ESCI Figures – Accuracy

1980s Benchmark

The Importance of Accuracy

Some makers might get away with making plastic soldiers that are only vague approximations of their historical counterparts. After all, they would perform perfectly well as toys. ESCI, however, considered themselves to be producers of military miniatures, and accuracy was of prime importance. Many of their customers wanted the figures to look correct, and would have the knowledge to spot errors. So, how well did they perform in this respect?

The Russian Infantry during WW2

The Red Army was the largest land force in the Second World War, suffering enormous losses during the conflict with Germany but gradually achieving numerical superiority, repulsing the German invasion and pushing on to occupy Vienna and Berlin. It also conducted successful campaigns in Manchuria against the Japanese.

Russian infantry rest during a lull in combat (RIA Novosti archive, image #61150 / Alpert / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The popular image of the Red Army in the West has been of an army poorly lead and equipped, which triumphed at great cost through sheer weight of numbers. However, although the Russians were severely handled in 1941, and at times were forced to resort to desperate measures to continue resistance, by the latter part of the war they had become a far more effective and better-equipped fighting force, quite capable of fighting the Germans on equal terms. Patriotism and hatred of the invader gave the Red Army ample motivation to prosecute the fight.

As with all armies, the bulk of the combat troops were infantry. Like their opponents, they were mainly rifle-armed, but employed a variety of support weapons.

The ESCI Russian Soldiers

203 WW2 Russian Soldiers

Year first produced:1982

L150xW285xH15 (per A-Toys pack), Plastic 67g, Scale 1:72, Features: 0

The set consists of the standard ESCI double sprue of polythene figures, moulded in mid-grey. The 48 figures are in 13 poses, distributed in the standard ESCI 3-tiers. The most common poses are of infantrymen in combat:

  • kneeling firing rifle
  • advancing with rifle
  • throwing a grenade
  • advancing with SMG
  • advancing with SMG held over his head
The first set of poses.

There are 5 each of the above 5 poses. There are 3 each of the next set of poses, of soldiers mainly prone:

  • prone firing rifle
  • prone firing LMG
  • prone firing a Maxim HMG
  • prone loading HMG
  • kneeling female radio operator
The second group of poses.

These figures are interesting for three reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, prone poses are usually shunned by figure makers despite the fact that in combat many soldiers must have spent long periods pressed to the ground. The second thing notable about the figures is that we have two crew for a Maxim machine gun, and the gun itself. The machine gun is moulded in 6 parts (the gun, trail, shield, two wheels and a joining axle) that must be assembled. When assembled, the gun can be rotated on the trial, and it makes a nice ensemble with the crew.

The third unusual thing about this set of poses is the inclusion of a female, in this case a radio operator. In the aftermath of the catastrophic losses that Russia suffered in the German invasion, the authorities were desperate for recruits. As a result, hundreds of thousands of women served in the Russian army, mainly in support roles such as medics and communication staff including radio operators, but often close to the combat zone, and occasionally in combat itself. Perhaps the most striking example of this is the almost 2,500 women employed as snipers.

There are 2 each of the third group of poses:

  • officer
  • mortar operator
  • cavalryman
  • horse
The final set of poses.

The mortar consists of the mortar and a crewman about to drop a bomb down the barrel, moulded as one. There are no other crew members. The treatment of the mortar is thus in stark contrast to that of the multipart Maxim machine gun. The cavalryman leading his horse is interesting. The Russian army employed large numbers of cavalry (mainly as scouts and mounted infantry), and the set is entitled Russian soldiers after all, so it isn’t inappropriate. However, whether a single (non-combat) pose can adequately represent a whole arm of the army is questionable!

The officer in this photograph looks a little like the ESCi figure (RIA Novosti archive, image #543 / Alpert / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

As per usual with ESCI figures, the poses look natural and well-animated, the anatomy is spot-on, and there is plenty of detail. The one exception is the one-piece mortar-and-operator which is slightly awkward, and the figure holding his SMG over his head is perhaps a strange choice, but these are small caveats.

The packaging for our figures.

Turning to the box, we get a surprise. There is no box, for the sprues are contained within cardboard-backed plastic bubbles, and the packaging doesn’t mention ESCI at all! I’ve chosen to illustrate this story with figures sold by ESCI under their A-Toys brand, which was perhaps aimed at a younger audience of non-modellers. The double-sprue created by ESCI and sold by them as set 203 has been split into two individual halves and packaged separately; both are available under the same A-Toys catalogue number, 1403, in their ‘Battle’ series. On the back of the packs, there is no painting guide as you would find on the normal ESCI box, but simply a list of available sets in the series.


Most of the figures wear the typical uniform of the Russian soldier – the 1940 pattern helmet, the gymnastiorka smock, flared shorovari trousers and long boots. This is summer clothing with none of the warmer items worn during the bitter Russian winters, but the standing poses show the rain cape, rolled up and worn quite typically as a tied ‘sausage’ over the left shoulder.

Soviet Army Monument, Sofia

A dynamic and idealised sculpture of Russian soldiers is to be found in Sofia, Bulgaria. The figures are wearing warmer clothing than the ESCI soldiers with plenty of dramatic billowing from cloaks and overcoats, but note the officer with pistol and field cap, the LMG and submachine gun, the rolled cape on the left-hand figure, and the female soldier at the back.

Russian kit was simple and often limited due to supply problems, so for example, few soldiers were issued with a field pack. More typically carried were drawstring knapsacks on the back, repurposed gasmask cases on the left hip, and water bottles. These are all clearly shown on the ESCI figures. The female radio operator wears a skirt (females in the front line often wore trousers), and the officer and mortarman sport a field cap and fur hat respectively. The cavalryman is also wearing a fur hat, but is otherwise correctly clad as the infantry.

The weaponry is also convincingly portrayed. The riflemen carry ammunition pouches on their belts. The other soldiers are armed with the PPSh-41 submachine-gun, nicely modelled with perforated barrel and drum magazine (a spare magazine also being in evidence). The light machine gun is a DP-27, widely used during WW2, and the distinctive Maxim heavy machine gun is well-realised. The cavalryman carries the long, slightly curving shashka (sword/sabre) as well as a PPSh (slung downwards over the back).

The PPSh-41 submachine gun is perfectly modelled.

The mix of poses ensures that the most numerous figures are armed with rifles and SMGs, as one would expect, while there are fewer machine guns and mortars. In fact, the number of heavy weapons is still disproportionately high – usually, a platoon of infantry (roughly the number of figures in the box) would include only a single light mortar, so having 3 heavy machine guns and 2 medium mortars is over the top (not to mention two radio operators). The lack of additional mortar crew is annoying – it might have been better to replace the cavalryman with some suitable crew.

Overall, I think we can be impressed with the set. We can question a few of the figure choices, but this does not distract from the fact that the figures are well posed and detailed, and wear accurate uniforms (at least for the warmer months) and carry typical weapons. Well done ESCI!


Other sets of Allied figures from WW2 produced by ESCI include

  • 202 WW2 US Soldiers “Big Red One”
  • 208 WW2 British Paratroopers “Red Devils”
  • 205 WW2 French Soldiers

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

2 thoughts on “ESCI Figures – Accuracy”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: