At the start of the 1960s all things cowboys and Indians were still very popular, and Hollywood produced huge numbers of westerns for the cinema screen, feeding an interest in the American West in small boys far from the continent themselves. With a vast array of associated toys it is no surprise then that Airfix should choose to depict cowboys and Indians at this relatively early stage in their figure range. These first few sets were of fairly poor quality by today's standards, and many were subsequently redesigned and retooled as a result. However, this set of Indians was not one of them, perhaps because later on the interest in the American West had dwindled, particularly outside America. Nevertheless there were a fair number of similar sets from such early manufacturers as Giant and Lone Star, so these Airfix warriors had plenty of company, but how does this set, well over half a century old, measure up to today's very different standards?
As you might expect, the quality of the sculpting is not good. The detail is actually quite nice and clear, but it is lacking in a number of places, so for example faces are basic and without expression, while hands are just blobs with no attempt to sculpt fingers. Clothing is not too bad, though again more would be expected today, and at least the weapons are nice and slim. However again the rifle and club have virtually no detail at all - simply implying their function by their basic outline. Such an old set must have been through many batches of production, and the level of flash doubtless varies between them, but on our relatively recent example there was very little flash, though there are a few circular mould marks sadly.
You don't really get a lot of poses, given the scope of the set. The foot warriors occupy our top row, beginning with what looks like a chief in full regalia and holding a pipe. As a pose it is quite nice - perhaps our favourite here - but it is hardly an animated pose, and in a set with relatively few poses many a small boy must have been a bit disappointed at the lack of action on this figure. Next is an archer - again very static but at least contributing something to the battle - followed by someone advancing (or is that dancing?) with an axe in hand. The most animated figure is the man with the spear, though the pose is not the most lifelike ever created, and then we have a warrior crawling along the ground and presumably creeping up on some unsuspecting foe. This is an interesting an unusual pose, but another one that makes no sense in a pitched battle with cowboys or US cavalry, so in these five poses there is little that actually makes for a decent battle scene, which is what most would be wanting from this set.
The second row begins with a woman, complete with baby in cradleboard on her back. Kudos to Airfix for depicting more than just fighting men, but many a small boy would have much preferred a blood-thirsty warrior, and even today a passive female is a luxury when there are only nine poses. After the woman we have the three mounted poses. The first two are basically exactly the same sculpt, but with different weapons and a shield attached to one, which at least made them cheaper. However you don't exactly get a feel of the energy and excitement of mounted warriors going into battle, even though they are raising their weapons, and that applies equally to the last pose, who shows no sign of being close to, or even approaching, an enemy.
The two horses in the set were the standard forms found more or less the same in several Airfix sets. One is basically standing still and one is at full speed, so they don't work together at all. Combined with the sedentary riders, the first horse gives no impression of battle, though the second is the most racy element of the whole set. The proportions of the horses are very strange, with small heads and rather fat bodies. Another classic Airfix trait is that the horses attach to separate bases that are thin and have tiny holes for tiny pegs, so basically it is a struggle to get horse to stay upright, and in the 1960s there was no glue that would adequately keep such pieces together, much to the general frustration of customers.
It would be fair to say that the clothing is 'Indianish' rather than specific to any particular tribe or region. This at least was probably perfectly acceptable to users at the time, but modern tastes tend to be more sophisticated. Some of the warriors wear little but a breechclout, which is fine, while others have more complete suits. Nothing here is particularly wrong, and even the saddles on the horses cannot be ruled out, but 'generic' sums up the costume design here. The weapons, though virtually without detail, and not wrong either. Naturally Indians tended to use firearms rather than bows and spears, and as the 19th century wore on such bronze-age weapons largely disappeared from the battlefield, so the weapons here are at best better suited to the early years of conflict on the Plains, and by the years following the Civil War we would have expected to see far more rifles.
While these were better done than some available around the same time, the most disappointing thing about this set both at the time and today is the lack of much action. Put together in the battle scenes created for the Airfix catalogues, for example, and the number of standing still or crawling poses make the whole thing look bizarre, and anything but frenetic. Time will never make that any better, and neither will it improve the fairly basic quality of the sculpting already described. In short, although it may have been fairly disappointing even when new, it now suffers very badly from its age. Basically there are much better sets out there, and since this one offers nothing particularly unique it is worth avoiding.