by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and test by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Crosman’s Optimus offers a lot of power for a low price.

Today, we’ll begin a look at the Crosman Optimus breakbarrel air rifle. Mac has tested this one for us and has a number of interesting things to say about the rifle.

Let’s get the exciting things out of the way first. The Crosman Optimus sells for about $90 and is rated to 1,200 f.p.s. Those two facts are going to impress a number of folks, especially those who are new to airgunning. It’s a lot of power for very little money. Veteran airgunners will reserve judgement until they see the results of this test, but impressive velocities and prices are always at the forefront of sales campaigns.

The Optimus is made in China. There is no other way to produce this much gun at the price. The trigger is a copy of an older Gamo design that has become familiar in recent years to users of Chinese-made spring guns. A safety lever in front of the trigger automatically comes on when the rifle is cocked and must be pushed forward before the shot is taken. The mechanism has an anti-beartrap that works as it should.

The Optimus is a conventional breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle. That means it will require all the shooting technique you can muster to get good results, and that would be no different no matter where it was made or what it cost.

The rifle is fully ambidextrous. There’s no cheekpiece on the stock, only a Monte Carlo comb to elevate your eye to the sights or scope. The stock is hardwood and is filled with wood putty in places. Also, the stain did not get applied evenly, leaving dark marks where it puddled and dried.

The metal is evenly finished and deeply blackened. The wood-to-metal fit seems very good to Mac’s experienced eye, with the single exception of the rear sight adjustment knob that I’ll mention in a moment.

Hard to cock?
One customer reviews (for the scoped model) states that the rifle takes “two men and a boy” to cock, so I asked Mac to test that, specifically. It isn’t that difficult. Mac measured the cocking force at 36 lbs., which puts it into the same class as the Beeman R1 rifle, although this rifle is 3 lbs. lighter than an R1. That’s probably why the shooter who wrote the report felt it was harder than it is.

An articulated cocking link allows the cocking slot in the stock to be short, which will reduce vibration by a lot. Unfortunately, the designers have lengthened the stock to cover the base block, so it looks like the cocking slot is long, but that’s not really the case.

A two-piece, articulated cocking link means the cocking slot in the stock didn’t have to be long; because the stock extends past the baseblock, it looks much longer.

Mac noted that the rifle was dripping with oil when he unpacked it. He wiped it off, of course, but it made him wonder whether the insides were over-oiled, as well. It turns out they weren’t, because the piston seal began to squeak when the gun was cocked during the test, and that’s a sign it needs lubrication.

The Optimus is a large rifle at 44.25 inches long, yet lightweight at only 6.5 lbs. It gets its power from a very long piston stroke, as can be seen when the rifle is cocked. The length of pull is 14.4 inches, which will feel long to most shooters. The steel barrel is 18.75 inches in length.

When the rifle is cocked, you can see the obvious presence of a long-stroke piston by how far back the barrel goes. This is why the Optimus is not so difficult to cock.

The sights are made of plastic and have fiberoptic inserts, front and rear. Mac says they appear to be smaller than normal, making precision aiming somewhat easier, though he used a scope for accuracy testing. That’s probably good because the windage knob of the rear sight hits the wood stock when the rifle is cocked. The front sight appears to be glued in place on its one-piece base.

Mac reported that the two-stage trigger has an indistinct second stage that simply pulls through without a discernible pause. At 85 oz. (5.3 lbs.), it’s heavy, on top of being mushy. That will challenge Mac when he tries for accuracy.

How much can you expect from such an inexpensive air rifle? That will be the focus of the next two reports. If the Optimus turns out to have the rated power and is reasonably accurate, it will be a No. 1 pick for those on a budget.