ARM: Review - Preiser 1/87 (HO) Russian military figures

Kit Review: Preiser HO Scale (1/87) Figure Sets
Kit No. 16505; Guards Infantry, USSR, 1942; 121 parts (78 in khaki
styrene, 43 in black styrene) price US $7.99
Kit No. 16526; Resting Russian Infantry Riflemen, USSR 1942; 84 parts
(71 in khaki styrene, 13 in tan styrene); price US $7.99
Kit No. 16530; Infantrymen, Partisans USSR, 1942-1943; 81 parts in
khaki styrene; price US $7.99
Kit No. 16545; Infantrymen on a tank, USSR 1942; 83 parts in khaki
stryene; price US$7.99
Kit No. 16546; Tank crew USSR 1942; 34 parts in khaki styrene; price
Advantages: best figures in this scale by any company; nice poses and
useful choices of options
Disadvantages: all of the options found on 1/35 scale figures on a 1/87
scale figure make for some very tiny parts
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Soviet WWII armor fans and also HO railway
When I was a kid, most of us got our "real start" into armor
modeling via ROCO HO scale vehicles. They were cheap, nominally in the
same scale, and provided us with our first real knowledge of armored
vehicles that could be collected, all to a common scale. But ROCO had
few figure sets, so most of us had to make do with Airfix's "HO/OO
Scale" figures (more like 1/76 scale OO, especially if you put them
up against an early ROCO model which was closed to 1/100 scale.)
But these figures were soft plastic, or as they eventually became
derisively called, "little rubber men." They were very difficult to
paint, and the only suggestion Airfix Magazine ever provided was to
coat them with a British product which turned out to be similar to
Elmer's Glue-All - thinned white glue. Say goodbye to details if
you want the paint to stick. But things have changed.
Many model railroaders are familiar with the German company Preiser,
headquartered in the notorious "tourist trap" of Rothenberg am der
Tauber. For years they have been the acme of small figure
manufacturers, and even today produce figures for their own extensive
lines in scales from Z Gauge (1/220) to LGB gauge (1/22.5). In recent
years, Preiser has expanded their line of figures to cover more common
armor modeling scales, and now makes figures in 1/72, 1/48 and 1/35 as
well. Most of this is done by means of pantographing the original
figure up or down as they need to meet a product line. (Modelers should
note that what makes for a great figure in 1/87 may make for a good
figure in 1/48 but one "soft" on details in 1/35, though.)
With the rise of new lines of HO scale armor from eastern Europe, most
notably Premo from Russia (marketed in the west by ROCO) as well as
other small manufacturers, there has a been a call for new figure sets
to go with them. For many years this scale tended to be ignored as it
was considered either a "wargamers' scale" or a "toy scale"
as most figure sets were made of soft plastic from companies like
Airfix, Revell, Italeri, Haet, etc. But with the advent of scale models
it called for scale figures and now Preiser is making 1/87 lines of
WWII German, American and Soviet figures to go with these new armored
I originally did this review in April 2005 on sets 16545 and 16546,
but now am reprinting it with the other three sets included to show how
much detail is available in this scale.
Set number 16505 provides 18 Russian combat infantrymen in 1942 period
uniforms, with the larger tortoise-type helmets but with "sapogi"
and felt boots vice leg wraps. They are shown painted with the collar
tabs of pre-war Soviet forces and on close examination these can be
seen on the figures. Some figures also have the "pilotka" sidecaps.
The nicest feature is a sprue of suitable weapons types, including a
heavy machine gun on cart and two Moisin rifles fitted with sniper
scopes. All figures are in different poses, and a mixture of officers
and enlisted with one female figure.
Set number 16526 provides for 10 Soviet troops at rest and a set of
tree stumps is included for background decoration. They can be
portrayed either relaxing (an accordion is also part of their kit) or
receiving "clarification of orders for a new mission" as the
Russians refer to pre-combat briefings. Again, there are two officers
and one female as part of the set.
Set number 16530 is very interesting, for each figure has two heads to
permit them being portrayed as either Soviet troops or "partisany"
with heads wearing "shapka" hats and having beards. There are two
sets of sprues covering six different poses, so it is up to the modeler
as to his option of which figures to build up. Two detonator machines
are included, which if you are a model railroader, is one way to bring
the "Gomez Addams" factor into your layout!
Set number 16545 provides a 12 man "tankoviy desant" - tank
riders - suitable for the 1942-1944 period of the war. Each figure
consists of a one or two piece body with separate arms and weapons, a
blanket roll, rations bag, and choice of heads - either with helmet
or "pilotka" side cap. The figures are in a number of positions
varying from fully seated to crouching and even standing, so they
should be able to fit on any HO scale armored vehicle. As noted, what
makes a good part in 1/35 may be pretty tiny in 1/87, so prepare for
having to deal with flying heads if not careful.
Ste number 16546 provides a series of eight commander figures as well
as two drivers. The latter are one-piece figures from the torso up, but
come on a sort of "pogo stick" so they will fit into most of the
extant tank hulls and sit properly in an open driver's hatch. Three
commanders are complete figures, one is a three-quarter (e.g no lower
legs) and four are designed to separate at the belt line so they may be
used with a "dummy" cupola as the commander figure. Again a variety
of headgear is provided, from helmets to tankers' helmets to peaked
caps, most with goggles.
The directions are on the inside of the box, so this is not a kit
where you can check out the instructions without ruining the box. This
is a quirk of many later Preiser kits, but I think they have been
trying to maintain reasonable prices and by not including a separate
direction sheet it appears to help out.
The box art is helpful, showing a number of sets in use with several
Premo T-34 Model 1941 tanks rolling down a road. Premo is a supplier to
ROCO and its kits are marketed by them under their 12xx series of kits.
They tend to be the early war vehicles, which is actually quite useful
considering the period in which Preiser has targeted the figures.
ROCO/Premo offers a complete range of BT series tanks (2, 5, 7), T-34s,
KV-1 and KV-2, and ZIS-5 series trucks as well as pre-war tanks like
the T-28 and T-35.
While these figures are designed to play to HO scale armor collectors,
one offshoot idea for model railroads may be to add a group of
"re-enactors" to your layout, as there are a goodly number of clubs
and organizations worldwide now that do this on a regular basis.
Overall, if you can manipulate the parts these are great kits and
really dress up small scale armor models.
Cookie Sewell
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