someone say, “Every high school trap team in the country needs one of these,” at least a dozen times over the past few months. They were referring to the Garmin’s Xero S1 Trapshooting Trainer, a unique device that accurately tracks and records shot and hit data for shooting trap. I’m an avid trap and sporting clays shooter, and I firmly believe shooting trap and sporting clays makes me a better shooter in every other discipline of shooting. Handguns, hunting, even long range, I’ve become a better shooter across the board ever since I started regularly shooting the shotgun sports.
But, what’s a good way to become a better shotgun shooter? I’ve watched many new shotgun shooters, and while there are many that instinctively “get it” and start shooting well from the start, many more have to shoot a lot of clays before their brain “clicks” and start to hit clays consistently. The Garmin Xero S1 Trapshooting Trainer is a game-changer for helping new shotgun shooters figure out how to hit clays sooner than later, but I also personally saw it help experienced shooters get out of a rut, too.
How Does It Work?
The Garmin Xero S1 combines a camera with radar to track clay targets as they leave the trap house. Once you take a shot, it also tracks your shot pattern and confirms where you broke the bird or missed. It will also tell you your reaction time and scores a broken bird on how well it was broken. For example, a chipped bird would be scored with one point, and a dusted bird would score 10 points. That is recorded to give you a Break Factor; the max is 100 in a standard 25-bird round of trap. More impressively, the Garmin Xero S1 tells you exactly how you missed down to the inch along with the direction you missed (left, right, above, below). That alone is worth the price of admission. One of the hardest lessons for new shotgun shooters is finding out how exactly they’re missing a target. There is no paper to check like when shooting a rifle or handgun.
This is huge for new shooters, but it was the old guys at my trap range that were most excited by the Garmin Xero S1. Every trap shooter I know seems to buy new shotguns like they don’t cost thousands of dollars. I sure wish I had that problem! I have seen someone get the itch for a new trap gun only to be “disappointed” with how it shoots a hundred times. As it turns out, changing trap guns means you might have to adjust a bit. It’s a lot easier and a lot faster to adjust to a new gun when you know exactly how you’re shooting to begin with.
Field Testing the Garmin Xero S1
The Garmin Xero S1 that arrived at my door got a lot of use this trap season of 2023. I used it myself, but I was curious how it would be viewed leaving it at my trap range for others to use. The first thing the range owner did was grab a taller tripod. It comes with a small tripod in the box, but it’s compatible with any ¼-20 standard tripod less than four feet tall. I highly recommend grabbing a taller tripod than the included one in the box. After that, the Garmin Xero S1 is highly intuitive and easy to use. Everyone was blown away by the accuracy of the device. When it showed you were consistently missing six inches to the left of a bird, that’s exactly where you were missing. Results from adjusting accordingly were immediate. I watched several experienced shooters that were in sub-20 score slumps get back to 23 and 24 scores right away. Members of a local high school trap team started improving overnight, and everyone walked away impressed.
Everyone at my trap range who used the Garmin noted how bright the screen is, even in bright daylight. The screen feeds you a lot of data at once, but it doesn’t get lost to the edges or feel overwhelming. If you’re going to have a lot of people use the Garmin, be prepared to enter new shotgun data frequently. The Xero S1 holds up to 10 profiles, which tracks the shotgun model, shotshell, choke, barrel length and other relevant information. It’s quick and easy to input new profiles, but you’ll have to override profiles a lot if you have more than 10 shooters consistently using the Xero S1. I don’t see that as a problem, though, with how easy it is to use the touchscreen.
A Round of Trap
Once your Xero S1 is charged up and ready to head to the range, it’s quick and easy to set up and get shooting. Once you’re in shooting position, there are two modes to select from: Trap Mode and Upland Mode. After that, you’ll select a gun profile and update the relevant information. From here, you have the option to pair the Xero S1 with the Garmin Zero S app to record your scores for later review.
In Trap Mode, there are three other modes you can select: Practice, League and Tournament. I found that Practice mode with full details selected is the best option for general shooting. With this, you can shoot a standard 25-round trap or set up a custom mode to shoot from a specific station. The main difference between the modes is how much feedback the Xero S1 will provide after each shot. We noticed that the Xero S1 takes the same amount of time to process a shot, regardless of the mode selected, so Practice mode with full details makes the most sense.
After you take a shot, the Xero S1 first shows you your reaction time, then it will display your shot position on the clay. In a standard round, it accurately tracks how many shots you’ve taken, and which station you are in. As it processes a shot, the screen will display “Not Ready” in red at the top of the screen, and it will change to “Ready” in green once it’s ready to track another shot. As you change stations, you will have to adjust the Garmin to the trap house at each station. It is literally illiterate proof to set up, and it’s fast enough that you can comfortably use it shooting with a full squad without holding anyone up.
The Garmin Xero S1 is a lot more than a trap trainer, too. The Upland Mode is awesome for bird-hunting practice in any open field, no trap range needed. In Upland Mode, multiple shooters can take turns at once and even compete against each other in a competition mode. There is a lot of down time between the various bird seasons, and this is a great tool to quickly shake the rust off before a bird hunt.
One thing that was noted during use is that the Xero S1 is dead accurate at the 16-yard line in a round of trap, but it doesn’t seem quite as accurate at the 27-yard line. In our experience, the device tracks targets and hits perfectly from the 23-yard line and in, and it will track targets beyond that, but there will be some that will be off. However, we also learned that the way you miss at the 16-yard line as basically the same as how you miss at the 27; you just have to adjust accordingly for the added distance.
For everything that the Garmin Xero S1 does, I’d say its $1,000 price tag is actually quite fair, though I often see it on sale for much less. I still saw a number of older trap shooters scoff at the price (even though they’d just spend $10K on a shotgun), but they quickly changed their tune after a few rounds with the Xero S1. All-in-all, I and everyone who used it this past season, walked away with our expectations far surpassed. If you have a high school trap team, the Garmin Xero S1 will give your team an incredible edge. If you own a trap range, this is an amazing tool to keep behind the counter. If you’re an avid trap shooter and like to switch shotguns a lot, this definitely belongs with your kit. Really, anyone who regularly shoots trap is going to get a lot of use out of the Garmin Xero S1. Now I just need one that tracks doubles!
About the Author
Jack Oller is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the Military Police with one deployment to the Camp VI Detention Facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has extensive firearms training from military and civilian schools and is a passionate shotgun shooter and hunter. Jack has an English degree from Illinois State University, and he started his career in the outdoor industry as Associate Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine. After Gun & Ammo, he worked as Brand Manager for Crimson Trace and now is the Digital Editor for Firearms News.
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