Reviews

ICS L86A2 Light Support Weapon

Master Chief

The ICS L86A2 LSW is one of the most impressive ICS AEGs I have ever seen. It just shows to prove how much work and devotion ICS have spent on their SA80 range to deliver such beautiful AEGs. The ICS L86A1 comes in a package that I think would make your money’s worth. The package comes with the usual cleaning rod, a small bottle of ICS BBs and 2, yes, 2 hi-cap metal magazines magazines.

I will start this review by being very honest. Until I laid my eyes on this AEG, I was never a big fan of ICS. In fact I have never had one not because I could not get one but because I deliberately stayed away from them. Why? I do not know. When I buy an AEG, especially expensive, high-end ones, I rely more on gut feeling and instinct rather than anything else. And ICS did not hit that on me. So when I got the news that ICS will be sending us a new product for review, all I said was, “Okay…” But when I saw this baby, my first impression was “Wow!!!” I have always wanted an SA80 variant but the ones on the market at the moment were either too expensive or just not good enough. But looking at this rifle, I knew that I am going to enjoy running around the skirmish field with this.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first thing that caught my eyes when I saw this rifle was its size. The long barrel with the folding bipod underneath makes the rifle look mean and angry. So I took a deep breath to get ready to pick –up this very heavy looking rifle and… guess what… it was not even half of the weight I thought it would be. Don’t misinterpret me, the rifle is not light but its not as heavy as it looks.

Lifting the rile by its “D” handle will give you the feeling of it being front heavy, which I expected it to be. For one, the barrel end, which consists of the barrel itself and the bipod assembly is probably the heaviest part of this rifle. The battery compartment is also located on the front hadgrip and the “D” handle is not really placed in the middle. Surprisingly, as I have observed with bullpup rifles, the uneven weight seems to even itself out once the rifle is shouldered. I think this the magic of bullpups, no matter how long the rifle is, all of this disappears and the rifle just shrinks into you once you take it up to its shooting position.

Externally, this rifle looks very impressive. There is a lot of metal on it as well, in fact it will be easier for me to list the plastic parts rather than the metal ones. So, the only visible plastic parts of this rifle are the: front top and lower handguard, the pistol grip, the rear grip, the butt plate, the cheek piece, the ejection port dust cover, and the bolt lock. Everything else is metal finished in matte black. “Shake test” showed no wobble, even the bipod is well supported.

The bipod is located very near the front end of the rifle directly underneath the flashhider.  You can deploy the bipod by pulling a small metal plate on the underneath just before the handguard. I am not aware how the bipod on the real one deploys but on the ICS version, the user will have to squeeze the bipod legs together while pulling the lock down making it a two-hand job. The bipod is a very useful tool for the L86A2 LSW. It gives the user more stabilizing control when in use. It also makes it possible for the user to shoot on a prone position, which will be very difficult without the bipod. The bipod also has the capability of turning 180 degrees and this will allow the user to turn on either direction without having to lift the rifle up. The bipod legs can be adjusted in length up to four positions. They will have to be pulled down while pulling the lock to be extended though, again a two-hand job for each leg. Retracting them back is a breeze as they are spring-powered. All that is needed is for the user to press the lock mechanism and the legs will retract automatically. Folding the bipod back requires the same steps as unfolding it. So the best way to use the bipod is I think to leave it unfolded if the user know that he will need to use it. Otherwise, it can be very fiddly.

The front sight is quite tall and rests directly on top of the outer barrel just before the hanguard. It is removable but does not fold. It is windage adjustable and this can easily be done by turning a dial near its base, while pressing a lock pin on the rear of the sight. The handguard is made up of three parts. The top, bottom left and bottom right. The handguard also acts as the battery housing.

Unlike most AEGs, changing the battery on this rifle is very easy and can even be done in the middle of a skirmish without having to walk back to the safe-zone or to the regeneration point. The top handguard flips upwards by pulling the lock located on the left side. This will already reveal the battery space but there is not enough space to insert or replace a battery. The next step is to locate lock that connects the two bottom handguards together, pull this to the right and the right lower handguard will swing to the right splitting the lower handguard and exposing the battery space. The ICS L86A2 LSW uses a mini type battery.  On the right lower handguard, the markings: “MG 5.56mm LIGHT SUPPORT L86A2”

Both top and lower receiver, made of stamp steel, fit well to each other. The safety lock is located on the front part of the lower receiver directly above the trigger. The rifle is on safety mode if the lock is pushed to the right with the “S” symbol.

The safety is easily accessed using the left index finger (for right handed shooters) to push it to fire mode and by the thumb to push it back to safe mode. The trigger, according to ICS, is designed like the real one. According to them, “stages trigger: Just like the touch of real trigger, the action of trigger is same as the real L85/L86 A2. When the trigger reaches the position, the electric brake module responses, connects, and electrify. The electric brake is a patented design which won’t burn away.”  I’m not sure the proper name for this type of trigger but it is what I would call a “snow plow” shaped trigger, which fit snuggly around the trigger finger. Also the trigger guard is designed to be bigger to fit a gloved finger.

The carry handle or “D” handle is very similar to the M16/M4 rifle where the rear sight is built in on the rear of the handle. It is connected to the rifle via a rail held in place by three screws. The rear sight is adjustable. On the left side of the rifle located above the magazine well is the magazine release catch. This is not ambidextrous so it can only be accessed on this side. What is very noticeable is that the catch is surrounded by a metal plate, which prevents accidental release of the magazine. This, I think one of the modifications made to the A1 variant to improve the functionality of the rifle.

The metal hi-cap magazine fits well into the magazine well. It will not fall on its own when the magazine release catch is pressed but will slide out very easy.

