If the truth be told then perhaps a minority of figure sets accurately portray soldiers on campaign. Most stick to the regulations and make little or no allowance for deviation on the part of the men, nor the usual wear and tear of a military life. To be fair that is how many people like it, but that 'regulation' look has surely never been further from the truth than with the US Cavalry operating in the west in the decades following the civil war. Although this subject has been covered several times before, the results have always been pretty abysmal for one reason or another, so it was with much hope that we examined this more promising set from Strelets.
As always there are 12 different poses, and already this set is looking much better than its predecessors as most are holding either carbines or pistols. Despite what some sets would seem to suggest the cavalryman of this period rarely even took his sabre with him, much less drew it in anger. Of course on occasion sabres were drawn, and used, but as the natives became increasingly equipped with firearms the soldiers rightly trusted to their firepower rather than getting close enough to use cold steel. Three of these men are waving their sword, which is still a high proportion in our view, although they do make the set more dramatic. One holds his forward but above his head, which we felt was an odd pose. The rest of the men are holding and/or using their firearms, and are a reasonable selection.
Plenty of accounts exist of the enormous diversity of clothing worn by these men, particularly when the temperature was at one extreme of the thermometer or the other. It seems unlikely anyone will ever make a truly representative set of such a motley outfit, but the figures here are at least much closer to the reality than anything that has gone before. All wear slouch hats, which were very popular, and all are lucky enough to have good boots. They wear a mixture of the short shell jacket and the hip-length sack coat, both of which were normal wear. As we have said all carry their sabre, which was unusual, but some knife-work will soon remove those if required. The carbine belt and waist-belt supporting the pouches complete a very reasonable ensemble that might not have been typical but at least is authentic and reasonable.
The carbines and revolvers all look fine, but the sabres are not well shaped, tending to bend sharply towards the point rather than gradually curving along their entire length. The sabre of the last man in row 2 is a separate piece, but this fits the hand well enough.
The horse poses are the usual Strelets offerings and include animals in various stages from standing to galloping, which allows more flexibility and is very nice to see. The saddlery is also properly done, and the men fit the horses well enough, although some experimentation is required to deduce which figure matches which animal best.
The sculpting is about normal for this manufacturer, as is the almost non-existent amounts of flash, although as always it is no small task to remove the men from the sprue that joins them at the crotch. If you wish the men to keep their scabbards then you find that these vary considerably in length, some being much too short.
One of the highlights of this set is the native scout, dressed in a typical mix of clothing items and not apparently involved in any fighting. On the down side most or all of the men should have a knife whereas none have this essential item, but this set, while far from perfect, is nonetheless easily the best so far produced on this subject, and if our hopes were not fully satisfied then they were certainly not too disappointed either.