November 10, 2020
The Garmin Xero X1i is the first-ever crossbow scope with an integrated laser rangefinder, allowing shooters to shoulder the crossbow, identify the target through the scope and receive ranging information at the touch of a button. Once the range is acquired, the scope immediately calculates bolt trajectory and illuminates a single aiming point for dead-on accuracy at any distance up to 80 yards. The end result is simple, one button operation for shooters who can quickly complete the shot process in three easy steps — range, aim, shoot.
In addition to ranging, the Xero X1i offers a number of features designed to help shooters make the most accurate shots possible, such as a digital bubble level to help avoid tilting the bow left or right, Steady Aim technology that lets you know how well you are holding on target and a Flight Apex indicator that shows the highest point your bolt will reach between the bow and the target, helping you to avoid tree limbs and other potential obstacles in the field.
In range testing using a TenPoint Vapor RS470 crossbow, we found the Xero X1i extremely easy to set up and operate, as well as amazingly accurate. As part of new product launch, TenPoint announced an offering on a special Vapor RS470 Xero edition as a factory option with the new scope included.
TenPoint CEO Rick Bednar said the company's new partnership with Garmin “takes our commitment to building the most accurate crossbows to a new level of technological achievement.”
In addition to TenPoint's decision to offer the Xero X1i as a factory option, Garmin is selling the new scope as an aftermarket accessory for other crossbows via dealers nationwide.
“Garmin is proud to pioneer the best crossbow aiming solution available … today,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin's vice president of global consumer sales. “The Xero X1i isn't a step forward; it is a leap forward for crossbow hunters who demand the most out of their hunting systems.”
Let's a take a closer look at the Xero X1i and the many ways it can help you not only be a better shot on the range but a more effective hunter in the field.
Garmin Xero X1i Installation & Setup
The Xero X1i is built with an aluminum housing featuring a quiet, rubberized overlay. The unit has an IPX7 waterproof rating and features premium, fully multicoated, nitrogen-filled optics with a fixed, 3.5X magnification. The internal laser rangefinder is capable of ranging deer-size game at up to 250 yards and reflective targets at up to 500 yards, with accuracy to within a tenth of a yard. The unit weighs 30 ounces and measures roughly 6.2 inches long, 3.7 inches tall and 2.6 inches wide. It operates on two AAA lithium batteries (included) Garmin says can last up to a year.
The scope is designed to attach to any Picatinny or Weaver rail and is easily mounted via two included screws. The scope is designed for roughly 2.44 inches of eye relief and should be mounted so that the scope provides a full and clear field of view when your cheek is placed against the crossbow stock in the aiming position. Focus is adjusted simply by turning an adjustment ring around the eyepiece.
In addition to the large ranging button located on top of the scope, power and menu navigations on the side, the Xero X1i also comes with a remote ranging trigger that plugs into the scope and is designed to be mounted for operation while your hand is near the crossbow's trigger. Included mounting hardware makes it easy to accomplish this task for both right- and left-handed shooters and with a variety of stock styles.
Once the scope and remote trigger are mounted on your crossbow, you are ready to head to the range and complete the initial scope calibration. The Xero X1i really shines in this area, as the scope literally walks shooters through the initial calibration process with on screen instructions that can be seen simply by looking through the scope.
In a nutshell, calibration begins by dialing in your zero at 20 yards by taking a test shot and then adjusting the scope's windage and elevation dials just as you would with any riflescope.
Once you are in the bull's-eye at 20 yards, you then have two options to complete calibration. One is to enter your crossbow's bolt speed, if known. This can be done either by using the manufacturer's supplied speed or shooting through a chronograph to measure your actual bolt speed. If bolt speed is known, the Xero X1i can use that information to automatically calculate bolt trajectory and provide a precise aiming point for any shot 80 yards or less. The Xero X1i is designed to work with bolt speeds up to 650 fps — far faster than even the fastest crossbows on the market today.
If your bolt speed is not known, calibration is easily completed by dialing in at a second distance of 50 yards using the elevation dial on the scope. Once calibrated at both 20 and 50 yards, the scope is able to use that information to determine bolt speed and trajectory, providing spot-on aiming points for all distances up to 80 yards.
For our setup, we knew the bolt speed on our Vapor RS470 (430 fps with TenPoint's included 462-grain bolts) from prior testing. So, we simply entered the value and we were ready to go.
Before we move on, it's worth noting that you can certainly shoot at distances longer than 80 yards using the Xero X1i. However, the scope will not automatically calibrate aiming points past 80. So, for longer-range shooting, you must calibrate the aiming points manually and store them in the scope's memory for future use.
Performance on the Range
Once calibrated, shooting a crossbow with a Xero X1i installed is so simple that it is almost hard to accept. Put another way, it took us a little while to truly trust that the scope does what it is designed to do, allowing you to literally walk to any unknown range within 80 yards, push the ranging button, use the supplied aiming point and hit the bull's-eye. But that's exactly what we did, repeatedly. In fact, during testing, it was notable when any shot hit the target more than a few inches from center — anomalies we chalked up to our shortcomings as marksmen and not due to any failure of the scope or crossbow.
