At the start of the period covered by this set, the early 16th century, the war galley was the dominant vessel in the Mediterranean. With its long, low hull and shallow draught it was fast and manoeuvrable, and great for reaching coasts deeper vessels could not approach. The tactic was to catch and ram your opponent before boarding and capturing them, and in the medieval period that might be preceded by showers of arrows to help clear the decks. With the arrival of gunpowder in Europe, galleys were by 1500 commonly fitted with a large centre-line gun positioned to fire straight ahead over the bow. Since this was very difficult to reload, it was often fired just before ramming the enemy vessel to increase casualties and confusion, but not then used again. Since the sides were filled with the oars, there was no room for broadside guns, though smaller flanker guns, generally two or four, were often positioned each side of the main gun to improve firepower. So it is evident that at the start of the period artillery played a minor role in sea battles in the Mediterranean, and this is especially true of the Ottomans, who were slow to adopt even the single large guns on their galleys. However they did make good use of small swivel-guns, which were basically anti-personnel weapons mounted on deck, and several of these might be installed on a ship. The development of the huge galleass by the Venetians brought more firepower to war vessels, and their worth was amply proved at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, after which the Ottomans built them too. However the age of the galley was fast receding as the sailing ship, with its many big guns and potential for devastating broadsides, came to dominate sea warfare by the 17th century.
Although many artillery sets offer just four crewmen per gun, this one does better with five. The poses are pretty standard for figures made with a single steel mould, but there is not much wrong with that. One man watches while holding the ramrod, the next has raised his hand as if in charge or indicating readiness, the third is perhaps pushing the gun or aiming it (or even covering the touch-hole), the fourth carries a projectile and the last is applying the match. Nothing wrong with any of these, and they are not particularly flat either, so all good on that front.
The gunners dressed much like the rest of the sailors, as are these men. The man with raised hand is more formally dressed, with a waistcoat, larger turban and shoes, so is presumably some sort of master-gunner or officer, but the rest are in working clothes of breeches or trousers and a shirt. A variety of caps complete the garb, all of which looks good here, and happily most seem to be barefoot too.
We now come to the guns, of which there are two types in this set. The first is a swivel gun, as used by all navies of the day, which was a weapon for killing people rather than damaging vessels, and often breech-loading. This one has a barrel of 12 mm (865 mm) in length and is mounted on its separate stand which is about the height of a man. The design is standard and looks pretty good, so this is a useful model of a widely-used weapon of naval warfare. The larger gun has a barrel of 20 mm (1.44 metres) in length and sits on a remarkably solid carriage of slightly longer length with just two wheels at the front. This then is a fairly small piece compared to many that were carried, but over the course of these two centuries guns of all sizes were deployed so that is no problem. The solid carriage is fairly crude and so not attractive, although the wheel arrangement is correct; four-wheeled carriages became more common later in the period. The solid carriage also means there is no room for the gun barrel to be elevated, however, though if firing at close range that would not be an issue.
What you will immediately notice on the two guns and on all the figures is a lot of flash. Most evident on the larger gun and the man carrying the ball, it needs cleaning from many areas and really scars the pieces. Sculpting generally is pretty good, though both the gun carriage and the swivel-gun mount are quite crude. What you can’t see above is that the moulds are misaligned for the man with the ramrod, whose face has a severe 'step' right through the middle. Quality of mould has long been a problem for RedBox, and this set shows they still have a long way to go, which wastes the decent sculpting.
The figures are well sculpted but the guns are quite rough, and all suffer from a lot of flash and poor mould quality. The poses are all fair, but of course all of them are serving the cannon, with none that could in any way be described as manning the swivel gun. Including that gun was a great idea, but would it not have made sense to have just a couple of men attending to it (as well as our five gunners of course)? We would have thought so, but you will need to look elsewhere for such men. We are conscious that if the swivel gun had not been included we would not have moaned like this, so perhaps we should see it as a bonus, even unmanned, but it is the production quality that detracts from what is otherwise an accurate and certainly important set for the history of Ottoman military power when the Empire was at its height.