In many ways dragoons were the backbone of cavalry in the early 19th century. They did not have the glamour of the cuirassiers or hussars, and therefore they were much cheaper, which may have helped their proliferation. In the Russian army the number of dragoon regiments rose during the Napoleonic Wars until it reached 36 when, in 1812, fully half of these regiments were converted into other forms of cavalry. This set is dated 1812-15, a period which saw the slow destruction of Napoleon's empire, due in considerable measure to the Russian army and men such as these.
By 1812 the uniform of the Tsar’s dragoons was a relatively simple double-breasted tunic with short tails and a cuirassier-style leather helmet with an upright horsehair crest. Over the left shoulder was a crossbelt supporting a cartridge pouch. Officers had rather more fancy epaulettes and a sash around the waist. All the figures here are correctly uniformed, including the officer, who is the last figure in the second row. Equally correct is the horse furniture, including the shabraque with rounded corners.
When considering the poses the first thing to say is all these men are very flat. All the arms are on the same plane as the body trunk, and even those whose arms cross over the body have them pressed far closer to the chest than a human shoulder will actually permit. The next point to make is all the men are looking either to left or right. This is presumably because otherwise detail on the helmet would be inaccessible to the mould, which is understandable, but having a complete set of cavalry with no one looking forward is not impressive. Having said all that none of the poses are actually wrong, although many are far from natural in appearance. We actually rather liked the man with the pistol, but the rest are very stiff and some are quite clumsy. We were also far from keen on the horse poses, which again do not have a natural feel to them.
Dragoons were armed with sabre and pistol, and at the start of 1812 they also had a musket and bayonet, although these last two were taken from them towards the end of that year. Perhaps it is this fact that decided the designer to make almost all the weapons optional. One or two of the right hands are cupped - at least after a fashion - but none have the traditional ring hole to take any of the separate weapons, so either you must drill your own hole or cut the weapon and glue, which would not be a particularly strong bond. The supplied weapons are very strange because there are so few swords, despite the Russian cavalry's famous emphasis on cold steel as against firearms. Certainly the officer figures would carry a sword, which leaves just two more for all the rest of the men, leaving most waving carbines about in a bizarre fashion. This makes the poor poses into something very silly, and we cannot understand why so few swords were provided. The separate standard would fit the second figure in row two well enough, but none of the figures make any sense if holding the supplied tiny 'trumpet' (more like a bugle).
The sculpting is nothing to get excited about either, with adequate but not always particularly clear detail and a lot a vague areas where parts of the body seem to merge. This quite rough quality is made worse by the fair amount of flash to be found here, both on the men and the horses. Some of the men fit their horses better than others, but the horses have quite a narrow base which makes them easy to topple accidentally. The separate items are firmly held to the sprue (see our sprue picture) and take some effort to release. They too are quite poor sculpts with very little discernible detail on anything. The standard has a simple but authentic design engraved on it, although it is a little larger than it should be, even with the fringe. In essence then these are not attractive figures to look at or put together.
The flatness of these figures, the fairly basic sculpting and the lack of swords in favour of carbines (of which only 16 flankers per squadron were supposed to possess) are the most disappointing features of a set that really does not have a great deal going for it.