Here is a subject matter you don’t often see featured by most kit makers if at all but one which was nevertheless an important facet of the Vietnam conflict, the Army Republic of Vietnam or ARVN Rangers. Dragon has arguably the widest selection of Vietnam era figures covering both American as well as the Vietnamese forces with a healthy sprinkling of even indigenous forces in between. As such the production of this set complements well if not almost completing their substantial lineup of Vietnam era figures.
Among the various campaigns that the Rangers participated in Dragon has chosen Saigon circa 1968 during the Tet Offensive as the setting for this kit.
The kit comes in Dragon’s standard 1-piece box and features a well drawn illustration by Ron Volstad. The 4 figures are drawn in the midst of action presumably somewhere in Saigon during the street to street fighting of the Tet Offensive, 1968. As usual the adequately detailed painting guide completes the back of the box.
Figures & Equipment
The set comes in 2 tree sprues. The main sprue holds the parts of the 4 figures together with their personal equipment. Molding of the figures was surprisingly relatively sharp for such an old set. Even the canvas belt of the figures had both reinforced stitching lines and eyelets. Although the box art depicts accurately the smaller stature of the Vietnamese especially in relation to their equipment for example, the chap with the Flak vest actually appeared small in what is likely to be a Caucasian-sized flak vest, the actual figures inside were not as well proportioned. The upper body of the figures tended to be too broad at the shoulders for an Asian. The upper body frame tended to be out of proportion to the slightly shorter and thinner legs although both portions fitted well to each other at the waist. The other feature that fell short of my expectations was the sculpting of the facial features. I have to confess at this point that my main intention for purchasing this set was to use it as an affordable box of spares for scratchbuilding rather than the subject matter it represented. More specifically besides the equipment I was looking for a set of affordable Asian heads to pass of as either NVA or even Special Forces indigenous troops. Unfortunately the faces appeared at least for me to be only mildly Asian and even less Vietnamese. Granted that Vietnam is home to a wide range of ethnic groups I had hoped that the faces sculpted here would at least have a stronger Chinese influence if nothing else. Flash was manageable.
The figures are generally well posed in action poses with 2 figures firing weapons, one from a crouched position while the other 2 are in an advancing pose. A casual fit of the figures indicated the need for some puttying for the arms of the figures firing weapons. As a very minor sidenote, the angle of the elbow (the firing arm) of the figure with the M79 felt somewhat exaggerated although never having used the “Blooper” I may very well be wrong.
The figures are fitted with a wide variety of weapons ranging from the standard M-16 to an M-60 and a M79 grenade launcher. There is also a nice addition of an AN/PRC-25 radio. One of the figures is kitted out in a M1969 flak jacket making this is a very welcome variation especially when considering how the flak jacket has become synonymous with all things Vietnam. One of the figures even has a wrist watch.
Other nice additions are the shoulder flash and the provision of decals of the snarling Black Panther for the helmets both of which are critical to denote and distinguish these ARVN soldiers as Rangers.
I am sure my expectations and the scoring of this kit are likely to be biased by my motive of getting the set in the first place as mentioned above. Nevertheless, I feel this was one kit with potential that fell just short. For me the mildly Asian features of the faces, the relatively larger body structure especially that of the upper body were the main lows that held this kit back.
Nevertheless, the set is not without merits as it is a subject matter that is hardly touched on. Among the highs are the molded shoulder flash and decals to differentiate them as ARVN rangers. Despite being a fairly old set the details on the uniforms were fairly well molded and detailed. Other highs include a nice variation of weapons as well as an AN/PRC radio. The action poses were reasonably good as well.
From its activation on July 1960 to the time they were ordered to lay down their arms in April 1975 the Army Republic of Vietnam or ARVN Rangers were found almost always in the thick of the action. The ARVN Rangers were among the few elite units in the South Vietnamese forces. They were trained by American Special Forces who remained with the unit as military advisors. Apparently some of the more promising among them were even sent to the Ranger school at Fort Benning for additional training.
The Rangers were often spared the criticisms of corruption, poor leadership and other disciplinary problems that were commonly leveled at the rest of the Vietnamese army. A more motivated lot it has been said the soldiers with a snarling Black Panther badge on their helmets were often accorded a healthy respect by the NVA and VC.