Saturday, November 16, 2013
Archer Plastics was a firm based out of New York which produced figures in the 50s. According to O'Brien's 'Collecting American-Made Toy Soldiers' book, they were better known for their line of spacemen and futuristic vehicles of which they sold millions. Apparently, they also released a few other space-unrelated sets, such as the WWII GIs that I recently ran into. I don't really know what became of the firm. One very interesting fact is that Plasticraft, another firm out of New Jersey which was around from the 50's up to at least the the 70's, also released the same set of GIs. So one possibility is that Archer folded or sold its molds to Plasticraft. Another is that they licensed them, although I suspect the former as more likely since Archer's run in the business appears to have been shorter than Plasticraft's. Today, the spacemen figures and vehicles fetch very handsome prices, with individual figures selling for 20-40 dollars and the vehicles for quite a bit more.
Archer 60 mm US Infantry - Part I
There were 10 poses originally in the set. A marching figure and an officer standing and holding a pistol are missing. Similarly to other figures of the 50's and 60's, they lack a base to stand on, which makes it a bit tricky to balance them. The only figure which was made with a base was the second guy from the left, but unfortunately, it broke off from this figure. I will have to make one for him. The poses and the detail are acceptable for their time, but seem a bit coarse by today's standards.
Archer 60 mm US Infantry - Part II
The poses in this picture are a bit nicer in my opinion. I particularly like the man standing with the bazooka. The man advancing with the sub machine gun is also displaying a nice mix of caution and forward movement. The other two are just standard poses, reasonably well done.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Artillery plays a crucial role in a military operation. It can be the critical difference between getting overrun and being able to fend off an attack multiple times. Or, similarly, artillery can rain hell on a defensive position and soften it up for the ground troops to attack and over run it. In the toy soldier world, it is not just a matter of having the howitzers, but you also need the crews to operate them and the observers to direct the fire. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that is often neglected a bit in our hobby. It seems like there aren't enough guns to go around and often, when there are guns, they come without crews to operate them. However when you really look around there are actually some guns and crews to support your ground troops, although some of those crews have only become available in recent years. Admittedly the support is a bit uneven. Some countries have greater representation than others. For instance, the Japanese are really under-represented, even though they did make a good use of artillery to defend their islands against the Marine landings. Anyhow, this is a compilation of the artillery pieces and ground crews that we have available just in case you are looking for some support for your infantry units.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Towed
Forces of Valor produced a very nice version of this gun. As you might be aware of, the 88 could be used in multiple ways besides its originally intended AA role. It could be used as regular artillery or as a direct Anti Tank weapon. Here we see it attached to the 8 Ton prime mover that would tow it. The factory paint job gives it a weathered look, and as usual, the fact that it's mostly made out of metal gives it a nice feel.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Rear View
As you can see from this angle, the attention to detail is substantial. The gun can rotate 360 degrees around the vertical axis and the gun can be elevated up to a vertical position, allowing it to fire virtually in every direction.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Artillery Mode
Here we see it already deployed as traditional artillery. There is a scene in Band of Brothers in which the screaming eagles are being shelled with 88mm HE shells while in a forest, causing shrapnel and wood splinters to rain down on them with nasty consequences. Also note that the carriage is actually made of two separate sections. The front and rear wheel axles can be attached and removed independently. It also comes with a nice ground crew to operate it.
Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Anti Tank Mode
Here we see it deployed the way it would be used to fight against tanks. The air and land 'kills' on the shield add a nice touch of realism. FOV also manufactured this gun in a tan color scheme however I did not get around to buying that one.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Afrika Korps
21C Toys also produced a very nice 88mm gun. Not quite at the level of the one from FOV but far superior to anything that had come before in plastic. Here we see it ready to be deployed to fight the British in the deserts of North Africa.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak
Deployed in an anti-tank role. The wheel axles are also detachable. Note how the level of paint detail is not quite the same as the one from FOV, both for the carriage and the gun itself. The crew consists of just 2 figures.
21st Century Toys 88 Flak - side view
This gun also moves 360 degrees around and from horizontal to vertical, so it is just as functional as the one from FOV. And from this angle it looks just as lethal.
Classic Toy Soldiers Artillery Crew
CTS recently provided us with an artillery crew. They are not made for any specific gun, but the size of the shell might be more in line with an 88.
