Russia had long prized its artillery and that importance remained under the Bolsheviks, with Stalin famously remarking that artillery was the 'god of war'. As with so much else about the Red Army, the numbers were impressive, for they could field around 65,000 pieces of all types in 1940, and many more by 1945. Numbers were not everything of course, but as the Great Patriotic War progressed Soviet artillery was better used and ever more effective. While claims that it was responsible for 80% of the enemy’s casualties might be hard to verify, its importance in the struggle has never been doubted.
As should be obvious from our images, this set is made up of three sprues, each of which essentially contains three gun crews in much the same poses but in different styles of dress. The top line shows men in the gymnastiorka shirt and pilotka side cap, while the second row has figures in the telogreika quilted jacket and the ushanka cap - one also has the less common quilted trousers. Finally the third row holds the figures wearing the greatcoat and steel helmet. All but one wear the usual breeches and all have long boots, while the officers all have the Sam Browne belt. All these styles of dress are authentic, and while mixing these figures would not be wrong you would generally expect all of a crew to wear much the same. There are plenty of photographs to show crews in action wearing just side caps, so historically there is nothing wrong with any of the clothing here. Equally the various items of equipment that these men wear, which if anything is quite generous for men serving guns, is all accurate and appropriate.
The four poses are fairly classic ones for artillery, and are quite generic, which helps to make these suitable for as wide a range of guns as possible. No one is holding or carrying anything, so the customer will have to place in the hands whatever ammunition or other items are desired. The poses are nothing to get excited about, but they do the job. Of course covering several different styles of dress means there are essentially only four poses per gun, which is the inevitable compromise.
Some recent Orion figures have been really nicely sculpted, but these are not so good, either through poor sculpting or poor production. Detail is generally good but there is a rough feel to these figures that may well be due to poor production. Very many of the hands have little or no sign of fingers (which may be simply that the plastic did not reach the hands properly), but where the faces do not face the mould they too are really poor or part-missing, and you cannot blame that on the flow of the plastic. There is some flash - not a lot - and some of the human anatomy is a bit stiff and unconvincing. These figures are certainly usable and reasonable, but you would struggle to consider them attractive.
Some copies of this set also include a 'bonus' figure of a woman in standard Red Army uniform, including a skirt and beret. Since she is holding two flags her role would clearly seem to be one of traffic control. This is a lovely figure - easily better than any of the artillery men on offer. Although at 25mm in height she is quite tall for her time and sex, she is wonderfully realised and very natural in her pose. She has no flash but annoyingly also no base, but she is worth using anyway. The box states she is made of resin, but to us she seemed to be in a fairly hard plastic material, so the resin is clearly not the fragile material some figures are made in. Despite there only being one of this figure, it is unquestionably the highlight of the set, and if Orion are to include more bonus figures of this quality in future production then we will be the first to raise a cheer. Sadly it seems not all sets have this bonus figure. Some may have a single extra copy of one of the other figures, so be warned the bonus is variable and apparently random!
If you are facing batteries of Soviet guns with no crews then this set is clearly the answer to your dreams. Unfortunately it is adequate without being anything special, but at least there are no accuracy issues and all the figures are usable. The range of uniforms is a nice idea, so they cover both warm and cold weather situations. The bonus figure, if you are lucky enough to get one, is a delightful surprise and we would like to see more from the same stable, even if it does overshadow the rest of the figures.