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Home > Articles & Reviews > ICS M4A1 Review
ICS M4A1 Panther Review

So, how come I bought an ICS M4A1 (retractable stock)?
Well... 2 reasons. The M4A1 is the model I wanted from the beginning and my MP5SD5 acted up apparently because of a bad upgrade. So, Campobase offered to take the MP5 for a full credit and gave me the choice of ordering anything else I wanted or to replace all the internals to return it to factory specs. I chose the new gun. I paid the difference for a total price tag of 315 € (everywhere else it runs for over 360 €) for the ICS M4A1, and today I'm again a happy airsofter thanks to Campobase.

As I mentioned, M4 was the first replica I really wanted, but I wanted full metal. So the choice was between Classic Army or ICS. I had been inclined for Classic Army because of some pictures at an Arnie's user review of the ICS M4 that almost made me throw up and make it look LIGHT GREY and so shiny that the replica itself looks like a storm trooper rifle from Star Wars. Please fellow airsofters, make note that the person who took those pictures used a flash that totally ruined the look of the real replica. IT DOES NOT look like that. Look at my picture up at the top, THAT'S how it looks like. In other words, awesome.

The technical data always made me like the ICS more, but that darn color (that I thought it was) made me still want to go for the CA despite the ICS's obvious advantages. Then I asked the people from Airsoft Alicante who rent both replicas at their top of the line installations and they told me that they were replacing all their rental stock to ICS because they were much more reliable and lasted a lot longer.

So, my decision was made... ICS all the way, and I prayed the color wouldn't be an issue.... and it wasn't... it was just those horrible pictures. I chose the retractable stock version because I like compactness, it looks cooler, and it's also lighter than the full stock version. You definitely need a sling for this, and I recommend the 3-point. Click here for installation instructions.

ICS Specifications of the M4A1 Carbine Air Electric Gun

Model: M4A1 Retractable Stock
Weight: 2950 g
Length: 778/873 mm retracted/extended
Initial Velocity: 100 m/s (around 300fps)
Firing Rate: 805 BB/second
Barrel Length: 363 mm
Caliber: 6mm
Magazine: 450 round
Motor: ICS Turbo 2000
Battery Type: Mini


First Impressions
I can't stress this enough, the gun looks awesome and the color is so dark that if I hadn't read it was grey, I could have sworn it was black. I loved the color. Rumors also have it that they front guard is too shiny and/or toy looking. My response, BS! It is dark, NOT shiny, and those who say it's shiny are probably just judging by the web pictures taken with flash that make this beautiful gun look so nasty.

The box was brown, absolutely nothing fancy about it, nor do I care. If you want a pretty box, buy a Barbie doll... if you're a man who wants to buy a gun replica, you deserve manly packaging. Do I make my point clear soldier!!!???

The M4 was bubble wrapped and the box also included the user's manual, safety tips, the magazine, a cleaning rod, and a tool to adjust the front sights height.

Campobase's joke... ship it in the wrong box

The replica weighs about 3.5 kg with magazine and battery. It is heavy, but "good" heavy since the weight is very well distributed. However, after a full day of play, you may feel some back pain for carrying it around so long, but nothing you wouldn't feel after a baseball practice. So, using a sling is mandatory.


Trademarks
This particular model I bought is the ICS M4A1 "Panther Arms" which is a special model ICS makes for 3 Pylones, probably the largest Airsoft Replica distributor in Europe. Thus, you have the panther and ICS logos around the gun in the places where the Olympic Arms markings would have been, BUT it just so happens that Panther Arms, just like Armalite too, are another real gun manufacturer (as I found out recently from a renowned gun magazine) so these logos are actually from a real steel version. I personally prefer it not to have branding of the real steel for law issues. If it so happens that someone calls the cops on you, thinking that you own a real rifle, believe me, real markings will not help your case. But if you're into branding, this one has got it (Updated January 5, 2005).

