Review text and images by Mark 'Blondie' Ormerod.

The world of the real steel M4/M16 variants certainly needs no introduction - five minutes on Google will tell you more than I can hope or want to here. For a myriad of reasons they have always proved to be an immensely popular Airsoft choice and there are a wide variety of models available from an equally varied manufacturer base. Just about any accessory and upgrade that you could possibly want can be purchased for your M4 - so the possible configurations are endless. You can probably blame it on a mixture of Black Hawk Down wannabes combined with the fact that in Airsoft just like in real steel the possibilities for customising an M4/M16 is pretty much inexhaustible.

Indeed my first AEG (which takes me back some 10 years or so) was the Tokyo Marui M4A1, and when I became sick of constantly changing mini batteries I moved onto an SR-16. I've always had a love of the M4 range - although in the end a mix of persistent barrel wobble, poor mag feed issues and inconsistent hops which seemed to not want to stay set led me away.

Recently ICS have released a series of differently configured M4 variants - in a similarly modular vein to their MP5 range. They cover everything from a compact sliding stock 'carbine' to a full length solid stocked M16A3. I'm looking at the M4-C15 - to see if ICS have delivered a serious Tokyo Marui killer and maybe a Classic Army beater. In terms of the body, internals, hop up etc. what we've found for this rings true for the rest of the ICS M4 range - the obvious differences being the stock, foregrips and carry handle - but I'll leave anything but a quick subjective judgment (basically, excellent build quality and finish from inspecting other models) to other reviewers.

Whilst I don't normally mention packaging (it amazes me how often you read a review only to find that an otherwise excellent piece of kit is then derided by the reviewer for coming in a plain box ... provided the thing is securely packed I'm not why the colour of the box is so vital) there's a few items of interest. First off, is the licensed by Cybergun logo - unlike their previous offerings this M4 range features clear and present Colt trademarks - fully licensed. The box also states that the gun is UK Spec - and lists the modules (solid stock, RIS, folding stock, ready mags etc) used in the particular model. Its nice to see the West (and more importantly, the UK being taken seriously by the industry).

The model we're looking here is the snappily titled M4-C15. Essentially this is the same specification as a TM SR-16 RIS with a few add-ons and of course, full metal. Supplied in the box you get the gun, an ICS readymag (which you'll need to fit yourself), full metal RIS with 2 RIS covers and a foregrip, flip up rear sight, 450 round hi-cap, quick-detachable silencer, foresight adjustment tool, barrel cleaning rod and an excellent English manual. This is a generic one for the M4 range and a supplement (again, English and excellent) is provided covering the C-15's extras. The build quality of the rifle is frankly, superb. Absolutely rock solid - and a high quality full metal piece. Everything that is metal on the real thing is the same here and there's not a trace of a creak or a wobble.

The receiver is flawless and rock solid - and all the correct Colt trademarks are deeply etched, highlighted in white and very visibile - as is the unique serial number. If you don't understand why this is so cool you clearly possess Y chromosomes ... The rail is solid and the flip up sight that comes with the C-15 is fully adjustable and excellent quality. One lovely feature is the working forward assist knob - give it a push after use and it releases the tension on the spring and gearbox with a little whirr. This is a great little bit of functionality – and no weakening of the spring over time due to compression as has been reported in some models in the CA AR-15 range.

The readymag system requires a little work to fit - and is purely a matter of personal taste. It holds a spare mag tightly and is useful in the field - especially considering that with 2 ICS hicaps you're packing 900 rounds. It adds some weight to the gun and whilst it won't be to everyone's taste it’s a nice optional extra. Build quality is again excellent.

Moving forward we get to the D-ring which is made of thick hi-quality ABS and to the full metal RIS. This is streets ahead of the standard ABS RIS you find on TM equivalents and of better quality than the 3rd party system I had on my SR-16. Not a trace of monkey metal here - and everything is firm. There is not a hint of RIS or barrel wobble here. The forward handle is as expected a good solid lump of plastic with no seam lines - if you like them then I'm guessing this will do you just fine.

The outer barrel and front sight are again excellent quality as is the forward sling mount. One slight disappointment here is the presence of "for toy gun only" lettering on the RIS panels which I suspect purists will quickly replace. The full metal outer barrel extends to the flash-hider and again adds to the strength of the piece.

