Date product posted
Sun January 25, 2009
ICS Sportline M4 Tactical review by Booligan
Discuss this review HERE.
Table of Contents:
Real Steel History
Basic Gun Information
Well, here we are again with another Booligan review. One of these days, you guys will be sick of my writing and I‘ll be out of a job. That’ll be a sad day, if only for me, because I love the perks of the job.
Anywho, the gun being reviewed today is the latest entry into the “Sportline” arena, this time by the Taiwanese company ICS. Now, ICS has been an innovator in the airsoft AR department, by creating their own gearbox design utilizing a split configuration, making spring and piston swaps super easy. They would have been foolish to sit on their laurels while almost every other high end company releases plastic bodied versions of their normally metal bodied guns, so they made their own in order to keep up with the competition. Unlike some other companies' Sportline guns, the internals of the ICS one is identical to the metal bodied “proline” models.
Real Steel History:
The M4/M4A1 5.56 mm Carbine is a gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed, selective fire, shoulder-fired weapon with a telescoping stock. A shortened variant of the M16A2 rifle with a 14.5 inch (368mm) barrel, the M4 provides the individual soldier operating in close quarters the capability to engage targets at extended range with accurate, lethal fire. The original M4 Carbine has semi-automatic and three-round burst fire modes, while the M4A1 has "semi" and "full auto", with no three-round burst. The M4 Carbine achieves over 80% commonality with the M16A2 rifle and was intended to replace the .45 ACP M3 submachine guns and selected M9 pistols and M16 rifle series with most Army units (this plan was thought to be changed with the development of the XM29 OICW and the XM8 carbine. However, both projects were canceled). The M4 Carbine is also capable of mounting the M203 grenade launcher, the M203A1 with a 9-inch barrel as opposed to the standard 12-inch barrel of the M203 used on the M16 series of rifle.
(Taken from www.wikipedia.org)
The ICS Model reviewed today is identical to a normal M4, only with a full stock instead of the retractable stock. ICS does have a sportline M4 with a retractable LE stock though.
My specific gun that I'm reviewing today was provided courtesy of Airsplat in order to review for the fine folks here at Airsoft Retreat. It is priced at $176.00, with free shipping for either the traditional LE retractable stock, or the full stock model. This puts is slightly above the cost of the ubiquitous JG or Echo 1 M4s of a similar style, but the quality level both inside and out is night and day, with the ICS coming out on top by a mile, which I'll elaborate on further on in the review. It is currently available at Airsplat and will also be at pretty much any other major Airsoft retailer in the next few months.
Basic Gun Information
The ICS M4 Tactical is the full stocked version of the venerable M4, which allows for the use of large type batteries in the stock, and also delivers a somewhat unique look in a sea of 6 position LE stocks. I personally have a thing for full stock guns, which is why I went with this model.
The gun arrived 2 days after ordering it from Airsplat via UPS, in good condition, with no box damage visible. Upon opening the outer brown shipping box, I was greeted by the ICS box, which is brown in color and has red and black printing showcasing the model that may lay within. The box is universal as to hold the full stock, retractable stock, and full stock commando variants, and the metal and plastic versions; a smart financial decision on ICS' part which reduces overhead manufacturing costs.
ICS included a nice little feature on the box; an integrated carry handle.
The gun is set in a vacuum formed plastic base with compartments for all the bits and baubles showcased in the next section.
Everything tucked away in the oddly purple plastic base
Included with the gun itself are two “Thermold” style high capacity magazines, a cleaning/unjamming rod, plastic front sight adjustment tool, a bottle of about 1000 ICS brand yellow BBs, and a manual, complete with DVD showing the basics of maintaining your new toy. There is no battery or charger included, so you must purchase that on your own.
Everything freed from it's plastic and cardboard prison
BBs, look to be fairly high quality
Weight: About 9 lbs (Really need a new scale...)
Height (Sight to mag): 10.5"
Sight Radius: 14.6"
As is par with the traditional “Sportline” model specifications, the ICS features a plastic receiver; the major reason for the large drop in price over the “Proline” model. The metal parts include the outer barrel and flashhider, front and rear sling mounts, front sight, delta ring, dust cover, all switch gear, top rail, body pins, and butt plate. Basically, with the exception of the receiver, if it should be metal on the real gun, it's metal on the ICS.
The full stock is plastic, with a visible but not easily felt seam line, and is the same stock as would be on an M16 variant. There is a metal sling mount on the back, which feels plenty strong enough to hoist the weight of this thing. The butt plate is metal and opens to allow for battery installation. ICS stock compatibility is a bit of an issue, as they use a special mounting system due to the split gearbox, so the stock tube must modified to fit aftermarket non-ICS stocks using methodology demonstrated in the numerous guides here on ASR, most of which are written/compiled by XavierMace.
Mild seam line
Stock attachment point
The receiver is, obviously, plastic. It doesn't feel like cheap ABS at all, and the composition makes it look like it could be a nylon polymer blend, but I don't know for sure. You cannot compress the magwell at all, which shows overall strength both in the polymer mixture and the mold design. There are no noticeable seam lines or mold marks on the receiver at all. The fire mode selector settings are molded into the receiver, so there's no paint to wear off after use. There are some trademarks that look like they were screen printed on the left side of the receiver, but they are done without any bleed out or overspray.
Note: The ICS Sportline is NOT COMPATIBLE with normal aftermarket AEG metal bodies. It IS compatible with ICS metal bodies.
Pulling back the cocking handle doesn't open the dust cover, but it can be opened easily. There is a mock bolt carrier underneath the cover, which is pulled back by the cocking handle, exposing the hop-up adjustment dial.
