ICS M4 Beginners Guide and FAQ
Date product posted
Thu January 10, 2008
ICS M4 FAQ and How-to Guide by XavierMace
Discuss this review in the Forums.
See the updated version in this thread.
Table of Contents
01 ) Intro
02 ) What this guide will tell you
03 ) What this guide will not tell you
04 ) What to buy and where to buy it
05 ) ’08 Model changes
06 ) Where to get ICS replacement parts
07 ) Used gun buyers guide
08 ) Compatibility Info
09 ) Basic Performance Tips
10 ) Advanced Modifications
- Introduction -
Many people purchase their first ICS M4 because they provide a decent feature to cost ratio. This is especially true with their M4 Pistol models coming in at just under $200. Since I am a self-proclaimed ICS expert (having used them since the original days) I have decided to create an ICS M4 Starters guide in the hopes that some will read it before posting questions on it. Hopefully this will also put any concerns you may have to rest. I will be adding pictures where applicable as soon as possible. Note, all of this is based off my personal experience. Some may feel differently about where to buy the parts or what parts to use. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I have done more work on ICS M4's than anybody else I know. So take this with a grain of salt. Here is the results of my work so far minus the M16A4 and PDW (WIP) and the mountain of parts:
- What this guide will tell you -
Hopefully this guide will answer most of the questions you will have as either a new ICS M4 owner or someone considering an ICS M4. I will cover where to buy the gun and parts, compatibility issues, and modifications I have found to be extremely useful. I will also cover some of the differences between the variations.
- What this guide will not tell you -
This is not a disassembly and take down guide (at least not yet). You can already find a take down guide on Mechbox.com; use it. That said I will be happy to answer any questions you have in that regard or clarify any points of concern.
- What model should I get and where should I get it from -
First off we need to clarify what models are available and where. ICS makes their M4's with 3 different kinds of trademarks. Olympic Arms, Colt, and generic ICS trademarks. The Olympic Arms trades are legally licensed through TeamSD and therefore these are the trades you will see at 99% of US based retailers. At this point in time, their Colt trades are not legally licensed (they have had problems with Cybergun) and therefore you will normally only see Colt trades on guns sold at HK based retailers (IE WGC). The final group (generic ICS trades) are pretty rare to see stateside, EXCEPT on Anniversary models. Evike in particular bundles extra stuff with the generic traded models to make them easier to get rid of.
Where should I get it from then? This depends on which model you want. Below are my recommendations, along with the differences between the models..
Current Models - http://www.airsoftgi.com
Olympic Arms PCR-97 Standard Carbine (Std M4 Hand guard, LE Collapsible Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 RIS Carbine (RIS Hand guard, LE Collapsible Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 SOCOM (RIS Hand guard, Folding Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 CQB (Pistol FIRSCH Hand guard, Folding Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 CQB LE (Pistol FIRSCH Hand guard, LE Collapsible Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 Pistol (Pistol FIRSCH Hand guard, Sling Mount)
Older Models - http://www.blazingtoys.com
Olympic Arms PCR-97 Standard Carbine (Std M4 Handguard, Full Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 RIS Carbine (RIS Handguard, Full Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 SR-16 (RIS Handguard, Full Stock)
Olympic Arms PCR-97 M16A3 (A3 Handguard, Full Stock)
*Note the only difference between the RIS Carbine and the SR-16 is accessories. The trademarks and externals are the same. Also, as stated, these models are not current models. They will have the older dark grey receivers and the other externals (IE the hand guards and stock) will be the older glossier kind). * Note, the folding stock and sling mount models do NOT include a stock adapter. In order to use a different stock you will need to purchase a stock adapter.
Original Replacement Parts - http://www.blazingtoys.com/ics_parts.html
BlazingToys is essentially the only US retailer to stock a complete selection of ICS replacement parts. Purchase a Standard Carbine and decide you want an M16A3? They have the parts you need. Get a pistol and decide you want a SOCOM? They have the parts. If you absolutely positively have to have Colt trades, you will have to get your gun from overseas. Just keep in mind this will add to the cost and potentially cause headaches.
I still don't know which one I should get?!
Keep in mind all ICS M4's have essentially the same internals and receiver. It's just a matter of looks and price (and inner barrel length). The PCR-97 Pistol can be had for only $200. It's hard to beat that price. All you need in order to put a stock on is the stock adapter ($9.50 from Blazing) and the stock of your choice. Note, a non-ICS stock will require modifications in order to work. You could get the pistol, stock adapter, and full stock and be out the door for about $250. Personally I like the M16A3 as you don't see them around as much as M4's but it is a little more expensive at $315
- Should I wait to get mine until next year’s models come out? -
Probably not, as there doesn't appear to be anything new of note on next year's models. The main things of interest to a new person would be the HK416 style stock (new for ICS) and a CD-Rom. Complete (well, as complete as we have) details on the upcoming anniversary models are available here:
- That's all good and well, but I purchased mine used. Now what?