Anyway, all the branding is laser printed and I read at the ICS website, that they worked together with Olympic Arms (a real steel maker) to make the M4 model as a training weapon for law enforcement and military. Mouse over the images to read the text (I have no idea why they'd also make it with Panther Arms logos... maybe they're partners? Who knows).

Panther Carbine Cal. 6mm - DPMS ST. CLOUD, MN U.S.A. Manufactured by ICS Taiwan, R.O.C

The ICS M4A1 has 2 firing modes, Semi and Full Auto, which can only be selected from the LEFT side of the gun (with your right hand thumb). The right side is always shows on "safe" since there was no way to make the selector turn through the gun without piercing the internals.

Left Right
Forward Release

But the neat thing about the ICS model over any other brand is that the forward release button is fully functional and releases the spring tension for safe storage and longer life.

Some people talk about this gun sounding weird, but to me it sounds beautiful.

< Scroll Down to Download a Video >


Aiming
The classic M16 series sights are of course present in this replica and they work just like the real ones. You have a knob on the right side to move it left and right, one under it to move it up and down, and the middle of the front sight can be raised or lowered with a tool the replica brings.

Some people really can't aim on the higher accuracy level of the rear sights. I personally prefer it. They talk about not enough light passing through, etc... whichever the case, it's not an ICS issue, it's the same as the real steel, and like I said, it's just fine.
Wider sights are for times when accuracy is not such a big concern. Still easy enough to aim with it. However, if you've ever used H&K sights on MP5s, you'll notice their supremacy.
By unscrewing a couple of knobs with your fingers you can easily detach the carrying handle and use the rail to mount scopes and laser sights.

Front sights can be raised or lowered in seconds with the use of a tool that's included in the packaging. The bottom also comes with an attachment piece you can use to mount a bypod, and on the left, it's already curved for you to mount a flashlight.

Another very cool feature is the variable barrel length. Yes, that's right. Using an Allen key, you can screw or unscrew the barrel to change it's overall length. The standard length is 363 mm.

Accuracy
It didn't seem to matter what I did, it always seemed to fire left as if the barrel was a few inches to the left of the gun. It wasn't the wind or the hop-up because the BBs flew straight all the way, it just seemed as if they were being shot from a second barrel left to the gun. It was also shooting high. Again, not a hop-up issue since the BB's flew straight and didn't gain or lose altitude in flight. So I adjusted the rear sights all the way to the right, and raised the front sights as much as I could but the BBs still seem to hit a couple of inches above the top of the sight. Now I can be around 5 inches of the area where I aim at about 10 meters (30 feet). But with the MP5 I had, I could hit the bullseye from there trouble free. So, here I have to use the sights to "guess" where the BB will hit by imagining the shot hitting an inch or two over the tip of the front sight, as opposed to aiming with the sight to hit where the tip ends.

Anyway, this is an isolated issue with my gun only because everyone that talks about this says that this thing shoots dead on. So, I'll keep messing with the sights, wind direction and such... I wish I could shoot it indoors to know for sure the wind didn't play a big role. I'll update this review if I ever have that chance.


Retractable Stock
The replica comes with 6 different settings to best suit your style. I like it fully retracted, but some people like it half way. That's the cool thing about this, lots of options. Below are the three most common options.

Butt stock fits large battery The butt cover is made out of rubber Once the battery is in, you must make sure the cables are dug in nicely to put the butt cover back on

HOP-UP Adjustment
You can access it by pulling back the charging handle to open the port cover that shows the hop-up knob which you can just rotate with your fingers. It seems that there's a little flaw there (as I thought at first) since if you close the port cover and fire a couple of rounds, it will open on its own... But this is actually supposed to happen, as that's the place where the used bullet casings spit out from. Of course, this spits no casings, but this open door holds true to the real steal by staying open while it's in use and closed when it's put away.

