Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Orion 1:72 WW2 Soviet Tank crew set (Summer dress)

Having made a couple of tank kits now the next step is to start adding some crew figures to my models. There are plenty out there but most are either resin or white metal and are quite expensive. As a beginner I don't want to learn figure painting on a higly expensive set of beautifully crafted display quality creations - I want to muck about with something a bit cheaper!

Well, while surfing UK model supplier sites I came across a set by [b]Orion[/b] (a Ukranian company I believe). For £5.50 from eBay I got 39 figures on three sprues, each sprue identical so you get 13 different poses...

The figures are nicely moulded in a plastic which is harder than the normal vinyl figures that you would get from the likes of Airfix. This is ideal because finer detailed things like guns don't bend! The poses are quite interesting and can be divided into three types; poses for crew inside tanks, poses for crew bailing out of tanks and crew undertaking maintenance. All very useful and great for dioramas...

I particularly like the 'bailing out' crew - these figures are armed and are posed as if defending themselves with Ppsh SMGs and Tolkarev pistols. Immediately you can imagine a diorama where the crew is fleeing a disabled tank. They are wonderfully dynamic and some are molded without the normal figure base so you can affix them to your tank model...

The maintenance crew are also very handy for diorama purposes, although I found the couple of running poses included a little less realistic. But the third type - in-vehicle poses - includes one of my favourites of all the figures, [i]a victorious tank commander with a bunch of flowers[/i]...

I *think* this is taken from an actual photo - at least I seem to remember seeing this - I think it was a photo of Soviet tanks liberating a city and the crews were being given flowers by the civilians.

As I said, the most satisfying thing is that - for the price - these are not the 'soft plastic' that I remember 1:72 Airfix figures being made out of. Although I was a bit miffed that they were cast in a silver plastic as the reviews I had seen of this set all show them having been made in a tan plastic. Still, these should take paint well and there are no bendy gun barrels to have to straighten out!

The carving and poses are also quite good. I have been looking at several resin figure sets and this Orion set is at least as good in poses, but perhaps not as good in detail and realism. But there again you get a lot more for your money with this set. Like I mentioned, there are a couple of particularly good figures included in some poses I haven't seen anywhere else. There is a little flash arond some of the more intricate elements in the figures but nothing a few moments with a scalpel won't cure.

The last thing to mention is that this crew is in summer dress - which is basic black (or dark blue) Soviet tanker's boiler suit and black tank helmet. This will restrict you a little in your dioramas and it's a pity they don't do a similar set in winter uniform. But that's about the only critism as really this cheap set offers great value for money with some unique and well thought out poses.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Four T-34 'quick build' models compared - Part 4


I didn’t know that much about the ’76 (m43) version of the T-34 before getting back into modeling. Like most I was more familiar with the original T-34/76 (model 1940) and the later large turreted ’85 variant. So this is all new to me and for base line for accuracy I will have to rely on the Zvezda turret because I have read several reviews that have complimented it on it’s dimensional and detail accuracy.

Number of parts: 11

Obviously simplified but still contains a rather surprising amount of components for an Armourfast. This model is advertised as being 're-tooled' and a major improvement over the original HaT model on which it was based. This model seems to be based on the Autumn 1943 'Laminate' turret version.

- Unlike the Armourfast '85 turret this one isn't oversized
- Generally favorable rendition of all the major components
- Hatches can be modelled open or closed
- Mantlet is accurately off-set
- Sharply moulded, ideal for 'accurizing'
- Has correct 'stepped' bottom for 'Laminate' version

- Lacking in most of the fine detail, including weld/cast marks
- Major rivets are excluded, particularly on the gun mantlet
- No side view port
- Gun mantlet is not exactly the right shape and is symetric
- Main periscope & vent are not exactly right

Number of parts: 6

Once again the Plastic Soldier turret is the model simplified example among these M43s. However, on the plus side it is far better than their attempt at the '85 turret! It is a 'generic' M40 turret, but I would guess it is *based* on the ChTZ 1942 production model.