21st Century Toys PAK 40
This is a nice gun. It comes factory painted and has several moving parts. The muzzle can be elevated/lowered and the carriage can be fully deployed or collapsed together and locked in place so that it can be towed. The downside of this gun is that it was not sold individually, but you had to buy it as part of a set. Luckily, I was able to find several at Toy Solider shows from collectors that no longer needed them.
21st Century Toys PAK 40 with CTS crew
This is the recently released artillery crew from CTS. The set contains an observer/officer and two loaders. They are a welcome arrival to staff the many PAKs that I have without crews.
Britains Deetail PAK40 with CTS crew
This is another nice model from Britains Deetail. Unfortunately I do not have the crew to go with it, so I had to enlist some of the new CTS guys to man the gun. One nice feature of this PAK is that it can actually fire. It has a small lever that you can pull to compress a spring and when released it could fire a round. I don't have the ammo that came with it either, but it should not be hard to improvise some rounds.
21st Century Toys PAK 40 - Afrika Korps
This is actually the same model as the 21C model in grey, except that this one was painted by a fellow collector. It is one of those that I picked up at a local toy soldier show. He did a very good job on the painting. So much that it is hard to tell that it did not come this way out of the box.
Italeri PAK 40 AT gun with 'servants'
The Italeri gun offers what the 21C gun lacks. A good crew. As you can see, it comes with 6 figures. Most of them are ammo handlers. But it does have a man operating the gun and an officer directing the action. The gun itself offers fewer moving parts and degrees of movement. But once it is setup it looks just as good. Probably a good combination will be the painted Italeri crew with the 21C PAK. One thing that I do find very amusing about this set is that Italeri translated crew as 'servants'.
15 cm NbW 41 - Unknown manufacturer
Approximately 6,000 of these were manufactured along with 5.5 million rockets. It had a range of close to 7km. Another popular variation was the 5-barrel 21 cm NbW 42, which had a range of almost 8km. I got this one along with a batch of toy soldiers that I purchased on eBay. I have no idea who made it and it is the only one I have. For a plastic toy it has decent level of realism. The pivoting stabilizer at the bottom/front can be elevated to put it in the towing position. It came with a couple stickers on the side which you can still see. Maybe someday I will paint it to give it a more realistic look. The figures in this picture are FOV artillery crewmen.
Britains Deetail - Heavy Mortar Set
This is where we get into a grey area. Can heavy mortars also be considered artillery? This mortar can actually 'fire' shells. Unfortunately I do not have any of the shells that came with it, but you can improvise your own kind of shells and have some fun lobbing some shells at the opposing army.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part I
This model, manufactured by Dragon (in 1:35) is called 'Loki'. Here I've used some 1:32 Forces of Valor figures to operate it. Despite the difference in scale I think they still look acceptable. Loki is firing from a prepared position to afford it some protection as you can imagine that the enemy is desperately trying to neutralize it with some aggressive artillery counter-fire.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Loki' Part II
This is a slight variation of the previous picture, with the gun in a depressed position, illustrating the degree of gun's movement.
Dragon Karl Mortar 'Thor'
This is Loki's brother 'Thor'. Note that the gun can be elevated from the horizontal position up to a 45 degree angle approximately. These mortars also come with one piece of ammo, which is as big as a man. No wonder they had to be loaded with a crane.
21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Also known as the 155 mm Gun M1 or M2, this field gun was designed and developed during the inter-war period and by 1938 it was officially adopted. It had a barrel length just shy of 7 m, and could fire a round up to 23km. Its size and weight (almost 14 tons) required a carriage with 8 tires in the back and two in the front. The barrel could be elevated from -2 degrees all the way up to 65 degrees, which means that if necessary the Long Tom was also able to engage targets such as tanks in direct fire mode. The Long Tom was operated by a crew of 14 and saw action in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. This gun comes to us from 21C Toys. Even though it is all plastic, it is still a really nice model with lots of moving parts. The carriage is detachable -and a bit hard to assemble-, and the gun can be deployed into firing position. The paint job shows a small amount of wear for added realism. 21C did a good job filling this previously ignored model niche.
21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Here is the gun in its deployed position. Unfortunately, 21C did not provide any crew figures to go with it. Classic Toy Soldiers recently released some artillery crew figures which I have pressed to service the Long Tom, but with a crew of 14, it looks like I am still 11 men short...
Classic Toy Soldiers US Artillery Crew
These three poses are what made me get a couple of these sets. I had several Long Tom artillery pieces from 21st Century Toys, but I did not have crews for them. There is a loader, a guy on the phone, and another one that seems to be ready to fire the gun. The caliber of the ammo looks small for this gun, but I guess it's going to have to be good enough for it.