While ebay and/or classifieds can be a great place to pickup a good deal there are some things you need to know about the older ICS's. If you haven't noticed already (you soon will), ICS has a bad reputation with many people. This is because their original guns ('03 - late '05) had several issues that caused a lot of problems for people. How can you tell what model mine yours is, you ask? You can get a pretty good guess on the age of your ICS based on it's receiver.
'03 - '05 Dark Grey DPMS Receiver
'05 - early '07 Dark Grey Olympic Arms or ICS Receiver
late '06 - '08 Black Olympic Arms or ICS Receiver
Basically, if you have an Olympic Arms Receiver you are good to go. However, if you have one of the older DPMS receivers, here are some issues you will run into.
* Turbo 2000 Motor. This motor really sucked. I mean REALLY sucked. However, replacing it was not as easy as normal because....
* Proprietary pinion and gears. In order to replace the motor you have to replace the gears or vica versa. If you use a new motor with the old gears you will tear things up in a hurry.
* Poor wiring. ICS is known for poor wiring, and this is why. They used very cheap and poorly made wiring on their early models.
* Outdated lower gearbox shell. They have made a lot of tweaks and upgrades to the stock lowers over the years. This doesn’t mean your older shell is in need of immediate replacement, it’s just not as good as the newer ones.
Now, if you already have the gun, all is not lost. It's still quite possible the gun will last you in it's current form. However, if you planned on doing internal upgrades you are going to have some extra work cut out for you.
- I have my gun, but I want to upgrade it. Is it compatible? -
Internally, ICS guns are 99% compatible with TM Compatible parts. There are only a couple internal parts (namely the anti-reversal latch and the casing itself) that are not compatible. ICS has a proprietary hop up chamber. Some love it, some hate it. If you decide to replace it you will have to do some filing to the new chamber for it to fit and function. The biggest selling point of ICS's are their split gearbox. Personally, I would keep your original upper stock as a spare and buy a second casing and upgrade that.
Externally it's a little harder to answer.
Many TM Compatible front ends are a direct fit. Some free-float front ends might require you to file down the pin on the receiver to fit. TM-Compatible pistol grips will fit, however they are not a 100% match with ICS's which will give you a poorer mesh on your pinion gear which will give your gun that whinier tone. To mount a TM-Compatible stock, you will need to file down your ICS stock adapter. TM-Compatible receivers ABSOLUTELY cannot be used with an ICS. The dimensions of ICS receivers and mechbox casings are quite different. All the rails, threads, ect are all normal.
How much work is this you ask? It's really not all that much. I am by no means handiwork inclined, but I managed to do all my filing in one sitting. That said, ICS's externals have gotten a lot better, especially in the last two years. Unless you absolutely have to have a style of stock ICS doesn't make, I would just get an ICS.
But I was told part X won't work in my ICS!
There is a lot of bad information around about ICS. A lot of it only applies to the older models. That said, occasionally you will come across something that simply doesn't fit. This isn't necessarily ICS's fault. For example, I have a King Arms G27 grip that's taken a retarded amount of filing to fit (and still doesn’t fit right). However, my friend with a TM S-System also had to file his. It's simply a poorly made product. This is often the nature of airsoft. Many parts are poorly made replica's of real steel parts. It just happens some time. I have seen some ICS's have problems with brand X mags where as the next one doesn't. You have no way of knowing unless you try. One of my ICS's is 100% after market, mostly Systema, internals (except for casing and AR latch), it functions perfectly.
- I'm still not happy with the gun, what else can I do? -
Here are some of the things I have done with my ICS's in order to improve there performance.
*If you have a Turbo2000 motor, first thing to do is get a new motor and gears.
*Disassemble the gearbox and re-shim it. I reshim all of my guns. If you have never opened a gearbox before seek assistance from somebody who has.
*Upgrade your battery. As with all brands, the stock battery sucks. If you have a non-full stock model, you are basically restricted to a mini battery. Get the highest capacity (mah) 9.6v Mini battery you can find (usually around 1500mah). Alternatively, you can wire your gun to the back and use a battery bag to hold a large. If you have a full stock get the highest capacity (mah) 9.6v large battery you can find (usuallly around 4500mah). Cheapbatterypacks.com will build you a custom pack with the connections and cells you want for a reasonable price. A 4500mah battery will usually last you all day. Personally I don't go over 9.6v in my guns. You can probably use a 10.8v without causing problems, but why risk it if you don't need to? Make SURE you also get a decent charger ASAP. The charger will cost you probably $90 or so, but it is well worth it.
