The Russian version of the Maxim gun, the PM1910, saw widespread service in vast numbers during and after the Great War. In 1931 it was used in the role of air defence, with four being mounted side by side on a high, heavy tripod called the Tokarev mounting. This new weapon, the 4M, gained a fearsome reputation amongst low-flying German aircraft and was widely used. Now Orion have modelled it, one of the first dedicated anti-aircraft weapons in our hobby.
To begin with we will consider the gun itself. While the principle behind it was simple enough the resulting weapon was quite complex in shape, with each gun having its own ammunition feed plus a cooling system for all the barrels. The weapon in this set is made up of six pieces, and actually does a very good job of reproducing the original. The parts fit together quite well, although the single exploded view on the back of the box is very hard to understand, so putting it together will be quite a challenge. We had to track down photos of the original to fully understand where everything was supposed to go. Also the plastic used is fairly standard for figures but rather too soft for such intricate models as this, so keeping everything square and fitted properly is tricky. In addition, later examples of this set seem to have problems with holes not fully bored, making this flimsy model even harder to put together. As always, a hard plastic is best for such models, but given that limitation this is about as accurate a model as could be expected.
Clearly it is the last two pictured poses that are the crew of the title. The first man is firing the weapon and the second is presumably helping to move it (?). Both are fine as they are, but we would have liked to have seen some figures rushing about with ammunition, as the quad Maxim used prodigious amount of that. Instead what we get is an officer or NCO apparently directing the fire while looking through binoculars, plus a couple of riflemen. The officer is fine and very suitable for the set, but the riflemen could have been sacrificed for more crew in our view. Having said that both of them are perfectly good poses, and both are clearly contributing in some small way to the anti-aircraft fire. The middle figure is particularly interesting as he is lying on his back, firing up at the aircraft. This seems to have been taught at some points, and even post war, so while it might not have accounted for many aircraft it is a legitimate pose.
Although the parts of the gun suffer from the relatively soft plastic they are pretty well made and clear. The figures too are nicely done, with good detail and natural-looking folds in the clothing. All wear the same uniform, which is the classic gymnastiorka and the breeches-like trousers with long boots. On the head there is the pilotka side cap, which is not wrong, although we would have preferred the steel helmet. The two men operating the gun have only a bag and a canteen, as does the man standing firing, although he also has ammunition pouches on his belt. The officer has a pistol and what looks like a map case, and the prone man the canteen and ammo pouches plus the common draw-string veshchevoi meshok bag. All of this is fine, so the set as a whole has no accuracy problems at all. There is some flash however, although this is infrequent and so not too much of a nuisance.
Because it is so soft the gun is tricky to put together and fairly unsatisfying once it is done. This is a pity because its design is very good, and within the limitations imposed by the scale it is accurate too. The figures too are very good, so our only real gripe is that there is not another figure concerned directly with the gun and its ammunition. However as a set this is a pretty good little anti-aircraft group which we mostly liked very much.