Dragoons were a form of soldier that really came into their own during the Thirty Years War. Their origins were well before this conflict, but as cavalry evolved the arquebusier largely disappeared as the cheaper and more adaptable dragoon took their place. When Sweden entered the Thirty Years War they already had some dragoons, but much the larger part of the army of Gustavus Adolphus was made up of foreigners, principally Germans, some of which were dragoons.
The nationality of a dragoon, and indeed the army in which he fought, made little difference to his appearance or function. As essentially mounted infantry, dragoons wore more or less infantry costume, and were armed in the same way. Since infantry was divided into musketeers and pikemen this implies a similar divide for dragoons, and this was so. However sources disagree on whether dragoon pikemen, or something like them, were to be found in the 'Swedish' army during their involvement in the Thirty Years War. This matters because one of the poses in this set is just that, a mounted man with a pike or lance, who has been given prominence on the box artwork. On balance our guess is such men did not exist in western armies by the time of the Swedish phase of the war, but may well have done earlier in the conflict, so the middle pose in the second row, who is shown here without his separate and semi-levelled 'lance', is not appropriate for the title of this set, but is better suited for the years before the Swedes were involved. Alternatively, this could be a light lancer such as was to be found in Scotland, in which case it digresses from the set title but is more plausible as part of some Swedish army.
A dragoon’s primary function at this time was to move to where he was needed, then dismount to fight as ordinary infantry: basically a mounted musketeer. However on a few occasions dragoons were called upon to fire while mounted, and even to conduct charges. Dragoons were seen as mounted infantry, and therefore had much less status than normal cavalry, so they were keen to improve their position by acting as regular cavalry whenever possible. Two of the poses here have drawn swords and are clearly acting like any cavalry might, while another man has drawn his pistol. A fourth seems to be handling his musket while still mounted, so presumably may be firing from the saddle. In short all these men are acting like cavalry, which would have pleased them but was not the norm at this time. Nevertheless such actions did occur, so these figures are of value.
Of the poses themselves, the two swordsmen are quite good and so is the man with the musket. The man using his pistol is twisted in the saddle (which is fine) but has his left elbow stuck out strangely, and we could not work out what the sculptor was trying to achieve here. The man with the 'lance' is holding it in rather an awkward way although apart from the shape of his right arm the pose itself is reasonable. The box implies he holds it like a lance, but the figure does not quite match the image. The final man, the cornet with the guidon, seems to hold it behind his shoulder, which would be rather uncomfortable but not impossible if he was travelling at speed, which most of these horses are doing.
On the subject of horses, those in this set are the same as those to be found in the set of Imperial Heavy Cavalry, which should immediately start alarms ringing as dragoon horses were usually very poor animals compared to those of the cuirassiers. To be fair, in this scale the differences of stature etc. are hard to spot, but our reservations about the creatures in that set apply equally here. Some of the poses are very unnatural, and the first-pictured horse has unnaturally long legs and generally very poor proportions. While there may have been the odd exception, in general dragoons did not have pistols apart from the officers, so the brace to be found on almost every saddle here is wrong. The saddle and general kit looks reasonable, as far as it can be made out.
The men all wear ordinary costume of the time, with the cornet having a nice sash across his chest, as might be expected. The real surprise here is everyone is wearing a helmet, and several clearly have a cuirass front and back. The typical dragoon wore no armour, although helmets were sometimes to be found, so that at least is not incorrect. Body armour tended to go with the role of a pikeman, and as we have already said such men had probably disappeared by this stage in the war. In any case the clearest cuirass is on one of the swordsmen. There is evidence of dragoons in armour around this sort of period, but it seems very much to have been an exception and to have been short lived. Without proscribed rules on a 'uniform', it is impossible to say such dragoons never looked like this, but we feel confident in saying the helmets here make these untypical, and the body armour makes them, at best, extremely exceptional.
Moving on from debates over accuracy, the sculpting of these figures is pretty poor. The clarity of detail varies, but there is something quite messy and at times crude about these figures. The sculptor has given most of these men absurdly long scabbards (about 17mm or 1.2 metres), which far exceed the length of the swords where drawn. There is a good deal of flash (which however varies wildly between identical sprues) and there is some evidence of misaligned moulds. Hands in particular often melt away into nothing, and on some sprues the plastic does not reach the extremities - in particular the guidon is only part-formed. Quite how most of the figures are supposed to sit on the horses beats us because there is simply little match between the shape of legs and saddles, so this is a very poor effort by today’s standards. The separate 'lance' (see sprue image) needs to be coaxed out from a solid lump of plastic, and sits awkwardly in the cupped hand of the figure. Gluing is essential, and because the lance is delivered in this way the shaft is basically square and will need a lot of work to create something realistic and appealing. Each lance is about 60mm in length, which, as the box indicates, can be cut down as required.
A few final comments, and sorry, but again they are not encouraging. All the men are wearing boots rather than shoes, which again suggests a later stage in the evolution of the dragoon, beyond the purely 'mounted infantry' role, and well beyond the carrying of pikes or lances. Also, if only officers carried pistols then there is nothing about that figure to suggest an officer. In fact he has a cross belt over his left shoulder that seems to do nothing at all. Dragoons did not carry cavalry guidons; instead they had a smaller version of the infantry flag, with swallow-tailed or rounded corners, whereas the guidon here is basically square and only appropriate for heavy cavalry. In short then there is much to worry the pedant concerned with historical accuracy, and it is certainly fair to say these dragoons are anything but typical of the breed (after all, only one pose is even carrying a musket, while is a surprise for what are basically musketeers!). A less than impressive selection of poses (particularly the horses) and a standard of sculpting which is mostly at the bottom of the quality range being produced these days, leaves us with little that can be said in favour of using this interesting but unsatisfying set.