The little-known Turkish-made Pointer Phenoma autoloader delivers mainstream performance.
We marched like ants into the green jungle that marked the beginning of the wooded sporting clays course. Mosquitoes the size of small hummingbirds plowed bloody beaks into exposed skin.
The autoloader cycled once, then twice, as the sporting clays machine launched bright clay into the wild, blue yonder. Orange discs sailed off into the far brush like frisbees. What a glide ratio!
As far as missing goes, well, it was … spectacular. We were shooting the “blue course,” which is supposed to be like the bunny slope. Regardless, things did get better as I warmed up and got a feel for the shotgun—a 12-gauge Pointer Phenoma. It’s made by Armsan of Turkey and is imported by Legacy Sports International.
When it was all said and done, the Pointer Phenoma would bring down clays and birds like nothing I’d ever shot.
The Pointer Phenoma is not unlike other gas-operated, semi-automatic shotguns. When you yank the trigger, a shell spews its load and a bunch of gas down the tube; some gas is detoured into two gas ports situated midway down the barrel. That gaseous “excrement” bores down through the gas cylinder and shoves the gas piston, jacking the spring-loaded action arm and bolt rearward, ejecting the shell. The spring that rides the magazine tube returns the bolt to battery—but not before it plucks another shell and drives it home.
It’s a typical gas system. But two things made eyebrows shoot skyward. First, reliability was perfect, no hiccups or jams—and that was right out of the box with no cleaning. It ran as smoothly as any well-broken-in shotgun ever did. And second: Cleaning was a breeze. When I crack an autoloader open for cleaning, most of the time, I find it’s dirtier than an anti-gun politician, but the Phenoma ran clean as a whistle.
The Pointer Phenoma is available in 12- and 20-gauge configurations and is chambered to handle the big, 3-inch shells if you must take a turkey’s head clean off or need to down some high-flying mallards. Barrels are chrome-moly lined, proofed for steel shot and come in lengths that span the gamut from 22 to 28 inches. The youth 20-gauge model carries either a 22- or 28-inch barrel.
In addition to a hard case, there’s a nifty, little choke kit included with F (full), IM (improved modified), M (modified), IC (improved cylinder) and SKEET. For the record, the choke I missed with was the modified one, which proved a little tight for my skill level and the short ranges involved (which could explain the misses … or maybe it was just simple incompetence). A shim kit is also included with the shotgun, but the 14-inch length of pull was perfect for me, so I didn’t monkey with it.
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One note about shotshell specs: Pointer recommends 2¾-inch, 1-ounce and 3-inch, 1 7/8-ounce shells and includes two gas pistons. The stainless steel piston that comes installed on the gun is for 1- to 1½-ounce loads, while the red-colored piston, which is heavier and marked “Heavy Duty,” is for 1½-ounce loads. One ingenious thing Pointer has done is to place the extra gas piston inside the forearm. It sits snugly just under the magazine cap, so it’s always there if you need it.
The Pointer Phenoma’s payload is 5+1 standard 2¾-inch shells or 4+1 of the big 3-inchers. The camo versions of the Phenoma are chambered for 3.5-inch shells for those who just have to do things the hard way. There is an available 24-inch slug barrel with an attached, cantilever-style Weaver rail for optics attachment. The rifled 12-gauge slugger has a 1:33-inch twist, but it was not included with the test gun. There is also a 3/8-inch dovetail machined into the top of the receiver, so adding optics is easy if that’s your cup of tea.
The Pointer Phenoma has a magazine cutoff system. Clearly a nod to the Phenoma’s general-use design as a waterfowl and field gun, the cutoff switch is located on the lower left side of the receiver. Activating it keeps the shells in the magazine tube from cycling into the action after the shot. With such a contraption, you can keep your standard payload at bay while you slip a special application shell into play quickly if the need arises—say, for example, a heavy load to sort things out with a cranky incoming goose while you’re out on a morning duck mission. This feature is a neat one that harkens back to the good, ol’ days of waterfowling, when cutoffs were more commonly found on shotguns. It’s a swell detail and an added value for the shotgunner.
Fit and Finish Of The Ponter Phenoma
There can be no question about the Pointer Phenoma's excellent fit and finish. Aesthetically speaking, it sports Italian-looking lines—without the Italian price tag. It carries a swept-back trigger guard; an angled walnut forearm that transitions from a deep belly to a sleek, narrow section that wraps around the hexagonally machined magazine cap; an Art Deco-looking barrel rib; and a buttstock with a cut-chiseled appearance that looks to have been inspired by some futuristic German concept car you might see zipping around on the Autobahn.
The Pointer Phenoma is a looker for sure … and that bluing! The receiver, magazine cap and barrel feature a blued finish that’s truly head and shoulders above so many shotguns in this price range. It’s a superb finish that carries into the receiver’s inside surfaces, making cleaning the action’s interior when the bolt and trigger groups are removed a sweet dream. I also suspect that the smooth finish on the interior grooves of the receiver contribute to the shotgun’s silky cycling, which is noticeable each time you send a load downrange. The Phenoma is also available in laminated straight black and green synthetic, along with camo finishes that include RealTree Max-5, Bottomland and Obsession.
