ICS Airsoft are never afraid to go their own way when it comes to new models, and we’re always excited when we see another example of their fabulous in-house design! With the TOMAHAWK they have finally entered the sniper-rifle arena, and Jimmy has been out testing it to see how this recipient of the “TAIWAN EXCELLENCE AWARD 2023” really performs in-game!
Over the years I have seen countless offerings from the mighty ICS, but this is a first for this type of platform. ICS have never failed to impress me and they keep going from strength to strength, constantly raising the bar. In an industry which is ever-evolving and with more and more manufacturers having to push harder to impress a difficult crowd, ICS it seems never rests, finding new and interesting ways to capture an ever-more discerning audience.
And, quite rightly so as when the competition is strong you need something that stands above all. Stepping away from the norm ICS have targeted an area which is continues to find new fans constantly, and it would seem, rapidly, and I do believe this is mainly due to more and more online content surrounding this type of role; this role of course being that of the airsoft sniper (aka the ghillie!).
With more and more manufacturers providing up to date platforms with great performance out of the box, it was only a matter of time before ICS would join the gang and put their vast manufacturing experience to the test. That resulting platform is the new TOMAHAWK, and it has grasped the interest of budding snipers around the globe. In the time I have had hands-on with this platform I have monitored its roll-out and spoken at length other well-known airsoft snipers who also have been testing it to see what opinions they have and to see if those opinions match my own, and I have to say there are some very positive noises being thrown around!
Being a big fan of ICS I couldn’t wait to find out more on this new rifle but at the time I initially found out about it, there was nothing more to go on than pictures and ICS were keeping their cards close to their chest, only providing minimal info. My curiosity was overwhelming and I had to seek out info on specs which our valued contact at ICS, Rita, kindly provided; these details intrigued me even further and on paper the TOMAHAWK looked set to be a major contender.
But then the wait was over and the TOMAHAWK finally landed on UK soil for Airsoft Action to check out, and I could not wait to get started! I received the package on a Friday forty-eight hours before a game day which didn’t give me much time to prepare for battle. The first thing to check was the velocity/power, as others were claiming the output to be a little over-powered for UK sites; so I tested for joules first on a 0.40g BB and I am glad I did as to be honest it was coming in at 2.72J, a fair bit over! I then put a few 0.20g BBs through the chrono and to my amazement it was showing on average 520fps!
There is no way that would have passed chrono at my local site, so I had to quickly reduce the power. I had a spare Rapax 2J spring kicking about so I fitted that in the hope it would slightly decrease the power; it did bring it down, but I was seeing fluctuations on FPS, so back to the drawing board. I decided the best course of action would be to shorten the stock spring slightly by removing two full coils and then dressing the end of the spring. This modification brought the J down to a respectable 2.32 and 352fps on a 0.40g which was pretty bang on the money, and on the plus side removed a lot of the twang out of the spring which was a bonus.
After speaking with Rita at ICS I later learnt they do provide an M100 spring so bear that in mind; anyone looking to purchase one of these rifles, ICS do indeed have the angles covered. Talking spring changes it is a very quick spring removal, and literally takes seconds; I say seconds, that is if you know to remove the little grub screw securing the spring guide LOL! I spent the best part of an hour trying to fathom out how to remove the guide; after removing the butt pad you slide out the cylinders dust cover where you will see a 1.5mm grub screw, and once removed you simply twist the spring guide about 30degrees and out it comes. This was as far as I went into the internals as I wanted to field it first before taking it apart as I wanted to see if this was truly an out of the box performer so I shall come back to what is inside.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
I’ll come out and say this from the outset; I am not used to a bullpup-design sniper rifle, I am much more familiar with a VSR style rifle, so the TOMAHAWK was a bit alien to me at first I have to admit. That said it is a comfortable platform with good ergonomics. The pistol grip is nicely shaped and a perfect fit even for a large hand like mine. I had a few players on site ask me what it was and did make the assumption it was an SRS and the fact remains it does resemble one.
So after getting the scope fitted correctly and loading up a mag full of 0.40g BBs I made my way to the range to carry out some basic “field-prep” and the TOMAHAWK was very easy to set up, no fiddling with tiny allen keys in places fat fingers cannot fit, no removal of magazines to adjust the hop. ICS have done something many others haven’t and that is the addition of a TDC wheel which is easily accessible making hop adjustment tool free, quick and easy, as well as giving the ability to make very fine adjustments . In conjunction to the TDC there are two grub screws, one either side of the TDC, which allow for any deviations left or right in trajectory and allowing for very fine tuning. This ensures your BB travels straight and true, obviously depending on the conditions you’re playing in.
