Gear Review: Garmin Xero A1i

With a shorter draw length and lower draw weight than many of my male counterparts, I have a relatively slow arrow speed. So, guesstimating distance to a target and "pin gapping" with a multi-pin sight can be a real challenge. But Garmin's new Xero bow sight makes this a non-issue. The Xero essentially combines a laser rangefinder and single-pin slider sight into a more efficient package that eliminates guesswork for more ethical shot opportunities.

Quickly mount the sight and button trigger and begin the prompted setup process. Once your first distance is calibrated — typically at 20 yards — you can set additional marks in 10-yard increments. The Xero then allows you to range at rest or at full draw by pressing the button trigger mounted on the bow's grip and aligning a projected dot within the reticle on your target. The Xero will continually range while you hold the button. And as soon as you release it, an illuminated pin for the precise angle-compensated distance will appear, along with ranging data on the sight's LCD display. The small-diameter LED pin allows for a clear picture through the sight housing, and brightness can be set to automatic via a light sensor or can be manually adjusted.

While the Xero can range game up to 100 yards and reflective surfaces up to 300 yards, it will only create a pin for targets up to one yard past your farthest calibrated distance. A durable, coated glass lens inside the sight housing eliminates fogging, stands up to rain or snow and is rated for cold temperatures down to -4 degrees. The Xero is available in left- or right-handed configurations and offers one-year battery life with two lithium AAA batteries.

Throughout an extensive development process, the team at Garmin planned for everything that could go wrong in a hunting situation and incorporated fail-safes for a low battery or severed wire to the button trigger, so you can still use your calibrated fixed pins when unable to generate a precise ranged pin.

Additionally, the A1i model allows you to customize red or green LED multi-pin configurations, view shot dynamics data such as arrow speed and vibration duration, save profiles for various bow setups and send waypoint data to compatible GPS devices via the Laser Locate feature.

I was skeptical when I headed to Texas in February to hunt hogs with the Xero A1i, but I became a believer when the sight projected an accurate 23-yard pin on a sow — no holding between 20- and 30-yard pins. I shot in bright sunlight on the range as well as from a ground blind during a low-light drizzle, and the sight performed well in all conditions. At 14.7 ounces, the Xero is slightly heavier than the average sight, but I didn't find it noticeably heavy on my rig.

Like any new addition to your setup, the Xero comes with a slight learning curve. But I was able to set up the sight and make a quick, clean kill on a hog in the course of one afternoon. Now, after weeks of practice, my confidence and comfort level are high.

Despite chatter from some critics, the Xero will not transform a novice into a proficient archer or eliminate the need for skill and practice. However, the sight does reinforce consistent form by forcing you to perfectly align the pin within the reticle and minimizes movement at the moment of truth by eliminating the need to raise a rangefinder or manually adjust a single-pin slider sight.

The Xero is legal in most states, but check with your local wildlife agency before hitting the woods with this sight. The technology — and the price tag — may not be for everyone, but the Xero is certainly a revolutionary piece of bowhunting equipment and delivers on its promise to "leave the guesswork behind."

MSRP: $799.99 (A1); $999.99 (A1i) |

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