Cotswold's Waffen SS Soldier
A review

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

Hey Cotswold! Too cool!!!

What can I say that isn't shown in the pictures? Cotswold's Collectibles is a pretty well-known producer to the Joe community, and this is one of their most anxiously awaited figures among those who collect WWII Axis figures. In some ways this is a first-- until now, WWII German camouflage patterns were only available through customizers, and that's not an affordable route for many people. While Cotswold isn't plugged into the formal national distribution chain of Walmart, Toys 'R Us and Target, they aren't customizers by my definition. They have their goods produced overseas like many of the bigger companies, but sell mainly through mail order and individual dealers. I got mine through a mass order conducted by Greg Brown of Eklyps Custom Figures & Collectibles (a truly Great Joe). So these are affordable: $75 + s&h from Cotswold; considerably less with the mass order discount. For this, you get the figure, the camo covered helmet, the camo smock w/dickie, trousers, boots, MP40 machinegun, belt w/buckle, Y-harness, 2 grenades, 2 MP40 ammo pouches, gas mask tin, mess kit, canteen and entrenching tool with cover. Rather than go over what I consider to be "old hat" with Cotswold (grenades, belt gear, etc.), I'll point out some things which are new to me.

The autumn oakleaf camo pattern is very well done on a fairly thin material. The smock has the requisite elasticized waist and wrist, as well as the lace-up front closure & slit pockets of an early M-38 pattern. (I've never been clear as to whether this model actually had sewn-on sleeves, but I suppose that's for the experts to decide...) As you can see from the pic, the SS runes are embroidered directly on the dickey. As for the head... well, my superb photography sort of tones down his unique look, which is a trait we've all come to recognize (and love) as distinctly Cotswoldish. :^)

The MP-40 magazine pouches are pretty unusual. They're made of rubber, and they open with room inside for a magazine. (I'd guess that Cots is planning on redoing their MP-40 with a detachable magazine.) It's pretty neat, and high quality too-- sort of a cross between the sculpted detail of resin work with the functionality of cloth goods. Because of this, the realism is compromised though-- the thickness required for a durable rubber casting makes the pouches a little too boxy, and the tuck-in strap holders are pretty high off the pouch. But they're really sort of...cute... and look just fine from a distance. (n.b. - Although I try to model my stuff realistically, I do like the functional stylistic stuff too, as long as it doesn't look funky-ass cheap.)

The other picture shows Cotswold's fairly new entrenching tool cover. I was surprised to discover that this was made of rubber too! The closing strap is molded on, and the thing really is neat. (Of special note to guys who sculpt-- see how the simulated sewing seam is raised, and not merely an indentation, like it is on most boots? That must be one of those "Secrets of the Pros"...)

Anyway, Cots is really mooooving along now-- next month they'll have their Fallschirmjager figure, and I'm planning on getting it too. It's got to be tough for them to carve out their niche considering the competitive pressure that 21st Century is bringing to bear. But I think they'll do all right, if they use some of the strengths and advantages of their size & marketing position. While 21st Century is planning to do WWII Germans, I don't believe they have quite the freedom to do "controversial" (read: SS) figures, if they want to distribute through the national chains. We'll see though. Another thing Cots might consider doing is taking advantage of the fact that 21st Century is focused on realistic-looking gear. Since it's difficult to do both realistic and functional gear, Cots might think of taking advantage of this and carving their own distinct niche. The market is big enough for both, and it certainly would be a shame for anyone to be driven out of business. Furthermore, I don't think this will hurt the small customizers too much, because they always seem to be operating at the edge of their ability to produce for demand anyway. Most people who prefer the extra touches of realism & quality that customizers provide probably won't mind paying the difference.

-Jimbob, 11/23/98


I like putting custom touches on stuff. That's my way of getting extra "value" out of a purchase, since that buzz wears off too quickly. Whether this actually improves a figure is debatable, but I prefer the new look and have fun doing it.

I've only finished some of the changes:
The magazine pouches were given a dark wash, some drybrushing, and the threads painted. The grenades have a wood-like paintjob on the handles, and silver drybrushing to simulate worn paint. The buckle received the same treatment, and still needs to be worked on to conceal the method of attachment (I don't like the side tabs). I made an iron-on SS rune patch to cover the embroidered one. (I'd really like to redo the dickey since the collar's closure looks weird.)

On the backside, I made a breadbag and attached a few things to it. The messkit's lid was shortened, the handle tabs were made smaller, and the handle was sized for a better fit. After the paintjob, a leather strap with buckle was added. The canteen was covered in fabric and given leather straps. (There's a short, stiff "cheater" leather strap attached to the backside which threads through the breadbag's lower retaining straps. The straps aren't unstrappable, so this was one way of duplicating the tie-down function.) It was also given the silver paint-wear. The entrenching tool & cover aren't done yet, but will probably follow this pattern. The Cots 1930 gas mask case is being reworked-- I'd like to glue two of them together to extend the length of the fluting, shorten the cap and reconstruct it as the '38 model. Reference for this is difficult, since you need to see the full 360 degree view to know how it's strapped.