Soldier Story EODMU-11 U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Unit 11 ( SS-055 )
Howdy figure fans, Mike here with the latest sixthscale action figure review. I would designate this as a modern era figure review ( referring to the figure itself, and not the era in which the review was composed and published ). But since all of my previous reviews have dealt with modern era subject matter, the distinction is not necessary. I am open to doing a review of a WWII era figure, or a movie tie in figure of a fictional nature – ala comic book and science fiction licenses – even pop culture stuff if anyone finally makes American Funboy figures. I mention this as I am hoping that Brian will decide to have me do a review of the upcoming InFlames Metal Gear Solid Snake figure – the one with armor…
Anyway, getting back on track… this time out we will take a look at the latest modern era military figure from the venerable and mega pop Soldier Story.
Head-sculpt and base body…
We get the usual base ingredients with this one – as well as an interesting new head-sculpt. Here is a brief rundown on the head-sculpt base body elements included with this set:
S2 base body
Steroidal quadriceps kit
Normally, I would begin with the head-sculpt, but this time I want to start with the base body. The Soldier Story S2 Narrow Shoulder base body has become my favorite sixthscale base body. There are several reasons for this:
Reason number one: Price. These typically go for around $25.00 – and that include a head-sculpt, hands, and feet.
Reason number two: Durability. Strong joints, and resilient plastic make these a sure thing winner.
Reason number three: Articulation. A natural range of motion – including pronating/supinating ankle joint add to the versatility and posabilty of the figure.
Reason number four: Finish. Smooth matte finish plastic – but not so matte as to appear chalky.
The look is also esthetically pleasing, with clean seams and no glue slop or smearing. Anatomically speaking they are a good balance between the ectomorphic and mesomorphic ideal. This adds to their wardrobing versatility, and allows them to look good under several layers or just a tee shirt. All big selling points in my book.
I am going to break with tradition once more by delving into the hands and gloves that come with this set, before getting to the head-sculpt.
Okay, this one follows the same lead or track as many other modern era offerings produced by Soldier Story. We receive a pair of bare flesh hands; ( right hand trigger pistol/rifle grip pose, left hand relaxed grip or stock grip pose – could also be used as a southpaw or switch grip pistol or rifle grip ). These bare flesh hands are molded from a medium weight rubber that is pigment mixed to match the color of the head-sculpt and base body. The color is decent and as I mentioned a moment ago, is a close match to the head and the body. The color is mixed in as opposed to layered on ( as with paint ) so that there is a natural looking sub surface light scattering effect. Good stuff.
I should also take a moment to comment on the material used to say that it is soft enough to work a weapon into the hand’s posed grip without worry of breakage – nothing like the old BBI G series hands that were as hard as gob of frozen taffy. This also makes the job of removing the universal joint ( u-joint ) wrist pegs significantly easier. No need to break out the electric hair dryer or steaming mug of water to soften the hands in order to pry out the pegs.
And of course, since these are u-joint pegs – referring to a joint that moves on both a vertical and horizontal axis – you can pose the hands in just about any anatomically sensible ( accurate – realistic – dynamic ) pose you like. Good stuff for capturing that weapon ready drop wrist thing you see so often these days both in news footage from the frontlines in Afghanistan, and on the make-believe shows where people are running and gunning.
In addition to the bare flesh hands, we receive a nicely sculpted pair of molded gloved hands – and when I say pair, I really mean to say “trio’ as there are actually three gloves; ( right hand trigger pistol/rifle grip pose, left hand relaxed grip or stock grip pose – could also be used as a southpaw or switch grip pistol or rifle grip, and lastly, the very cool, but difficult to use closed or clenched grip ). This last glove hand is seriously underutilized in most customs that I see on the boards – especially my own – I make knives, so why haven’t I used a knife grip glove to show them off? If you think about it, one of the most obvious uses for the closed or clenched grip glove hand is the reverse or forward knife grip pose. In fact, this may even be the use Soldier Story had in mind when they came up with these gloves.
The mold or sculpt of the gloves is obviously intended to be Mechanix-like in nature – no surprise there as we see Mechanix gloves being used by our guys overseas on a fairly regular basis. Mechanix is no doubt hip to this as well, as they began to make gloves in camouflage print not too long back – and even tagged some of their gloves with militaristic sounding names like “Covert” – the Covert being one of their “Tactical” line.
Were I to venture a guess, I would say that the Mechanix model Soldier Story was aping here, would be the M-Pact or M-Pact 2 glove. This is the same glove set that we saw with Soldier Story’s U.S. Marine in Afghanistan ( SS-048 ), and U.S. Army Future Combat Systems TF ( SS-038 ) figures – just in a different color pattern. And like all molded glove hands Soldier Story puts out, these are well crafted and beautifully finished. They are also soft enough to pose without coaxing from the electric hair dryer or steaming mug of water. In my opinion, the only minus is that we do not receive an extra pair of u-joint wrist pegs with the gloves. So if you want to use the gloves with the figure, you will need to remove the wrist pegs from the bare flesh hands. Just be very careful when doing so as too much twisting, bending, or pulling ( force ) can result in breaking off the smaller of the two pegs – the one that inserts into the socket receptacle on the hands/gloves.
