The forces of Austria-Hungary did not employ heavy infantry weapons when the Great War broke out, but quickly began developing them, particularly after encountering such weapons in the hands of their Russian adversaries. Over the first two years of the war several models of infantry guns and mortars were introduced, and various examples captured on the battlefield were also taken into service by their new masters. As with all the other combatants, heavy infantry weapons were to play a big part in the fighting, so a set such as this dedicated to these is surely welcome.
This set consists of three types of heavy weapon, shown on the last of our scans, plus the crews to use them. The first weapon is the 8mm Schwarzlose M07/12, the standard issue machine gun for Austrian forces throughout the war. The gun is quite light on detail (much simpler than the illustration on the back of the box), although the basic shape is correct. It comes in two parts, but the resulting model is noticeably pointing skyward, which is hardly useful, and so has not been well designed or engineered.
The next weapon is described as a 37mm trench gun, and is the M15 or M16 'infantry gun' introduced from 1916. Again a two-part kit, we found this one determinedly pointing down, although part of the problem is the peg on the barrel is a loose fit in the tripod, so again some unimpressive engineering. However the flattened tripod and barrel shape are largely correct if a little simplified.
The final weapon will be unfamiliar to many. It is a M16 Luftminenwerfer, a mortar that used compressed air to propel the bombs, so it is referred to in this set as a pneumatic mortar. This weapon had many good characteristics, and many were made and used, but it could only achieve a rate of fire of approximately 10 bombs per hour and required a crew of five, so it also had major drawbacks. Of the three, this is the most accurate model in the set, although it is also the simplest. It is designed to be glued together and therefore has no pegs or other means of fixing. This leaves no other option but gluing, and we found glue did not work well on this soft plastic. HaT have sacrificed ease of use for accuracy, and we can see much merit in that decision, but some may find this feature annoying.
Another interesting feature of this set is the dog cart. Many nations used such vehicles during World War I, so it is appropriate to see it here. However once again a good idea is nullified by bad execution. The cart attaches to the two dogs via pegs in their collars, much like many artillery limbers do in this scale, but the holes in the dogs are considerably higher than the axle of the cart, causing a significant slope to the whole thing as can be seen. Bending the cart could solve this, but the soft plastic used for this set always returns to its original straight position. This could be overcome with hot water or similar methods, but this really should not be necessary - it only required that the cart be shaped to accommodate the dogs correctly. And since we are discussing the cart, the wheels are a very loose fit on the pegs on the axle, so all round a sloppy effort.
As for the men, they are a fair bunch. They wear standard Austrian uniform, although most have absolutely no equipment or straps. This even includes a belt, but we could find no pictures of troops in the front line so casually dressed. Machine gun crews were normally armed with pistols, but obviously no one here is armed with anything. Even those few with belts have them slung around their hips - not at all convincing. The sculptor has been inclined to place the breast pockets of the jackets too close together, and the one man who has some kit has been given an entrenching spade with half the handle missing. The poses themselves are OK except for the kneeling figure raising his hand - a reasonable position but he wouldn't have his arm around his head like that!
As we have said, the set is done in a fairly soft plastic. The sculpting is not great, with flat areas particularly apparent on the men's backs. Flash is confined to a small number of little tabs, which is fine, but we found some of the folds in the clothing less than realistic. This could have been a great set, and even as it stands it adds to the existing HaT Austrian infantry set with useful figures like the officers, ammo carrier and field telephone operator. However unimpressive engineering and an indifferent level of detail make this far from the best to appear from this prolific company.