*Polish the inside of the upper gearbox and re-grease it. These casings are only pot metal. Polishing the gearbox can allow for much smoother operation.
*Replace the wiring. I have started replacing the wiring on my ICS's with Dean's Ultra wire and connectors. This is much lower resistance wiring and a lot more heat tolerant. I am also doing this because I am planning on switching to Li-Po batteries.
* Replace the hopup bucking. A lot of people report issues with their stock bucking.
If you have done all of this and still aren't happy with the performance of the gun, let me know and I will see what I can come up with. I might even buy it from you
- Advanced Modifications (*** WIP ***) -
- Replacing all of your wiring -
One upgrade that most people don't consider is replacing ALL of the wiring in the gun. However, this can be especially useful on older model ICS's or for wiring a crane stock and/or burst chip. Personally, I am replacing all of my wiring and plugs with Deans. The Deans Ultra wire is 16awg, low resistance wiring with VERY good shielding. Dean's plugs are also low resistance, allow for a higher amperage and are smaller plugs. This allows for some interesting possibilities when wiring your ICS M4. Here is the current gearbox I am working on. The only thing left to do is solder on new motor connectors. Also worth noting is this gearbox is all Systema parts, minus the AR latch. Those are Systema High Torque gears in the picture and that upper contains a SP160 spring. With the torque up gears and Magnum motor, it will actually pull over with an 8.4v battery. Not by much, but it does work. I certainly wouldn't use it like that, but I found it surprising it worked at all.
Closed gearbox with new wiring:
Dean's Plug off the rear of the gearbox. This was deliberately made this short as it allow me to have a connection between the receiver and stock. This way I can just pull off the stock adapter with the stock and all attached and throw on another one.
Inside of the gearbox, showing wire configured for the rear:
Close up of the trigger wiring. This is probably the hardest part of the whole thing:
Wiring path on the bottom of the gearbox. You need to be careful here and make sure the motor will clear the wiring. It IS thicker shielding on the wire than the old ICS so you might need to push it a little to make sure it will stay.
I don't have any of mine wired to the front with new wiring, but the basic process is the same. I will upload pics of the crane stock as soon as I can because it is a unique wiring job. Once you get used to the idea of doing your own wiring you realize there is a lot of potential to make your life easier. Current wiring too short, making it difficult to get your battery in? Make it longer? Have a fuse or burst chip that makes too much clutter? Hardwire it in.
- Using an aftermarket hopup -
This is a pretty simple one. Like I said, some people like the ICS hopup and some don't. For those of you that don't here is what you need to do. The chamber in the pictures is a Systema:
Simply file down the front of the loading tube as shown here.
Also, some hopup may need to have the striker arm filed down as well (Thanks to crablegs for discovering this). Otherwise the top of the receiver will push down the arm causing it to over hop. This shows what two areas need to be filed down:
- Using an after market free-float RIS -
Here is the pin that MAY need to be filed down. As you can see, it had to be filed down for this front end to be mounted securely.
- Mounting a stock on your M4 Pistol -
Here is how you replace your M4 Pistol sling mount with a stock of your choice.
Here is the sling mount on a stripped lower
Remove the screw on the back of the mount
Pull the mount off the receiver
Acquire a ICS Stock Adapter (BlazingToys carries them)
This is what the back of the receiver looks like with no mount/adapter on it
Screw the stock adapter on just like you removed the sling mount
Slide the stock on
Also worth noting is you don’t have to take the stock off the adapter in order to remove it.
Extend the collapsible stock all the way and remove the mounting screw. Off comes the stock.
While the screws for the pistol sling mount and stock adapters are interchangeable, the sling mount screw has a much thicker head.
The top screw is the screw from the pistol sling mount. This does not cause a problem using it on the stock adapter, it’s purely for aesthetics.
- Mounting a non-ICS Stock -
This takes a little more work. The ICS stock adapter rails are tapered both height and width. This means you will have to file down the rails to mount a non-ICS stock.
Initial Height of the stock rail
Final Height of the stock rail
Initial width of the stock adapter (I couldn't get a good measurement of just the rail)
*Edit: The forums are censoring the link for this picture, I will re-upload it later so it generates a new name.
Final width of the stock adapter
*** More Mods Coming Soon ***