Alright, without further ado, let us move on to the head-sculpt…
In the parts breakdown, I referred to the head that comes with this one as the ” EODMU-11 head-sculpt ” – which is sort of a bizarre description. This isn’t to say that there is a face for the EODMU-11 U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Unit 11 – except maybe to say that it would be the face of a dedicated member of the United States Navy. Maybe they mean that this is the EODMU-11 head-sculpt ( literally ). In which case I might say, of course it is – after all, we can’t exactly call it a sculpt based on American actor such and such. Just like how a certain action figure company can’t call their Steve Jobs action figure a Steve Jobs action figure, opting instead to call it the iCEO figure… Wow, you are a clever lot you.
I am now offering an open challenge to that company to describe to me in clear concise language just how that is any different. And by the way, you clever chaps forgot to photoshop out the Ipad logo in one of your pics. So when does this silly fucking behavior end? Sorry, this stuff just makes me piping mad – especially since I know some pretty great people who have worked their butts off in this hobby – decent people with immeasurable talent, who will never get a break. The best they can hope for being a chance to have their ideas ripped off, and the product they envisioned and dreamed up sold back to them.
Of course the likeness in this case closely follows the pattern of celebretorical sycophancy that has become all too prevalent in the world of 1/6 – not to mention the fullscale world… I have covered this topic before in the past, and I am also guilty of an unreasonably high level of appreciation for a decently rendered celebrity inspired sculpt – and of falling into the morass of thinking of celebrities as something other than average everyday ( read real ) people.
Yet at some point, it would be refreshing to see more real life military serviceman honored in sixthscale. There are issues of getting permission from the individual, and of course the bigger issues of OPSEC. Never-the-less, to take a willing step back from central casting, and instead move more in the direction of the everyman, would be a refreshing course change.
Alright, all consternation and quibbling aside, this is a very well-crafted and realistically rendered sculpt. As I have already stated, the sculpt is fashioned after a familiar icon – an actor, an actor and an all-around actor – Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio. Or at least I think that’s who it’s supposed to be…
As with many of Soldier Story’s sculpts that derive inspiration from a celebrity source, this one is close, but still not 100% spot on. I feel that this was also the case with their recent USMC 2nd MEB in Afghanistan’s Helmand province figure ( SS-052 ). That sculpt was intended to echo actor Aaron Eckhart, as seen in the sci-fi actioner Battle Los Angeles. But in my opinion, it looked more like actor Bryan Cranston, as seen in the earlier episodes of Breaking Bad – or Malcolm in the Middle.
With the EODMU-11 head-sculpt there is just enough room for interpretation to give it a not so Leo-look, while still twigging in a Leo-like way. That is actually kind of nice – and definitely not a drawback in terms of the overall appeal. There are many other sixthscale sculpts that are DiCaprio-esque, and a much closer match. So if you are making a custom Roger Ferris, or Arnie Grape this may not be the sculpt that you want to use.
Despite any issues of accuracy ( likeness ), the EODMU-11 head-sculpt is still well crafted. A slight downward cast to the corners of the mouth, and a hint of knit of the brow, gives him an exacerbated, yet determined look. Almost like he just found out that his favorite television show got canceled. Would it be going too far on my part to suggest that he almost looks like Leonardo DiCaprio doing an impersonation of Robert DeNiro doing an impersonation of Leonardo DiCaprio?
One of the most appealing aspects in terms of realism with this, and many other sixthscale sculpts that we see these days, is the skin tone. It has that natural looking translucence that we see with human skin. That quality that gives skin a warmth and a glow that seems to emanate from just below the surface. This is an effect called sub-surface scattering – or sub-surface light scattering.
It may sound a bit crazy to describe human skin as being slightly translucent – but stop and think about it for a second – when you look at your wrist, do you see the thin blue tracks of your veins? When you see a person standing, back lit by the sun, do you see the warm red glow of the sun permeating through the lobes of their ears? And while our skin may not be as translucent as the skin of a goldfish, or brine shrimp ( both delicious items on the new Seafood Menu at Red Lobster ), it is still ever so slightly see-through.
Companies like Soldier Story and Hot Toys quickly caught on how to translate this natural looking translucence, and sub-surface light scattering effect, into their head-sculpts. Not by using opaque paint application to render an effect that is non-opaque in nature, but instead by using a semi-translucent material in the casting process.
I am not 100% certain, but I would venture a guess that the material that they are using is akin to the polyurethane that skate wheels are made of. When a base skin tone is achieved using pigments added to the polyurethane ( while in a liquid state ), the effect is essentially polyurethane skin. It is then possible to add highlight and shadow by using more pigments ( as opposed to heavier, more opaque paints ). One area that this effect is most evident is in the beard shadowing. All just guess work on my part – but if I were to attempt to capture the same look at home ( and had access to the necessary materials ), this is how I would go about it. This is not to say that the entirety of the head-sculpt finishing is done through pigments – there are those areas where it is abundantly evident that heavier, opaque paints are used. Areas such as the eyes and the hair for example.
