“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Steve Jobs
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I am a punctual person. From my house, I can tell you within 3 minutes how long it takes to get to just about any place within a couple of hours drive. I’ve worn a watch for 20 years to keep the time but it wasn’t until I was in Afghanistan that I started asking more of a watch. It was actually more GPS than watch, but the Garmin foretrex that my other tank commanders and I wore there helped us plan routes, determine density altitude to make sure our main guns had the correct data, and kept everyone on the same synchronized time, which is pretty important on the battlefield.
Later, and after returning home, I started wearing another Garmin, the Instinct. It had some interesting functions like being able to navigate to the location of the last target lased from the Garmin Xero bow sight. I began to understand that an increasing number of items in my life would start to share information with each other, that devices were getting smaller and becoming more powerful, and that if I wanted to be part of that progress I needed to stay at the leading edge.
I thought I’d been doing a good job of that until I got the Garmin Tactix 7 Ballistic Pro watch. I’ve been using it for the past month and I feel like I’ve only experienced 5% of its capability, and maybe less.
I got this device to have a wearable ballistic computer. The Tactix 7 has sensors for elevation, barometric pressure, a compass, humidity, temperature, and GPS. It uses atmospheric data in combination with algorithms from Applied Ballistics to create ballistic solutions which are insanely accurate. I tested the watch against two other ballistic devices which also use Applied Ballistics with the exact same data inputs and then shot each solution on the range out to 1,000 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor Sig Sauer Cross rifle. My Cross shoots .80 MOA with factory ammo which is plenty good enough for the type of testing I did on the range. Out to 600 yards, the solutions were all within 1/10th mRad but beyond that, they started to spread out. At 1,000 yards the solutions were spread by a distance of six feet. Since each was using the same ballistics solutions, I concluded that the density altitude readings were making up that difference. At 1,000 yards, an elevation hold of 9.02 mRad or 324.72 inches above the target turned out to be right on the money as I was able to put 5 consecutive shots in a 14” group on a 24” steel target. That solution came from my watch and got my attention.
For shooters, the watch can save multiple gun profiles, and create custom range cards for each of them. You can easily save two different wind speeds and adjust wind direction. Whether you are shooting competitively or hunting in an environment where you are shooting far enough that you need to hold for wind or elevation, this is a good tool.
The watch also has a map of every road and trail in the US. I hiked 18 miles in and out of a wilderness area last weekend and used the watch for navigation. It worked awesome and even had two lines on it. There are a lot of other maps you can download that even have land ownership on them.
The touchscreen is tough and easy to navigate, if you find yourself in a new setting a tutorial will explain what the buttons do and train you on how to use that feature. It has a mode for pilots which does much of what a $100k glass cockpit in a Cessna is capable of. You can receive text messages, view your schedule, the weather, the moon phase, and daylight/moonlight hours.
The Tactix 7 also monitors my heart rate, the amount of oxygen in my blood, my stress, steps, sleep, and energy. One of the crazy benefits I’ve found is being able to get better sleep by monitoring how much sleep I’ve been getting and what the quality of that sleep is— we spend a third of our lives asleep; being able to improve that is high for me.
Another feature that’s pretty James Bond is an LED flashlight you can turn on with two clicks of a button with either green or white light. I use this feature every day more than once and have found it much more convenient than the light on my phone. You can even download Spotify, and Bluetooth it straight from the watch to your earbuds so you can listen to your favorite episodes of the 6 Ranch Podcast while you are on the go.
The watch can be recharged in a couple of hours and also charges with solar. The battery life is up to 37 days in smartwatch mode or 120+ hours of GPS. At 3 ounces, this may be one of the best weight savings devices I’ve come across in the technology field for hunters and shooters.
There are a bunch of tactical features for the military community like Stealth Mode which ceases transmission of info from the device as well as a Kill Switch which wipes all user data from the watch. The Kill Switch isn’t something you are going to click on accident, but if your position was about to be overrun and you had sensitive information on the watch, you could get to it quickly. It even has a mode for night vision.
There are apps and modes for parachuting, golfing, swimming, biking, bouldering, running, and on the list goes on. In my opinion, this device is for people who want a smartwatch that is easy to use, has a battery that lasts for a month; and replaces a handful of other devices which don’t work as well and weigh more. The long-range shooter, the backcountry navigator, and the person who wants to monitor and get the most out of their training leading up to hunting season all have something to benefit from here. At $1,599.99 it’s a substantial expense, but an incredible bargain given the number of jobs it accomplishes.
This evening I had dinner with my grandma who was born and raised barefoot during the great depression. I showed her that my watch could receive signals from outer space and determine our exact location. She smiled and then we had a slice of huckleberry pie. Whether technology changes more in her lifetime or mine is to be determined, but I am excited about where we are now and interested to see what’s next. Whatever it is, I won’t be late, and now I’ll know where I am and how high to hold.
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