When Tsar Peter the Great began building his new modern army in 1699, he opted to have nearly all his cavalry as dragoons. Grenadiers were chosen from these regiments, and these quickly became units in their own right.
As befitted their origins as mounted infantry, Dragoons and Horse Grenadiers wore much the same uniform as their infantry counterparts except for high boots. As in any army of the time, the dragoons and grenadiers are most easily distinguished by the former wearing tricorns (or the kartuz cap) and the latter the tall mitre hat, in this instance without a metal plate at the front. The uniform has been accurately modelled, except that the cartridge box should be slung from a belt over the right shoulder. All but one have theirs over the left, the same as the belt for their carbine, meaning one would interfere with the other, and also the weight would be uneven. This is one of those infuriating instances where the box artwork has got it right and the sculptor has not!
Russian dragoons relied mostly on fire power, and quite rarely came to blows with the enemy. Many of the poses here are using their swords, and indeed no-one is firing their carbine, so we were not impressed by the choice of poses. Some also seem quite awkward, like the figure (second from left on top row) holding his sword on his shoulder, or the man waving his pistol in the air. The man with his sword in his teeth must have very strong teeth, but why would he do this even if he could? Dramatic certainly, but it didn't make sense to us.
The set includes 12 horses, but 16 mounted men. This is a recognition of the fact that on occasion two men would be placed on one horse, as happened for example after Poltava. However this is likely to have only occurred on the march and not during action, so the best that can be said is it presents a choice of mounted poses.
The horses are reasonable, and certainly an improvement on the bizarre gaits of some earlier cavalry sets from this manufacturer. Some have the rear roll missing to facilitate two men sitting on them, though as we have said this would not have happened at the charge, which is what all these horses are clearly doing. Also given the nature of the actions of Russian Dragoons we would have preferred some horses trotting or standing to facilitate use of firearms, scouting etc.
A number of foot dragoons and grenadiers have also been included. Apparently this is because there are some stories of infantry grasping the spurs of cavalry and charging into battle with them. Two such figures have hands up doing this very thing, but though such stories exist from this and other conflicts, we find this romantic notion very hard to accept as the practicalities of a full laden infantryman keeping up with the charging cavalryman seem incredibly difficult.
The sculpting is OK but not great. There is a fair amount of detail, but such small things as the definition of fingers is pretty basic. There is a certain chunky quality to everything, except the bases, which are very thin and are inclined to not be flat - an annoying feature. A couple of figures have separate swords which fit into ring hands, but these fit well enough. Strelets say each man is designed to fit a particular horse, and indeed some rider and horse combinations do not work at all. This means a lot of time must be taken matching the correct pairings, which seems an unnecessary burden on the customer. An interesting set which has potential for many armies of the period, but some ill-advised poses, one consistent accuracy flaw and only just adequate execution make this much less than it could have been.