Of note: With respect to likenesses and people’s faces, you know how you sometimes see a likeness ( either sixthscale or on an actual person ), and you are struck with an almost maddening sense of uncertain familiarity ( oxymoronic undertones aside )? You try mightily to figure just what is so familiar about that likeness or individual – maybe it’s due to the fact that we see genetic repetitiveness in people’s features – you know, a nose like Cher, or dingle berries like Newport Warbone of the American Funboys. I propose that there are a finite number of types of features ( relatively speaking ), that can be combined in an infinite number of ways ( more or less ). That is my theory of why people sometimes look alike without being related – or familiar in a good or a bad way. The reason why there is, and always will be, work for celebrity impersonators and body doubles. The reason why that person you are dating either looks eerily like or completely unlike that last person who you dated. Weird, and kind of cool in a cosmic togetherness sort of way. I am surprised some gobbledygook spewing celebrity hasn’t espoused long and hard ( and vacuously ) on this subject.
Anyway, what I am trying to say, and am taking freaking forever to get to, is that this sculpt reminds me of Chael Sonnen. And no, this is not a sloppy attempt to insert his name into one of my reviews – I being a fan of Chael Sonnen, and I wanting to see a rematch between he and Anderson Silva. I really do think that this EODMU sculpt looks like Sonnen. Others may find this assentation to be ludicrous, but hey, sometimes these things are subjective.
While we are on the subject, I have to clarify that I am not anti-Anderson Silva. I say this because I perceive a sense of growing disdain ( may be too strong a word though ) toward Anderson Silva. If this is the case, I have to ponder why it is so. Maybe it has to do with his fighting style – the tactical feeling out period that tends to last a round or two – the dance or chess match that may seem ponderous or boring when compared to the blitz and blast that we sometimes see from other fighters. Although Anderson Silva is certainly capable of the blitz and blast style of fighting – and we have seen him end fights in the blink of an eye with a deftly landed counterstrike.
Another aspect of a supposed lack of enthusiasm for Anderson Silva, may be the old “ I want to see if he really is invincible “ sentiment. Personally speaking, I tend to think we see a telling side of a fighter ( or any athlete ) when we see them deal with defeat. Imagine the pressure of having never lost a fight ( in the UFC anyway ) – that could be hard in ways that are difficult to fathom. On that note, I was actually surprised to read of the following when researching Anderson Silva’s fight record:
Loss by way of accidental knee ( disqualification ) in that first fight with Yushin Okami
Loss by way of flying heel hook to Ryo Chonan
Loss by way of triangle choke to Daiju Takase
Loss by way of unanimous decision to Luiz Azeredo
Still, he has had a 15 win streak since 2006. Wow, imagine the pressure that comes with that. And when we a fighter faces a loss – especially their first in their now home field or adoptive organization, it is really telling. Most handle it with the warrior spirit – they face it and learn from it and in the process they display that humble decorum and magnanimity that people who don’t follow MMA never see ( or never imagine they would see might be more accurate ) from MMA fighters. It shows us that they have and face the same pressures that we all face – the pressure to succeed and overcome. And it shows the importance of self-effacement and the realization of the inner spirit. Losing is never fun, but it is part of life.
So what will it be like when someone beats Anderson Silva? We may not know – at least in his UFC career – he could retire with his title – he could transition to another organization. But I have a feeling that when and if he does have to relinquish his title ( even if it’s only a temporary relinquishment ), he will handle it like a champ. I think he is a believer too – thanking God for his victories – and that is a big plus as far as I am concerned – and the strength to deal with anything comes from God ( read 1st Corinthians 10:13 ).
Wow, God and MMA, and we haven’t even gotten to the score for the head-sculpt and base body yet. So let’s get to it. I feel that the S2 base and decently rendered and finished sculpt are enough to pump this one up to the full five out of five stars.
We get a nifty selection of uniform goodies with this one:
CWU 27/P flight suit
Short sleeve tee shirt
Mechanix Covert gloves ( see head-sculpt and base body category )
G.I. ( General Issue ) rappelling gloves
26000 assault boots
Over the years, there have been precious few tan flight suits in sixthscale. I have always wondered why this is as tan flight suits seem to be widely used by several branches of our military ( and not just by pilots or aircrew personnel ). Here is a list of the sixthscale tan flight suits that I can remember:
DML ( Dragon Models Limited ) Enduring freedom USMC Force Recon ” Perry “
DML ( Dragon Models Limited ) Enduring freedom FA18 ” Gil ” ( tan flight suit and green flight suit variants )
Toy Soldier USMC Jeff Gregoric
BBI ( Blue Box International ) Enduring Freedom pilot ( male and female )
Playhouse Toys USMC RCT ” McKnight “
Hot Toys USMC II MEF
And of course, that list of figures spans several years – all distant in terms of distribution date – so finding any of the tan flight suits therein as a loose parts purchase is extremely difficult.
Of these flight suits, two stand out for their combination of detail and construction: The Toy Soldier USMC Jeff Gregoric version, and the Playhouse Toys USMC RCT ” McKnight ” version. The big standout detail ( for me at least ) is that each of these flight suits feature the micro scale, or size ” 0 ” zippers at the ankle cuffs. These micro scale zippers are a scale specific must as far as I’m concerned, and I tend to consider them a key indicator when surmising the quality and attention to detail of any given sixthscale uniform or softline. Let’s be honest, a fullscale zipper ( specifically a fullscale zipper pull ), is a glaring flub that stands out in the worst way possible on a sixthscale uniform. It would be analogous to you or I having a zipper pull the size of a cow tongue hanging off of the fly of our jeans – or off of the end of our zip hoody’s zip. A horrendous look in either case.
