Last modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2001 6:22 PM


Yes, I still like this kind of stuff. I just don't make it any more. Looking at the pictures on the side, I think you'll understand why.

These are made by a Japanese company named "Yellow Submarine" (website) but manufactured in China, like everything these days. The pics are of three of their miniature armaments products: The MG-34 Machine Gun, its accessory set #1 and the "Broom Handle" Mauser 713R Machine Pistol set, around $9 to $13 each.

These are incredible pieces! The first pic really tells the entire story. The ammo box's handle actually swivels and the side latch actually latches. This is an astounding level of detail, considering that in the past, details like that were sculpted on and molded as one piece, flat against the box. In the past, if there were actual working parts, they were greatly simplified and oversized. These pieces are constructed to look and operate like their full-sized counterparts. Of course, there's only so much you can or would want to do at 1/6th scale: No, the ammo is not held together by real linkage. The ammo belt is very crisply molded in an extremely flexible plastic. You can see light through the space between the rounds, except where joined by the (non) disintegrating links. Now that's quality!

That's the same case with the extra barrel carrier-- working latch, full piano-ish hinges. The drum magazine has more parts which move than any other plastic piece this size that I've ever encountered. But no, I'm sorry to say that you can't remove the rounds and the feed door doesn't open.

The MG-34 itself is equally impressive. Yes, that's a real spring which moves the charging handle and bolt forward. You can elevate both front and rear sights, the barrel is removeable and the hinged receiver cover has two independent components. Naturally, the bipod has all the proper swivel points. The only funky thing is the elastic strap.

Since we're suddenly seeing a bumper crop of the MG-34 after years of having only Cotswold's version, there's a natural compulsion to compare them all. I probably don't have all the variations, but from what I have, I notice that it seems to be evolutionary, almost like an "Arms Race": 21st Century's first one (Schwimmwagen) was okay-- molded out of a funky soft plastic, but with more detail than Cotswold's original. Their second version (I have the motorcycle & sidecar version) was much better and included a working charging handle (no spring). The bipod mechanism was simplified, but (sort of) works. Dragon bumped up the quality of detail and included more working parts-- a full-function bipod, working sight, opening receiver and barrel access (it looks like you can take the barrel out but I haven't been able to). Yellow Submarine adds even more bells and whistles.

At the highest levels of sculpted detail and feature-itis, you start to run into the limits of what the manufacturers can do. While on first impulse, Yellow Submarine's seems to be the ultimate MG-34, my closeup comparison pic of the stock underside shows that the Dragon detail is superior in that area. I think it's fair to say that the level of detail is comparable; Dragon's detail level is a hair finer and their production is a hair more precise. (However, the too-perfect quality can create a less realistic look & feel.) But that's really splitting hairs. Dragon could have created all the working features if they had thought it necessary and chosen to do it first. That's what happens when someone else gets the last word in. While it probably hurts their pride to have been out-done in the features department, I doubt that they're going to take the Arms Race to the next level on this particular weapon, even if it doesn't have a working trigger or chamberable rounds. (Or reloadable rounds...)

A subtle indicator of this "game" is Yellow Submarine's Mauser. Right now, this weapon is not a target of corporate competition. YS's level of working detail is much tamer in this case-- it's molded as one piece, with a removeable magazine. The few obvious targets for extra working detail, like the ring on the bottom of the grip, are molded as part of the pistol. The pistol doesn't even have a bored barrel. Instead, they've focused on the Broomstick Mauser's unique "thing"-- the wooden stock/holster and accessories. There's really nothing unique or revolutionary about their treatment here-- the soft vinyl pouches seem very much like Dragon's. That's not too odd since they seem to be actively coattailling the market that Dragon's provided. It's good for us because it means that the "look & feel" blend right in with our Dragon figures. [A word of caution though-- I'd be really leery about placing hard plastics (like the stock/holster) in direct contact with flexible vinyl (like the holster's carrier) for long periods of time. Plasticizers have a nasty tendency to migrate in young flexible plastic and react with hard plastic that it's in contact with.]

Sinking back into your Reflecto-lounger, you have to wonder what's going on here...? All this one-upmanship comes at a cost: The high-end stuff is fragile! It's definitely not meant to be played with. It's definitely not intended for children. It's probably not a good idea for ham-fisted adults to mess around with it either. It's a product appropriate for those with good manual dexterity, who have that sense about how far you can push a tiny plastic part before it breaks. Most repairs to parts this small would be quite difficult. It's clear that these things are not intended to be toys, but instead are designed to be a weird mix of toy and model, best described in the modern world as a "collectible item".

--Jimbob, 01/09/01