The ICS XAE (Xtreme Ambi Enhanced) is part of the BLE series. I noticed it 2 years ago at the IWA. Just the thought “ICS makes handguns now?” was still quite new for me. That awakened my curiosity. Now with the first cooperation with Begadi, who kindly provided us with this test piece, I can finally take a closer look at it.
Packaging and scope of delivery
The ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB is delivered in a compact printed cardboard box. The gun itself is printed on 2 sides. The top is covered with the ICS logo, the BLE lettering and the BLE logo in large. A good combination of chic and simple in one.
The contents are additionally secured with bubble wrap. Included in delivery:
- ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB Gen. 2
- Thread adapter (14mm neg.)
- 1x Backstrap Large
- Instruction manual
Technical data ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB:
- System: GBB
- Length: 181 mm (with Adapter 200 mm)
- Barrel length: 85,5 mm
- Weight empty: 426 g
- Weight with Magazine: 670 g
- Hop-Up: Adjustable
- Energy: 0,7 – 0,9 Joule
On the external appearance, the XAE makes a good first impression. At first it looks like a mix of S&W M&P9c and Glock 19 Gen. 5, as there are no finger grooves.
The low weight is immediately noticeable, especially if you are used to 800 – 900 g pistols. Without a magazine the XAE is very light with less than 500g. Much of this comes from the materials used, as well as the 2 cutouts on the slide per side. These can be seen either as a design element or as possible inlets for sand and dirt. I see it as a mix of both and would simply recommend a fitting holster.
Materials and workmanship
The handle of the XAE is made of sturdy nylon reinforced plastic. Even if the pistol simply makes a less stable impression at first due to its low weight, this is misleading. Even stronger pressure on the grip doesn’t let it give way. We had to experience this differently with other, heavier and more expensive pistols. The magazine release located in the grip is also made of this material.
Another point why the XAE is so light is the slide. It is made of aluminium, which is a rarity in the price range. Even many more expensive airsoft guns are made of zinc by die casting.
This choice of materials not only makes the XAE slide very light, but also increases its stability. The lower weight also effectively reduces gas consumption. In addition, the gun would theoretically be CO2-ready, which is explained by a small additional element in the magazine itself.
The magazine is also made of metal, except for the magazine base. If you remove the base plate, you will notice an interesting detail. The gas tank of the magazine can theoretically be opened. This is still a part of the product development, which has probably not been implemented so far. Thus, in a review of Airsoftology at ICS (see below), you can find the answer why this is so made. ICS thought (or maybe still thinks) about a magazine usable with gas or CO2. First of all only a small “oh, that’s nice” detail why something is as it is. But it also shows that ICS always tries to improve existing systems.
The workmanship hardly leaves any reason to complain on the outside. The slide is cleanly made and the finish is evenly applied. Also the grip is flawless, except for light cast seams. The only part that stands out here is the slide catch lever. Or in this case the two levers. These look a bit dull in the finish and the grooves that can be seen in the beginning are not completely executed. A small detail that bothers me a little about the otherwise very well made pistol.
Internally I’m still looking for something to complain about, but unfortunately I can’t find anything. All Internals are cleanly manufactured and make a solid impression. So here are some pictures from the inside of the ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB:
Even though the XAE has no real counterpart, there are of course markings on it. Let’s start on the right side of the slide. Here is first a “Made in Taiwan” marking, as well as the “Black Leopard Eye” lettering on it.
A look at the top shows only a 9mm marking on the chamber of the outer barrel.
On the left we find at the notch for disassembly once the real caliber 6mm. Further back, above the slide catch lever, is again the “Black Leopard Eye” lettering with the matching logo.
In addition to the grip texture, the Black Leopard logo is once again integrated on both sides of the grip, just without the lettering.
All markings important for us in Germany (importer, model, caliber and F) can be found below on the trigger guard.
On the back of the magazine there are markings for the number of cartridges available.
Operation and functions
XAE stands for Xtreme Ambi Enhanced. So you can expect this pistol to be usable from both sides. And that stands or falls with the controls, of course.
The BLE Alpha XAE from ICS has 2 safety devices directly at the trigger. The first is a two-part trigger arm. If the trigger is not pressed completely, it will not release. I myself prefer a safety in the form of an additional trigger latch. With the XAE it would theoretically be sufficient to press the lower part of the trigger to release a shot. But most players don’t need a backup, so it doesn’t bother them.
The second safety is a pin that completely blocks the trigger. It is located on the upper part of the trigger. A red mark indicates that the pistol is unlocked. A nice idea and since the pin is quite stable it can hardly be pressed in accidentally. I would assume here that hardly any XAE user uses this safety device during a game. A quick release in the draw is rather difficult.
The magazine release is available on the XAE in the form of a button that can be operated from both sides. When this button is pressed, the magazine simply falls out. A new one also snaps in neatly. Since the button is simply continuous, it is not possible to press both at the same time. Since I’m used to USP and VP9 to release my magazine with thumb and index finger on both sides of the grip, this actually happened 1-2 times.
