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In-Box Review
135
Winter Panzer Riders
Winter Panzer Riders 1943-44
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction

Perhaps the biggest shock to the German Army in WW II was their almost total lack of preparedness for the savage Winter of 1941-42 on the Russian front, which some say was the harshest of the entire war. Because Hitler was convinced Barbarossa would be over in a few months, few of the troops had proper cold weather clothing. The Nazi regime was forced to go to its civilian populace for hand-outs under a program called Winter Hilfe (“Winter Help”) that played on the fears of families with sons, brothers and husbands serving in the army. Faced with the reality of a second Winter in Russia, the Wehrmacht developed a variety of cold weather uniforms and white camo. Most were issue items, though some were improvised in the field.

Dragon Models has released a set of four generic figures dressed for cold weather, and intended to be accurate in any Winter situation from 1943-44. In something of a departure from most figure sets, all four soldiers are posed sitting, as if taking advantage of the back of a passing tank for a ride. Part of Dragon's original (non-Generation 2) ’39-’45 Series, the set includes two riflemen outfitted with the M1942 greatcoat, and two figures dressed in the M1942 reversible tunic. One is armed with an MG-42 machine gun (but with no loader nor extra ammo), the other is equipped with an MP-40 sub-machine gun (known to the Allies as the “Schmeisser” after its inventor, Hugo Schmeisser).

The Kit

The figures come in the usual one-piece Dragon box with attractive front art and a back-panel painting guide. The kit contains five sprues:

The major components of the figures
Helmets and tunic hoods
3 sprues of weapons

Dragon's recent figures should prove even to skeptics that styrene can now approach the detailing of many resin figures. While the delicacy of resin casting can’t yet be duplicated in styrene, designers are getting around the problem by “cheating” a bit: increasing the number of components used. Details like long overcoats that used to be molded in one piece are now separate components, allowing the coat wings to open in a more-realistic fashion. Similarly, the M1942 reversible tunic’s neckpiece is a separate part instead of being molded onto the figure as it would have been in years past. But the best touch I've seen to date are the separate parts for some of the hands.

The molding is good, though there is some flash and seams that will require clean-up. It's a shame Dragon hasn't been able to come up with a solution to seam lines down the front of boots and other materials with multiple folds. The array of weapons is of middling quality with none of the separate bolts, for example, one sees on Gen 2 rifle sets. But overall they look good. A fret of PE slings would have been nice.

Some problems include the choice of footwear: all four figures are shod in the Winter felt boots issued mainly to the Waffen SS instead of the M1941 laced ankle boots with covers that regular Heer (Army) troops received. Officers are seen in these boots, but most sources show the enlisted men in the laced-up footwear (Source: Osprey Publishing's The German Army 1939-45 (4): Eastern Front 1943-45). There is, however, some opinion that too much is made about differences in the equipment of the regular army and the SS. But if you are looking to do regular army grunts, that is, in my opinion, an oversight. Several of Dragon's recent figure releases have been taken from the Waffen SS, so if these are meant to be generic figures, I would have preferred more generic footwear. All four helmets are the M1935 variety, a missed opportunity for excellence in my opinion, since a few more blobs of styrene could have allowed an alternate helmet choice: the M1942 reversible white/Zeltbahn 31 fabric cover. Fortunately resin heads exist to rectify the latter problem.

Painting

While the greatcoats can only be field gray, the reversible tunics are just that: you can switch between the white shown in the painting guide to the Zeltbahn 31 camo pattern. Winter conditions weren’t all as horrible as on the Eastern Front, so a white uniform would be a blinking beacon in Italy during the Winter months of 1943 or 1944. The figures in the reversable tunics could be modified for Waffen SS, too, though unfortunately, the painting guide only has the tunics in white with no suggestions for other camo options. If you are unsure about painting your own camo patterns, the Shinsengumi camoflage decals are the answer (click here).

Conclusion

Dragon’s recent run of armor-related figures has given the modeler a wide and growing range of options for vehicles and dioramas. These “tank riders” could just as easily be switched with a little modification to half-tracks or even be shown at rest beside the road or in a building doing what most soldiers do a lot of: waiting for something to happen. While the set isn't Generation 2, and Tristar already released some time ago two sets of Winter Panzergrenadiers riding on tanks, they are still a useful all-around option for peopling a vehicle.