Dust cover opened
Mock bolt carrier pulled back
The switchgear all operate smoothly and freely, and feel good during operation. The trigger pull is smooth and fairly light, as would be expected on an AEG, and it returns firmly after release. The selector switch clicks positively into it's three settings with ease with no binding or other hiccups. The magazine release does its job just fine; releasing the magazine when pushed. One unique bits about ICS is the use of the forward assist to decompress the spring. The button is connected to a lever that is attached to the anti-reverse lever, which releases spring tension when pushed. Doing this before storing the gun will prevent gearbox strain and spring degradation from leaving the spring compressed. Why more AEG manufacturers don't do similar systems is beyond me (aside from my assumption of ICS having their design trademarked.)
The grip is a normal plastic M4 grip, and has some fairly visible seam lines, but is far from uncomfortable . The motor base is not ventilated, but features a flat head motor height adjustment screw.
The outer barrel assembly is fully metal, and is extremely solid for a plastic bodied gun. The delta ring assembly appears to be compatible with normal AEG handguards and RIS systems. The flashhider is metal and only has the very tip painted orange. There are 14mm- threads underneath for attaching different flashhiders or mock mock mock silencers.
Outer barrel (handguards removed)
The handguards themselves are plastic, and feel a hair on the cheap side. They stay together quite well and don't move around too much, but the actual plastic blend used feels kind of light and thin.
The front sight/gas block assembly is metal and is attached very solidly to the barrel. There is a side mounted front sling mount, also metal, which can be switched to work for left or right handed operators.
The sights themselves are metal and are fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The rear is mounted into a removable carry handle, which is made of plastic and is attached via two metal thumbscrews. The 20mm rail underneath is made of metal secured to the plastic receiver.
There's really not much more that I could ask for personally from a plastic bodied AR replica, externally at least, but the review is young, and there is much to discover with this gun.
There are, unfortunately, no “real” manufacturer trademarks on the gun; instead ICS opted to just put their logo on the side. There is a serial number, but I don't believe they are unique to each gun.
There is one last ICS trademark hidden on the inner portion of the trigger guard:
The gun includes two plastic “Thermold” style high capacity magazines, and it is compatible with Tokyo Marui compatible magazines as well. The included mags click in solidly with a minimum of wobble, although some is still present like most other AR replicas. The magazines seem to hold more than the normal 300 rounds that most AR mags hold, but not as many as the longer metal M4 mags made by ICS. I may do an accurate count of the capacity, but only if I really feel like it. The mags feed well, as can be expected from a high end manufacturer.
FPS came in as follows, using TSD .20g BBs shot through a Madbull V1 Blue Chronograph:
High: 365.2 FPS
Low: 359.7 FPS
Average: 362.45 FPS
ROF with 9.6v 1600 mAh Intellect mini pack (using plug converter), recorded using Audacity is 14 RPS. Better ROF would have been achieved by using a quality large type battery, but I didn't have one, so I had to use the mini with a converter.
Range and accuracy seemed typical for a gun with this length barrel, with 150' torso shots being achievable 90% of the time using the same TSD .20g BBs. I'm not sure how fond I am yet of the ICS hop-up, but it gets the job done.
Overall, it's an ICS, through and through. Good performance out of the box, and easily upgraded to fit your specific wants or desires.
The Sportline M4 series features the same tried and true split V2 gearbox setup, of which I am certainly no expert. There are multiple threads on the boards about them, so I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I will go over some highlights.
You access the gearbox by first decompressing the spring by pushing the forward assist button, then remove the rear receiver pin by simply tapping it out with a tool of some sort. I have a blunt punch that’s the right size, and it works well for me. After punching that pin out, the receiver will tilt forwards, like a real M4, and you can slide the upper portion of the gearbox right out. This makes spring and cylinder changes a breeze.
Shot of the gears
The upper gearbox is easily opened up, exposing an assortment of well greased parts, including a plastic piston with non-ported piston head, plastic cylinder head, plastic spring guide, and ported cylinder. The airseal is very good, even with a non-ported piston head.
Various upper gearbox parts
This gun uses the Turbo 3000 motor, which is, overall, a good motor. It seems to pull the stock spring with ease and doesn’t get too hot while operating at stock power levels. It uses normal long type AEG motors, so feel free to upgrade to your heart’s content.
It’s an M4. I really don’t need to say anymore do I?
I will, however, list the problem spots that you’ll run into, being that it’s an ICS:
1. Stock attachment is different, so you won’t be able to mount non-ICS stocks without modifying the stock attachment point.
2. Hop-up is different then normal TM compatible hop-ups. You can use normal buckings and nubs in it, but if you want to switch to a normal TM style hop-up you must modify it to fit.
3. Standard TM compatible metal bodies will not fit.
Other then that, you should be good to go to crank this thing into the M4 of your dreams.
Price to Quality ratio is astounding
Strong split V2 gearbox
Great shimming, wiring, etc…
Plastic body quite strong
Spring decompression button
ICS’ normal use of some non-compatible parts
No battery/charger (normally not an issue, but this is aimed at entry level players who like “ready to run” packages)
Non ported piston head, plastic spring guide
Well, I’ve never been a fan of ICS guns personally, but this is a good gun for people who may be apprehensive about them to ease into seeing the ICS side of things. It certainly helped me see the light. They really do build some pretty innovative stuff, and the addition of “Sportline” models into their lineup makes them available to the masses. All in all, it’s a quality piece of equipment for an affordable price.
Many thanks again to Airsplat, XavierMace (for helping me with my blatant lack of ICS knowledge), and of course, AirsoftRetreat!