It’s been dubbed the Pest Buster – and Crosman’s UK importers ASI couldn’t have come up with a better name for the Phantom break-barrel that’s mounted with a Center Point 4×32 scope.
More importantly, however, at its suggested all-in retail price of just £190, the Pest Buster represents one of the ever-growing crop of highly-affordable, field-ready hunting combos.
While Crosman’s a US giant, the Phantom is a springer made for them in China – and typical of today’s Far East offerings, it leaves little to be desired.
Gone are the days when you accepted a few shortfalls in the stock and metal finishes as part and parcel of the budget price that came with Oriental hardware.
Now, most airguns out of China carry both a pleasant price tag and finish – and the Phantom’s metalwork exudes a standard of polish and blueing that will, I’m sure, have the European gunmakers sitting up and taking notice.
As with so many of the affordable-end springers, the Phantom comes dressed in black synthetic. I know both the colour and material aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but contrary to what they were saying just five years ago, the gun shops tell me it’s not a problem to most of their customers looking around this price point.
And kudos to Crosman for making the most of the extra benefits synthetic stocks offer – they’ve certainly come up with a unique-looking, highly practical handle. Incorporated into the solid moulding is an integral trigger guard and raised dots on the grip and forend which look good and feel even better to the touch, aiding grip as well as being comfortable to hold.
The forestock itself is a very unique shape – curvy and full length with a palm-filling, bulbous design at the end. Odd, yes… but it’s very ergonomic and makes for a good hold from plenty of shooting stances.
Convention has been stuck to at the butt, with a well raised – though thin – comb to suit both right- and left-hookers.
A ridged, hard-rubber pad caps it off and while there are a few moulding marks upon close inspection, any criticism of the stock finish would be nit-picking. Especially given that the Pest Buster throws a telly into the asking price!
It’s a 4×32 ‘kit’ scope from Center Point – more than adequate for the 25- to 30-yard hunting distances you should be limiting yourself to with a springer. Actually, it’s a very well specced, Nitrogen-filled 25mm optic.
The 1/4MOA coin-adjusted turrets sit under screw-off dust caps, and the lenses are protected by transparent covers on elastic. The two-piece mounts are double-screw for extra clamping capacity, and there’s even an arrestor pin that locates into a hole on the Phantom’s receiver to firmly anchor the Center Point in place and negate the possibility of scope creep.
But this scope’s piece de resistance has to be its reticle. It has three, equidistant notches placed on each of the fine crosshair, and there are thick bars in the left, right and lower quadrants. While there is some colour fringing on the sight picture at the edges, the image quality is certainly more than capable of rendering a clear aiming mark once the ocular lens has been focused to your eyes.
I’m glad to see that as well as the telly option, you can shoot the rifle with open sights – and those supplied are of the fibre-optic kind, which are currently very much in fashion for their improved target acquisition properties.
Unusually, the foresight bead is green, while the dots either side of the rearsight’s U-notch are red; it’s more commonly the other way around. The red fibre-optics need plenty of light to ‘glow’ and, personally, I’d be happy with green dots on both front and rear.
The rearsight is adjustable for height and side-to-side POI movement via click-stop thumbwheels and although it’s plastic and looks a little feeble, I didn’t have any performance issues during my test.
The only thing I noticed was that if you align the red and green dots of the fibre-optics in a horizontal line, the top line of the foresight post appeared to be above the top line of the rearsight leaf, which flies very much in the face of convention!
However, as the dots are by far the most visible – and really do speed things up when you’re bringing the gun on to aim – forget convention… and just line up the dots!
The barrel is well rifled, though unchoked at the muzzle, and the breech pivots around a bolt rather than a pin – always good to see as it allows for any wear to be taken up during the lifetime of the gun. The sprung-plunger lock-up is well engineered and sturdy.
The breech proper was devoid of any form of chamfer or lead-in taper. Consequently, I found it tough to seat pellets flush with the breech face. I think it’s something that Crosman should look at improving as breech entry plays an important role in a spring-powered airgun’s shot-to-shot capability.
That all said, I had few worries on the accuracy front with my .22 model. Crosman Domed seemed the logical choice of pellet to start with… and I didn’t bother shooting any other types as I was more than pleased with the Phantom’s downrange performance. If a hunting gun’s range is limited to that which you can group all your shots inside a 35mm circle, then this Pest Buster will do the business at extreme ranges. Indeed, I’d be happy to splash out extra on buying a higher-mag scope for such occasions.
Like accuracy, the Crosman’s power is right where you want it to be for field operations, with the Premiers clocking up a whisker under the 12ft/lb legal limit over my Skan chrono.
For the record, you can see how it shot with lighter ThUnderBOLT pellets (which pushed velocities well over 700fps!) and heavier H&N Field Target in the graph above.
In the shoulder, the Phantom feels surprisingly well balanced considering it’s a relatively long rifle. While its stock is a solid composite, it doesn’t feel weighty and the grip positions afforded by that uniquely-shaped forend provide good support. I was pleased to see an articulated cocking linkage, too; this keeps the slot on the underside of the forend short and unobtrusive. Given its near legal-limit power, cocking effort is more than manageable.
What particularly impressed me about this rifle was its firing cycle. Its action time – the milliseconds that elapse between the trigger slipping the sears and the pellet exiting the muzzle – is neither slow nor aggressive. In fact, I’d liken it to a gas-ram – short and smooth. It’s that impressive, I even had to check this model did have a mainspring in it, and not Crosman’s NPSS system!
Were it not for the slightly long stretch to the trigger – both in terms of pull length and finger reach – I’d have rated this rifle in my top 10 ‘nicest to shoot’ springers of all time. But unless you’ve got a super-long index digit, you’re going to have to really concentrate on slipping the trigger.
It’s not heavy – and the small amount of creep it has is ‘predictable’. But while the length of first stage was very small, its let-off weight is very shooter-friendly. And it can be adjusted if you’re not happy with the factory setting. But it really is a stretch to the ridged, slightly curved blade – and, I’m afraid, I had to work hard at achieving this rifle’s obvious accuracy potential.
There’s a manual ‘in guard’ safety catch – pulled back to engage, and pushed forward to disengage. Though these types of safety are not my favourite, it’s very positive should you ever want to use it. For added safety, the Phantom comes with an anti-beartrap, which means that once you’ve cocked the barrel, the trigger’s rendered inoperable and the rifle can’t be decocked; you need to fire off the shot.
In an age where we’re spoiled for choice at the affordable end of the market, the Phantom is strong competition for anything else out there and is one of the top-end performers in its class, for sure.
Well finished and more than capable of doing the business downrange, anyone wanting a rifle for pest control – whether on an occasional or more regular basis – will not be disappointed if they splash their readies in the direction of this impressive combo.
Model: Crosman Phantom ‘Pest Buster’
Country of origin: China
UK Distributor: ASI ● www.a-s-i.co.uk
Action: Break-barrel, spring and piston
Overall length: 1,082mm
Barrel length: 415mm
Weight (unscoped): 3.2kg
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Safety: Manual, in-guard, resettable. Anti-beartrap cocking
Sights: Fully-adjustable opens with fibre-optic inserts
Stock: Solid synthetic, ambidextrous
Length of pull: 375mm
Price: £190 incl. Center Point 4×32 scope and mounts