Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reinforcements for the Grand Army of Molatero

To help me jump start my re-introduction to the world of Funny Little Wars I decided - as it was pay day - to treat myself to something a little unusual. I reacquainted myself with some of the rough notes I made outlining how I would like a Molaterian army to develop and picked out a little stand alone project that would give me something modest - but useful - to work on first.

Bearing in mind my target era - roughly 1880 to 1905 - for the development of my army I went looking for something of that period that would be a fun, and what could possibly be more fun than a Gatling Gun?

Armies in Plastic do a very nice box set which includes a British Army pattern Gatling Gun on a field carriage mount and five associated crew members. It's an interesting set as it includes several gun options so that you can vary the appropriateness of the piece depending on which period and campaign interests you. For example, it includes a pretty spectacular looking Chinese bronze 'Dragon' cannon barrel should you wish to model a 'Boxer Rebellion' gun team.

The AiP 'Gatling set' gun in it's many guises. You receive four different barrels and two different
types of carriage furniture to make up various types of field gun for different periods. 
These variations were unexpected but it now seems a shame to waste the additional options (I suppose I could always scratch build additional gun carriages), but I wonder why these extras were not mentioned in the set description or even on the item page on the AiP web site?

Anyway, the Gatling box set includes - aside from the gun options - five crew in British Army 'Shirt Sleeve' order intended to represent a gun section from the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Three of the figures are the actual gun servants and two are supporting riflemen armed with Martini-Henry rifles...

From the point of view of my Molatarian army the shirt sleeve order is perfectly fine (I have already  produced a heavy artillery section in this style of outfit) but the tropical pith helmet and Henry-Martini rifles are less appropriate. So I will have to do some head changes and maybe ditch the riflemen.

Quality of the Armies in Plastic Gatling set
Well, I am pleased with the subject of the set and the crew figures are of a good quality but the gun itself is perhaps a little less satisfactory. The problem arises when you assemble the gun - in whichever option you prefer - as you will find that the barrel suffers from a rather unfortunate droop...

Annoyingly, because of the way the barrels fit onto the carriage, they all display
a very obvious downwards slant and you cannot adjust this without modifying
the carriage furniture.
The problem is the gun carriage's elevation wheel - the screw that raises and lowers the vertical aspect of the barrel for aiming. This sits just under the rear of the barrel and in the AiP model it is a fixed moulded feature which is essentially 'too tall' and so the barrel is forced to point slightly downwards on it's axis. You can see the problem in this photo of the breech loading barrel configuration, the breech block rests on the elevation wheel and so the barrel points down...

Now, because the AiP models are moulded in fairly soft plastic there is an obvious and quick remedy for this. The elevation wheel consists of what looks like three circles of plastic - one on-top of the other - with the topmost having the moulded detail, so you could just carefully cut off the top wheel, trim off the 'wheel' underneath it and then glue the top wheel back on. This should be sufficient to raise the gun elevation.

Aside from this the gun detail is perfectly adequate, the barrels are nice and straight (thankfully) and the carriage and wheels enough detail to look the part. I can't speak of the authenticity of the design of the carriage and it's associated furniture options as I'm still research exactly what they are. The fact that AiP didn't include even the most cursory instruction sheet in the box or some information about the assembly options on their web site is a little frustrating.

Along with the Gatling barrel, carriage and magazine you get the above extras.
The extras you receive - aside from the barrels I have mentioned - are a set of two boxes or chests and a set of two crew seats, both of which fit snugly onto the carriage left and right of the barrel on the axel spar. As I have not - as yet - been able to exactly identify the actual gun barrels I cannot be sure of what set of extras go with what barrel configuration.

I *believe* the boxes are supposed to accompany the Gatling Gun and the carriage seats are supposed to go with the muzzle loader or the breech loader - but you do have the option to leave these accessories off all together for a less cluttered carriage, as I have done with this Gatling set up...

The Gatling Gun, without any carriage furniture. By Googling the history of the
gun I think I am satisfied that the 'box' accessories are meant to accompany this
gun, though I haven't discovered what the boxes are yet (ammo boxes perhaps).

The artillery pieces may - or may not - be some sort of British '12 Pounder' guns and I have seen some pictures which show these guns with the crew seats attached - the seats are designed to point backwards, by which I mean that when seated the crewmen are say facing the down the barrel and 'backwards' as they are being towed (if that makes sense). Oh, like this...

A British 12 Pounder? This maybe a muzzle loader or maybe an early
breech loading design, though there is an absence or breach detail.
Naturally you can do what you want with the Chinese gun - I can't find any matching historical reference for this though I imagine it is some sort of Chinese barrel fixed onto a European gun carriage. I seem to remember that during the siege of Peking the defenders cobbled together some sort of 'Frankenstein's artillery piece' made up of pieces of different guns, this Chinese gun may - or may not - be something like this.

I apologise that my knowledge of British field guns of this period is so shockingly vague. I will be sure to do some proper research before I put the model properly together.

Conclusion - What do I think of the AiP Gatling Set?
I'm happy. At £8.50 I guess you could say the value maybe up for debate - the model is plastic after all - but when you look into the available market options (which are mostly white metal) then the AiP Gatling Gun does look a little more reasonable in it's price mark.

I'm still disappointed that AiP didn't deem it suitable to include - at the very least - a small sheet of assemble instructions given the options available in the set. I mean, just how much would a hand drawn set of photocopied instructions set them back? But if you are buying such a niche product I guess they feel you are either the sort who relished the extra historical research or is someone who knows his onions in the first place!

There is some niggling moulding damage, particularly on the figures, which will have to be cleaned up but overall there isn't a whole lot of flash and things like barrels are not bent (which is the bain of soft plastic soldiers). All in all I am pleased to have all the various options and this in itself was such an unexpected bonus that it has made the AiP set a very satisfactory purchase.

(And the Chinese gun is simply delightful!)

Next: Modifying the crew for Molaterian service.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent project and I look forward to seeing the conversions that go with the splendid gun.