< Scroll Down to Watch Video >


Battery Size
As it seems to be the standard now, it uses a mini battery. On this version, it is stocked inside the front guard and it will take some experience to get it to fit. The first time I loaded it, it took me approximately 10 minutes to be able to close the guard again with the battery inside and it won't fully close. You'll notice like a 1mm gap in the center of it and to wrap a strap around it wouldn't hurt, which is what I do to prevent it from accidentally opening during a game. You see that ring in front of the hop-up cover in the picture above? Well, pull that back and the front guard opens in two. It sucks that you can see the battery and the cables through the holes in the guard but you can just put black tape from the inside out and cover all the holes nicely.

UPDATE NOV 1st - SANYO Battery space frustration experience...
<-- BEGIN
Remember those 10 minutes it took me to load the battery the first time... well... multiply that by ANY number you choose and that's how long I've spent so far trying to load SANYO batteries into that claustrophobic grip. Sideways, on top, bottom, vertical, diagonal, ANYWAY you choose and the thing will always be a few milimiters too fat (or the grip too thin).

So, after you get lucky and finally get it in, then you have to wrap something around the middle of the grip to prevent the battery from accidentally dislodging itself and falling off the gun. So, in conclusion, it is a real pain in the butt... if only the grip had 3mm more in space, the battery would fit at the bottom (where it should be)... but guess what, it doesn't... so, best of luck to you.

I have to space out my airsoft games or I'd develop ulcers from just loading the battery... and yes, I am using a mini size 8.4v 600mah battery and several other airsoft pros are required each time to get it to fit, and it always takes a while. One day I even gave up (and I'm not the kind of guy who gets upset when losing on something), but I was so frustrated that I couldn't get it to fit that I resigned from the game and decided to just sit and drown in my misery. Everyone had already waited at least 25 minutes for me. END -->

UPDATE NOV 13th - Battery space frustration experience PART II...
<-- BEGIN
I now use a G&P 9.6v 600mah battery and it fits just fine... it's thinner and it takes just a few seconds to put it in and secure it in place (I was using a SANYO battery before). Even if I wanted, I don't think I could use that sanyo battery again, so I'll stick to the G&P one which gives me a faster rate of fire, the frustration is gone and I can now get ready in just a couple of minutes. END -- >

Butt stock fits large battery The butt cover is made out of rubber Butt stock fits large battery

How long will a 600mah battery last? Well, I have an article about that one, but as quick reference, I can tell you I've counted over 1200 rounds shot and still the battery would keep on rocking.


Innovation = Modular designed gearbox
This gearbox is constructed by two parts - upper gearbox and lower gearbox. The entire top cylinder and piston assembly is separate from the gear and motor section, this revolutionary modular design help users to exchange the suitable modular easily in a skirmish and do the accurate maintain or repair. Modular piston assemblies increase the convenient of upgrade the firepower in a skirmish. More info here >

How to open, change, upgrade, etc? Well, the gun comes with an illustrated manual that nicely explains how all of this is done. You wouldn't be doing it without owning the replica, so there's no point in talking about that here. I personally still havent had to do it, and don't plan on doing it either.... the gun shoots too well to try messing with it.


HANDS-ON VIDEOS (right click, save target as)
(right click, save target as) (right click, save target as) (right click, save target as)
This video shows the how the hop-up port cover opens when you fire. This is true to the real counterpart as this is where the brass ejects from the gun and stays open when in use.
This video shows the magic of the forward assist button to release spring tension. Also, it's a good video to HEAR how the gun sounds. I love it.
This video shows how the magazine rattles as you shake the gun around.
A tighter magazine wouldn't be a bad idea.

Conclusion
Despite the mentioned design flaw of the front guard that could drop the battery unless wrapped with something else and that's too tight for batteries to easily fit, I am very happy with my purchase, with the forward release button, and the full metal construction. I know this replica will last me for a long LONG time and has proven to be the envy of many, hehehe...

Credits/Acknowledgments
This review was brought to you by this website's administrator, Alex Alvarez (aka TripleA).

August 28, 2005. Athens, Greece.

Hellas Airsoft Founder and Administrator

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