Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Size of the Brown Bess

British SYW re-enactors at Quebec.

There is an interesting discussion going on over on the Steve Dean Forum about the size of the muskets used in our Fife & Drum Miniatures range. Some think that the muskets are too long, while others recognize that they are sculpted to an exact 1/56 scale and thus the size and length are correct.  Click on the link below to follow the debate:

Steve Dean Forum

Richard Ansell provided me with a copy of this picture of some British re-enactors holding their Brown Bess muskets, noting that the musket butt is grounded. Now, look at where the muzzle opening of the musket is relative to the height of the individuals. Then look at the pictures of the latest Fife & Drum Continentals and compare the musket sizes with the real thing in the picture above. Get your ruler out or take a sheet of paper and mark off the length of the poor lad about to meet his maker. Then measure that same distance from the base of the officer to his head and you will see that the musket would reach to about his nose. Just like the re-enactor on the right in the picture above.

Fife & Drum Miniatures: American Continentals in hunting shirts.
Richard provides the following background information on the scale of the figures:

The muskets (originally for the Minden range) are based on the Long Land Pattern Musket (1590mm long from stock to muzzle) and the French Model 1728 Musket (1575mm). They are scaled down to 1/56th so 28mm long. The average height at this time was around 5’6” (1676mm) at 1/56th that is 30mm tall. The figures are 30mm tall to the top of the head give or take a mm for a bit of variety.

I think that what it comes down to is the fact that wargamers are not accustomed to seeing their miniatures made in "scale" (in our case, the scale is 1/56); but rather, they are used to seeing 28mm figures. 28mm is not a scale, it is a "size" or "height". There is big difference. The 28mm figures tend to have certain features exaggerated, such as hands, ankles, swords and muskets to avoid figure breakage. So we are accustomed to seeing chunky sized muskets and swords to the point that when we see the weapon done in a scale, rather than size, the weapon appears longer or thinner. The eye has been fooled.

The Fife & Drum Miniatures range of AWI figures was established for the purpose of demonstrating what a complete range of realistic-looking figures, done in scale rather than size, could look like. While at a basic level I am doing this enterprise for my own use and gratification, it is also my hope that the range will inspire others to join me on my crusade to nudge the wargame industry away from cartoonish, chunky figures and move towards realistic looking figures. We are fortunate to have such a talented sculptor as Richard Ansell to execute the ideas and turn them into some of the most creative figures that I have ever seen. Frank Hammond blazed the trail for us all when he commissioned Richard to design the Minden Miniatures line of SYW figures. As Frank expanded his range, I began to see the possibilities of the 1/56 scale miniatures. I hope to see the Alban Miniatures range of Napoleonic figures grow and thrive. More recently, a new company, Crann Tara (spelling?) Miniatures was launched to offer a range of Jacobite Rebellion (the Forty Five) in the same scale.

And of course, Fife & Drum Miniatures are done in scale and they are cast by one of the best casting companies in the world, Griffin Designs. Griffin casts are clean, crisp and strong based on the metal used and have no discernible mould lines. They don't break at the ankles or wrists or on the musket itself. They also don't have those annoying venting spiders still attached to them or metal flash. You know, you don't have to put up with mediocre castings (this refers to the quality of the casting, not the quality of the sculpted figure), and you certainly get superior quality when you buy a Fife & Drum or Minden miniature.

We have come a long way over the past two years, slowly adding new figures to the range at a measured pace. First it was the basic infantry, then the artillery crew and artillery equipment; and cavalry, personality figures are also on the horizon. I want to offer the basics that you need in order to build armies with Fife & Drum figures. Once, the basics are added to the range, I will go back and fill in secondary poses or figure types, adding the obscure troop type here and there along the way.

I am proud of what we have accomplished so far and I remain thoroughly excited about the new figures that will be added in the future. 


  1. I would like to add that the RSM95 miniatures, while not quite the same scale, are also very compatible with Mindens (and presumably Fife & Drum).

    I wouldn't mix them in the same unit because their muskets are a bot shorter but they are also slimmer elegant figures that will look fine in separate units.

    I say "down with the cartoon figures" and fill your table top with elegant properly proportioned figures!

    -- Jeff

  2. There have been lots of arguments over the years as to what constitutes a 'scale'. Worth noting that when Minifigs first brought out 25mm figures they did link the two together very firmly - defining 25mm = 6'. As 25mm is effectively 1", (0.984" to be more precise) this makes 25mm 1/72nd scale.

    Of course, this has not always followed through over the years.....

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments and that was exactly the reason I started Crann Tara.
    The figures have received a lot of positive comments but there a significant number of people who challenge their size. They doubt the figures are 30mm and they query the length of the musket.
    It's quite surprising how we gamers have been lured into accepting the modern 28's! as being accurate and proportionate.
    However the crusade has begun.

  4. Hello.
    I am the first one that made a comment abut the size of the muskets. Taking in account that they are 1/56 models and not "strong" 28mm figures, perhaps I need to change my oppinion.


  5. Well I will admit to being fully converted to the Minden figures and I have bought a substantial amount so far and also my first batch of Crann tara figures at Colours a month or so ago.

    I have no problem at all with the size of the musket. I would however mention that I do find the bayonets on the Minden figures a bit fragile. That is no fault of the mouldings and the breakages are really down to my clumsyness as a person. However if the figures are to be used for gaming, even on multiple bases, there is a risk. So far I must have tried to super glue about 5 bayonets and one tip of a trumpet on a cavalry figure. Super design does have a cost. I should also say that this in no way will stop me buying Mindens. I just need to be more careful.