During the 1920s, with the Civil War behind them, Soviet planners began thinking of future wars and realised they needed a modern heavy machine gun. The first such gun, the DK, appeared in 1930, used a 12.7mm bullet and was made in relatively small numbers between 1933 and 1935. However it was fed from a drum that only held 30 rounds, so its rate of fire suffered as the drum was constantly having to be replaced. The answer was to substitute a belt feed, although even this only held 50 rounds, but it was a lot quicker to feed. With the belt feed the weapon was designated the DShK-38, and became the standard Soviet heavy machine gun of World War II (coming into service in late 1939). Amongst its uses was as an anti-aircraft weapon, mounted on a tall tripod as illustrated on the box, and in this role it was very widely used throughout the war.
Unfortunately what is illustrated on the box is not what it actually contains. From our picture it is clear to see that this weapon is actually fed by a drum on the side, so it is the earlier DK machine gun and not the DShK advertised (and illustrated) on the box. This matters because relatively few DKs were made, and while it is conceivable some were used in an anti-aircraft capacity during the years 1939 to 1945, it would have been a lot better if the DShK-38 had been produced. Happily this can be remedied to a great extent by simply not attaching the drum, which is a separate part anyway, although there is no belt in the set. Other than that the model is a really nice one, which shows off the detail of the gun very well indeed. Unfortunately the moderately soft plastic, while fine for figures, makes life difficult when trying to put together the gun, particularly as the parts are small and very thin. The simple diagram on the back of the box is not the best for understanding how this is supposed to fit together, but the long slender tripod legs are very hard to handle and the whole thing could have been so much better in a harder plastic such as Orion has used for some assembly models in the past. Apart from the feeding mechanism however the model is very nice and accurate.
The figure on the far right is firing the weapon, and the man next to him is bringing up a box of ammunition. Clearly this is to refill the drum, but let’s pretend it contains a belt instead. As such both are fine and are OK for the gun, although we wanted to see a crewman feeding a belt into the gun. The set also includes an officer pointing and observing through a pair of binoculars, plus two unrelated riflemen who are clearly also shooting at some low-flying aircraft.
All the figures are dressed and equipped in much the same way. All have the usual gymnastiorka and trousers with long boots, and all wear the equally usual steel helmet. They are particularly well equipped, having not only a bag and canteen but also the common draw-string veshchevoi meshok bag and, rarest of all, an entrenching tool. This is more than many Soviet soldiers could boast, but it is still accurate. The two riflemen (all Soviet soldiers were termed riflemen, whether they carried a rifle or not) are armed with submachine guns that are indistinct but probably represent the classic PPSh-41 weapon.
Sculpting is generally very good, although strangely the fine detail on the machine gun is better than that on the submachine guns. As a whole however the style is very appealing, with generally very good clothing and good if sometimes distorted faces (probably a result of the mould making rather than the sculpting). There is a certain amount of flash, however, which spoils the effect to an extent.
The mix up over the feed mechanism for this weapon cost the set an accuracy point, but apart from that everything is correctly done. The figure poses are quite natural and appropriate, and very nicely sculpted, although as so often with Orion the mould-maker has let them down. We would have cheerfully swapped the riflemen for more crew figures, although the riflemen are perfectly good in themselves, but still this is well worth adding to any 1/72 scale plastic Soviet army.