What’s All This Then?
An unusual feature of the ACW miniatures is that most minis can be used for either side. The only difference between them are the colors. Of course, certain pieces of clothing and equipment might be far less common for one side or the other, but this makes for a remarkably efficient miniatures line. I am used to the Napoleonic age, where the difference between one soldier and another (at least on the parade ground) might be the shape of the epaulettes or a plume instead of a pom pom on the shako.
Therefore, for each manufacturer I have selected one figure to review. If I have extra samples, photos of those will be provided (as will catalog information if known) and comments added specific to those figures.
Who Died and Made You Colonel?
It would certainly be helpful for you to understand what I look for in a miniature. Like most others, I’m pretty particular when I shell out my greenbacks for a bagful of unpainted lead. To that end, please refer to this page about how I judge a mini. But briefly, I am a stickler for anatomical proportion; dislike grossly oversized details (such as cuffs or straps); prefer lines with variations to each pose; and am pretty immune to price (at the rate I paint, it is not all that material especially compared to my book budget).
The Line Up. Number 3 step forward please:
Here are the side by side group shots, with some summary comments. Unless called out on the specific pages, I had no issues with manufacturing quality with any of the figures. Any flash was minimal and easily removed; mold lines are minor if present at all; figures arrived in fine shape.
Click on the manufacturers name to see a detailed review of each figure.
AB: In Napoleonics I think AB are the best of the best. For ACW they are very good, but first place has to go, I think, to Battle Honors based on price. Still, AB are clean, offer a lot of variety and can be purchased individually.
Battle Honors: These are 15 mm scale figures sculpted by Anthony Barton, now founder of AB Figures. They feature excellent detail, good pose assortment, and excellent anatomy. And a good value to boot.
Donnington: These are pretty substantial soldiers - they are taller and heavier than many other lines. Detail is moderate.
Essex: Beautifully cast, the sculpts have a distinctly gnomish style. Their anatomy is usually highly stylized - large hands and short legs. But if you like one of their lines, you’ll probably like them all.
Freikorps: I have only seen a handful of figures from them, and their ACW line seems above average - well proportioned, sensibly detailed, resulting in a very nice figure.
Historifigs: A seeming throw back range, they look very “lumpy” especially when compared to lines like Essex, Minifigs and Battle Honors. They have a goofy appeal to me, but otherwise I think they need to update this line.
Irregular: Definitely the smallest of the lines, and due for a makeover. The samples I have are stocky and carry the most equipment of any line I’ve seen.
Kriegspielers: No longer in production. If you have any information on the line, please write me.
Lancashire: Tall and lanky, with a low key style.
Minifigs: Like certain other lines (Essex for example) Minifigs are a remarkably consistent manufacturer. They have a very distinct sculpting style which features low key equipment details, and instead uses the pose to convey energy, motion and drama. If you like one Minifig, you’ll probably like all of them.
Musket Miniatures: The anatomy is only so-so. The detail is good with a subtle style.
Old Glory: Old Glory is one of the ranges that lacks consistency. Some figures are very good, some bad. This one is bad - the anatomy is off, and the bayonet is more like a scythe! If at all possible, request samples before you buy.
Pioneer: I was inclined to dislike these when I first saw them for having deep folds on every piece of clothing. But as I painted them I came to like them more and more - very nice details, and the style is dramatic without being over the top.
Peter Pig: I really like these figures. Like Pioneer there is a lot of drama in the uniform. But the sculpt is very good and the detail easy to call out.
Stone Mountain: A solid line. Details are moderately oversized but the anatomy is good and the pose as well.
Stonewall (North & South): I was provided with a foot command set. They are another of the lean and lanky lines. Anatomy is spotty and the detail level can be disappointing - this musket, for example, is very rough.
Warrior: Like the Essex brand, the Warrior figures I’ve seen are distinctly gnomish. Squat and heavy with undersized torsos.
The Union Colors: A novice will often ask what color blue ought I paint a Union infantryman’s jacket? The short answer is: any dark indigo blue you like. Considering the lack of standardized production for jackets, not to mention those less-than-honest government contractors, and the effects of weather and combat on the uniform, the blues would have been quite varied indeed. I selected my Union colors based on three basic criteria: first that the colors would contrast well, second that the resulting troops would look somewhat “uniform” and, finally, that I already owned them! For the jacket base coat I used Americana Admiral Blue, a craft paint available in most craft stores. For the highlights I used Andrea Baltic Blue. For the Union pants the base coat is Polly S D&H Avon Blue, highlighted with Howard Hues Pants Blue. For the flesh I base coated in Vallejo Light Brown and then highlighted with Vallejo Sunny Skin.
The Confederate Colors: For the Rebs, I decided I wanted a very ragged and irregular look. So I broke out every bottle of brown I own. The coats/shirts are base coated in Model Master Panzer Chocolate, then highlighted in Vallejo Flat Earth. The pants are Ceramcoat Dolphin Gray over Model Master Dark Gull Gray. The hats are base coated with Vallejo Flat Earth, then highlighted with Ceramcoat Golden Brown. The equipment is an assortment of browns and a bit of black. The blankets are Ceramcoat Dark Foliage Green highlighted with Howard Hues dragoon green (I just wanted a few splashes of color). I also decided to add some red uniform trim here and there to break up the monotony of the browns and grays. For the flesh I base coated in Vallejo Light Brown and then highlighted with Vallejo Sunny Skin.