At the time this set was released there had been few Italian figure sets made, unless you include Romans, so when this set appeared Airfix were filling a large hole in the range, although perhaps it would be more correct to say they were starting to fill a hole, since this is hardly a large set. The war in North Africa is ignored as these men are dressed for the European theatre, so are good for such campaigns as the attack on France in 1940, various actions in the Balkans and even some periods of the campaign in Russia.
The most obvious feature of this set is that there are only seven poses. Since Airfix have in the past produced up to 20 poses for some other sets, this is a major disappointment. The troops are firing, advancing, walking etc., so the basics are covered, but for example only having one advancing figure is not likely to please collectors, wargamers or any other kind of customer. This is in fact merely a scaled down version of their 1/32 set, which is a strategy Airfix were following a good deal by this date, so there is no room for any heavy weapons or other specialist troops, making this small set little more than representative of the forces it portrays.
The uniform of the Italian army in Europe varied little between 1940 and 1943, and these figures accurately represent it here. The rear of the helmet comes lower on the back of the neck than it should, but the quibble is very minor. With their trademark two ammunition pouches and the shirt and tie (the latter being worn on parade, and prohibited in the field from 1940), these men are instantly recognisable as Italian and very smart they look too. All the troops are using the standard M1891 Mannlicher Carcano rifle except two, which are armed with the 9mm Beretta M1938a sub-machine gun. These two are equipped with appropriate ammunition pouches for this highly regarded weapon, as you would expect. The officer is dressed similarly to his men, which was quite common, though his uniform would have been of better cloth. The only difference is that he wears the popular bustina cap, which is well sculpted here, and is armed with a pistol, most likely the 9mm Beretta M1934 semi-automatic. Strangely however he has his pistol holster on the less accessible right side of his belt, which is the reverse of the correct position.
Having moaned about the lack of poses, the figures you do get are excellent. Sculpting is perfect and the detail is crisp and clear with no flash. The poses are natural, and even the private carrying his rifle on his shoulder is well done despite the inherent difficulties in moulding such a piece. On the samples we have seen there is no flash either, although they have regularly been reissued by various manufacturers over the years, so the quality may vary. Nonetheless when first made these were of the highest production standards and as a result they look great.
This was one of the last sets Airfix created, and presumably by this stage they were looking to make sets as cheaply as possible. Given the choice of making many poor figures or fewer good ones, we would always applaud the emphasis on quality rather than quantity, as has happened here. These are very fine figures indeed, if rather too smart for battle, but if there had only been twice as many poses then this would have been a very hard set to beat. As it is other World War II Italian sets have since appeared to boost the number of poses, including some for the European theatre of operations for which these figures are intended, but figure for figure those in this set remain amongst the best yet made.