SUMMARY
Highs: Good poses with many parts for better detailing.
Lows: Boots appear to be Waffen SS-issue and not generic or Heer. Weapons are average, lacking Generation 2 quality.
Verdict: Recommended if you're looking for figures you can use in a variety of situations.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6513
  Suggested Retail: $10.95
  Related Link: web site
  PUBLISHED: Aug 09, 2009
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2017 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Hi Bill Thanks for the through review. They certainly look very good and I'm sure will sell very well. I know one modeller who'll certainly be adding them to his growing collection of unmade figures As regards your comments over the boots worn can I just say two things. First, I checked my copy of German Army Uniforms and Insignia 1933-45 by Brian L Davis and it clearly shows Heer troops wearing these felt/leather boots, on page 119 it shows picture 233 a "Gefreiter" preparing for patrol with these on. Secondly, and far be that nobody makes a mistake, this box art was done by Ron Volstad and if Ron's drawn them then I'd put money on it being correct, as he has a wealth of knowledge and reference on this stuff, so buy with confidence. Thanks for the review. Alan
AUG 09, 2009 - 05:39 PM
Thanks, Alan, for your comments. Rudi Richardson and I discussed this, and I have stuck my neck out because the boots don't seem to be PEC: plain, everyday, common. The photos and illustrations (at least the ones I've seen) show the laced-up boots as most common, and that would have been the better option IMO. Regular army officers and non-coms certainly wore the the felt-lined boots, but among the grunts, I guess I'm unsure. I've been told that this particular sculptor is among the best, so I guess I could end up looking foolish. But the set is very good and no one should hold back from buying it over something so minor.
AUG 09, 2009 - 05:49 PM
Please forgive me if I seem annoyed regarding the remarks about the footwear being worn by these figures. It is more curiosity than anything else. In this modern day there is so much available dealing with the uniforms of the 3rd Reich that I find myself perplexed by the apparent confusion. My illustrations are based on almost 40 years of study of the subject and almost always based on contemporary photos. In regards to the Dragon figure sets, if my artwork is on the box, then it is certain that I researched the subject and designed the set and provided info for the sculptor to follow. These days, an alternate team is involved with the figure sets and I believe these are sculptor driven with the illustrator following what has been sculpted. As for the felt/leather boots so obviously being worn by the figures wearing greatcoats; these are standard Heer winter issue and saw broad usage. These boots have nothing to do with Waffen-SS other than they too received them. There were never enough winter uniforms or boots to equip all the combat troops thus one often sees such mixed garments in a single group. Since the subject of this set was “Winter Panzer Riders” winter boots were a touch more credible than the lace-up boots (although these would not necessarily be incorrect). The design of each figure set requires resolution of a thousand questions (well sometimes it seems like that) and having had a hand in more than 160 sets in the past 20 years, I can fairly say that I’ve made a few errors. Happily, I get to have them published so that the whole world can see them forever. However, it should be remembered that everything is done with a time frame in mind (deadline) and even with the greatest of effort, mistakes will happen. But this isn’t one of them. Thanks for your continued support. Ron Volstad
AUG 10, 2009 - 02:36 PM
I am going to quote myself from a previous DML figure review... Now that I have built the other two figures, I have to amend that all four figures are outstanding. The poses are as natural in the figures as they are on the box art. These little fellas will definitely be riding my Panzer IVH - whenever I finish it. Rod V., whatever Dragon did to capture your art in plastic figures, tell them to keep it coming! As for the German Army late in the war, clown shoes could have be accurate footwear. God, I love this hobby...
AUG 10, 2009 - 07:30 PM
Hi Bill, As we've already discussed the boots issue off-line, I won't mention it again. Besides, looks like Ron and Al have covered it already About the multi-part approach to the greatcoats, this tends to be a fairly common approach - Tamiya certainly having done it this way a few years ago with their 1/16 scale German MG'er in Greatcoat.The thing I like about this method vs. the solid cast (i.e. coat skirts molded to legs) is that it's so much easier to modify the flow of the skirt if it's thin and a seperate part. Given that this is a relatively new kit it is curious that DML have elected not so supply Gen2 weapon sprues, however for me the lack of PE weapon straps is a non-event as these are hardly ever supplied in figure sets anyway. As I mentioned off-line, it's worth nothing that DML have referred to these as Panzer riders, and not WSS Panzer riders or Heer Panzer riders, thereby making them suitable for representation as troops of either branch of service. This is supported by the fact that the troops appear fairly generic and there is nothing in particular that highlights them as being part of either specific branch. A great move on the part of DML IMO. Apart from the few debated points, a pretty good first figure review. Well done and I look forward to your next. Hi Mark, I respect your opinion, and everyone has different views. Unfortunately I'm one of those that differs from you. Having had the latest of both DML and Alpine (amongst other brands) pass over my desk recently I'm still of the opinion that you can't compare these 2 brands. That's just my opinion though, and as I said, I respect that your's differs. Rudi
AUG 10, 2009 - 08:29 PM