The supplied QD supressor is, again, excellent quality - although again there's a slight issue of trademarks here for the purist as it is clearly labelled as 'ICS 6mm Calibre'. Its easily fitted however over the flashhider, doesn't rattle, looks the part and provides a good degree of sound reduction. As the ICS M4's throw out more noise than their ABS equivalents this is of obvious benefit. Another little dissapointment however comes from the fact that as ICS provide a QD silencer with the 5.56 markings, the one with the M4-C15 carries a reference to 6mm calibre!

The stock completes the gun - and as expected is a good deal stronger and more solid than you'd find on a TM model. Its made of thick toughened ABS with plenty of room for an 8.4v 3300 battery - with the usual internal modification required for higher capacities. The rear sling mount is solid and there's no obvious seam marks or chance that your stock will split with use.

Onto the magazines - they're finished with the same colour as the receiver (which we'll discuss shortly), hold a whopping 450 rounds, fit snugly and will empty happily from one complete wind. So far - no feed issues have presented and they seem to be very firmly put together. The extra 150 rounds capacity is very welcome.

The hop setting is basically similar in appearance to an oversized G3 one. Its easy to set - although a little stiff - the upside of this being that it thankfully seems to stay set.

Take down is easy across the range - thanks to ICS's 2 piece gearbox. It makes swapping the spring (open the receiver, slip out the upper half of the gearbox with your new spring in) in the field easy. Swapping out the bottom part of the box takes longer but is still a great deal easier than in any other AEG making sticking a spare box in should yours throw a cog very easy indeed. This is really a great design and the internals are a very good quality metal. Having an easily swappable two part gear box is something I really appreciate for overnighters and longer events.

As seems to be the case with the new generation ICS and Classic Army kit the rate of fire is impressive - similar to a TM running a 9.6v battery. Reports from the Airsoft world and indeed ICS themselves suggest that the gearbox is upgrade friendly - able to run with a M120 rated spring (or higher) quite happily.

Onto the finish of the ICS gun and magazines now (this also applies to the readymag) which seems to be a sticking point for some. The colouration is slightly grey - noticeable next to the jet back for example of a TM or CA M4. On a subjective level this may or may not bother you - I find it makes no difference to the appearance of the gun especially in line with the superb build quality, finish and trademarks. The C-15 is an extremely weighty beast - with battery, QD silencer and 2 mags she weighs in at a hefty three and a half kilos! Depending on your preference this is either a plus or a minus – although perfect in woodland skirmishing I found the C-15 too big and bulky for close building work.

So onto UK Specifications and what this means. Compared to ICS's purchased outside the UK we've constitently found that out of the box we're only getting 280 FPS.

Fact.

Why ? Well there are 2 schools of thought here - the first being that for many skirmishers this will necessitate the usual 330FPS upgrade and more money for the vendor. The second is that it could just be due to import and possible FPS restrictions. Either way there's no doubt the UK Specification kit is distributed with a much lower power spring. We'll leave you to form your own conclusions as to whether we're right on this reasons behind this or not - and will only say neither the sole ICs nor sole CA importers in the UK have been exactly FPS shy in the past! Both M4's and MP5's imported from Hong Kong came with a considerably pokier spring fitted - but of course, without the warranty obtained from a UK supplier.

Be aware that if you fit an M100 spring in an ICS M4 you will push your power in the 350-360 range.

Its also worth mentioning here the modular nature of the ICS M4 range - in a similar vein to their MP5's you can pretty much buy any part as a stand alone component. Should you so wish - you could assemble your AEG from the ground up. Given some of the weird and wonderful variants that ZeroOne are producing we're fairly sure that they simply assemble their AEG's from the pool of ICS parts. This in itself is great news from a maintenance point of view - another big tick in the box in favour of ICS - spare parts are not going to be a problem.

I've been extremely impressed with the new kit coming out of both the Classic Army and ICS stables recently. Build wise this has to be the most impressive AEG I've seen or owned however. Admittedly the new CA's M4's are close - unless you really can't live with slightly grey finish or want Armalite trades rather than Colt ones - but I have to give the ICS the definite edge here due to that split gearbox / receiver takedown and the 450 round mags.

This really is an awesome piece of kit - and there is absolutely no reason now why anyone who wants an M4 variant should be choosing a Tokyo Marui one rather than the ICS (or CA) alternative. I paid roughly the same for the M4-C15 as I did for my original SR-16 and I dread to think how much I originally spent on aftermarket metal bodies and parts trying to fix all the issues with it all those years ago.

Mark 'Blondie' Ormerod.

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