Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Soldier Story USMC M1917A1 Machine Gunner Tarawa 1943

Hi all, after a long hiatus, I'm glad to be back blogging. And I'm dive straight in to provide a review of this figure I got recently.

When I first set my eyes on the preview pictures of the figure, it was the massive M1917 water-cooled machine gun drew all my attention. Soldier Story has always delivered in terms of the quality of their figures & equipment but I must say that they have out-done themselves  this time in terms of the quality and detail of this massive machine gun!

Here's an overall view of the MG along with her companions; the tripod, ammo box with cloth ammo belt & 30-06 rounds and the water can. And oh, they threw in 3 sand bags as well...

This baby is made almost (like 99%) entirely out of metal. The level of detail is amazing. Almost all the knobs, pins, handles & catches on the tripod actually work. You actually have to mount the gun on tripod as you would do if it was the real thing! Not that I've actually mounted a M1917 before but based on my experience with the GPMG, it can't be too far off. 

The M1917A1 was one of the many guns designed by John Browning - founder of the Browning Arms Company. Some of the most famous guns we know born from the brain of this brilliant gun designer. Just to put this in perspective: 2 of his most famous products are still in use today; the M1911 pistol and the Browning M2 50-cal heavy machine gun. In fact John Browning had 128 gun patents credited to his name! (source: wikipedia)

The M1917A1 is a heavy machine gun. One of the considerations when designing a machine gun is how to manage the heat on the barrel of the gun. This affects the effective sustainability of fire as an overheated barrel can cause a chamber explosion or the rounds to 'cook off'. In extreme cases, the barrel can even bend due to the heat. To deal with this, barrels can be air-cooled - like the M1919, changeable like the MG42 & the GPMG or water-cooled like the M1917A1.

Water-cooled guns have an obvious advantage: the gun can provide sustained fire for longer periods as water obviously cools better. They also have an obvious disadvantage: for instance, the M1917A1 package (gun, ammo, tripod & water can) weighs a hefty 47Kgs. So you won't be doing fire & moment with this baby. It's usually deployed in prepared positions as a fixed defensive weapon meant for holding the ground.

Ok... I guess I've bored you enough with all these facts so I'll jump back to reviewing this figure. The level of detail put in by SS on this 1/6 version of the M1917A1 is one of the highest I've seen (IMHO since I've only started serious collecting less than a year ago). 

The cocking level actually.. well.. cocks and squeezing the trigger actually releases the bolt! The rest of the components are also equally detailed (see pics)

Ok.. enough about the gun (I think I forgot that there is a 1/6 figure that was included). Here's our marine with all his gear loaded, really for an amphibious assault on the Tarawa atoll. 

The Battle of Tarawa kick started the American offensive in the Pacific theater of the war. It marked the beginning of a series of bloody island assaults which almost without fail, resulted in heavy casualties for both sides. The Japanese determined to defend each island to the last man and the Americans, determined to take each island required for their strategy against the Japanese. Nearly 6000 men died on the small atoll in 3 days of fighting (source: wikipedia).

Here's a shot of our marine manning the gun and a close-up of the HS.

According to some fellow collectors, the HS is sculpted after James Badge Dale a.k.a Robert Leckie in the HBO miniseries "The Pacific" (which btw IMHO failed to live up to it's hype). Despite the disappointment, one of the scenes I do remember was the one which is supposedly the enactment of how Sgt. John Basilone (played by Jon Seda) held off repeated Japanese attacks on his position almost single-handedly by cradling an M1917 and firing it from the hip. For his gallantry, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. You can read his citation in detail here

In fact there are many depictions of Sgt. Basilone with his M1917. 

And now with this figure, I am able to do one of my own:

Overall, this figure is definitely value for money. The no. of accessories that came along with it is just right and is definitely quality over quantity. Also SS seems to have gotten the fit of the uniform right this time (no more bagginess). If you're into WWII & Marines figures, then grab this one while it may still be available on the shelves.

I'll wrap up this review with a few last examples on the level of detail SS put into this figure:

 The fold-out handle of this canteen cup really intrigued me.

The .30-06 cartridges were detailed. But I added in some touches of my own by painting the projectiles & the hollows of the expended cartridges.


  1. GREAT review WL :) thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope to read more haha CHEERS

  2. Hi Alex,

    thanks for encouragement! Will definitely endeavor to write more often!