For Glock (or pretty much all other pistols) users nothing changes. And after a few tries it was very easy for me. The button also stands out a little, so it’s easy to use even with gloves on.
Slide Catch Lever
The slide catch lever can also be operated from both sides. It is in the same position on the right as on the left. The slightly protruding elements around it prevent accidental actuation. Depending on how you grab the pistol, it is possible to hold the slide catch lever down on some types. This allows empty shots to pass without the slide stopping in the rear position. This is effectively and simply avoided here.
In addition, the lever also sits in a position that I can reach twice as easily. No matter if I want to operate it with the thumb of the shooting hand or the support hand, both can be done without problems.
A simple 3-point sight is used for aiming. These are colored white, so a quick grasp and aiming is no problem. An adjustment is not possible, but with a backup pistol for short distances this is also rather unnecessary.
Installation of the silencer adapter
An adapter for installing a silencer or tracer is already included in the scope of delivery of the pistol. There is a 14mm negative thread on this adapter. The adapter is simply screwed onto an internal thread in the outer barrel. Additionally it changes the appearance of the XAE, in my eye very positive. I would probably always use the pistol with the adapter.
Changing the Backstrap
The narrow backstrap which is mounted when delivered is too narrow for my taste. So the bigger one has to be installed. As usual from the VP9 I search for a pin or something similar to solve the existing one, in vain. The manual, otherwise extremely detailed, unfortunately gives no information about this small detail. Interestingly enough, even most reviews do not give any details on how to solve it. If you find out how, you also know why. It’s just so simple that I didn’t think of it.
The back of the grip is simply pushed downwards. But it sits very tight. It needs actually 2 hands and the pistol somehow clamped to the first release. The push-on is however very simple.
With the larger backstrap, the XAE fits perfectly in my hands and gives a very comfortable grip.
Adjusting the Hop-Up
With the ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB, the hop-up is set directly at the hop-up unit, as with most other pistols. Simply remove the slide. Then the hop-up can be adjusted with a small wheel on the bottom.
In general, I’m still a fan of the simplicity with which KWA has solved this. Simply push the slide to the rear, insert the key and turn it, that’s it. But since the slide can be removed and reattached very easily, it doesn’t bother me as much as with some other pistols.
Disassembling and assembling
As just announced that disassembling the ICS XAE is very simple. Once you’ve disassembled a Glock, VP9 or similar, you’ll quickly understand.
- Remove the magazine
- Hold or catch the slide in the rear position
- Press the disassembly lever down by 90°
- Remove the slide from the front
- Loosen buffer rod with spring
- Remove inner and outer barrel
Das Zusammensetzen erfolgt einfach in umgekehrter Reihenfolge, ohne besondere Änderungen. Das einzige was hier zu beachten ist, ist die korrekte Position der Pufferstange mit Feder. Diese verfügt über einen kleinen Pin, mit dem diese fixiert wird. Also wird kein besonderes technisches Geschick benötigt.
With the larger backstrap, the XAE fits perfectly in my hands and gives a very comfortable grip. In addition, the grip ends at the back just below the slide. This, together with a light recess on the trigger guard, enables a very high grip. This makes aiming and handling easier for me. All controls are easily accessible and can be operated without changing the grip.
The trigger is a simple single-action trigger. The travel is quite long with approx. 1cm to the pressure point. This is present, but only very light. During the first attempts to hold it in place and to push it to the breaking point, the trigger released immediately. A little more resistance would have been nice here.
The reset is easy to hear and feel. Fast, precise firing sequences are no problem.
Due to the light slide and the high grip the recoil is quite light. You can argue about what is better with an Airsoft pistol, more or less recoil. Since I see the XAE more as a player’s weapon, the lighter recoil fits quite well. The weapon moves less and the following shots also hit the target.
As even the XAE could test for two holsters as compatible:
- Cytac Push-Button Holster for G17 (somewhat tight but it works)
- IMI Defense Level 2 (also tight, would have to be reworked)
ICS BLE XAE GBB in the Cytac Push Button Holster
According to Begadi, the Kyou holsters should also be usable without problems.
The ICS BLE Alpha XAE GBB is a players weapon. Optically it would look good in a showcase, but in my eyes it would be wasted. A solid workmanship of excellent materials gives it a low weight and therefore a low gas consumption.
The handling is simple and completely identical on both sides. And because the XAE also fits into many Glock holsters, even left-handed shooters can get a good holsters. And because the price is in the medium range, this pistol from ICS is interesting for beginners as well as experienced players.
The only two points I don’t like are the optically not so well done slide catch lever and the safety catch. Even with my average sized fingers it was hard for me to operate the trigger so easily that it could actually work. The second safety is purely from the accessibility in game, in my eyes useless.
More videos and content
Also on the ICS Airsoft YouTube channel you can find a short video about XAE. In this video the different features of the weapon are presented.
Of course we also picked out other reviews for this pistol. And 3 of them we would like to link you here additionally.