Late on in the Second World War, one of the many projects Germany was developing was an early night-vision weapon scope for the new Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. Code-named the Vampir, the Zielgerät 1229 was a large infrared spotlight above an infrared-receptive telescope, both attached to the top of the rifle, allowing the user to see targets in the dark. The device came with two batteries – one each for the light and the scope – and the whole lot weighed almost 16kg (not including the 5kg rifle itself), making it a clumsy device to carry around a battlefield. Nevertheless it did work, and small numbers were used in action on the Eastern Front from February 1945. Those men who used these device were called a ‘Nachtjäger’, ‘Night Hunter’, from which this set gets its name.
Three of the poses in this set are carrying this bulky device, namely the second, third and fourth figures in our second row. The sculpting of the whole weapon is reasonably good, and all three also have the battery packs on their backs, although the lower battery was actually housed in an old gasmask canister which is not particularly well rendered here. Nevertheless it is clear to see what these weapons are, and the poses are all very reasonable too. This is only the second time this rare device has been modelled in our hobby, and while it was never going to change the course of the war, it does provide some intriguing possibilities for wargames set on this front.
Two more figures in this set are also carrying the advanced StG 44 assault rifle. Like their three comrades above, this is fairly well realised, though such a detailed and complex weapon would be a challenge to model perfectly, and here some detail has certainly been lost. The two poses carrying this are advancing with rifle close to the chest, and running forward carrying a grenade, and again are reasonable poses. This rifle was made in very large numbers, and was commonly seen late in the war, having first been introduced into service in late 1943. A good weapon that pointed the way to future rifle development, this has been modelled several times before, but having two more poses does no harm.
That leaves us with the three remaining poses in the top row. The first man is running and carrying his apparently standard Kar 98k rifle at the ready position. However this has a very small magazine clip underneath, which makes it look a bit like the later G43, which would match better with the other late-war weapons in this set. However if so then it is not a particularly accurate model. This figure also has a Panzerfaust slung on his back, helping to give him the same late-war feel as the rest of the set. Next to him is a sitting figure holding a Panzerschreck, a German anti-tank weapon that was first introduced in October 1943. This one has a shield (first fitted February 1944), and a barrel length of 21mm, which scales up to about 151cm, making it a bit shorter than the first type (the 54, which was 164cm long) and longer than the second (the 54/1, which was 130cm long), so closer to the more common first type. Again this weapon has been modelled many times before, but this is another decent pose. Finally we have a real surprise, for the weapon being held by the squatting man is a Fliegerfaust B, also known as the Luftfaust. This was meant to be a defence against low-flying aircraft, and successfully completed trials, but the war ended before it could go into production.
If the lineup of weapons is exotic then the men’s uniforms are much more mundane. All would seem to have late-war uniforms, wearing possibly a smock, although in all cases this is pretty indistinct and hard to make out, but certainly is not a tunic. They also have the short boots and anklets much seen by the last years of the war, so a good match for the late war weapons. We were very surprised to see so many with peaked caps rather than helmets, however. Since they are likely to be in combat, a helmet would seem a natural choice, and to our mind a better one in this set too. Presumably the cap is the M1943 field cap, but it’s not a great model of it anyway. Otherwise, the uniform seems fine for the period.
Items of kit are a bit sparse – those with the battery pack have little room for anything else anyway, but the rest are also lightly equipped. We see some gasmask containers, water flasks and even an entrenching tool, which are properly done if somewhat simplified. Those without the StG 44 also carry a submachine gun or a Panzerfaust, and one also has a pistol, which is fine. Some of the ammunition pouches for the StG 44 have been shifted round the body in an unnatural way to make them easier to sculpt however.
Like many recent Mars figures, these ones have a fairly decent quality of sculpting, with fair detail and good proportions. The poses are quite lively, and neither flat nor straight-backed as you find in some sets. Faces are pretty good too, but hands are often small and ill-defined, although the main problem as usual is flash. The quantity varies a good deal, but there is a fair amount on every figure, and on one it seriously disfigures the man in a way it would be hard to remedy. We have certainly seen far worse from Mars, but this remains a weakness in their production.
In a world with so many sets of World War II German infantry already, this one does at least offer some exotic and unusual weapons, even if one of them never saw active service. The relative lack of helmets is our main problem with the set, although the amount of flash is also quite off-putting. You wouldn’t make up a whole unit with just these figures (although there were whole units armed just with the StG 44), but as an expansion for late-war units made up of figures from other sets this does have something to offer, and if not great figures they are at least perfectly usable.