The CXP-ARK, which has just debuted on the market (July 2020), is a carbine replica of the AK system, the original of which we have not been able to determine. ICS seems to have drawn inspiration from at least 3 different models, in addition to using parts that were already in stock. The effect? An original looking replica that may be liked by players who do not pay attention to the "faithful to the original" notion. In addition, with tried and true and well know ICS technical solutions inside.
The ARK is comparable to the compact AK variants such as the AK-102, 104 or 105. Depending on the shape of the attached magazine, it can pretend to be a relative of one of the above-mentioned versions. The replica comes with a highly curved hi-cap therefore, at least in theory, the ARK is a variation on the AK-104, chambered in the original for the 7.62x39 mm ammunition, the same as the milled AK or AKM/AKMS.
The handguard resembles Magpul's polymer designs. The telescopic adjustable stock folds to the right side - also like in Magpul's solutions. But more on that later.
What's in the set? Not much. An illustrated manual, a front sight adjustment key, a magazine, a replica. And that's it. You have to take care of the battery yourself. And here's an important note here - the space for the battery is provided in the stock, so there isn't much of it. Batteries that are 25 mm high, 20 mm wide and 115 mm long will fit best. A standard stick type can be used, but then the stock has to be extended to 4th position (out of 6 available). This does not affect the possibility of folding the stock sideways to the transport position. In our opinion, an 11.1V battery with a capacity of about 1400 mAh will work best. For example one like this:
Basic technical parameters
- overall length (collapsed/extended stock): 640 / 820-888 mm;
- inner barrel length: 370 mm (as in the M4 14.5” replicas);
- weight (without a magazine and a battery): 3410 g;
- muzzle velocity: 340 fps
The basic material used in the production of the replica is ZnAl. Of course, there is some polymer and some steel, but ZnAl is the most prominent material. The muzzle device, the receiver cover and the receiver itself are made of steel, but the latter, as in other AK replicas by ICS, has a layer design. Inside the shell made of a thin sheet of metal, there is a plastic insert, which is basically the proper load-bearing element and gives rigidity to the entire structure.
All metal parts are uniformly black, covered with the same paint. The color is therefore homogeneous and in our opinion it looks averagely interesting. Of course, the plastic parts have a slightly different shade, which ultimately saves the replica's appearance.
In addition to the dummy pins, there are also a few screws on the receiver that perform important design functions, which will probably not appeal to purists. There are 3 more screws on the left. Their arrangement suggests the possibility of installing a dedicated Dovetail side mount, as long as it will appear in the ICS offer.
The ARK receiver which is, as a rule, a replica of the AK, is dedicated only to this replica and it is not compatible with products of other manufacturers. In addition to the typical ICS solution of the mounting barrel, due to the type of the stock used, the rear part of the receiver has also been changed. It ends with a ZnAl element, in which the hinge and the stock latch are placed. The change in the shape of the receiver also forced a change in the shape and dimensions of the cover. The angle of inclination of the rear plate is different, and the sides extend significantly lower around the sides of the receiver.
The cover is hinged, like in the AKS-74U. The axis of rotation is similar and placed where the rear sight's arm is usually attached. The sight itself is a simple, non-adjustable one and has been moved to the hinge's extension. It is also a solution taken from the AKS-74U, but there are at least 2 settings available.
A standard ZnAl rail, screwed from the inside, runs through the top of the cover. The cover itself is quite stable and an optical sight mounted on it can be zeroed in, as for as airsoft application goes.
Unlike the vast majority of AK system replicas, the safety/selector lever is quite unique. First, it is not made of a sheet of steel. It is an aluminum (alloy) cast. Hence the thickness of the element is nearly 5mm. The mounting point of the lever remained the same, that is via a screw is hidden under a metal, push-in "cap", but the tab which facilitates the use of the lever with an index finger has been moved a bit back and therefore changing settings is actually a bit easier.
The second important feature is the cutout in the upper part of the lever. It is used to lock the dummy bolt carrier in the rear position.
But we don't really know what for? During Hop-Up adjustment? But the lever locks the bolt in the "safe" position, when no control shot can be fired.
1. I disengage the safety to pull back the bolt, gaining access to the Hop-Up chamber and lock the bolt in the rear position, securing the replica;
2. adjust the Hop-Up;
3. I disengage the safety to make a test shot and check the workings of the Hop-Up;
4. I pull back the bolt and lock it, securing the replica again;
5. I correct Hop-Up again;
6. I disengage the safety again to make a test shot;
7. I pull back the bolt, securing ...
Its nonsense. Fortunately, the Hop-Up can also be adjusted without locking the bolt in the rear position using the same method as in other AK replicas, that is by holding the bolt partially back during adjustment.
However, for those who would necessarily like to take the safety/selector lever from the ARK and install it into another replica, the bolt locking function will not work. In ARK, the bolt moves back much further than in other replicas due to a completely different design with its stroke being almost twice as long. A less retracting bolt will not be able to be caught in the notch in the lever.
The aforementioned stock looks a bit like the ACR (Masada) and the Zhukov stock from the current Magpul's offer. Its a passing resemblance. On the other hand, it is an ICS stock transferred directly from the ACR-like replica of the CXP-APE, which has been produced for several years now. Magpul, advertising the Zhukov stock, said that it was designed to fold over to the right side due to the Dovetail mount and the optical sights attached to it (original Russian stocks folds to the left - if anything is mounted on the mount, it cannot be folded). There is no Dovetail in the ARK.