21st Century Toys M115 8 Inch Howitzer
Also known as 8 inch Howitzer M1 or M115 203 mm howitzer, it was designed and developed prior to WW II as a replacement for the 8-inch British howitzer that the US Army had been using since WW I. Even though it was developed independently of the Long Tom, it was mounted on the same M1 Carriage. That's probably why it was an obvious choice for 21C Toys to produce this variant. It really looks like all they did was shorten the barrel of the Long Tom. Curiously, this gun was about 700 kg heavier than the Long Tom, even though the barrel was 2 meters shorter. The firing range was also 7km shorter, or about 17km in total. It was also operated by a crew of 14.
Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Also known as the 105 mm M2A1 (M101A1) howitzer, this gun was the standard light howitzer used by the US military during WWII. It weighed only 5000 lbs, yet it had a range of 7 miles (11 km), making it an effective infantry support weapon. It was widely used in all theaters. It's been so successful that it is still in service in some countries today. Forces of Valor has delivered this nice model to us. It is partly made of metal, and it comes with a crew of 3. The barrel can be elevated and the trails can be separated so that the spades can dig into the ground when firing. Another nice piece of equipment from FOV.
Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer
Another view of the crew and the gun from behind. Note that the figures come without a base, which makes them a bit wobbly at times, but still remarkably stable for not having a base.
21st Century Toys US M7 Priest
The Priest, also known as the 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7 was a self-propelled gun carrying the 105 mm howitzer. This Priest was made by 21st Century Toys, and even though the box was branded as 'die cast', it is pretty much made out of plastic. Even so, it is a nice vehicle. I've actually seen it in a different paint scheme with slightly smaller stars that have a circle around them, and the name Annamae written on the side. This vehicle comes with two figures: a driver and a gunner.
New Ray Howitzer
This howitzer came with some New Ray set. I don't even remember which one. I don't know if it represents an actual gun or some fictional model. And if it represents a real model, whether it is from the WWII period. In any case, given the limited availability of artillery pieces I have chosen to keep it and even feature it here. If you are not picky, they might come in handy as extra fire power, plus they are cheaper than those from 21C or FOV. As you can see, it blends well with the FOV crew figures.
Atlantic US Artillery
This is a set that includes the gun and 3 figures. I don't know if it represents an actual artillery piece that existed in reality or not. It could be an anti-aircraft gun as there is something that looks like a sight for the operator to aim through, but the barrel does not offer much elevation. The gun comes in multiple parts and needs to be assembled together. Everything snaps into place but you need to be careful when putting the barrel into its mount. I pressed a little too hard and snapped the mount in two. In terms of the figures, the gunner who gets to sit at the gun could have been given a more realistic pose. He really looks like he is just sitting there doing nothing. All in all it's one of those sets from Atlantic that are appealing to have for sake of having a 'complete' collection, and not so much for its poses or realism.
Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun
Also known as Ordnance QF 25 pounder, this was a 87.6mm caliber gun. Introduced shortly before the war, it was the main howitzer in the British Army during the War and many years thereafter. Its maximum range was 13,400 yards with a HE shell of 25 pounds (hence the name). This is another nice model by Crescent. The rivets on the gun shield make it look very real. Like the 5.5 gun, it also has a lever that allows it to shoot rounds.
Crescent 25 pounder Field Gun - from above
This picture shows the circular platform that these guns used to have which enabled them to be rotated to point in the right direction more easily. When the gun was deployed, the platform would be placed underneath the wheels of the gun. Unfortunately, most of the models that you find today are missing this part, as it is relatively easy to detach it.
Crescent 5.5 inch Medium Gun
The 5.5 inch (or 140mm) gun went into service in 1941 and first saw action in North Africa. It was operated by a crew of 10. Its firing range was between 16,000 to 18,000 yards. Each shell weighed 100lbs. The firing angle went from -5 to 45 degrees. This model by Crescent has a wheel on the side that can be loosened/tightened to adjust the firing angle. It also comes with a lever on top that controls a spring and it allows it to shoot actual rounds. Unfortunately none came with the gun, so I will need to improvise some ammo.
Lone Star Anti Tank Gun
This is an under-scale gun by Lone Star. Rather than 1/32 it seems to be 1/40 or 1/43. Based on its size it can probably be used as a 6 pounder or even the 2 pounder anti-tank guns. Like the Crescent guns, it also comes with a lever-controlled spring that allows you to shoot rounds with it.
