40 Years Old and Still Going Strong
Words: Jonathan Higgs
Photos: Amy Carter
With modern rifle models changing faster than clean underwear, it’s hard to keep up with the latest “cool guy” gun. “Block II” this, and “Mk18” that; it can be a bit daunting to decipher at times (and sounds like a foreign language, too).
Sometimes a classic is what it takes to cut through the noise of the latest and greatest and that’s why we’re taking a closer look at the ICS-91…or better known as the Galil ARM (Automatic Rifle and Machine gun).
The Galil has been in service with not only the Israeli military but also 25 other countries worldwide for the past 40 years. The real steel Galil is chambered in 5.56 x 45mm, the same round the U.S. M4 uses, and comes complete with a 50-round box mag in the ARM version. As primarily a light machine gun/support weapon, the ARM variant fits the niche between larger crew-served support weapons like the M60, and lighter assault rifles like the M4 or AK-47.
But enough with the history lesson; let’s tear the ICS-91 apart and see what makes it tick.
THROUGH THE SCOPE
WHO MAKES IT: ICS
GUN NAME: Galil ARM ICS-91
TYPE: Support Weapon/Assault Rifle
WHO IT’S FOR: Mid to Experienced Player
HOW MUCH: $330
FPS: 349 w/.25g BBs
With classic styling and updated features, this support weapon pulls double-duty as an assault rifle due to its light weight.
Star rating (1-5) = 4
PROS & CONS
+ Authentic Hebrew markings
+ Long barrel allows for accurate shot placement in both single and sustained fire
+ Light weight for a support weapon
+ Working thumb fire selector is a plus
+ Side folding stock allows for maneuverability in tight spaces
+ Solid FPS for outdoor gaming
+ Bipod doubles as a bottle opener
– Longer barrel makes it somewhat unsuitable for CQB play
– Lack of rail space limits attachment options
RIS (Rail Integrated System): None
STOCK: Side-folding skeletal-style
INNER BARREL: 509mm
GRIP: Custom SAW-style Pistol
TRIGGER GUARD: Metal w/magazine release guard
UPPER & LOWER RECIEVER: Metal
MAG RELEASE: Right-hand favored, behind magazine
OPTIC SPACE: None; steel sights only
SLING ATTACHMENTS: Front and rear steel, left side loop-style
MAGAZINE: 400-round metal Hi-Cap
MATERIAL: Steel, aluminum alloy, ABS plastic and wood
OVERALL LENGTH: 39 inches with stock extended; 30 inches with stock folded
GEARBOX VERSION: Version 3
MOTOR: ICS Turbo 3000 Short Type
GEARS: V2/V3 metal gears
BUSHINGS/BEARINGS: 6mm steel bushing
SPRING GUIDE: Plastic
INNER BARREL: Brass; 509mm long, 6.08mm diameter
HOP-UP UNIT: One-piece, slide-type
WEIGHT: 8 lbs., 6 oz. unloaded
CONTROL/OPERATION: Non-ambidextrous, right-handed thumb fire selector
BATTERY STORAGE: Stick-type battery fits inside top dust cover
RANGE/ACCURACY: 160 feet effective (190 feet max)
• 9.6V- 14 RPS
• 11.1V- 17 RPS
• .20g- 394 FPS
• .25g- 356 FPS
• Battery – 9.6V Tenergy NiMH, 11.1v King Arms 10C LiPo
• Charger – Elite 5i Smart Charger
• BBs:- .20g and .25g Elite Force
The first thing you notice when you pick up the ICS-91 is how sturdy the body is, and there’s no wonder why. The main receiver is made of solid metal from tip to toe, allowing for a robust platform to build the rest of the rifle.
On the receiver, ICS went all in and opted for authentic, etched Hebrew markings for the model identification and fire selector settings. Unfortunately this reviewer is a bit rusty with his Hebrew, but a trusty source assured me that the selector translates to the customary British S-A-R markings: Safe – Automatic – Repetition (semi).
The ICS-91 has both the customary AK-style fire selector on the right side, as well as the improved Galil thumb fire selector on the left side, above the polymer SAW-style pistol grip. They are linked and functional, so either one can move the selector from safe to your choice of “fun” modes.
In front of the trigger is the magazine release, which, unlike the AK, has a guard to prevent accidental release during stress. This feature does prevent ambidextrous use, but with the addition of a small side tab on the catch, you can initiate a magazine release with the middle finger of your right hand while keeping your pointer finger on the trigger.
Moving up on the receiver, you’ll find the upturned dogleg-style bolt that can be pulled back to reveal the hopup and a standard dust cover with dual sights at the top of the rifle. Also, under the dust cover is where the stick-type battery lives (not included), as well as the built-in automotive-style fuse.
Putting the cover back on, you’ll notice the Galil offers the standard ring and post sights to take aim with, but with a simple flip up of the secondary sights, you also get a large triple white-dot set of night sights. This is a great touch, since the included basic sights (that function perfectly in daylight) are near-impossible to use in low light conditions. For those that just like larger sights, you can leave the night sights up all the time without any issue to get a bead on your target with the Galil’s 18-inch barrel.
Moving forward on the rifle, you’ll find a robust, fold-down carry handle for when the battle slows down, and an elegantly utilitarian wooden front hand guard; both hallmarks of the Galil ARM. Now the hand guard itself is comfortable, but it does have some wobble in it. It might go away for a while if you tighten down the retention screw, but after a few minutes of use, it rears its ugly head again. It never got to the point of unusable in our tests, but it was a small annoyance (coming from a tester that has gun OCD).
