ICS SIG 551 SWAT – First Impressions and Externals Review

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“…so does this! I call it Vera.”

I’ve been in the market for a new AEG in the last little while, but knew from the start of the search that I wasn’t in the market for an M4 or AK or other commonly seen AEG. I wanted something a little different. My first stop as per usual was the classified section on airsoftcanada.com, where the above brand new ICS SIG 551 was up for sale for a more than reasonable price – I jumped on it like white on rice. Seller was super helpful (always a plus when making an online purchase) and a couple of days after I (electronically) threw money at him an AEG-sized package arrived at my door.

First impressions of the externals after the break.

photo (50)Let’s start where I like to start – the backside (heyyo!). The stock on the SIG 551 is a fixed stock that’s foldable to the right side. Locking it to the receiver after folding it takes a firm slap, as does releasing it. The stock is relatively solid when extended, though this is aided somewhat by the piece of electrical tape the previous owner used to shim the back side of the receiver to tighten the fit. Unfortunately, the stock seems to be made out of a different kind of polymer than the rest of the polymer components (pistol grip, front handguard), and feels a little flimsy and cheap in comparison. Not sure why they didn’t use the same polymer as the rest of the gun. Odd.

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This gun is currently on Safe, and not Semi, as you may initially assume.

The M249 SAW-esque pistol grip is very comfortable and houses the medium-length motor (I’ll get into why that sucks later). The trigger guard can actually fold to either side, something which facilitates use of the gun with heavy winter gloves, although I don’t foresee myself using this feature so I might just superglue it down. The magazine release mechanism is of the AK variety, and reloads are super quick thanks to the relatively deep magwell. No figeting with awkward AK reloads/mags with this gun. Like the G36c and other guns, the mags can be connected together via integrated latches, but I don’t foresee myself using this feature because, well, it looks dumb.

The fire controls are ambidextrous, although the markings are a little confusing for those that are used to M4 or HK style markings. Instead of having a notch pointing straight ahead to the firing mode, the fire selector notch actually sits at an angle. In the above example, the gun is actually on Safe, despite the fact that the selector is mainly pointing towards Semi – why SIG didn’t just put the Safe indicator where the Semi indicator currently is is beyond me. Perhaps it has to do with ergonomics? Is this how they do things in Switzerland? Not entirely sure, but it was initially confusing at first.

Made in Switzerland. Like Toblerone!

Notice that the fire mode indicators are in different places on the right and left sides of the gun. Oh, the Swiss, so crazy with their odd fire selectors and triangle shaped chocolate.

Present on the left side of the gun is the bolt release, which is roughly in the same place as the M4 but takes a different form – it’s a lever you push down instead of a ping pong paddle that you depress. The bolt does indeed lock back, and springs forward with a satisfying thwack when released. The previous owner did warn that doing so frequently would damage the bolt handle (he actually broke it, sourced a replacement, and glued a piece of foam in the receiver to lessen some of the impact for the new bolt handle) so I don’t think I’ll be playing around with the bolt too often.

The iron sights are similar to the HK-style drum sights, and are fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight has a centre dot that can be raised or lowered, which is a nice touch. I rarely use iron sights in-game (I prefer optics), but it’s nice that they’re there and that they’re well made.

Ribbed for your pleasure.

Ribbed for your pleasure.

The front handguard is a two piece polymer design, and is extremely comfortable. The height/width is perfect for Magpul-type C-clamp grips, but just as comfortable for other more traditional grips. Present are two small rail sections on either side for flashlights/lasers, and a longer rail section for the 6 o’clock position for foregrips, though I removed the latter as I won’t be using it. ICS also makes a full-metal (and I must admit, extremely awesome looking) rail for the front end that is a drop-in replacement, but I’m not as tempted to buy it because the stock handguards are so comfortable, not to mention super light weight. On another note, there is plenty of room in the handguard for pretty much any lipo you have, although I’ve found that AK stick-type batteries fit best.

Strip!

Strip!