After a while, we learned not to argue with the math behind whatever calculations were taking place inside the scope. Just aim, push the range button and shoot; the scope takes care of the rest!
When looking through the scope, you can range your target simply by pressing and holding the ranging button on top of the scope or the remote ranging trigger. This activates a crosshair you place on target and hold there until the scope says, “Target Locked.” At that point, just release the button and the scope will display the line-of-sight range in the display, along with the angle-compensated, or “shoot-for” range, the shot angle and an aiming point to use. You can select from a variety of aiming-points, from a simple dot or crosshair to a host of other options.
It's also worth noting, if you prefer, you can toggle into a “fixed-pin” shooting mode simply by making a quick press of the ranging trigger. In fixed-pin mode, the display will show multiple aiming points for pre-determined yardages that you can set to your liking. For example, if you want the top dot set for 25 yards, and then lower dots for 40, 50 and 60 yards, you can simply set that up via the menu system.
You also can adjust the scope's internal display color, and you aren't just restricted to the standard green or red options. If you prefer yellow, blue, purple, orange or others, the Xero X1i has you covered. The scope also will adjust the intensity of the internal display to match ambient light conditions, or you can adjust it manually, if you prefer.
Performance in the Field
Shooting on the range — under controlled conditions with a stable shooting rest — is one thing. But where the Xero X1i really shines is in the field, where shooting is typically done from unknown distances, from awkward positions and in unpredictable environments.
Although the remote ranging trigger is handy on the practice range, it is a far superior option in a bowhunting situation, as it allows you to watch your target through the scope and repeatedly range the animal (deer, elk, turkey, etc.) with virtually no movement whatsoever. When the animal stops and it's time to shoot, simply release the ranging trigger and use the displayed aiming point to home in on the vitals.
Two other features we also found absolutely perfect for bowhunters are the built-in digital level at the bottom of the display and the Steady Aim indicator. As you can see in the accompanying photo, the level gives you a quick visual reference of whether you are tilting your crossbow to one side or the other, allowing you to keep your limbs level while aiming for maximum accuracy. Better yet, you can check the level without ever taking your eye away from the scope or off your target animal.
Steady Aim, meanwhile, uses circles that appear around your aiming point to indicate whether you may be suffering from buck fever. A larger circle means you are very unsteady. A smaller circle means you are somewhat unsteady. And when no circle is displayed, that means you are holding steadily on target, giving you the green light to squeeze the trigger and punch your tag.
Finally, a feature Garmin refers to as Flight Apex provides a line above the aiming points that serves as a visual reference to the top of your bolt's flight path as it travels from your crossbow to the target. If you've ever had an animal in your scope but wondered whether an overhanging limb between you and your target would deflect your bolt, you know how useful this feature can be. Now, simply check whether any potential obstructions are above or below the line. If they are above the line, your shot is clear.
The Xero X1i also offers several additional features that really add to the scope's functionality. Perhaps the most notable is Laser Locate, which uses the known range and built-in digital compass to estimate the actual location of your target at the time of the shot. This information can then be shared with a compatible Garmin handheld GPS unit and/or a smartwatch to give you a starting point for tracking your trophy and/or locating your bolt.
Another handy feature is the ability to store multiple bolt profiles within the scope. For example, let's say you use one kind of bolt for deer hunting but a different, heavier bolt for moose or an upcoming dangerous game hunt in Africa. With the ability to store multiple bolt profiles, you can calibrate the scope with both bolts and simply toggle back and forth between the two for spot-on aiming at the click of a button, all without having to make any actual scope adjustments.
The Xero X1i also offers a shot counter to help you monitor string life on your crossbow and track set intervals between routine maintenance. The scope even measures impulse duration on each shot to show the relative amount of vibration the scope experienced, along with the amount of roll the crossbow experienced during the shot. Both of these pieces of information can be used to track your shooting consistency and help you improve accuracy over time.
The Bottom Line
Garmin's Xero X1i is an impressive piece of equipment that is, without a doubt, the most advanced crossbow scope we have ever tested. It is hard to imagine a bowhunting situation where the Xero would not offer an appreciable advantage over a conventional crossbow scope. From the ability to conduct still and silent ranging, to having the confidence of spot-on aiming at any reasonable hunting range, there is an awful lot to like here.
As you might imagine for a product such as this, the Xero X1i doesn't come at cheap. Garmin's suggested retail price is $1,399.99, while TenPoint's price for the Vapor RS470 crossbow package is $3,999.99. Although it certainly won't fit everyone's budget, those who do add one to their arsenal will certainly get the performance they've paid for.
One final note simply involves legality. State regulations vary widely regarding the use of bow-mounted electronic devices. So, before you rush out and add the Xero X1i to your crossbow, make sure it is legal where and how you intend to use it.