During the early nineteenth century Russia possessed a huge amount of cavalry, forming a higher percentage of her total armed forces than most European nations. An estimate in 1805 claimed in excess of 3,300 in the Guard, 49,700 in the Line and 100,000 irregulars. The regular cavalry was well regarded by most contemporaries, and a large part of this was made up of dragoons as seen in this set.
At first glance it might seem like there are only two poses in this set - one with sword raised and one with sword out to the side. In fact there are two versions of each, but they are very similar, so there is almost no variety in the figures. Both the pose types are fine, but there are no men on the march, looking to left or right, maneuvering on the battlefield, at rest, etc., and in a set with only four poses there is no excuse for making such similar poses.
The uniform is that as worn between 1803 and 1808. In 1803 the tall leather cavalry helmet was introduced, and this has been fairly well represented here, but in 1808 the caterpillar crest was replaced with a horsehair mane. HaT point out that the crest can be trimmed to represent the mane. The uniform as sculpted is correctly done, though none of these men have their hair in a queue, which makes them suitable for after 1806, when it was abolished. We felt they should have included a queue, and allowed the customer to trim it off if desired.
The general level of sculpting is adequate but not great. Some detail such as buttons is missing, and some areas have poor definition. The coat tails in particular are lacking, though of course this does not show when the figure is mounted. The scabbard is another problem area for early HaT sets, being simply a ridge that follows the line of the leg. The level of flash is pretty low, however, and the figures are well proportioned.
The two horses are in full flight, and carry correct furniture and kit. However all dragoons carried a musket attached to the saddle, but this is missing from this set. The riders fit the horses well.
The packaging correctly suggests that these figures can also be used as cuirassiers if painted differently. Cuirassiers did not wear the breastplate until 1812, but did wear the same uniform and helmet as the dragoons. However they also had a carbine which was suspended from a shoulder belt, and longer boots than these figures.
As with much of the output of HaT, this set delivered something no one else had at the time. As such it is welcome, but the quality of the sculpting is not impressive, and the choice of only two basic poses is particularly disappointing. A usable set so long as you want dragoons at the charge, but never likely to win any awards.