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RedBox

Set 72071

Russian Artillery

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2015
Contents 16 figures and 2 guns
Poses 8 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Tan
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

At the start of the 16th century the armies of Muscovy were mostly composed of cavalry, well suited to cover the vast sparse-populated area and to conduct the raids that were the main feature of warfare in that region. However Muscovy had manufactured and deployed cannon since the 15th century, and while much of this was for fortresses and garrisons, field guns had played an important part in some campaigns such as that against Smolensk in 1513. This was an era of considerable expansion as the state fought the Crimea, neighbouring khanates such as Kazan, Lithuania/Poland, Livonia, Sweden and the Ottomans, and as they conquered new territory so the need for more garrisons protected by artillery grew also. As a result the 16th century witnessed artillery becoming much more important and even developed into a Muscovite strength, with commentators observing that it was as advanced as anything in the West.

Although the new artillerymen were paid contract servicemen, there is no evidence that they were uniformed, so their appearance closely reflected the common folk costume of the day. That means one or more kaftan coats, with the only difference being that artillerymen tended to wear them a little shorter than the peasantry to make them easier to work in. A variety of caps – either erect or floppy – with turned-up ends or fur trim were common, and shoes or boots with the toes slightly turned up were also normal. Everything on these figures is authentic, and there are a few bits of military clothing too. A couple of men have quilted coats which could be both warm and offer some protection, while two of the figures wear a mail corselet, which was still in general usage in the 16th century in Eastern Europe. Finally the man with arm raised – clearly an officer – has a classic pointed helmet, as does one of the gunners. All of this means these figures look good and are perfectly typical of the subject.

Unlike some sets, this one provides a full eight poses per gun, and all the basic actions are depicted. There is really nothing more to say about the poses, except that they are all very natural and perfect for the gun. The sculpting too is really good, with lots of nice detail and good textures where this is required, such as with the mail. Faces are nice too, with plenty of facial hair, and there is almost no flash on any of the figures.

Although the figures are very good, we were not so impressed with the guns. With almost no standardisation at the time a wide variety of guns were used, and RedBox have provided two of differing sizes. The two carriages are 37 mm (2.66 metres) long and 41 mm (2.95 metres), while the larger wheels are 20mm (1.44 metres) in diameter and the smaller are 17mm (1.22 metres). This makes the larger of the two carriages quite a bit larger than the standard field gun size of later centuries, but this is fine for the 16th century. The larger carriage has an interesting wavy design which we could not confirm but may well be genuine, although the carriages are generally fairly basic models. The two gun barrels are different too – one is 30 mm (2.16 metres) long and 5.5mm wide at the breech, but tapering, while the other is 26mm (1.87 metres) long and 6mm wide at the breech, so shorter but fatter. Since the fatter barrel presumably can take a greater charge, we have put it on the larger carriage, but you can match barrel with either carriage. However the fatter barrel does not sit well on either, since insufficient space has been provided for the breech. Also we worried about the design of both barrels, which are characterised by many fat rings or, if you prefer, by many deep grooves. Gun barrels at this time were often very highly decorated, and might include some reinforcing bands round them, but we could find no evidence for these surprising designs which seem to offer great weight and yet also plenty of weak spots. Finally, unlike the figures, both barrels and carriages have a good deal of flash that needs to be removed.

The 16th century was a very significant one for the development of what would eventually become Russia, and as the century progressed, the artillery played an ever bigger part in that expansion, so a set like this is necessary for so many conflicts of the time. There is much to like about it too, with very well done figures in useful poses and correctly attired, but the guns have some issues and could have been done better. With work the guns can be improved, so this is a set with much to value from a manufacturer that has been impressive in improving its quality in recent years.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 9
Pose Quality 10
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 10
Mould 9

Further Reading
Books
"Armies of Ivan the Terrible" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.427) - V Shpakovsky & D Nicolle - 9781841769257
"Muscovy's Soldiers" - Helion & Company (Century of the Soldier No.28) - Michael Fredholm von Essen - 9781912390106
"Russian Field Artillery 1382-1917" - - Sergey Voytsekhovich
"Russia's Wars of Emergence" - Routledge - Carol Stevens - 9781138836761
"The Age of Chivalry Part 3" - Ward Lock (Arms and Uniforms) - Liliane and Fred Funcken - 9780706359374

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