Interestingly Soldier Story decided to forgo the addition of leg cuff zipper pulls of any scale – opting instead for a closed seam with absolutely no zipper detail whatsoever. I am not sure if this was done to trim the fat cost wise, or if it was more a matter of aesthetics. Most likely it was done for the former and not the latter, and is in the end a bit of a non-issue in terms of the final look of the flight suit. Corners get cut, and to try to figure out the reasons involved – or why this or that was trimmed is beyond reason.
They did opt of the micro scale zipper on the front placket of the flight suit – which is a nice touch – and means that you do not have to worry about hiding a fullscale zipper pull by either zipping the zipper pull down below the top line of the vest, or by doing what I always did/do – forcibly removing the fullscale zipper pull with a pair of wire snips.
On that note, I do not recommend the removing of the zipper pull unless it is absolutely necessary and you can’t think of any other alternative. To understand why, we must go inside the zipper pull ( or zipper slider ) to examine the structure.
There is a small metal leaf spring inside of the zipper slider that is actuated by a small tab on the back side of the zipper pull. This small metal leaf spring inside of the zipper slider, adds tension the zipper teeth ( or ” chain ” ), and acts as a lock to keep the zipper slider from backing up – resulting in your zipper falling down of its own accord. And we all know what can happen when the old zipper decides to slide open…
If you ever do remove the zipper pull from the zipper slider, and end up with a locked zipper that you either need to zip or unzip, you can insert a small pin or makeshift prying tool into the opening at the side of the zipper slider. That will depress the leaf spring and release the tension on the zipper chain. You can then thread a short length of cordage through the opening to replace the missing zipper pull. The cordage will also provide sufficient tension to actuate and release the leaf spring. Problem solved, and no more dong slipping out of your fly at the party or during your oral exam. Let’s leave that one be…
Why am I going to so much trouble to illustrate this cautionary tale of the woes and fixits of zipperdom? Because I once destroyed a prized sixthscale uniform element by trying mightily to pull down the locked out zipper slider. That was before I took the time to examine the zipper slider and discover the leaf spring. So if sharing my experience can help a fellow collector or basher to keep from ruining a sixthscale uni piece, then it is worth the telling of the tale.
In addition to the micro scale zipper, we have micro scale velcro detailing at the cuffs and on the waist adjustment strap ( think belt ). I have to say thank you to Soldier Story for that element – so much better and so much more scale appropriate. Just think back to all of the times you have had to wrestle and futz around with fullscale velcro on sixthscale uniforms and softlines – man, it is literally the worst. The stack height is way out of proportion, the stitching never wants to hold, and to top it off the fullscale stuff just refuses to stay fastened.
In the scheme of things ( velcro ), I wonder if this has to do with the number of hooks and loops per square inch – or something like that. If you were to count the number of hooks and loops in 1/4” x1/4” sample of fullscale velcro, would you see a smaller number than with micro scale velcro? Or maybe it’s the size of the hooks and the loops in proportion to the area of the sample. Whatever the case may be, fullscale velcro on your fullscale velcro closure muscle pants is good – fullscale velcro on you sixthscale velcro closure muscle pants is not good. And yes, I do not wear velcro closure muscle pants – unless I am working out or dancing at the organic foods farmer’s market in front of that bongo and bongs booth with the tie dye fruit loop dangles.
In addition to the killer looking jumpsuit, we receive a fairly decent assortment of uniform essentials. Each is certainly up to par with what we have come to expect, but there are two pieces that stand out…
First off, the knee pads. They are a nice combination of cloth and molded elements – a far cry from the all molded ( or molded and elastic ) pads of old. The caps are very nice, with no warping or glue shift – glue shift being my way of describing where the cap either shifted during or right after it was glued to the pad backing and ended up crooked or off set, with a schmear of glue that looks like a snail trail. The paint apps on the pad caps are are minimal but precise, with no slop over with the brass eyelet paint detailing. And of course we have micro scale velcro detailing added to the strap backs – so that is good for the same reasons that I mentioned while discussing the flight suit.
The second of the two standout pieces is ( are? ) the boots. In this case Soldier Story has gone mixed media ( or cloth ) in the construction/assembly. I would have to look back over their product line master list in order to calculate how many times Soldier Story has used the cloth construction versus how many times they have gone the molded route. But were I too venture a guess, I would say that the number of cloth far outnumbers the number of molded.
Alright, I have already explained and discussed my own personal feelings when it comes to cloth versus molded boots. I am of the mind that either is a viable option, and that the best way to decide is to look at the boots in question case by case. Seems pretty obvious, but when you think about it, there are some preconceptions afoot ( no pun ) concerning the use of either mixed media ( cloth ) or molded boots. Some seem to feel that it is a sign of corner cutting when a company goes molded as opposed to cloth. That cloth boots are automatically better because they are a closer analog material wise to the real deal, and that plastic is a cheap cop out. I would argue that this notion falls flat when the cloth or mixed media boot in question looks dodgy.
