Andy Singleton of the Volley Fire Painting blog guides us on how he constructed US Airborne teams using primarily the plastic kit. This provides a fantastic demonstration of the versatility of our plastic Bolt Action infantry sprues; you can extrapolate the tips and tricks and apply them to any of our Bolt Action plastic infantry, whether you field Axis or Allies. Such simple conversions can really cement the uniqueness of your own army.
Andy: Knowing I was going to be starting my US Airborne relatively soon, I was set a challenge, to see if I could come up with a selection of weapons teams and gun crews just using the plastic Airborne frame, some glue and a variety of cutting and chopping implements. To keep things relatively simple, I’ve avoided doing too much slicing around, and I’ve regained from doing any sculpting work, simply using some plastic solvent to assemble the figures, superglue for metal bits, a set of sprue cutters, and my trusty hobby knife.
With each set, I’ll talk about the parts used to make the conversions, but things like heads and webbing I’ve not mentioned as they are such a subjective part of the build, so I’ve simply used the ones I liked.
US Airborne Weapons Team conversion pack A (Sniper, Bazooka, Officer)
1 Airborne Sprue, 1 US weapon Sprue
For my sniper team, I decided to go for a fairly fluid story, with a standing sniper and Thompson armed assistant pointing out targets. I’ve not trimmed any parts on him, and used them straight from the box, simply angling the head so that he appears to be speaking to the sniper. The sniper himself was very simple, and was built as if I were assembling a figure standing firing an M1 Garand, however I snipped the rifle off at the trigger guard, just in front of the hand, whilst being careful to maintain the rifles sling. From the weapon sprue, I selected the Springfield rifle with telescopic sight, cut off the stock half way through the trigger guard, and fitted it to the arm holding the rifle. After this the figure was assembled as normal, and that was the very simple sniper team together!
With the bazooka team, I wanted to go for something a little different to the usual kneeling and firing type poses, by instead having them posed mid-way through hunting their next target.
The gunner was given the standing, slightly forwards leaning torso with an empty left hand, and a right hand that had been holding a Thompson, though this was removed, along with the sling to be replaced by a bazooka from the weapons sprue. To give the figure a further sense of movement, the Bazooka was angled down towards the ground, with the head positioned to be shouting instructions to his loader colleague.
The loader himself was a very simple creation, I selected the army carrying the slung M1 carbine, the open left arm, and the large bazooka bag from the weapons sprue, along with the running body. The Bazooka bag could be slung from the shoulder, and to keep things simple all I’ve done is glue the bag to the side of the figure’s body, though I may well add a sling out of tin foil for it before I come to painting him.
This pairing has one figure who couldn’t be simpler, and one who requires a little chopping around.
The observing figure was created using the kneeling body and binocular arms, along with a rifle from the weapon sprue, though you could of course give him a pistol or sub machine gun. The assistant however was a little more involved. I’d decided I wanted a prone figure with a pigeon (More so than usual anyway). Most of the assembly here was straight from the box, however for the pigeon preparing arm (That’s a phrase I can now tick off my bucket list), was made from the machine gun loading arm with the ammunition belt trimmed off. So that the hand could fit around the pigeon I removed the hand at the wrist, and placed it palm downwards holding the pigeon ready to launch the bird on its mission.
US Airborne Weapons Team conversion pack B (57mm ATG and MMG)
Medium Machine Gun Team
I’m a big fan of prone figures converted from running models, as it can give a real sense of dynamism to a team, and knew I wanted to incorporate at least one of these into my MMG team. (That I only had one sprue left too with one prone figure on it may have contributed to this decision too).
With this in mind, I assembled the machine gunner and a pointing NCO with no alterations from the parts in the set, choosing my favourite ‘pointing with a slung’ Thompson pose for the NCO.
For the loader however, things are a little more complicated, as I had to bend his left foot out flat carefully with some pliers so that he would lay flat on his left side, with his right leg angling that side of his body upwards. This in turn made the position of the ammunition belt and arm a little off when compared to the machine gun itself, so I had to trim the belt to fit with the gun, and at some stage I may sculpt a bend into the feed of the belt so that it follows a more natural look, however for now I’m quite happy with them as they are.
With the body so much closer to the ground than was intended with the arms, I used the left arm bent at the elbow, and then trimmed off the top part of the arm so it was square and glued this to the figures shoulder, before disguising the join under a rifle trimmed from one of the slung arms. Finally, to enable the head to fit I cut a V shaped wedge from the collar, and this allowed the model to have a far more natural look to him, whilst keeping a sense of urgency to the whole team too.
57mm Anti-Tank gun crew
I wanted the loading crew man to also be in a fairly similar stance, so selected the squatting legs for him, as well as the open handed, bent elbowed left arm, this fit nicely with the breech, so to finish the figure off I used the machete arm, again with the weapon trimmed off, and had him fit neatly on the right hand side of the gun.
The gun commander himself, was made simply using the final set of standing legs on the sprue after making the machine gun and anti-tank gun crew, and gave him a set of binoculars.
US Airborne Weapons Team conversion pack C
M1A1 75mm Pack Howitzer M2 60mm Light Mortar
As the frame allows you to make 6 figures, I’ll be using this one to crew a 3 man light howitzer team, a 2 man Airborne light mortar team, and finally a Medic.
Starting with the medic, he had to be in a running pose (mainly as this wouldn’t fit with what I had planned for my other teams…), and unarmed. All that needed to be done here was to use one of the open left arms, and trim the rifle from a right arm to give him a nice sense of motion. I added a few extra pouches and bags of medical equipment to reflect his extra equipment, and that was all that was required.
Fortunately, the airborne mortar only needs a 2 man crew. First thing to do was build the mortar so that I could decide how to fit the figures around them. Knowing I would be needing the more dynamic arms for the howitzer crew, I decided to go for a fairly simple figure standing with binoculars, assembled straight from the sprue. For the prone figure I wanted him to be prone, but ready to adjust the mortar at a moment’s notice, so built a figure using the grounded torso, and arm supporting his body, however I couldn’t find an arm that appeared to really interact with the weapon in a way that I liked, so I used the arm holding the ammunition belt, trimming off the belt then chopping off the hand at the wrist and rotating it slightly to better match up to the weapon.
The commander was very easy and built straight from the box with no positioning work, and I gave him a simple dynamic gesturing pose, and armed him with a Thompson, mainly because I liked the arm.
I wanted the gunner to be positioned working the sight mechanism (surprisingly), so used the kneeling body, along with one of the bent, open-handed arms, as well as a trimmed slung rifle arm., these very neatly positioned themselves around the sighting mechanism, which was particularly satisfying!
The final crewman to be made was the loader, and for him I wanted him to be leaning forwards closing the breach of the weapon, so trimmed off the machete and found this was very nearly a perfect fit with the gun breech.
With these conversions complete, I now have another 8 teams to add to my fledgling late war US Airborne army all wearing the post market garden uniform, now I just have to decide what theme to go with on their basing and get them painted…