Wow! Very occasionally you come across a new set that moves the hobby on - lifts the level of quality or introduces some new innovation that achieves what previously seemed unachievable. Zvezda have made a habit of producing such sets, though not always without other faults. This set can certainly be seen as something quite new in artillery sets, as the photos above amply demonstrate.
Basically the set provides three guns, each with a crew of six, plus an officer, a team and an ammunition wagon. Taking the men first, they are wearing the uniform introduced in 1812 which was the same as that in the infantry. The 1812 shako modelled here dates the figures from that year, as correctly specified on the box. All the details are correct, including the artillery badge on the shako front. All the men wear full kit, including the rolled greatcoat, which seems unlikely while serving stationary guns as it would only serve to encumber the men and make them hot. The poses are very good, with the man applying the match being particularly welcome. The third figure on the top row is kneeling to line up the gun barrel, and his base has been trimmed back to allow him to stand next to the gun. The officer is also very good, though he holds a telescope with one hand, which is not very practical.
The three guns in this set are a real innovation. In the past sets have included the gun carriage as one piece and the barrel as another, resulting in considerable loss of detail on the former. In this set the carriage comes in five pieces, plus the wheels and barrel. This allows a considerably more accurate model to be produced, delivering features not previously seen. For example, there is good detail along each side of the trail, there is a hook under the barrel on which a bucket hangs and the barrel is actually held by the cap squares rather than resting on top and parting company with the carriage when it is turned upside down. The barrel too is different in that the muzzle is separate. This is purely to allow a hole at the mouth of the barrel - a small touch but an innovation nonetheless.
We always like to see a limber and team with an artillery set, so we were initially well pleased here. However the box states the guns are 12-pounders, and as such they should have 6 or 8 horse teams rather than the four here. However the length of the gun barrel suggests a 6-pounder, and such guns were pulled by 4-horse teams. This is Zvezda's first artillery set, and the traces and limber have been realised in much the same way as those of Italeri. The ropes plug into the horses' harness in a realistic way, and the result is very pleasing. These traces are very thin, and for some reason the pegs have been made in such a way that the traces need to be twisted to get them into the horse. However this twisting is not difficult, though we found that placing these in the horses was a very fiddly job until we got the hang of it - a little patience and a pair of tweezers will deliver results. We could not find sufficient information on Russian limbers to be sure of the authenticity of this item, but we have no reason to doubt it.
Finally there is the ammunition wagon. This is similar to the limber, and like the limber it has a separate lid which lifts off to reveal the top row of compartments with their shells. In the above photographs we have left the lid on the ammunition wagon but removed it from the limber to illustrate this. Unusually the ammunition wagon is pulled by three horses harnessed abreast, but this is perfectly correct.
Detail is excellent, with many little touches like the prickers on the men's crossbelts correctly done. There was absolutely no flash or excess plastic of any description, and we liked the style of sculpting very much. The figure on the bottom row is using a handspike which fits into the base of the trail to one side, which is correct. The many excellent details - too numerous to list here - mark this as a quality product, and clearly a lot of original thinking has been done about how best to model artillery pieces rather than copying the techniques used by others before. Zvezda continue to delight and amaze with their products, and this is no exception.