Let’s take an average pair of outdoor adventure type boots ( or military if you prefer ), and break them down:
On average they have two to four ( and sometimes more ) layers of material. This material on average, is 2mm – 4mm thick. Okay, now let’s say that in order to make an accurate analog ( I speak of accuracy in terms of scale and overall look ), we would need to find a suitable material with which to work. Using scale as our accuracy metric, we would need this material to be six times thinner than the fullscale equivalent. That would mean ( on average – using a 3mm measure as our baseline ), either cloth or leather that is roughly .10mm thick. I know that my math may be off a bit – but it is close enough to prove a point – that being just how impossibly thin the material in question would have to be. We would need a cloth or leather material roughly as thin as a manila envelope or gnat’s eyelash. That is really thin – and would therefore be really fragile.
It would be almost impossible ( but let’s just say really tough ), to find anything that thin that would hold up to the manufacturing process let alone the first time we handled a finished product. We would need a gossamer thin uber cloth, and outside of a NASA or JPL skunk works style lab, something that would fit the bill may not be available. And if our wonder fabric existed, could it be had affordably if at all? So the sixthscale companies that make cloth boots have to use what is currently and affordably available – the fullscale stuff in other words. So we have fullscale stuff being used to fashion a sixthscale item.
In areas like web gear and uniform elements the use of fullscale materials isn’t as noticeable. We can illustrate this point by using something like a medium weight cotton or poly blend poplin ( the sort of stuff men’s dress shirts are made from ) as our web gear and uniform element construction material. But with boots that incorporate leather or suede elements there really is not that much in the way of ultra-thin equivalents. So we have the thicker stuff, and that in turn means that we have thicker boots. Use the six times reduction formula is reverse to calculate just how thick the fullscale construction medium equivalent would be. We would have boots that were made from leather, cordura, poplin, or canvas that would be as thick as a slice of Texas Toast.
This is the big reason why I don’t mind a pair of expertly sculpted and detailed molded boots.
So where does all this leave us when talking about the boots that come with the EODMU? While I would have preferred a pair of molded boots like the ones featured with either the Soldier Story 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan, or Toys City Navy SEAL Team 5 Mountain Ops figure, I do have to be open minded and objective. Soldier Story has no doubt tried mightily to take on the not so small challenge of producing a decent looking mixed media boot, and they have certainly made strides ( again, no pun ) over the last couple of years. The work has paid off, but there is still room for improvement. However, the stitching on these guys is clean, the eyelets are strong and secure, and the area where the boot upper is attached to the sole is clean and relatively free of glue slop ( glue shift or snail trails ). So yes, they are pretty nice.
And that brings us to our score for the uniform elements. I feel that four and a half out of five stars is in order. The stuff is good, but it is not perfect, so I have to score in a way that I feel accurately expresses the level of quality while still leaving room for the aforementioned improvement.
Softlines ( webbing and pouches )…
Lots and lots of softlines goodness with this guy. Here is the parts breakdown:
CIRAS MAR vest
Pistol magazine pouch
Pistol dual magazine pouch
Triple cell M4 5.56 magazine pouch
Single cell M4 5.56 magazine pouch
100 round 7.62 pouch
Removable assaulter panel
MBITR radio pouch
C420 PAPR panel
HABD Sea Survival Air Egress pouch
TFSS ( Tactical Floatation Support System )
CCRK ( Combat Casualty Response Kit )
I am always a little hesitant to delve too deeply into the identification of modern era military vests and pouches. Same holds true with body armor, plate carriers, and chest rigs. There are just so many variations and designations out there as of early 2012, that I feel somewhat unqualified to name them or discuss their finer points. There are folks out there who really know their stuff when it comes to softline load carrying and ballistic protection gear. I am not one of these folks.
I have a kind of awe mixed with admiration for these fellows at having this level and depth of knowledge and being able to apply it to a spontaneous gear discussion. It’s that thing that we probably all feel when we see or hear someone who is well versed on a particular subject with which we have only passing knowledge. That strong desire to contribute in some way – to be a part of the conversation, only to sit back and listen… To drink it all in – to take notes – and to try not to interrupt or put our foot in our mouth.
I love to learn new things – absorbing new knowledge to the extent that you can use it again at a later date, is like meeting an interesting new person. However, as I mentioned earlier, I do not fall into the category of people who have a wealth of knowledge about vests and softlines gear. I can hold forth on maybe one or two subjects, but for the life of me I can’t even think of what they are right now.
Point is, I just can’t add much to the discussion of what this vest is and why ( or why not ) it should ( or shouldn’t ) be featured with this figure. I feel fairly confident that I could find out – but that would take too long to be of any real benefit herein. Researching and learning about gear becomes a sort of treasure hunt, and treasure hunts take time and sweat equity.
To get back on topic, I will focus on the softlines that come with this set from the standpoint of a consumer and admirer of small scale detail. Concentrating more on the look and feel of the pieces as opposed to the real world who, what, where, why for.