Hi everybdoy ! Long time since I didn't post here ! And I can notice that there is still pain in the ass and boring discussions....(among some very interesting tips and tricks and marvellous models.. ;-)) It's funny to see how people can concentrate and quibble aout a pair of shoes....where as they should comment more on the fact that the poses of this set are absolutely lifelike, natural, they tell a story by themselves, and apparently the details are here, and even the heads looks quite goods (where it is usually a weakness of dragon sets) So common dragon, big up for Ron, and keep up the very good work ! Julien ps : if I may suggest, why not making ammunition strip in PE rather than in plastic ? Because frankly the plastic one are not very pratical. The PE could be a very good plus ! but maybe that's a question of cost, as always...
AUG 11, 2009 - 04:42 AM
Thank you, all, for your comments. While this is my first figure review, I attempted to bring the same thoroughness and willingness to take a stand to it that I do in my armor reviews, which also rest on consultation with authoritative sources. If I have in any way come up short, it's my mistake and no one else's. Rudi, I regret if I made it seem as though coat flaps were a breakthrough. I picked them out as an example of how styrene manufacturers have improved their work in recent years. In this particular kit, that includes using separate faces instead of just heads, a separate hand instead of molding it to the arm (though not on all the hands), etc. When I write a review, it's with an aim of reaching the average hobbyist, and not the specialist, so I can never be as up-to-date as yourself. I don't follow all the styrene figure makers, and certainly not other scales! As to these being "generic" figures, I take exception with that as a license to have vague uniforms. It leaves the consumer in a no-man's-land of "neither this, nor that." Dragon's other recent figure sets have been specifically Waffen SS. If these aren't WSS, then presumably they're Heer, since I don't recall too many units that were designated artmaessig ("generic"). If Dragon didn't want to be specific to a unit, that's fine. But if the intention was to blur the distinctions and just come up with Winter infantry riding a tank, I still think that my critique holds. The figures can be adapted to WSS, but they also should be good for regular army. Hence my question about the boots! An older set of DML "Volkssturm Berlin 1945" I purchased for a small dio included a fret of steel wire-rimmed glasses! It seems Dragon has regressed from that simple, but charming addition. A fret of PE may be unusual, but it's not unrealistic to ask for it. Manufacturers improve their products when consumers (and reviewers) make these kinds of observations. Slings are hard to scratch-build to a proper thickness, and AM PE slings are relatively uncommon. ABER and Verlinden have sets, but they're something your have to hunt around for. Mark, I will respectfully disagree. While Dragon has really upped its game, styrene simply cannot match the best resin at this stage, at least the figures I have purchased. Some resin follows the rule "garbage in, garbage out"-- if the sculpting is inferior, then the resin just recreates that inferior sculpting. But when it's done right, resin still offers sharper details and finer molding. But it's not a fair comparison: this styrene kit of four figures retails for around $10-$12. Most resin figures from top makers like Alpine go for AT LEAST $15 PER SINGLE FIGURE. A duo from Tahk, for example, sells for $25-$30. This set is a very good alternative to resin, especially for those who can't afford it. And in terms of poses, I actually prefer these over the "heroes of the Soviet people" poses favored by Alpine. Those static, standing "heroric" sculpts are fine if your figure is the focus of the build, but for many modelers, figures are the supporting cast in a diorama that features an AFV or two. Finally, Ron-- I realize it might seem annoying to have your decisions questioned, but as a reviewer, it's my job to "call 'em as I see 'em." I carefully looked into the issue of footwear, and even asked Rudi offline for his take on things. Despite his demurring on my conclusion (and saying "if he did it that way, it must be correct), and after much soul-searching, I decided that the footwear issue deserved metioning, though I did not reduce the overall score of the set because of that. There were other factors ("Gen 1" weapons, only bare metal helmets, single painting option). And while felt boots are correct according to you, you did not answer my query of why not ankle boots, which seem to be more common, at least in the photos I consulted? I can presume it was because boots are easier to mold in styrene than laces, but I'm speaking for you, and not hearing what your reasoning was (other than "because I did it that way, it must be correct"). While I respect your position and your research, you remind me of a potential Hall of Fame baseball player who feels "if I don't swing at it, it must be a ball and not a strike." Calling a point into question then prompts discussions like this, which (despite Julien's opinion) are good for the hobby, because they get us thinking about these questions. The resources I consulted (which are far from definitive) told me a different story than yours; it might be helpful if you cited a few of yours so we the ignorant could enlighten ourselves. If my sources are defective (and they very well might be), then please offer some books the rest of us can look at to know where I got it wrong. I'm perfectly willing to admit my failings, but I like to know where they are- and not just "I know better than you." And very lastly, I really appreciate constructive criticism, and I hope my answers have not appeared defensive or prickly. If so, I assure you that was not my intent.
AUG 11, 2009 - 11:15 AM
Bill, A Very nice review on a Very Good set of figures. They will fit well into my modeling efforts. Thanks, milvehfan
AUG 11, 2009 - 12:32 PM
Thanks, I appreciate the kind words. I think it's an excellent set, which my rating should indicate.
AUG 11, 2009 - 01:14 PM
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