The recent trend towards plastic wargames figures came as something of a shock to the system to old gits like me who back in the right-on 1970s had thrown away our plastic Airfix toys and embraced metal figures as the only true and “grown up” way of wargaming. Looking back now it may well be that, like the complex rules of those dark distant days, the abandonment of plastics may well have been another illusory attempt to persuade people that our hobby wasn’t “playing with toy soldiers”; we could happily explain that these were not toys, they were very serious metal miniatures, and look how complicated the rules we use are. Yes, you do need a degree in nuclear fission to really understand them! Could it be that in abandoning plastics we were throwing the baby out with the bath water?
Who knows, and frankly who cares. What I do know is that assembling my ACW forces for Terrible Sharp Sword, the ACW supplement for Sharp Practice, I have used both metal and plastic figures. For me there is clearly a sub-conscious attachment to metal that will never disappear; I like my Officers and NCOs to be made of the heavy stuff, but I am more than happy with the rank and file being plastic. In one other area, however, plastic wins hands down. Conversions.
When putting together my Confederate cavalry I was keen to have them looking really quite different to their Union brothers in arms. I wanted to really show the rag-tag look with a less regular appearance, but more than that I wanted to represent the weird and wonderful array of weapons that Confederate cavalry used, pistols, shotguns, rifles and carbines with few sabres being present.
Pistols and carbines are simple, the Perry plastic cavalry have these in the box as standard options. Rifles were not hard, just use some spare arms with rifles from the infantry figure sets. Shotguns were, on the other hand, somewhat harder. In the end the joys of plastic allowed me to find a VERY quick and simple solution.
The image below shows the best set of arms for our conversion job. The picture on the left shows the arms on the sprues whilst the figures on the right shows the arms used as nature (or at least the Perrys) intended. Now, before we progress to look at how the conversion was done I must mention one thing. Had I been smart I would have taken photos of this project at each stage, however being utterly dense I only thought about producing this article once the conversions were complete, by which time I’d used all the spare parts up, so couldn’t take photos of them. Thanks, however, to the miracles of modern photo editing I can take you through the process step by step using the picture of the bloke above’s arms. Hopefully all will be clear.
What do I need to undertake this project? Well, you’ll need a box of Perry plastic cavalrymen and a box of their plastic infantry. Additionally I used a set of nail clippers (this really is low tech stuff) a sharp craft knife, a file, a set of pliers and some paperclips.
Official Warning: Halfwits and suicidal loons reading should note that knives are VERY sharp and pliers can hurt if you don’t use them carefully, so don’t attempt this. Throw yourself under a bus instead.
Select the sets of arms you want to use. If I have any complaints about the Perry plastic infantry I would say that I’d have liked to see a bit more variety of arm poses. As it stands there is really only one suitable set of arms for this, however that is not just suitable, it’s bloomin’ perfect. You can see this in the image above as already mentioned.
Take these arms and cut off the left arm with your clippers. You’ll now need to use a sharp knife to trim away the left had as shown in image 1 below. Once this is done use your file to smooth that section down.
Cut the rifle down as shown. This shortens the wood just short of the first band and also completely removed the barrel. Use your file to level off the top of the remaining woodwork to provide a flat platform onto which the new barrels will sit.
File the remaining woodwork to create a nice curve to it as shown by the red line in image 3.
Get two paperclips. Unbend then so that you can use the pliers to cut off two straight sections the same length. Use your judgement to decide how long you want these, I went for a semi-sawn-off look with mine. Once cut you then simply stick these on top of the retained woodwork with a dab of superglue. I use superglue gel as it allows for a better connection.
Go shoot some 28mm Yankees. That’s it. In fairness the finished examples you will see in my photos could have been better, I’d have filed off more of the woodwork in Step Three if I did it again, however they are certainly more than good enough for me to use and be happy with. By marrying the easily manipulated plastic with the metal of the paperclips I have achieved the look that I wanted. Why not give it a go.