You’ll notice a growing trend within my collection (I’m sure Dizzy, Juicy, and Tak have even taken this into account), that I don’t collect American style rifles as much as the rest of the writers on here do. Maybe it was habit developed after having long chats with a mutual friend of all the writers here, Loops (who is now considering buying an M4… this is an edit after the fact), but either case, the closest I’ve ever come to collecting Western Rifles have been those of the European Variety.
I did own a King Arms M4A1, a VFC 416, and an ARES M4 rifle. The King Arms got good use as a Night Game Rifle, and the VFC was my workhorse for a while, but the STANAG rifles built after the Armalite design, for some reason, just don’t interest me as much as other European rifle designs. Maybe it has something to do with the prevalence of them on the field, or maybe it’s just personal taste. Either way, I distance myself away from the STANAG (Armalite-Esque) design and often go with something Russian, or strictly European. And in this article, I’m here to discuss my personal favourite of them all.
The Queen’s own, the Bulldog of the British Army, and the nightmare of the Royal Marine Corp. A rifle, describe by its own forces, as the rifle they wish they could replace (a rifle that had to be redesigned by the German’s, which didn’t exactly eradicate all the problems) and from the way it looks (like shit), I can understand why. Which is exactly why I can’t bring myself to replace the British Bulldog. The ICS L85A2. Complete with Rail and all the tactical heebie-jeebies.
First off, this gun is everything but unreliable. No, I’m not German, and did anything miraculous to make this gun shoot the way it is today. It’s built like a brick-shit-house, is bizarrely accurate with damned good range (which actually makes me use an ACOG scope that I got from a fellow teammate… thanks Arc, much love!). For a person who loves the European selection of rifles, this one certainly does the British Empire a great service. I can’t tell you how happy I’ve been ever since I first got this rifle. Which isn’t a way of saying to the world, I bought this because of the performance of the rifle. Oh no. I bought it because I like the looks of the rifle. What the reviews don’t tell you though is how it feels in your hand.
And that’s where things start to get a little more interesting.
There’s no way of saying it nicely. This is a highly uncomfortable gun. Initially anyway, and this is because, I believe, the gun is super back heavy, with only one point of contact to hold the thing down on level. The pistol grip. The thing is sturdy, made of some ungodly plastic that must’ve been the work of some god or another. Mine came loose initially when I was playing around with it, but a few twists on the screw under the switch assembly, and the pistol was rock solid against the solid metal receiver. Towards the front end of the rifle is the handguard. Which that is one solid piece of plastic as well with more battery space than large, moon like M16 stocks (the front end is where the battery goes).
The rifle comes with notoriously high ironsights, a metal handle, and a tall front sight post which is reminiscent of the M16 Peepsight system. It sits tall, which is awesome for people with masks. It makes it easier to line up shot after shot, but it looks awful (you’ll look like a British Cadet if you keep it on like that). I see them on the field from time to time, and under my breath, to those drop-in players, I whisper, “Fucking Pogue,” and walk away without looking back. I’m not proud of myself.
The L85 from ICS comes with 19mm rails on the top of the gun. Which is good, if you are a hardcore British impressionist, using the SUSAT scope. I’m not, so immediately I replaced it with a STAR brand 19mm to 20mm adaptor. This allowed me to put a spare red dot onto it, for the cool factor. It lowered the sight picture significantly though, so running masks on this gun is especially tough.
Other things that are cool to mention is the engraved serial number on the magwell on the backend of the rifle. I don’t do hardcore impressions, or even study the rifle in great depth, but it is a cool addition if I don’t mind saying. It wasn’t exactly game changing either.
Because it’s a bullpup though, the barrel runs the length of the entire gun. The gun is the size of a Colt M4A1, but inside it holds the great inner barrel girth of the M16 Rifle. A whopping 509mm barrel can be hidden inside the rifle. The only cost you pay for this is the gun is right handed friendly (true to British aspirations, as if you do some research, all left handed British Soldiers are forced to shoot right handed only). You can use this as a Left Handed gun, but all the important controls are on the left side of the rifle, including the Mag Release and fire selector. The safety is towards the front of the rifle, near the trigger (it’s both a switch assembly break, and a physical block to the trigger). The Hop Up can’t be exchanged for anything else, except the ICS L85A2 Hop Up, which is certainly similar to the M4 Hop-Up. Though it uses one wheel instead of an entire flotilla of them.
The rifle can be made to be easily handled with the inclusion of the Madbull DD L85 Rail. The trade-off is that you must use small, buffer style batteries. The rail itself, for the ICS variant (the rail was originally designed to fit the G&G version without modification) will need an adaptor especially made for the ICS receiver. With the rail though, with the addition of a Foregrip makes it so much easier to work with (the weight can be distributed to both hands at that point). Consider getting it for hardcore British impressions.
Inside the rifle, the rifle is where it picks up most of its points for me. Both for its ingenuity, its ease of maintenance, and its simplicity.
First off, disassembling the entire rifle is down to two pins. One near the trigger itself, and the other near the buttstock, next to the gearbox (which is my favourite part of this rifle). Both are held in by retainers in the pins, though don’t fool yourself. These can be lost just as easily, so always keep an eye on these parts. Less you want to be ghetto and tape your rifle together. Then by all means, you are the man now, boss.
Taking the lower receiver out after pushing the backpin out reveals the switch assembly is an entire unit that pretty well just clips into the lower receiver. The long trigger pull of the L85 is there because in the Assembly is a spring loaded piece of metal that snaps into the system with every trigger pull. The safety itself pushes that metal piece apart, ensuring the rifle can’t be fired in any situation. It even acts as a physical trigger block. Safety, times one hundred, yo.
