Considering the fundamental importance that Soviet military doctrine placed on artillery, it's surprising that, up until fairly recently, it wasn't high on the list of priorities for the manufacturers. Now, if not exactly a flood, we're beginning to see a steady stream of Soviet Artillery and related subjects from several manufacturers.
Another aspect, which this particular release reflects as well, was the use of horse-drawn artillery by the Soviet Union until quite an advanced stage of WWII. The (over?) dependance that the Germans had on the horse is well-documented (but frequently overlooked), and this, too, is beginning to be addressed by the manufacturers, although the number of prime-movers that we've seen in recent years does almost obviate it....
In the box of ICM's recent kit
35481 Soviet Regimental Artillery Horse Transport (1943-1945)
covers two areas: the first, the four horses of this (effectively) light/medium transport, and the 52-R-353M limber. In addition are parts for two of drivers. The kit includes 5 sprues: three in grey styrene for the limber; two in sand-colored styrene for the horses, crew and the various items of 'horse furniture' such as saddles and draught collars. The instruction sheet is also in two parts- four pages for each part.
In this section, I'll evaluate the three separate areas: horses, limber and crew figures.
Parts are supplied for the four horses which would have towed the limber and gun combination. Each breaks down into five pieces:
2 body halves
Now, I'm NO expert on horses, but going from what I've seen on Russian horses, they were NOT large (draught-type) animals, but the normal-sized type. Making a small logical deduction, they would not have been the former type, but smaller and faster. So as far as I can ascertain, the type presented here would be logical for their function. Rather than present two duplicate sprues of two horses on each, ICM
give us four different horses, avoiding uniformity.
I'm quite impressed with the quality of the horses. Musculature is where it should be, heads are nicely sculpted and the only areas which should require attention should be the tails and a bit of 'texturing' on the bodies, and in particular on the fetlocks which were normally 'hairier.' The tails might benefit from a replacement by a clump of thread, although careful painting and washes will bring them out convincingly enough.
The two riders are very nicely-done although, for use before 1943, the epaulettes will HAVE to be removed. All personal equipment is present, along with the appropriate weapons in the shape of a couple of Moisin carbines. It WILL be worth checking with contemporary sources, as one of the figures has what appears to be a kind of ridged covering on his long boots, which I doubt is an error in the design?
The 52-R-353M Limber:
The limber is constructed with a total of 64 parts. Moulding is good and finely-done with some good detail on individual parts, such as the lid. There hasn't (and I applaud this!) been much effort made to give a grain effect on wooden parts. This in my opinion is rather pointless as a.) they aren't to scale, (wood grain wouldn't exist in 1/35th scale anyway), and b.) they tend to vanish with the first coat of paint....
As to accuracy, I've got a good set of plans of the 52-R-353M, and it scales out very well indeed. The only thing is, if a 76mm gun is added, I haven't any images of the internal stowage arrangements.
A good part of the model provides the 'Furniture' for the horses (Stirrups, Saddles etc. etc.). In the interests of building a more convincing model, I'd strongly suggest using the kit parts such as B1-4 and A1-4 as templates to replace the traces with a suitable material such as wire or thread to give a more convincing 'hang,' as in the case of the stirrups. The plastic parts should look alright, but a little more natural 'hang' is desirable, particularly with horse subjects.
Something to tow?
As this particular release doesn't include an artillery piece, and with the 52-R-353M Limber, it's a regimental gun that we're looking for. In their product description, three guns are listed by the company. These are:
1927 Pattern regimental gun
In addition, the Mod. 1938 Mountain Artillery piece could be conceivably used. The company DO produce the 76.2 mm F-22.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately!) the 52-R-353M has also been produced by another manufacturer, and as far as I can tell, both seem equally accurate. It's a pity there was this duplication, but as competition's a good thing...
It's another very competent release from ICM
. Again, moulding is good and the figures show a marked improvement over some of their early releases. There will be a need to replace some of the traces with a more suitable material (styrene is TOO rigid), and, as to finishing, some consideration of how to paint horses (sponges and oil paints figure in my personal favorite technique). It should become the basis of some good dioramas.
With the Divisional Limber and its horse team available now, we REALLY need some more Divisional Artillery!
The best I've seen on the 52-R-353M can be found here including plans and drawings