The sewing construction is outstanding in all of the requisite areas: clean even stitching that is precisely aligned with the edges of the fabric details; micro scale velcro and zipper elements; evenly spaced molle/PALS webbing; and scale appropriate web and fabric ingredients. All of these factors equate to a sixthscale vest and pouch array that one can imagine actually wearing were one shrunk with a shrink ray, or were the vest enlarged with an enlarging ray. Maybe even go 50/50 and shrink yourself half way and enlarge the vest half way. Bottom line, despite my lack of softline gear knowledge, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to declare that this ( sixthscale version ) is pretty close by way of patterning and construction to the real thing ( fullscale version ).
I reckon it’s time to tally up the score for the softlines… I am going with a four and a half out of five stars for the very same reason that I stated with the uniform score.
Hardlines ( tools, electronics, and sundry parts )…
As per usual, Soldier Story has supplied us with a plentitude of stunning hardline paraphernalia. Here is the rundown:
MICH 2002 HELMET
M-frame 2.0 Glasses
Waterproof PTT ( Push To Talk )
MBITR ( Multi-band Inter/Intra Team Radio ) radio
M40A1 field protective NBC gas mask
NIOSH approved C420 PAPR ( Powered Air Purifying Respirator )
Filter canisters x 2
HABD ( Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device )
MS2000 strobe light
MK141 MOD0 flash bang grenades x 4
CSS ( Combat Super Shears ) EMT sheers
Gerber FliK multi-tool
Cable tie/zip tie ( white ）x 2
Cable tie/zip tie ( black ) x 2
The first items to grab my attention were the M40A1 field protective NBC gas mask, and NIOSH approved C420 PAPR ( Powered Air Purifying Respirator ). I am sure I am not alone in stating that these two items are pretty awesome. And I have to admit, that their inclusion in the set was the deciding factor that prompted me to chase down a chance to review this set.
I did have some questions with respect to the gear selection with the EODMU-11 U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Unit 11 figure – speaking specifically to a lack of EOD equipment. I feel no shame admitting that I would have been none the wiser if Soldier Story had decided to designate this figure as a CQB Assaulter. That is to say that I would not have said, ” No wait, I think he looks more like an EOD guy… ” Of course there are those who could immediately identify the figure as an EOD – and maybe even an EODMU-11 U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Unit 11, but I am not one of them.
Nevertheless, the M40A1 field protective NBC gas mask, and NIOSH approved C420 PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator), do seem a logical choice to include with an EOD figure. Although looking back on the first season of G4’s Bomb Patrol Afghanistan ( which arguably may not be all inclusive to what EOD teams use ) I do not recall seeing this equipment in use. And in reference to said television show, I have to ask; shouldn’t he have some type of defusing gear aside from the Gerber Flick? Since I am not an EOD expert I can’t offer any suggestions as to what that gear should be – but after watching Bomb Patrol Afghanistan, I might go out on a limb and suggest a couple of blocks of C4, a reel or spool of det cord, a pack of blasting caps, and maybe even a squeeze bottle of fluorescent marking powder. Maybe even a standard EOD kit ( bag/pack ), with a couple of mine probes, a multitool with a C4 spike, a blasting cap crimper, a blasting cap sto-box, and a wire stripper. Maybe some batteries and a Fluke meter – those detect and measure current – volts, watts, and ohms.
So getting back to the mask, how does it stack up? And how does it compare to other sixthscale gasmasks? The mask in this set was probably the single most anticipated piece ( personally speaking ) – the one that I had very high hopes for – I mean this is Soldier Story right? And Soldier Story is arguably the penultimate sixthscale modern era military figure maker since DML, Hot Toys, and A.C.E. Workshop seem to have dropped off of the map modern era militarily speaking. So clearly, the bar is set high.
Okay, I got the figure in the mail, and the first thing I did wad unbox the main tray and remove the mask. I made my assessment in large part using previous sixthscale gasmasks as a par. Qualitatively speaking, I made my comparisons to the DML ( Dragon Models Limited ) British S10 masks ( as featured with their HKSDU and UK SAS figures ), the Hot Toys and BBI MSA Millennium or MCU type masks, and even the versions produced by Medicom and Hasbro. And with that in mind, this one ( the Soldier Story offering ) is not quite what I was expecting. Ouch – like pulling a band aid off of a particularly sensitive and moderately hairy part of the anatomy…
Don’t get me wrong, overall and from afar, it looks pretty good. But upon closer examination, I noted that the lines are just a little fuzzy, and the lenses are just a little cloudy. This may be due the type of material used in the makeup of the mask – a medium weight rubber that is similar to the material that DML and BBI have used with their masks. But despite the similarity in material, the detailing is still a little soft. You can almost see the tool marks in and on the outside surfaces of the mash – as if you are looking at a work in progress rendered in modeling clay, and not a refined and finished product. There also seems to be a slight lack of symmetry to some of the details – the small ventilation holes for example.
And then there is the slightly distorted, slightly uneven ( uneven in thickness ) look of the lenses. I think this may be due to the fact that the lenses and the mask seem to be one piece. It’s almost as if the mask was cast in a clear rubber and then the black detailing which comprises the body of the mask was painted on. BBI did this with their MCU-2A/P type mask, so I am using my experience with that mask as a basis for comparison. For clarification, MCU-2A/P type mask is the one that came with BBI’s MEU Chopper figure – remember him? Maybe if Soldier Story had gone the route that DML, Hot Toys, and Medicom took with their masks – a mix of medium weight rubber for the body of the mask, and separate hard plastic lenses – the look may have been better. Who knows.
The good news is that these little detailing and lens peccadillos are not as flagrant a foul as to qualify as deal breakers. In fact, there are some real stand out features ( points ) with the mask; the straps are cloth grosgrain ribbon with separate plastic buckle detailing attachments, and the connector which links the hose to the mask is well engineered and has a very snug, very secure fit. So that earns this one more than a few points to help counteract or counterbalance the nits for the previous paragraph. Plus, this is one of the only sixthscale gasmasks you are likely to be able to lay hands on at the time of the publishing of this review – especially of the type that United States troops are using – assuming our guys are still using this one.
In addition to the mask assay, we receive the usual high quality hardline goodness that we have come to expect ( and appreciate ) from Soldier Story. So I have to go high, but not too high with the scoring for the hardline category. Right. So let us go with a four and a half out of five stars for the hardlines. And yes, that is pretty high – especially after I just got through picking on the mask a little. But still, this is an unusual and very useful piece of sixthscale goodness – one that can and no doubt will make it’s way into more than a few modern military and science fiction themed customs and kitbashes.
Always a fun area of any modern or WWII era military figure. In this case we receive a nifty little haul of sixthscale armament:
MK18 MOD0 rifle with Crane stock.
LMT tactical rear sight
Eotech 552 red dot holo sight
Vertical weapon grip
AN/PEQ-15 IR/Visible Laser
Insight M3 tactical rail mounted weapon light
Insight dual pressure switch ( AN/PEQ-15/Insight M3 )
Surefire M600 Scout Light
M4 5.56 magazines x 9
Sig Sauer P226 pistol with rail
Sig Sauer P226 pistol magazine x 4
Surefire X200 weaponlight
Safariland 6004 tactical holster
CRKT ( Columbia River Knife and Tool ) Fixed blade tactical knife with Kydex sheath
Let us begin with a look at the main weapon that comes with this set. Soldier Story is calling it a MK18 MOD0. I am calling it an M4. Why? Well, because in my opinion, that’s what mold they used to cast it – meaning that the upper and lower receiver, the buffer tube, the foregrip ( RIS rail ), and the grip and trigger assembly look the same as most all of the other M4’s that Soldier Story has produced. At least to me anyway.
This is a topic that has been discussed in length in the sixthscale world, and I may be wrong – and I am open to correction/clarification, but I wonder if Soldier Story is calling this a MK18 MOD0, because it sounds better ( or more salable ) when they do NOT call it an M4. After all, there have been enough sixthscale M4’s produced over the last 12 years to fill your, mine, and our collective parts boxes to overflowing. So it may be a hard sell to get people all goo-goo over yet another…
Still, calling it one thing ( MK18 MOD0 ), when it could just as easily be called something else ( M4 ), sort of smacks of stretching – of overstating and or overselling. The sort of embellishment that you normally see trotted out on résumés – you know, when a college grad with no work experience lists “ Lawn Care Specialist ” speaking to the three and a half times that they mowed their parent’s lawn. Don’t get me wrong – I have also stooped to this malarkey my own self ( read excerpt below ):
Interviewer: So you were a “ Waste Management Technician “ Mr. Skram?
Me: I took the out garbage… once… so yeah.
I should mention that I was a manager ( read supervisor ) for a retail chain ( read JC Penney ) where I was in charge of the Kid’s Clothing, and Lingerie ( not Kids Clothing & Lingerie ) Departments. Later I made the move to Customer Service and Catalog – talk about overstating and overselling – right? Anyway, while I was a retail wonk, I read many a résumé – and there were endless examples of attempts to embellish and inflate – in fact, that may be where I got that lawn care Specialist thing from… And I am wondering if we are seeing here – the whole you say MK18 MOD0, I say M4, thing.
Whatever the case, it is a Soldier Story weapon piece, so the quality is sky high, and the detail stunning and crisp. So that is a win.
In addition to the rifle, we receive a nifty Sig Sauer P226 pistol with rail, and a CRKT ( Columbia River Knife and Tool ) fixed blade tactical knife with Kydex sheath. Both are well crafted and finished, and are certainly worthy of a loose parts purchase stock up.
Scoring this one is a little tough for me. What is included in the set is good – don’t get me wrong on that count. And it may even be the best fit accuracy wise – hard to know for sure as weapons and kits seem to change on a fairly consistent basis. Still, using or culling from Soldier Story’s arsenal ( so to speak ), one could have argued for a MK18 as seen with the recent 75th Ranger figure, as opposed to a Mk18 as seen with the SDV SEAL. So while I am a little disappointed, I am still grateful for the work and detail Soldier Story has put into their weapons. Score is only lower because of the pedestrian look of the MK18 MOD0 – just feels like maybe they either dropped the ball or missed an opportunity in there somewhere. The score is therefore three and a half out of five stars. Bear in mind, that this is a taste thing that may only apply to yours truly, and that your own score may be higher depending on your own personal preferences.