Looking up at the upper receiver, you are treated to the gearbox. And just by looking at it, you can tell that this thing is one hefty piece of ass. It’s strong as V3 boxes, forged by the Orcs of Mountdoom. This thing is a hefty thing… and by far the easiest gearbox I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on. With a lot of features that not too many boxes come out of the factory with.
There are a good number of phillips head screws holding the gun together. A common household screwdriver can be used to take the gun apart (unlike hex screws which are common from gearbox to gearbox), so anyone can take them apart. And only a handful of them are different sizes, so don’t worry about having to mix and match certain screws to certain areas of the box. But before you decide to take those out of the box, take the spring out. It is held in by the pin at the back of the gearbox. Yes… this is a QD Spring Box. And you know what? That gets me hard.
The motor cage is built onto the gearbox like a V3. The only difference is though that you cannot actually test fire the gearbox like an AK. You have to reassemble the gun to do exactly that. Thank god it’s super easy to do though. The gun comes with the venerable ICS Turbo Motor, which are great motors stock with some good torque and decent speed. But I like a good snappy trigger, so I threw in a Guarder Short Type Motor from my LCT AKS-74U, which has been traded to Tak (replaced it with a Lonex Short Type Motor in the trade) for his AS VAL. Love that guy.
The Spring Guide itself, has a few levels of spring tension you can ping the gearbox to, depending on where you are playing. The one closest to the end of the guide is for the highest tension. The middle hole is used as a mid-level tension rifle, and the one nearest the bearings (full metal, bearing QD spring guide? Son!), is for those who probably play CQB at 350 or less. That’s some customization that I’d never seen, son!
Once all the screws have been released, opening the gearbox reveals the innards of the gearbox. And in reality, it’s unremarkable at best. Nothing really new apart from the proprietary tappet plate and air nozzle (ICS makes an Aluminum O-ringed replacement, but it hasn’t fitted onto my gearbox build, so I scrapped it and left it out of the gun). Inside, standard gears, standard ARL (anti-reversal latch), V2 Cylinder Head, and the piston and piston head parts. It’s a beefier M4 style of gearbox, which is my way of thinking about the ICS build of the L85. My modifications (which I do to most of my guns, are as follows)
I replaced the plastic Cylinder Head with a robust Lonex Cylinder Head initially, then I switched over to the SHS Double O-Ringed Air Nozzle for no reason other than to see what those did. Nothing remarkable between the two, though the Lonex version had a frontal Sorbo Pad, so I might switch it back over when I finish other projects. I ended up putting a Sorbo Pad cut by a friend of mine in to correct both AOE, and for the softer sound report (this gearbox is next to your ear when you fire. Trust me, just make it quiet. You’ll thank me later.
The Piston Head, I used to use a Lonex Version of it, though I would later put the LCT Aluminium Piston Head in, instead because I couldn’t quite get it attached to the piston I later put in. Speaking of which, I initially I had the ICS Piston inside since it was sturdy enough, but after noticeable wear after I did some maintenance on the rifle after Iceback, I replaced it with the LCT full steel teethed piston. I’m not a high-speed, full-auto frenzied sort of player, so this doesn’t hurt me as much as everyone else.
The Hop Up is a weird story. Normally it comes out first between all guns in general, but this L85 has this thing bolted in like it was waiting for an upcoming zombie apocalypse. It only has four screws to hold it in, but that’s still some work to do. Once you get it out though, that sturdy piece of ass is as solid as the gearbox itself. It has a wheel, which moves the handle that controls the nub inside the unit. It gives a satisfying click with each movement, though unfortunately it doesn’t tell you which direction initially to push it for more, or less hop.
It has gone through some changes in my hands. I replaced the barrel and bucking off the bat when I got the rifle, for no other reason than I had parts I wasn’t using. Yeah, it sounds pathetic, but I like my rifles performing similarly to one another. Makes you wonder why I even bother buying different rifles–airsoft is about the looks, nothing more. The only thing that has stayed the same is the barrel, which I use the venerable Prometheus 6.03mm barrel. One of the best barrels I’ve ever owned. I like to get close and personal, but don’t mind engaging those at medium distances. The 6.03mm barrel is the best compromise between the two mediums.
I threw a Systema Bucking inside then so I could throw .3g bb’s down the way with good consistency. After that, I gave it to a friend to R-hop, which resulted in a significant boost in range, and accuracy. But after the R-hop wore down, I just threw a spare Prometheus Bucking and Nub into the gun and called it a day. Now it’s throwing .28g bb’s out to 200 feet accurately. Which is more than good enough for me.
Still contemplating experimenting with the Modify Flat Hop bucking when I get the chance. Till then though, the gun works, and that’s all I care about.
This gun is slowly becoming my only Western Friendly rifle (to share mags with friends on the field who run M4’s for the most part), along with my Masada (which I’ve contemplated selling, till I learned that they’ve stopped production on the rifle… will write up on it when I get the chance) in my collection. Maybe I like the uniqueness of Russian Rifles, or maybe I just enjoy the AK rifles in general (the feel of it makes me feel more confident in battle… can’t tell you why), but this ICS L85 is definitely a strong rifle in the hands of anyone. While the gun initially isn’t the most comfortable rifle in the world, nor is it the prettiest girl at the ball, she shows her strength in her personality.
Once you give her a little tender love and care, this machine can become something other than deadly. G&G has their offering, and Army Armament has there’s. But in terms of maintenance and ease of use, take down and everything like that? This iteration (as expensive as it may be) is quite the package in terms of overall usability. If you are intending on breaking the norms and using something a little off the wall, this gun is definitely worthy of entering the bodies of airsofters collections. The gallery attached to this is a bunch of my little modifications I threw into the gearbox during the year I’ve had it.