By the time Napoleon started training as an artillery officer, France had already adopted the best artillery system in Europe, that of Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval. Napoleon added little to this, but made big changes to the way artillery was deployed, with the effect that his artillery was the finest in Europe, if never as large as he would have liked.
This set comes with three guns which Airfix announced as 4-pounders. In fact they are a little small even for that diminutive calibre, but there are many more serious faults than that. The barrel is a bit too short (21 mm = 1.5 metres) and noticeably too fat, and the carriage has had little attention paid to how the original looked; apart from having the classic two 'cheeks' it really has little in common with the real thing. It is greatly simplified and has transoms missing and in the wrong place. The rather clunky wheels have nine spokes when they should have 12, and both the wheels and the whole carriage are much too small. The top of the wheels stand 108 cms tall, about waist height, when they should be 135 cms tall for this calibre.
The limber is worse still, being nothing more than a peg on wheels onto which the gun can be lifted. In reality this was a far more sophisticated 'A' frame device, but this model is the absolute basic and so inaccurate. Most glaring of all is that it has a two horse team when at least four were used for 4-pounders (although we understand some two-horse teams were used during the preparation for the invasion of Britain, but not at Waterloo). As is usual with Airfix the horses are 'pegged' onto the limber, with no attempt at harness etc. The wheels of the limber are a scale 72 cms high, when they should be 102 - about the height of the supplied cannon wheels. Also they are not well proportioned and have nine spokes which, like the cannon, is too few.
So, nothing good to say about the cannon and limber, but how about the men? Well, they wear the uniform with the double-breasted jacket with closed lapels and short tails that was introduced in 1812 (and appeared in 1813) for both artillery and infantry. They have the shorter gaiters which is appropriate for the period, but by 1815 it was normal to wear trousers over these. The shako is not the best in terms of shape, and while it has a pompon it lacks a cockade. Also it has been given an eagle badge when by 1815 this should be a much smaller eagle over a semi-circular badge. Curiously all are wearing a full pack, which while entirely right for the marching figure, would be very unlikely for the men actually serving the guns, and they also have swords which are much too long; they should have short swords and bayonets in the standard sabre-briquet carrier, not what look like officer's swords. All should, and do, have a cartridge pouch, but this should live on the right hip, not virtually in the small of the back as it does here.
The number of poses is not too bad compared to many artillery sets, with five men directly serving the gun and two more apparently on the march - one sergeant leading the 'team' and a gunner on the march. Both these unusual poses are very useful, though there are three teams of horses but only two sergeants to lead them for some reason. The sculptor has managed to create some nicely three-dimensional poses which are at least quite lively.
The detail is not very good, so for example none of the men have straps to keep the packs on. The style of sculpting seems similar to the later French Infantry set, though these are not as bad as those, yet the anatomy is still not well done. There is a fair bit of flash too, although this set has been around for so long that variations in the quality of the casting are to be expected (however we know of no examples that are flash free).
In some respects these figures show their age. At the time they were made there was no real competition, but several other companies have since made much better Napoleonic French artillery sets. Replacing the guns and limbers entirely and some deft work with a paintbrush will resolve or hide many of the problems, and the poses are quite good in terms of idea and number, but as it stands this must be one of the poorest Napoleonic artillery sets ever made.