- Cleanly moulded and what detail there is is crisp
- At least you can tell it is a M43 turret!
- They got the gun a feasible size this time!

- Slightly over-sized
- 'Stepped' element of laminate turret missing
- Periscope, rails and side port are feeble
- Top mantlet cover is all wrong


Number of parts: 7

Most impressive snap together design - you really don't need glue (unlike the other 'quick builds'). This feature does explain why it actually has less components than the Armourfast turret! Like the Armourfast this appears to be based on the Autumn 1943 'Laminate' model.

- Nicely crisp moulding
- As far as I can determine it's of good scale
- Does include some amount of weld marks and rivets
- Good periscope and air vent
- Nice gun and mantlet (nicest of the group)

- Obviously still somewhat simplified
- Side rails missing and side port is poor
- 'Stepped' element of the laminate turret appears to be a little shallow.
- Again, mantlet has been made symmetrical in shape

Well, a bit of a surprise conclusion this time. I did expect the Zvezda M43 turret to be easily the best of the three I looked at, but the Armourfast actually gave it a real run for it's money. Of particular note is the fact that the Armourfast has 3 more components than Zvezda!

Another pleasant surprise was that the Plastic Soldier turret was not as dismal as their T-34/85 turret was. In fact, simplification and slight over-size aside, it is a passable stab at the M43 turret - certainly as good as I would expect from a 'war gaming quality' model.

In the end you should not be shocked that I consider the Zvezda turret the superior of the three BUT not by as much as I expected. In fact, in terms of pure value for money I would have to say that the Armourfast is the bargain of these three. It would make a good subject for a cheap accurization project.

In the end it is so close to call between the Armourfast and Zvezda turret that I will have to reserve comment on the best until I have examined the rest of the models' components in order to decide whether the Zvezda really is the King of the quick builds...

It seems that Armourfast's marketing about their re-tooling and 'improved' T-34/76 (M43) wasn't all hype!  :D

NEXT: The T-34 quick build hull comparisons

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Four T-34 'quick build' models compared - Part 3

I thought I would split the comparisons down to major components. In this part I am looking at the quick build T-34/85 turrets - next time I will look at the T-34/76 (Model 1943) versions of the turrets...

Number of parts: 6

This seems to be a simplified "Flattened Style" turret, summer 1945* production model (differing from the 1944 pattern - most noticeably -  in the design of the commanders hatch). It has the Zis-S-53 gun mantlet collar and the 'flattened' (roughly triangular) area on the sides which give it it's name. But, part of it's simplification by Armourfast sees the bulge for the electronic traverse on the left side and the slight bulge next to the commander's cupola removed and the roof periscopes are hardly there at all...

* Despite being called the '1945' model this variant first appeared in late 1944, as if things weren't confuing enough!

UPDATE NOTE: I've found some additional references that may identify this turret as being closer to the Spring 1944 'Angled-Joined' style of turret - a good article for T-34/85 turret styles can be found here: - The T-34-85 in WWII: A Closer Look

- Nicely done twin roof air vents
- Both hatches can be modelled open
- Passable mantlet and nicely moulded gun (if a little large)
- Crisp moulding

- Turret seems to be over-sized (too wide)
- 'Flattened' (triangular) facet is a little exaggerated
- Naturally - as a quick build - all rails and lifting rings and other small detail are missing
- Traverse bulge missing (this is a small square 'bump' on the left side)
- Welding (& casting) detail missing
- Gun about 2mm too long and a little thick (but not hugely so)
- Gun mantlet too wide and gun off-set too much
- Gun barrel is not drilled out

Number of parts: 5 (6 if you count alternative commander's hatch)

Again, this appears to be a 1945 pattern "Flattened" turret but unlike the Armourfast version there is some attempt to replicate the original's welding and casting marks. In particular the fluted 'fillets' are discernible near the turret collar and Pegasus have included the traverse mechanism bulge and commander's cupola bulge on the left side of the turret.