Further along the left side is the fire selector switch. Now, for people who are used to the M4, this can be a bit confusing when used for the first time. If the M4 has three modes: safe, semi and full auto, the L86 only has two: semi and full auto as the safety switch is located above the trigger; remember? The fire selector is a bit tough and because the rifle is a bullpup, the user will need to use his non-dominant hand to switch through the two firing modes. Above, you will find the cheek rest, which does add comfort when aiming down the sites. It protects your cheeks from the frozen metal top receiver, especially during the winter months.

On the right side of the receiver is the charging handle. When pulled, it will flip the dust cover open and will lock in place when the charging handle lock lever is pulled up. To release it, simply pull it back again and let go. When on the locked position, the hop-up can be adjusted.

Above the mag-well are two sets of markings. One appears to be stamped into the metal and the other set looks like its laser etched. The stamped marking appears to be a serial number and reads: “UN90A150902” and the other set underneath it reads: “1005-99-250-0060” and “L86 A2 5.56mm x 45”.

On the underside of the rifle near the end is the rear grip. The rear grip is the same as a front grip only it’s in the rear of the rifle. It helps stabilize the rifle when the bipod is deployed. Another feature of this rifle is a shoulder trap, which is often found on other support weapons. I’m quite unsure of the real purpose of this or if it does provide any comfort and support for the user but it does make the rifle look cool.

In conclusion, this AEG is very well built and ICS made sure to be as faithful to the real deal as possible. Craftsmanship, build quality and materials used are very impressive and the built is very solid. I hope that it will be as good in the inside as it is in the outside.

Externally, I give the ICS L86 A2 a 4.5 stars out of 5.

INTERNALS

It only takes two Never-Lost (NL) bolts to disassemble the upper receiver from the lower receiver just like the real thing.  The complete gearbox can then be taken out without removing further screws. The first thing that would catch your attention when you are face to face with the gear box is its clean lines on the metal parts. It gives proof to the quality of workmanship that ICS stands for. The innovation in designing such work of art is truly admirable. Not contented with their split gearbox design on their M4’s which facilitate quick and easy spring change, now they have a quick spring power boost without changing the spring. The available settings are low, median and high. The trick is by using an elongated spring guide at its base with three different holes in it. The gearbox side has only one hole. By varying the positioning of the pin that locks the spring guide in its place, different powers are achieved, presto! How come no one has thought about this before? I tried tabulating the muzzle velocity at various settings over six semi-auto shots using an 8.4V battery. It was just a shame that our chrono did not have a Rate of Fire feature otherwise I would have done it as well on a 9.6V battery.

 

Here are the results:

LOW:        387 – 332 – 331 – 332 – 326 – 345   AVERAGE = 337 FPS
MEDIAN:    354 – 356 – 356 – 349 – 347 – 357   AVERAGE = 353 FPS
HIGH:        371 – 360 – 368 – 366 – 370 – 393   AVERAGE = 371 FPS

Analyzing the result, it would seem that you already have a stock M100 spring installed which can be boosted to M110 by adjusting to high setting. It is just like having two springs in one! You can then choose to be a Squad Support on a low/median setting or a sniper with the high spring setting . How’s that for flexibility? It won’t even take three minutes at the most to do it! Well, it would depend on your skill.

Opening the gearbox reveals the well lubricated metal gears that ICS is known for. I have also noticed a liberal use of thread lock on all the screws. One of my worries in opening a gearbox is the anti-reversal spring and latch popping out, but not in here. There is just the right tension in the spring to keep it in its place.

Standard parts on ICS gearbox include a copper cylinder with plastic cylinder head, full-teeth plastic piston and head, plastic tappet plate and nozzle. The metal spring guide has an elongated base as mentioned previously. The motor which is Turbo 3000 is a short type encased on its own metal cage.

Another good and innovative design on this AEG is its trigger. ICS have patented an electric brake that mimics the effect of a real L85/L86-A2. There is a predetermined point in the trigger pull when the electric module engages, connects and lets the current pass. The contact pins between the upper and lower receiver for the electric brake module oozes with quality and superb design that won’t burn away.

The hop-up design is also a bit different. It is partly encased in a metal shroud that is securely fastened to the upper receiver preventing play. The attached copper inner barrel measured at a whooping 610 mm in length. I believe there is no third party upgrade yet on the market for such length. The inner diameter registered a 6.08 mm reading from my trusty digital caliper.

If it was easy to take down the rifle and disassemble the internals, the reverse was equally easy. To give justice to ICS on the use of thread lock on all screws, I did just the same so as to preserve the quality on such work of art that wrecks havoc on your enemies at the skirmish site.

The ICS L86A2 LSW is quite a rifle for one to bear in the skirmish field. For initial impressions, it looks quite a heavy rifle to bear, but once it’s in your hands, the impression disappears. The ICS L85 family is also a departure from their split gearbox design, but they don’t go astray of the ICS philosophy of easy stripping design. The adjustable power settings in the L86A2 is also a great feature as you can adjust the power settings given the requirements of your skirmish site. While it’s one of the longest AEGs in the market, it is surely one that will turn heads in a field where the FN M249 airsoft replica dominates.

Overall, the ICS L86A2 is a highly recommended support weapon as it is easy to handle and maintain. The quick field stripping feature is always a no-brainer to the experienced airsoft player who is fond of digging into the internals of an AEG. For those who have not been impressed with the split gearbox design, the ICS L85 family, represented by the L85A2, and now the L86A2 LSW, with its new gearbox design, should be a compelling reason to get an airsoft gun from ICS. Unless of course, you really hate bullpup designs.

An easily skirmishable AEG, the ICS L86A2 LSW should be considered as one of the support weapons for any serious airsoft team. Now, it’s time to see if we can fit some SUSAT on it. See us in the skirmish field with this anytime soon.

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