However, due to the grub screws being a part of the hop unit you have to access them with an allen key through the top of the receiver, and it’s a bit hit and miss whether you locate them easily! You need to get the angle of the tool just right, so the TDC is tool-free but the side adjusters do require tools… so not completely tool free. After around ten minutes on the range though I had the hop set and the optics dialled and was effectively hitting targets at around 60m.
As well as the three-way adjustable one piece CNC hop unit, ICS have incorporated some of the Master Mod components in the form of the 6.04mm steel barrel and the R-Hop patch which I am a fan of. I do believe it is a great idea, but I also believe 0.40g is probably the heaviest this setup can cope with effectively. If the hop nub was to be a bit longer it would have greater effect and yield some fantastic results, and lifting heavier ammo wouldn’t be a problem. I have seen other testers saying it will just lift a 0.48g, but in my opinion that is putting too much pressure on the R-Hop patch and could potentially misshape its surface, causing inaccuracies and inconsistent velocity.
In-game, throughout the course of the day I was making small but noticeable adjustments, but I was easily hitting player-sized targets over 70m away and getting ever more comfortable with the design and ergonomics of the rifle; I was also getting to grips with the mag fitment which is quite interesting. It is a side loading 50BB magazine and the BBs feed from the top, and I did have a few feeding issues. As I only got sent a single magazine with the rifle I can’t say whether it was a one-off with the mag I have, or an issue across the board.
I was thankful for the large volume cylinder which allows the use of a lighter spring, making cocking the rifle rather easier, so less fatigue; unlike some rifles which need a real heavy spring to create the volume needed to give higher velocity, the TOMAHWAK just works in this respect. I feel ICS could have been a bit more creative on the charging handle as it is just a large shiny round ball which kept coming loose, meaning I had to keep checking it was tightened up. I did use some blue loctite but maybe the wrong type so will try another type and see how that fares… They have used a stainless steel 61cc cylinder which means a greater volume of air without the need for much energy to propel the BB.
So after the first trip out with the TOMAHAWK I have to say I was impressed, and it was every bit as good on paper as it was during use, so my initial expectations were fulfilled. I wouldn’t get a chance to use it again for another week, so took the chance to strip it down and see what made it as good as it was. The first thing I wanted to look at was the large volume cylinder and piston, and upon removal I was amazed at how light the piston was compared to others I have seen. I couldn’t though understand why so much grease had been used on areas that didn’t need to be greased; it was a tad overkill in my honest opinion as both the piston and cylinder as well as the cylinder chamber were over-greased so naturally I went about cleaning that up and putting some silicone lube only on the areas needed.
Next was to get up close with the hop unit and this is a very easy process; by way of removing the entire outer barrel, you have two retaining allen keys which need loosening but take note, do not remove completely, just loosen them slightly. On the right side of the receiver there is a large locking screw which you turn only through 45 degrees allowing you to then slide the outer barrel from the body. The hop unit is retained in the outer barrel which requires the removal of a couple of grub screws. I love how easy it is to disassemble, you can have the whole thing stripped down in minutes. After stripping down and cleaning a few parts I double checked the velocity and it was still showing a consistent power.
My second trip out with the TOMAHAWK would see me playing in some fairly cold and very damp conditions as it had been snowing, and sadly this is where I started to encounter a few problems… now just to be clear these problems were not a result of me taking the thing apart as I too suffered with the self-same problems as did others whose opinion I respect, although we’re yet to fully compare notes on them. The power was all over the place, trajectory was poor, and I put this down to the cold affecting the hop rubber which isn’t unheard of.
When I was cocking the rifle I had to give the top of the mag a firm tap as the feeding became worse, and as a result would sometimes double feed BBs into the hop unit. I persevered in the hope the problems might disappear, but alas things only got worse for me. I started experiencing jams in the hop unit so I left the game and went back to the safe zone to investigate, and what I found shocked me a bit, mainly because I hadn’t realised what was happening…
BBs were making their merry way into the cylinder chamber and were getting crushed under the force of the bolt, so and I had lots of BB material built-up in between the bolt head and hop unit, creating a gap so the air couldn’t push the BB out; I am firm on my opinion that the hop unit may need to be revised and a small sprung detent added to stop BBss from coming back out of the hop unit and into the path of the bolt. At this point I put the rifle back in my case and just went back out with my pistol…
My overall opinion of the TOMAHWAK is still very positive, but it has been dampened very slightly as normally I can’t find fault with ICS products, so it is difficult for me to admit there are any problems… but that is what we are here to find out are we not? I shall continue my journey with this platform in an attempt to iron out the problems and see where any improvements can be made, and of course I shall report back when I have done so.
I really do love the TOMAHAWK and I think it has great potential; it looks great, feels great, and I KNOW we can get it working just as great; I can totally see why this won the “design excellence” award that it did, but as a game-tool it still needs a little refinement. I would like to thank Rita at ICS for allowing me the opportunity to test the initial rifle out, and fingers crossed together we can get it right!