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 US$7.99
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 modelers
    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 vehicles.
    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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