Field stripping is extremely easy – the gun can be taken to the above state in about twenty to thirty seconds, probably less with practice. Removing the front receiver pin allows you to remove the two piece polymer handguard, and depressing a small button behind the rear iron sight block allows the entire upper receiver to slide right off, allowing you access to the inner barrel and hop unit (while we’re at it, the hop unit is of the drum design, which I’ve always been a fan of as they allow for more accurate hop adjustments). The gearbox is a standard V3, which is nice for parts compatibility purposes. I haven’t removed it yet but I would assume that removing the pistol grip and fire controls will allow the box to slide right out as with most V3s.

Gorgeous.

The Swiss supermodel of gun designs.

Part of the externals (perhaps the most important part, to be honest) is how the gun feels. I’m happy to say that the ergonomics and feel of the SIG 551 are amazing. The gun is extremely light, at least compared to most of my other full-metal AEGs, and this makes it extremely easy to handle and point at targets. As mentioned earlier the handguard lends itself well to Magpul-style grips (at least for my massive paws), but traditional magwell grips are also super comfy thanks to a space between the mag and handguard that’s perfect for the top of your hand. Foregrips are unnecessary with this gun.

The gun feels relatively solid in your hands, with only some minor creaking and wobble in the stock and handguard. I would say the overall build quality of the gun (at least externally) is good but not great, which is in line with where ICS as a whole stands as a manufacturer. The externals are certainly not VFC quality, but this isn’t a CYMA either.

If I were to have one complaint with the ergonomics it would be that the height over bore of any optics you place on the upper rail is a little high (is this a SIG thing? The same can be said about the SIG 226), but this is easily corrected with a cheek riser that’s sold separately by ICS (although the high height over bore is also a bit of a plus if you game with a face mask, as I often do).

To summarize:

Positive –

  • Excellent ergonomics. Lightweight. Quick and easy reloads. Ambi is always a plus.
  • Easy field stripping.
  • Drum hop!
  • Build quality is good. Not excellent, but very solid.
  • Extremely unique (and gorgeous looking) gun.
  • Standard V3 box for easy upgrades.

Negative –

  • Medium length motor, which is significantly harder to find than short and long types. There’s surely enough room in the pistol grip for a long motor, and the box is a V3, so why not a long or short type? Trigger response is about what you’d expect with a stock AEG and an 11.1v lipo – nothing too crazy, but not too shabby either. A motor upgrade is on the horizon, if I can find a quality medium-length motor, that is.
  • Flimsy/cheap feeling stock.
  • Oddly labelled firing indicator. Fire selector is a little finicky – sometimes it “loses” semi-auto and becomes a full auto only gun, although this is more a symptom of the V3 box than of this particular AEG, as AKs are notorious for this problem.
  • Mags are hard to come by, although a certain Canadian-based retailer has the mid caps in stock (I won’t name them for now because I don’t want other people buying them before I do! :P).

I’m obviously very happy with this purchase. As I mentioned earlier this was the first of two AEGs I picked up this week, and I was initially considering backing out of this deal or selling it as soon as I got it to fund the other AEG, but now that I have it in my hands I foresee myself giving this baby some pretty heavy use once I grab some mags and perhaps do some hop-up/inner barrel upgrades. It fits in nicely as a rifle-length full-auto AEG next to my carbine-length AK and M4 platforms.

I don’t have mags for it yet so I won’t be fielding it anytime soon, not to mention that the other AEG purchase will likely eat up a lot of my game time (I’ll go into what that other AEG is in another entry). I’ll definitely be taking it out on Sunday to shoot around with and gauge the quality of the hop unit/inner barrel, so I’ll report back after that. For now, money well spent. 🙂

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4 responses to “ICS SIG 551 SWAT – First Impressions and Externals Review

  • Goggles

    God that looks gorgeous… so you wouldn’t happen to be in the market for a Galil, would you? 😛

  • Goggles

    Just for spite my friend. Just for spite.

  • Panda1

    So, I’m not the only one interested in a SiG SG Series… As for the selector question is because the notch when the Swiss developed the STG90 it just ergonomic.

    The selector is in fact position on Safe “S”, “1” is semi “20” full auto

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