Respectfully speaking, I think that Ben may have had a little less to work with on this one than on pervious figures. Still, Ben is a rock star, and great figure designer – living legend – so the figure is still pretty sweet. Technically speaking, the source material seems to have been culled from only a few pics of these EODMU-11 guys in what looks like a training exercise on board a ship. I don’t know when the figure was designed, or when the source material pics were taken, but I have to wonder if it was before G4 launched Bomb Patrol Afghanistan. I may be way off here, but seems to me that gear the Navy EOD guys used in that show (Bomb Patrol Afghanistan ), could have been a helpful source of ideas and inspiration. Then again, maybe Navy EODMU guys are outfitted for a different mission.
And I really must add that despite what may seem like an out and out condemnation of the gas mask assay, I have to say that it was a great piece – especially when combine with the comms, and the helmet. And yes, the fit between these three elements was very good. However, watch out for the gas mask hose – it is a little on the stiff side and can be a bit tough ( challenging ) to work with. Stiff hose – no Viagra joke?
So hat’s off to Ben on another winner – one that I am happy to have in my collection.
Head-sculpt and base body: 5 out of 5 stars
Uniform elements: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Softlines ( webbing and pouches ): 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardlines ( tools, electronics, and sundry parts ): 4.5 out of 5 stars
Weapon elements: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Grand total: 4 out of 5 stars
Things I changed or added…
This time out, I didn’t do a series of out of the box or stock photos. I figured that we had seen enough of them in the big post release ad campaigns, and in fellow reviewers works – and that my own pics would not add anything new. I decided to do a medium weathering job on the figure using with Vallejo acrylic paints ( Light Sand and White for the uniform and softlines, and the mask and weapon ), and a Prismacolor Premiere pen ( Light Walnut for the uniform ).
Also, as can be seen in the pics ( particularly the weapon close up pics ), I did some modifying to the rifle. I did this because I accidentally broke off the flash hider while weathering the rifle, and found that it would have been impossible to fix it in such a way that it would stay fixed. So I shortened the barrel, cut away the front sight, and added a custom flash hider ( ala Noveske ). Despite my consternation and regret at having broken the flash hider, I am still hopeful that Brian will like the look of the modified rifle enough to give me a pass. LOL.
Preparation wise, I went about the usual finishing procedures that I use when unboxing and gearing up a figure. Part of the finishing process that I use with most if not all of my figures is a technique that I call Thread Patrol.
I have discussed thread patrolling in more than a few of my reviews, and I hope that it is one of those tidbits that readers will try with their own figure sets. I have to give thanks to the father of one of very best friends Corey Ficken for teaching me the technique. Corey’s father, Chris Ficken, was having lunch with all of us young whipper snappers, back in the mid 1990′s ( and yes, I was wearing a NIN tour tee ), when he noticed me tugging at a loose strand of thread connected to my brand spanking new Nike ACG Air Moab trail runners. Chris stopped me right before I very nearly undid a critical seam with my increasingly frantic thread tugging. He told me about a nifty little trick to remove errant threads using a butane lighter so as not to compromise a seam. He demonstrated the technique, and the offending thread was vanquished. Unfortunately, my Moab’s didn’t last much more than a year or so after that day, but the trick with the butane lighter stood the test of time… And I am happy to say that it still serves me well to this day – both in sixthscale, and in lifescale. Thanks again Mr. Ficken.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what I have termed thread patrol, here is a breakdown:
One of the byproducts of sewing is leftover thread. This is an unavoidable outcome that can be solved with some deft scissor work. For the most part 1/6 companies do a fair job of removing the surplus thread remnants, but there is always something leftover. Often times the amount of leftover ( overlooked ) thread remnants is roughly equal to the quality of the garment – better sewing and better finishing, less loose thread. And in some cases ( I won’t mention names as I don’t want to hurt any feelings ), the amount of leftover thread can be downright ridiculous.
With that said, part of my preparation of a figure always includes the removal of the thread remnants from any and all of the cloth elements. I feel it just looks a whole lot better to have the figure’s uni and gear neat-looking and squared away. My preferred method for removing the pesky threads is the use of a butane lighter. I simply pass the flame over the loose end of the thread and viola… it’s history. In cases where the loose thread is longer than an inch or so I will trim it down with scissors before giving it the butane lighter treatment. The lighter not only burns the thread down, it also cauterizes ( or seals ) the end of the thread thus helping to keep the seam from unraveling. This method requires some practice as you want to melt the thread without burning the garment. Once mastered it can become an invaluable finishing tool.
Here we are at the end of another review. I have to say thanks for the read. I really appreciate it.
Best regards, Mike
P.S. Hey there, Mike here – popping in to update the review with the promised pics. Unfortunately the pics took a little longer to set up as I had a breakage issue with the gas mask hose… Turns out that it can suffer breakage if you bend it around too much. So handle with caution.
I fixed the problem by replacing the broken hose as opposed to mending it. Glue would have been a possible remedy, but since this piece gets a lot of action when posing the figure, I wanted something more flexible. I ended up using some old glow in the dark guyline that is used to help stake down tents ( glow in the dark so you don’t trip over it at night when exiting the tent for late night deep woods piss ). I included some WIP ( how to ) pics of the process I used to create and attach the new, more flexible hose.
Thanks again for stopping by to look at the review and the accompanying pics. I am grateful for the time and the read.