On the right side of the barrel, just in front of the receiver, is engraved, “Pointer 12ga 2¾ and 3” Legacy Sports Reno NV.” Opposite that (inspiring) inscription is, “Made in Turkey by Armsan.” On the right side of receiver is the Pointer brand name and logo—yep, you guessed it: a pointer dog’s head—etched in white. It’s simple but looks clean. The brand, “Pointer,” is also engraved into the buttstock just behind the grip.
Functionally, the bolt release button didn’t require big, Russian farmer hands to operate (which I appreciated), and the bolt handle and bolt were smooth, slamming home with authority when a shell was dropped into the action and the bolt release was depressed.
The only issue I encountered was, frankly, on me. If I failed to push shells far enough to catch the shell stop while loading the bottom tube mag, they’d slip back under the elevator. This never caused any jams, however, because I always noticed it and cleared it before shooting.
What’s Not to Like?
I didn’t throw any parties for the Pointer Phenoma’s plastic trigger guard—which seems out of place, given the quality of the finish and bluing on the rest of the gun. In addition, I found the manual safety, which is also a plastic part, to be quite stiff. I get that it should require intentional manipulation; it just seemed “sticky” at the firing line. Whether that’s due to binding of plastic on plastic or its large, triangle-shaped design, I can’t say.
You’ve really earned your curmudgeon card when you start bellyaching about fiber-optic sights on firearms. Maybe it’s just me, but I like a gold or white bead made of steel and screwed into place. However, if you have vision issues, you’ll appreciate this feature. I must admit that the little bugger really pops out there, illuminating like a Christmas tree light against all different types of sky, from whitish-gray overcast to bluebird days. Then, again, with an MSRP of $751 and a street price of around $500, these nitpicks seem kind of petty.
Turkish manufacturer Armsan (whose full name is Armsan Silah Sanayi ve Ticaret AŞ) is situated in Istanbul. This company focuses on shotguns, exporting models to more than 40 countries on six continents. And these are no off-name oddities, either—with well-known American firms such as Tristar (Viper G2), Mossberg (International SA-20) and Weatherby (SA-08 and PA-459 tactical, among other models) entrusting Armsan to manufacture autoloader lines in various gauges and styles.
Armsan was established in 2006; today, it cranks out more than 5,000 scatterguns monthly from its 22,000-plus-square-foot facility. One hundred and 50 craftsmen make metal chips and assemble parts at the plant, churning out shotguns that have gained almost a cult following wherever they are owned (especially in Europe … and the American South). And it’s no wonder, because they’re well-built shotguns at incredible price points.
Pointer Phenoma In the Field
The Pointer Phenoma is sized like a cannon. Redefining what it means to be a “slow learner,” it’s taken me nearly 30 years to figure out why old-timers prefer small, lightweight grouse guns. While the 12-gauge Phenoma can certainly be pressed into service for grouse and woodcock shooting, it might not be the best tool for those jobs. It is, after all, a full-sized autoloader.
I learned this lesson on a central Wisconsin grouse hunt, lugging it around for several hours, brush-busting like a deranged sasquatch. Just as I was beginning to tear off my shirt and mumble incoherently somewhere in the middle of a massive dead sea, things came to life when I spotted movement and thought (for a second) that the Phenoma would soon thunder.
Alas, it was not to be; it was only two ladies riding through on horses. (And it didn’t help matters that our geriatric canine, George, a 13-year-old yellow lab who isn’t happy unless he’s giving puppy hugs or unleashing thermonuclear farts, was at home, snoring on his cozy couch.)
The point is, if grouse hunting is your thing, get the 20-gauge Phenoma. The 20 is stocked in black synthetic, weighs just 6.6 pounds and tapes at 42.5 inches. The big 12 weighs in at 7.2 pounds and measures 48.5 inches. I’m sure the full-sized Phenoma is terrific in the duck blind when you need to put the horsepower to an incoming flock of greenheads … which, perhaps, explains the shotgun’s popularity in the South.
However, the Pointer Phenoma is perfectly at home in the pheasant fields. We proved that when Gun Digest publisher Jim Schlender unleashed his heat-seeking gun dog, Birdie, on some farmland pheasant.
Shooting Winchester Rooster XR No. 6s and Federal Hi-Bird No. 5s, we unleashed a volley of anti-aircraft fire on the cackling characters and filled the game pot (almost as if we knew what we were doing). However, the last rooster got away after the shotgun’s sticky safety required a transition to thumb power to disengage. With that nano-second delay, the big rooster reached cruising altitude and sailed off into a faraway field.
Warming Up the Clay-Buster
Back on the sporting clays course, I’d installed the improved cylinder choke and had a little breeze to keep the squadrons of biting bugs grounded. I had a vest full of Kent’s new Elite Target shotshells, so the clays didn’t make it very far before the diamond-coated swarm of shot connected. I was shooting well. The Phenoma was on fire as clays turned to dust. It was the supremely gratifying hit-what-you’re-looking-at game—a game that a good shotgun makes possible.
After shooting my personal best, it was impossible not to be left impressed with Legacy’s Pointer Phenoma. For almost half the cost of comparable American-made brands, and with a quality on par with, or even better than, many of the most popular models, the Phenoma autoloader is a sleeper to put on your shotgun bucket list.
Pointer Phenoma Specs (tested):
Gauge: 12 gauge, 3 in.
Barrel: 28 in.
Length of Pull: 14 in.
Length: 48.5 in.
Weight: 7.2 lbs.
For more information on the Pointer Phenoma, please visit LegacySports.com.
The article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.