New Garmin sight worth the cost

Garmin’s Xero A1i sight (far left) covers every need a bowhunter might come up with when he comes to full draw on a trophy animal. The author said the sight was instrumental in making a killing shot on this alligator (left) because of its ability to compensate for steep-angle shots.

Range-finding, anti-torque features make this a top-drawer sight for any hunter’s bow

Archery is a vast subject, with a nearly limitless number of topics, so it isn’t often that I am compelled to revisit a product that has been featured in this column.

However, after installing a Garmin Xero A1i sight on my personal bow, I felt it was necessary. I highlighted this sight about two years ago after it debuted at the ATA show. It was the talk of the show, and although I ordered some for the shop, I was somewhat skeptical of how well they would work and hold up in hunting conditions.

Garmin has long been known for well-engineered, durable products that are user-friendly, and after more than two years of selling them, I’m happy to report that the Xero sights are no exception. Now that I am shooting this sight personally, I have an even better idea of how it works, giving me more insight into its benefits.

My initial reason for installing this sight was its unique range-finding feature, but I’ve come to realize it has many additional, unexpected features that have drastically improved my shooting.  I’ll say this about the Garmin Xero A1i; I don’t just like it, I love it!

No range? No problem

The primary feature of the Xero sight is its unique, range-finding feature. It not only ranges the target but also displays a lighted LED “pin” at the correct aiming point to hit the target dead center.

Yardage and shot angle are clearly displayed on an LCD screen just above the top of the sight ring, but because the sight illuminates only the correct aiming point, they are unnecessary to reference during the shot cycle. This is huge for the dynamic situations often encountered in the field while hunting.

The No. 1 worry for many bowhunters is distance to the target, with high or low impacts often resulting in wounded game or longer tracking jobs. This helps to eliminate that worry, as well as the need to shuffle back and forth, clipping to and unclipping from your D-loop to pick up your range finder as the animal moves around.

The Xero uses a pressure switch mounted on the bow’s grip to actuate the built-in range finder while at full draw, so if the target animal changes range during the shot sequence, it can quickly be ranged again, all without having to let down your bow. In my opinion, this is a game changer, especially when it comes to rutting whitetails. One drawback to the range-finding feature would be the laser-striking brush between the bow and the target, thus illuminating the wrong pin. Garmin considered this, and this sight offers a fixed-pin option that can be used when hunting thicker cover.

Unexpected Benefits, Better Results

Although the range-finding feature alone would be well worth the investment, since installing the A1i on my bow, I have found several unexpected benefits of equal value. One is the reticle feature used while ranging the target. This is similar to the reticle on the IQ bow sights; it serves as both a torque indicator, as well as an additional reinforcement of anchor point. A reticle consisting of a green ring is centered around a red dot when the bow is properly aligned, leading to more consistent ranging as well as shot placement.

Today’s ultra-parallel limb bows are more easily torqued, causing shots to impact left or right of the bull’s-eye. This tendency is enhanced by the awkward positions often encountered in the field. Although I teach archery almost daily, I’m often guilty of torqueing the bow myself. This feature has virtually eliminated my left and right misses.

Another unexpected benefit is sight clarity and an unobstructed view of the target. As an aging archer who struggles with being able to focus on both the pin and the target, as well as target panic, I now realize how much my inability to see clearly was a contributing factor to both my inaccuracy and target panic. Although there are magnified sights and peeps to help with this, I find this sight works much better for my eyes, and not having to worry about dew or snow in my peep lens is a major plus. The Xero A1i also has a light sensor, that when enabled, automatically adjusts the pin brightness to the optimum level, eliminating the need for tinkering with a sight light at dusk and dawn.

There are very few drawbacks to the Garmin Xero A1i. One is that it is currently not legal for use in Florida and several western states. I expect this may change as regulations catch up to technology, because if anything, it helps to reduce the number of wounded animals. Another is its higher price. With a retail of almost $1,000, it costs as much as many high-end bows. That being said, for all of the money hunters spend to get to the moment of a shot at a big-game animal with a bow, I consider this minimal due to its obvious benefits.

Last, it helps to have a second person when setting up the Garmin Xero. Although I found setup to be relatively easy, this sight is not for the archer who struggles to program a smart phone or TV remote. If you are one of those people, seek help from someone who is tech-savvy when setting your sight.  Other than that, it will make you more effective than ever and lead to a better experience. Stop by a Garmin retailer and check one out soon.

About Sammy Romano 53 Articles
Sammy Romano is a lifelong hunter who has worked in the archery industry for more than 24 years. His expertise includes compounds and crossbows. He can be reached at

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