The hand guard also doubles as a retention bracket for the included bipod when it’s not in use, which is the other unique feature that makes this a solid support weapon. ICS included a folding removable bipod, just as on the original Galil, to truly make this a machine gunners dream. And fear not, for those that want to drop any unneeded weight, a simple turn of the spring-loaded retention clip and the bipod pops right off. But don’t lose it, because just like the real Galil, this replica has the built-in bottle opener in the bipod assembly…because sometimes you just need a Coke and a smile when you are keeping heads down.
Now, as we move back toward the rear, you’ll notice a metal D-type sling attachment at the rear of the receiver. It’s counterpart is up at the front sight and together they allow for a two-point sling attachment to the rifle. Lefties are unfortunately overlooked here, as the points only allow sling attachment from the left of the rifle, allowing for a right-handed weapon lie. While not a deal-breaker, it would be nice to have some sort of ambidextrous option for slinging your rifle.
But, let’s not end there; we have one more stop on our trip across the ICS-19 and the final highlight in our journey is the folding stock. Instead of going with a retractable or fixed stock, the original Galil (and this replica) used a side-folding skeletal metal stock. Why, you ask? Simple: to bring the length of the weapon down by almost one-third. By going with the folding stock, you now have a light machine gun that is capable for use in room clearing and tighter spaces. That’s something most support weapons can’t boast!
Since we’re on the subject of support weapons, we can’t overlook the magazines. The ICS-91 ships with a 400-round Galil-style magazine, which closely resembles a longer M4 magazine (remember our history lesson on the shared M4 caliber from earlier?). The bonus to the mag design is that it will fit in most open top M4 magazine pouches, which is a huge wallet saver for those of us who don’t want to spend tons of money on new gear to go with our new rifle.
In addition to the Galil magazines, we noticed in our tests that most AK High and Mid Cap magazines fit and feed in our ICS-91, even though the documentation said they wouldn’t. And, being a support weapon, we were ecstatic to find that the Super-capacity 900-round AK “Fat Mags” from Echo 1 and Dboys fit and few flawlessly. This was a big bonus for those of us that wanted to run the Galil as an allowable support weapon in games. Toss on three or four of the Fat Mags and you’re set for all day play.
As we mentioned earlier, the ICS-91 takes a stick-type battery that is housed under the dust cover. For the AK aficionados out there, this is standard issue. And the good news is that since it takes an AK-style stick battery, there are countless options to choose from on the market to power the rifle. We tested using a 10C 11.1V buffer-tube LiPo and the rifle had no problem keeping up. Just remember to get some sort of battery at the time of purchase, since ICS does not include one in the box.
In our field tests, we ran a few thousand rounds through the Galil to test its meddle as a true support weapon. Sighting in on close (50 feet) and far (150 feet) targets, we had no issue hitting the mark center-mass in all but the longest shots with our Elite Force .25g BBs. Setting the bipod up allowed for steadier shots when the range pushed the ICS-91’s limits, and we still could barrel up on a target at 180 feet without too many misses due to the near 400 FPS power (w/.20g BBs).
The rate of fire was right on par with most support weapons, although we preferred the slightly higher numbers that the 11.1V LiPo provided. Being primarily a support weapon, we enjoyed the few extra rounds a second that it gave in full-auto, as well as the crisper trigger response in semi.
Overall the accuracy was pretty impressive, with only a few flyers, considering the larger diameter 6.08mm barrel. We really felt it served the dual purpose of both support and assault weapon nicely.
The one-piece version three gearbox is the standard offering for almost all AK variants on the market today, but it was a surprising departure from ICS’s signature split gearbox design.
Techs will rejoice to hear that all the internal parts are off-the-shelf, standard V3 mechbox components, and can be interchanged or upgraded with just about anything on the market today. The gears were robust, and the shimming was good, both which were positives in our eyes. The only thing we’d like to have seen is a metal spring guide in place of the included plastic one. Considering the high number of rounds that support weapons fire over their lifetime, this part may be one you will be looking to replace at your first scheduled maintenance opportunity to head off issues 40,000 rounds down the road.
The trigger is the standard, cantilevered V3 model found in most AKs and serves the purpose of a support weapon well. In full auto, the trigger did have a bit more sponginess that we’d like, but this is a support weapon, not a sniper rifle, so that isn’t a deal-breaker whatsoever. After using the rifle for an hour, we forgot the soft trigger altogether.
Under the hood, you’ll find the industry-standard AK type hopup in the ICS-91. It is a proven design that works, and it is no different in this rifle. The slide adjustment allowed us to dial in the hop precisely and keep it there. The hopup bucking sealed well with the air nozzle, and was set perfectly in the chamber from the factor. Overall, we had no complaints at all with this critical component.
As you know, there is no such thing as a perfect airsoft gun. And for the tech/tinker-inclined like ourselves, we are always looking for the next upgrade to push our guns to the next level. Overall the Galil is solid, but in our eyes could use just a few small upgrades to get it to near-perfect.
We mentioned the barrel earlier and although we had good groupings at range, this rifle is ripe for a tight bore barrel install. With a solid 6.03mm or 6.04mm inner barrel, the ICS-91 could be stacking BBs on top of one another down range.
We also found ourselves at times wanting rails on the rifle, as the ICS-91 doesn’t include any. A simple upgrade would be to add on a gas tube rail system so we can attach a red-dot or laser sight. Or you could always opt for the near-identical ICS-94 that mirrors the 91 in every way, but adds the rail that seemed missing. Both are easy options, and only needed for those that crave rail space.
THE LAST WORD
Overall we really enjoyed the ICS-91 in both look and feel. It is a unique rifle that turns heads in the safe zone, as well as keeps heads down on the battlefield. In our time with it, we came to love it for the classic it is based on, and found ourselves impressed with the performance and accuracy it showed in our tests. Bottom line, it definitely found a comfortable spot in the go-to front section of our armory.