ICS Sportline M16A3 review by Booligan
Discuss this review HERE
Having previously reviewed the 1st Generation ICS Sportline M4, I was happy when I was given the opportunity to review the newest generation of the Sportline series, an M16A3 model. Like the other models in the Sportline lineup, it features a polymer body, with the tried and true ICS split gearbox system. This model has a few changes over the previous model, which I will cover in this review.
I was sent this gun to review by Evike, who is currently carrying pretty much the entire line-up of ICS' Sportline products. This gun is available HERE, priced at $180. You can get other models, with a variety of stocks and front ends, priced between $160 and $190, all of which include 2 hi-cap magazines to get you started. I received the gun 2 days after ordering it, using Evike's free shipping promotion for orders over $100, which is something I highly recommend all shoppers take advantage of!
The ICS Sportline M16 comes packaged in a cardboard box, with a plastic molded liner designed to hold everything in place during shipping. The top of the box shows images of a few different models, with a check mark next to the appropriate one for your specific gun. Some of the other guns on the box are an M16 RIS, and an SR15 type model, all designated as Sportline guns, so perhaps we can look forward to a few more interesting guns.
ICS put together a pretty thorough package with their Sportline series, including the gun, two plastic thermold style magazines, a bottle of BBs, front sight adjustment tool, cleaning/unjamming rod, manual, and a DVD with instructions as well as info about ICS' upcoming products. They have not included a battery or charger, so you will need to provide that yourself.
Weight: 7 lbs
Height: 8.75" (sight to grip)
Sight Radius: 20.25"
Being a Sportline model, the gun is largely made out of various plastics, with metal reinforcements wherever needed. As it is an M16A3 replica, it has a full stock, and standard handguards, with the battery located in the stock, which I find to be a good place to start when going over the externals.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos
External overview, right side
The full stock is comfortable to shoulder, especially if you have longer arms, but younger users may find it difficult to wield. The butt pad is metal, and features a door to allow you to easily install a large type battery. The bottom of the stock has a metal sling mount to allow installation of 2 point slings. If you choose to change the stock, note that the ICS stock adapter is slightly different than the older models, which makes it easier to use a variety of rear mounted battery options.
The big difference between the Proline and Sportline ICS ARs is the polymer receiver, which is incredibly strong and sturdy, while remaining lightweight. It retains all of ICS' specialized features, like the spring tension release button, and the flip up receiver to allow for access to the split gearbox system. The composition of the receiver is very strong, with very little flex in any direction. Pulling back the cocking handle doesn't always cause the dust cover to flip open, but it does pull back the mock bolt carrier, exposing the hop-up adjuster.
Receiver, left side
The pistol grip is a standard M4/16 type, which is free from any major seam lines to cause discomfort. The base is non-ventilated, and has a large motor adjustment hex screw. Right or left handed users should find this grip comfortable to use. ICS has molded in a label on the inside of the trigger guard, to let you know who made this gun!
Moving forward from the receiver, you will run across the plastic handguards, which, like the previous Sportline model I reviewed were a tiny bit on the thin side, thickness wise. There is a slight amount of wobble, mainly due to the TM style delta ring assembly used in this gun. On the top handguard, a short bit of faux gas tube can be seen, adding to the realistic look of this gun.
Underneath the handguard, you can find the full metal outer barrel, which is a multi-piece unit, adjustable to a few different lengths to allow for different handguards, rails, etc. There is a slight amount of barrel wobble, which seems to come from the delta ring attachment. The muzzle is terminated in a 14mm- threaded tip, with an orange plastic flashhider glued in place. In these pictures, I have attached a steel birdcage type flashhider.
Adjustable sights, front and rear, allow you to properly aim this replica. The rear sight is attached to the detachable carry handle, which can be removed to expose the 20mm rail installed underneath. You can adjust the rear sight without any tools, using the knobs on the unit itself. The front sight is part of the metal gas block, and is adjustable for elevation using the included tool. The long sight radius of this gun helps make it inherently accurate, and the rail lets you mount up an optic if you so desire.
Overall, the externals aren't particularly spectacular, but they really are usable, and are quite nice for the price. There is a slight amount of movement in the front end, due to the less than stellar TM type delta ring assembly, and multi-piece barrel, but it's not so much that it should cause you to lose sleep at night. It is certainly a solid gun.