Lone Star 25 Pounder - Front
Here is another under-scale model by Lone Star. Given their 1/32 figure range, I just wish they had manufactured these sets to match those figures. BTW, this one also lets you shoot with it.
Lone Star 25 Pounder - Back
Here you get a good idea of the size of the gun relative to some actual 54mm figures. I guess it could be used to represent a smaller caliber gun. But definitely, if you are undecided between the Crescent 25 pounder and this one, the Crescent one is head and shoulders a much better choice.
Britains Deetail British Heavy Mortar Set
A really nice heavy mortar team. The mortar can actually fire shells enabled by a spring mechanism inside the tube. There is a small lever in the back of the mortar which can be pulled and released to eject the shells. A pretty fun set.
Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part I
This is a nice artillery piece introduced by Italeri. This set was released a couple of years back and it filled a huge gap in the WWII 1/32 plastic toy soldier world. In addition to the gun itself, the set contains a crew in a good variety of poses. The Soviets produced these guns from 1942 onwards in massive quantities (over 100,000) and with a 76mm round, they were capable of piercing any German Tank prior to the Tiger I and the Panther.
Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun - Part II
The gunner and the leader prepare to fire another round as the rest of the crew works hard to keep the ammunition supply flowing. The Soviets were known for deploying large belts of anti tank defensive positions in depth which would wear down the German armored offensive capabilities and would leave them ripe for T-34 counterattacks, which is how they managed to stop the largest ever tank offensive at Kursk. These pictures depict this gun in a street fighting scenario, as the Red Army pushed west and retook its cities.
Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942
These other guys are the crew for the small howitzer. I am not sure about the caliber of the gun. I thought it might be a 37mm which is what was often issued to the paratroopers as it was easier to drop along with them during an airborne operation. However a reader recently commented that it's likely a 47mm Bohler gun. Apparently the wheels were detachable and it could be mounted on a tripod. It might not be clear from the picture, but all these figures come without a base, but they still manage to stand well on their own. One thing I don't quite like about the gun is that you can't change the elevation without messing around with the peg that inserts into the wheel carriage. All in all a good addition to the Folgore infantry.
Atlantic Italian Artillery Support
These guys are also Italian but they don't come with a cannon to operate, so I guess they will have to be helping out the Waterloo guys. As is often the case with some of the other Atlantic sets, the figures are very straight and show little action. Not the most exciting figures, but they are rare enough that they deserve a place in the collection.
Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilles Rifle
Aside from the infantrymen, Britains produced extra sets with heavy weapons. They were part of their special Combat Weapons series. Not sure if the Japanese Army actually had this weapon in the field, but nonetheless it makes a good addition to the army and provides some welcome firepower if you are war-gaming with these figures. I just wish there were other artillery pieces to complement them.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Engineer Bassevich is a Russian firm that I recently discovered. They also seem to have entered the market not long ago as they only offer 4 sets of figures at this time. All of them are Russian/Soviet figures, 3 from the Russian revolution and one set from WWII as you will see below. I find myself a bit ambivalent about these figures. On the one hand, the poses are nicely done, with a good degree of action and they have a lot of nice detail. For instance, the expressions on the faces of these figures are among the best I've seen. The casting however is not so great. The figures come with a lot of flash. Part of it looks like marks left over in the clay during the sculpting, the rest is probably from the mold. Also, the plastic that they are made of is very light. I tend to like figures better when they have a bit more weight. And then there is the price... not only are they very expensive relative to the average new production toy soldier, but you also end up paying a hefty shipping cost. At the end of the day each of them comes to about 5 dollars a piece, which not even many vintage figures fetch. So are they really worth it? We'll have to see how they paint up.
Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Part I
These are early war Soviet Infantry figures. These are some of the few Soviet figures made with a full backpack. Nice degree of action in this first batch.
Engineer Bassevich Soviet Infantry - Part II
I could have done without the two guys standing in the middle, in favor of two more action poses. BTW, notice the diversity in the uniforms and headgear at this early stage of the war. The officer leading his men reminds me of an actual WWII photograph that I've seen. Take a look at the next picture.
If it were printed backwards and the officer had the pistol on the opposite hand, it would be quite a close match...