- Passable attempt at including the distinctive welding and casting marks.
- Alternative commander's hatch is included in the open position
- Periscopes (Mk. 4s) are correctly modelled
- Turret dimensions appear to be closer to scale
- Gun is correct length and thickness

- Secondary hatch is moulded shut
- Air vents are little too dome-like
- Naturally - as a quick build - all rails and lifting rings and other small detail are missing
- Gun is a little bent and badly moulded, includes noticeable seams
- Gun barrel is not drilled out

Number of parts: 5

This is the most simplified of all three quick-build T-34/85 turrets reviewed. It is harder to determine exactly which of the '85 turret variants the PSC model is supposed to be due to the extreme simplification, so it's perhaps kindest to say that the PSC '85 is 'generic'.

- Crisply moulded (what detail there is is cleanly defined)
- Like the Armourfast, PS has the shape of the air vents more accurately moulded
- Turret seems vaguely the correct dimension
- Both hatches are separate components and can be modelled in the open position
- A commander's figure is included
- Funnily enough, the PS turret is the only one to include lifting rings (albeit crude ones)

- An amazingly bad gun and mantlet - the gun is widely out of scale
- The least detail is included and what there is is highly simplified
- The fit of the top and bottom turret parts is bad and you will have do some shaving to get a good fit
- Naturally - as a quick build - all rails and most other small detail are missing
- There is no attempt whatsoever at weld or casting details
- Gun barrel is not drilled out


Both the Armourfast and Plastic Soldier turrets are made of good quailty plastic of a hard type (good to cut and file), they are clean and sharply moulded. However, they are the most simplified of the three turrets.

The Pegasus turret is made of what seems to be a cheaper and more brittle plastic, but it also includes the most surface detail and texture and has the best implementation of welding and casting marks.

The Plastic Soldier '85 turret is undoubtedly the worst of the three turrets. Aside from it's extreme simplicity and generic layout the dreadful gun and mantlet are no good to anyone - it has been noted by others that the gun itself looks like it is a 120mm gun! This discrepancy is so far out of scale that I doubt if even war gamers would find this turret satisfactory (no disrespect to war gamers intended).

Therefore, I would rank the three turrets as follows - first the Pegasus, then the Armourfast and finally the Plastic Soldier turret.

The Pegasus turret has just enough surface texture and detail to make the actual variant of turret distinguishable and you could further enhance this basic model with some easily applied improvements to make a passably accurate '85 turret. The fact that this seems to be a late war 1945 variant of the turret might be a problem for some, but it would easy enough to modify the 1945 details to retro-grade the turret to the earlier - and similar - 1944 variant (though despite being called the '1945' model turret this variant appeared in late 1944!)

Were I to attempt to 'accuarize' the Pegasus turret I would probably replace the gun with a third-party metal one. Although the Pegasus 85mm gun is the nearest to scale it's very thinness make it prone to bending. And as to the secondary hatch being moulded closed, well most people will be satisfied that you can use the optional 'open' commander's hatch.

(Special note for wargamers - my comments above are based on what I percieve to be 'best accuracy' of the turrets reviewed. For wargaming purposes alone, however, the Armourfast turret is absolutely acceptable, in fact it's lack of superflous detail is probably an advantage if you have to paint a small army of them!)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Four T-34 'quick build' models compared - Part 2

Right, components, what do you get? Well, they vary quite a lot, here's a run down...


Yep, the Armourfast philosophy is less is more!  Turret hatches can be modelled open - no figure included.

Model: T-34/85, seems to be a 1944 composite model with late 'dished' roadwheels with rubber tyers and with rounded front fenders.
Number of tanks in box: 2
Number of parts: 22 (per tank)
Instructions: Printed on back of box
Painting suggestions: None specific, limited to picture on front of box.
Decals: No
Variant options: No


Well, you get a bang for your bucks. Three tanks with the ability to build each in either of two variants! Turret hatches can be modelled open - A Commander half-figure is included on each sprue.