There are no real-steel trademarks on the gun, instead having ICS markings on the left side of the receiver. There is a serial number, however, they are not unique to each gun.
ICS has included two hi-cap magazines in this package, modeled after Thermold mags. The magazines fit well into the gun with a minimal amount of wobble, and they feed quite well. I've tried out a variety of magazines in the gun, and haven't had any real compatibility issues to speak of.
Feeding end of things
Baseline performance after a 500 round break in period is as follows:
FPS (Recorded using Airsplat .20g BBs shot through a Madbull V1 chrono):
High: 367.9 FPS
Average over 10 shots: 365.9 FPS
I was really impressed with the ROF, especially since I tested it using an old Sanyo 8.4v large battery, which has had several years of hard use. I was able to squeak 19 RPS out of that low voltage battery, which is a credit to the new motor design, which I will discuss in the next section.
Accuracy was acceptable, but left a little bit to be desired in the range department. I was only able to consistently hit my standard torso sized target at 155', which is a bit less than I was hoping for from a full sized rifle. The hop-up seems consistent enough, but it just doesn't have the FPS to zing the round out there at long ranges.
Unlike most other manufacturers' Sportline models, the internals of this are the same as the Proline models. The big shebang with ICS ARs is the two piece gearbox, which is incredibly strong, and allows you to easily upgrade the gun. This thing is a piece of cake to take apart, as you can take the entire upper gearbox out, and access the hop-up and inner barrel with no tools whatsoever.
Receiver split open
The upper gearbox houses your compression components, including the piston with non-ported head, polymer cylinder head, brass cylinder, and spring guide with a rudimentary bearing system consisting of a simple washer. Compression is great, due to the slightly oversized O-ring. A ported piston head improves compression a little bit, but the stock one is very usable. The spring isn't too stiff, which is why the gun only shoots in the 360 FPS ballpark.
Spring and spring guide
The lower gearbox houses the gears, trigger assembly, as well as the special anti-reversal latch system that works with the forward assist to decompress the spring. The gears are standard ratio, with a sturdy build and great shimming. Metal bushings that appear to be 6mm in diameter are installed to keep everything spinning smoothly. Everything is quite stout, and has held up to the M120 spring that I installed later on.
A look inside
The motor is ICS' newest offering, giving you higher speed, with lower power usage. It is still a little bit loud, like other ICS motors in my experience, but it is a great motor out of the box. I've installed an M120 spring, and with the previously mentioned 8.4v battery, I still get a very respectable 17.5 RPS, while upping the FPS over 420.
Rounding out the internals is the hop-up and inner barrel. The hop-up is plastic, one piece, and is ICS' standard rotary adjustable design. It stays solidly in your desired setting, and doesn't rattle out while firing. The inner barrel is 509mm long, and has a slight amount of crowning at the muzzle.
Barrel and hop-up
When disassembling the gun, ensure that you push the spring release first, and when closing back up, make sure that the gears are not in a position where they will prematurely catch the piston. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that, before closing up the gearbox, the gears are at least rotated to the rear enough that they aren't vertical.
At least rotated this far back
It goes without saying, but, this gun is AR based, so you can mod it however you want. I plan on giving the externals a full work-over, replacing pretty much everything but the receiver.
Internally, I installed a Bravo cylinder head, and piston, G&G ported piston head, M120 spring, X-ring, and a ball bearing spring guide. This yielded me a healthy increase in the velocity department, up to 420, with great consistency. I was very surprised to see that my ROF barely dropped using the same 8.4v battery.
One of the cheapest ways to get into an ICS platform
Great performance out of the box
Large stock lets you use a large battery
Rock solid split gearbox design
New motor has great performance
Includes two magazines
Slight barrel/handguard wobble
No battery included (for a package aimed at beginners, a battery would be a good addition)
Handguard plastic feels a little cheap
ICS Sportline ARs are fantastic starting points for custom projects, or for sturdy guns to leave stock. They use ICS' great split V2 gearbox, with decent externals, to make for a very nice package for new players or seasoned vets alike. I'm very interested to see what Sportline models ICS comes out with next!
Many thanks again to Evike, ICS, and of course, Airsoft Retreat!