Thursday, October 17, 2013
I recently ran into this Soviet set at a Toy Soldier Show. Initially, the manufacturer was a mystery to me. I bought them from the Marx Man and even he did not know who made them. Luckily, one of our readers was able to point out their origin and even a site that still sells them today (check out the comments section). Apparently, these figures were made by a company in Moscow called Progress or 'Прогресс' to be more precise. It seems like they started making them close to 20 years ago. Some of the sets were made with painted faces and boots, and have been released in different types of packaging -boxed or bagged-. The set is called "The Brest Fortress" or "Soldiers of the Great Patriotic War". In addition to these figures, it looks like Progress also produced set of knights and medieval figures as well as cowboys and indians.
Progress Soviet Infantry - Part I
These figures are closer to 60mm in size. The detail is actually rather shallow, as if they were clones of clones. I don't think that's the case though because the proportions are still fine, which is something that gets lost when figures are cloned as much as it would be required to lose as much detail. So I think they were simply sculpted this way. As far as the rest of the sculpting goes, the figures are well posed and in decent action stances, like the firing guy who is leaning forward as if firing on the move.
Progress Soviet Infantry - Part II
The flag bearer is a rather unique figure. He could be getting ready to climb the Reichstag building in Berlin. We'll just need to add the Soviet scythe and hammer to it. That might be an interesting painting challenge. I am assuming the man on the right is wounded, otherwise his pose would be a bit lame. The other two are average poses.
Progress Soviet Infantry - Part III
This is the last pose in the set. I shot him separately because I wanted to compare him to a guy from this set which I bought a couple of years back without knowing the set that it belonged to. Take a look below.
Progress Soviet Infantry - Part IV
Click here to see a post about other Soviet figures
Click here to see even more Soviet Toy Soldiers
Click here to see Soviet Toy Soldiers in action
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Ideal was an American Toy soldier manufacturer which was in activley in business during the 50s through the 70s. They manufactured figures in the larger scales of 60mm - 70mm and complemented well those produced by other manufacturers such as Marx and TimMee. They produced a nice range of figures, addressing many historic periods, including the US Civil War, knights, US Colonials and British, Alamo, Pirates, Cowboys and Indians, modern frogmen, navy, firemen, race track figures, and of course, WWII GIs. They also made a a nice range of accessories, including vehicles such as, wagons and stage coaches, farm vehicles, a pirate ship, a PT boat, Tanks, jeeps, trucks, and a very cool modern cargo plane, that fits other vehicles inside. And they also produced a complementary set of 'forts' to place the figures in, like a mdieval castle, the Alamo, Frontier forts, and so on, which made for very attractive and engaging playsets. As you can see below, one peculiar aspect of their figures is that some of their sets were made without bases. I only happen to have the WWII GIs to show in this post, but if you happen to be interested in seeing more of their figures, Toy Soldier HQ does a much better job at showcasing the range that they produced.
Ideal US Infantry - Part I
These guys are actually reissued Ideal figures. The originals are harder to come by and pricier, but for me, these guys are just fine. The sculpting on these figures is quite nice for the time when they were released. As you can tell, some of them are very similar to the TimMee series 1 figures, like the prone guy on the left. I am not sure who inspired who, but I suspect, the Ideal figures came later. One distinct feature of the Ideal men is that they come without a base. They simply balance themselves on their two feet, and they do it surprisingly well.
Ideal US Infantry - Part II
Here again we see a couple of figures very similar to the TimMee guys: the ones on the far right and left. These guys BTW are closer to 60mm than they are to 54mm. In contrast with the TimMee set, they included a few figures with a bit more action and movement in them, as illustrated by the second man from the right. Even the guy with the flamethrower is leaning forward in a good action pose.
Ideal US Infantry - Part III
Here one can recognize the kneeling rifleman and the bazooka, although the rifleman lost his sniper scope in the Ideal set. One guy who fooled me for a bit is the one sitting with his legs apart. At first glance I thought he was a recast of the Marx figure, but later on a noticed that he does have a few significant differences, one of them being that his shirt is open down to his belly button. A rather unique touch. The man on the left, appears to be manning a machine gun. Unfortunately the set did not include it. Luckily I do have one or two spare ones that I can issue to him from other sets.
Ideal US Infantry - Part IV
This picture shows three more that might have been inspired by the TimMee set. The fourth man, firing from the standing position might have been inspired by the Marx guy. In any case, Ideal set was a nice, well sculpted and detailed set, and with 16 poses, a nice contribution to the hobby. I am glad I was able to finally lay my hands on them.
Click here to see a post about the TimMee figures