The stock, like the original Zhukov, is mounted on the extension of the barrel axis (as in the ARs). This makes it easier to keep the weapon on target. It does not matter much in airsoft, but it is worth mentioning. The stock has 2 adjustment options. The first is the cheek pad with 5 height settings. The second is a telescopic length adjustment (6 settings).
We have a few reservations about the stock. The first is the material. The black plastic it is made of seemed too soft. Nothing has been broken during our test but the material is noticeably bending with enough force applied.
The second reservation concerns the risk of damaging the power wire that exit the carbine's receiver and enter the stock. ICS uses stiff wires therefore one has to be careful when putting the stock back into shooting position.
The third thing is the cheek pad adjustment. There is no limiter. If one does not count/feel the settings, the pad can be pulled off the adjustment notches will move freely on the hinge. In practice, this has happened to us every time.
The fourth thing is the length adjustment. As in the case of the cheek pad, there is no limiter therefore it's very easy to pull the stock beyond the usable range and stay with it in your hands. The matter is further complicated by stiff and long wires.
The last thing is the rubber butt plate. It is simply a piece of rubber placed over the stock. We have our doubts weather it will be ease to loose it in the field.
The pistol grip has a texture that makes it difficult for a hand to slide off it. The shape slightly resembles to modern AK grips, including the MOE Magpul grip.
The polymer handguard is made in the M-lok standard - it even has appropriate markings. It is made of the same material as the stock and it also felt a bit too soft for us. The shape is similar to the stock and the grip brings to mind a the shortened version of Magpul's Zhukov-U model. Nevertheless, both the handguard and the gas tube cover are original ICS designs and are only similar to Magpul products.
M-lok sockets are located on the sides of the handguard and on the top of the cover. Additionally, at the bottom of the handguard there is a short, 8-slot Picatinny rail. The cover with the gas tube has a standard length of 17 cm. The handguard, due to the way it is connected to the receiver, is not compatible with replicas from other manufacturers.
The gas block, as in comparable carbines, is also the basis of the front sight. ICS is consistent in its approach to the design of this replica as this part is also completely non-standard. The closes thing to it is the Colombian Galil ACE gas block but in fact it's just an impression. Both parts are not really similar at all.
The front sight is adjustable vertically in an almost traditional way. Almost, because the right side of the dummy "barrel" has to be press to do it. The key included with the replica is used for adjustment. The whole part is mounted freely on the barrel and secured from the bottom with a screw hidden under the 100% dummy cleaning rod, 215 mm long.
The muzzle device is made of electrochemically colored steel mounted on a 14 mm CCW thread. It is secured from the bottom with a setting screw, and from the top with a typical pin with a spring and it can be easily lost.
The replica comes with a 500 BB hi-cap magazine, with a traditional winding gear. The manufacturer announced a bit enigmatically that identical looking magazines with a capacity of 30/50 BBs will be available. We do not know whether they will be separate real and low-caps or one type of magazine with variable capacity. Probably no one will be surprised that the magazine also looks like a Magpul product. Except that the PMAG MOE for 7.62x39 mm rounds has no inspection port. In the ICS magazine, you can check how many BBs are left, up to a certain point.
While we are not convinced to some of the external parts of the replica, we do not have a slightest criticism from the technical point of view.
The replica uses a V3 gearbox with the possibility of a quick spring change, which uses high-quality parts standard for ICS, including aluminum cylinder and piston heads, a spring guide with bearings, steel (sintered) gears and a piston with steel teeth.
The reviewed copy is equipped with a 2-module E-Trigger control system. The first module is located inside the gearbox, the second is in the stock, close to the battery plug. Unfortunately, stiff wires with an additional module take up a lot of space in the stock. It will also be possible to buy a version with a traditional contact switch and a simple mosfet, which will probably also be placed in the stock.
The mechanism offers the possibility of releasing the main spring. One may be tempted to do this only after removing the pistol grip (e.g. in the event of a jammed mechanism). When replacing the spring, the gearbox has to be removed from the receiver anyway. Then using the release is easier.
As in other ICS replicas, the inner barrel is made of aluminum. The CXP-ARK is 370 mm long. The Hop-Up chamber looks standard, but works with a factory-fitted 18.1 mm long nozzle, replacing the nozzle may cause feeding problems (standard AK short nozzles are 19.7 mm long).
Target shooting test and muzzle velocity measurement
During our shooting tests, we pushed aside all the objections regarding the appearance and the degree of reproduction of any real carbine. And here the CX-ARK is doing its best. The mechanism works softly and the replica shoots very well. The Hop-Up works precisely and maintains this settings. The magazine fed without any surprises and sat in the magwell without any slack. Quick magazine replacement is facilitated by the shape of the inside of the magwell, which prevents the magazine from being inserted too deeply.
Muzzle velocity measurement
The measurement was done in a closed room at an ambient temperature of 23°C, the Hop-Up was set to zero. A XCORTECH X3500 chronograph and G&G 0.2 g BBs were used.
Average: 338.28 fps
Target shooting test
The test was carried out in the open air. The temperature was around 26°C. The distance to the target was 25 m. 0.25g G&G BBs were used and the Hop-Up has been adjusted.
How to summarize the description of such a specific replica? Its a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type of thing. On the one hand, it is as "ugly" very few other replicas, a freak of made on the designers board, a "replica of nothing in particular" with a few solutions that raise reasonable doubts. On the other hand, ICS's airsoft technology, proven by years of use, does not need to be praised for its advantages. So, if someone likes the CXP-ARK, he/she should definitely buy it, and just get used to some of its problematic design quirks. However, if the matters related to the appearance are more important, but in the context of replicating a specific weapon, it is better to choose something completely different.