Model: T-34/85 (model 1944 composite) OR T-34/76 (model 1943), full 'Spider' wheels but holes not drilled through. Rounded fenders.
Number of tanks in box: 3
Number of parts: 30 (per tank)
Instructions: Printed on back of box
Painting suggestions: Basic generic painting suggestions on back of box (not unit specific)
Decals: No
Variant options: yes, two turrets and guns are included. One for the T-34/76 and one for the T-34/85.


Plenty of parts for your money. Only commanders hatch can be modelled open - no figure included.

Model: T-34/85 (model 1944 composite) with full 'Spider' road wheels with holes through. Angled fenders.
Number of tanks in box: 2
Number of parts: 39 (per tank)
Instructions: Printed on seperate sheet in box.
Painting suggestions: None specific, limited to picture on front of box.
Decals: No
Variant options: No.


Whoa! Surely the king of 'easy builds'! Plenty to get your teeth into but due to the snap-together format turret hatches are designed to be closed! No figures included.

Model: T-34/76 (model 1943) with full 'Spider' road wheels with holes through.
Number of tanks in box: 1
Number of parts: 62
Instructions: Printed on seperate sheet in box.
Painting suggestions: Printed in greyscale on back of instructions sheet (colour camo examples on side of box).
Decals: Yes, 2 options.
Variant options: No.

NEXT POST: Components in detail and review of quality.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Four T-34 'quick build' models compared - Part 1

I have built up a collection of four makes of these quick build models, all of which are variants of the Soviet T-34 tank. In this thread I want to illustrate the various qualities of these basic models so that anyone who might be interested - for whatever reason - can get an idea of exactly what they are getting. And so, without further ado let's move on to the first part of my review - the box shots...


Armourfast were my introduction to the concept of 'quick build' models. For a beginner like myself the idea of a stripped down, easy to build kit was very attractive proposition as it allowed me to practise - and make mistakes - without worrying about spoiling an expensive kit.

Armourfast have a particular philosophy about making their models, they prefer not to include a particular piece of surface detail rather than to do it badly. This is great if you fancy sprucing up their models into something a bit more accurate because you then do not have to remove the offending detail before re-applying your own improvements. These kits include the bear minimum that is needed to generally represent the subject.

Made in England, you get two models for around £7.50.


Plastic Soldier produce a range of models in 15mm, 28mm and 1:72 to compliment their tabletop war game system called 'Rapid Fire'. However, unlike Armourfast they not only provide 3 models in their box set but also include model variations - in this case the T-34/76 (Model 1943) or the T-34/85.

Plastic Soldier seems to be expanding into the 1/72 quick build arena - they now have two models of tank in this format now, the Panzer IV and this T-34 set. They are certainly the cheapest way to build an armoured formation for war gaming very fast.

Again, Plastic Soldier is an English based company (Hoorah!), and three models cost about £12.50.


I guess you could call Pegusus America's Armourfast, however they do make far more than just 1:72 wargaming models and seem to have a long track record making 'snap together' kits. They also tend to add more surface detail than either Armourfast or the Plastic Soldier Company, with some very nice touches like - in the case of the T-34/85 - the two-handed saw and tow hooks,

Based in California, you get two models for around £8.


Zvezda have not only been a prolific Russian scale model manufacturer but also has become known for their 1/100 scale vehicles which are intended for use with their tabletop wargame 'Operation Barbarossa 1941'. This 1:72 model is one of a new range of models they are marketing as 'My first model kit'. It has received a certain acclaim for it's innovative easy build construction method.

Made in Russia kit is the most expensive in the review at around £11 for just one model and should perhaps be seen as the 'missing link' between easy build models and conventional display quality kits.