Dragon - 'Louis Fletcher' Irish Guards, Iraq 2003 - Review

Recently I’ve been purchasing a number of the older BBI models at bargain prices, such as ‘Dusty Rhodes’ for £18.99 – which make fantastic base models for a kit-bash, or with minor modification can look just as good as those produced today.  Having purchased about three different models, it was time to switch my attention to another manufacturer – Dragon.

 

Some of the older Dragon figures are just as good a bargain, if you choose the right ones, and whilst I was browsing through the Dragon back catalogue of previous releases, I saw one which caught my eye; ‘Louis Fletcher’ of the British Army Irish Guards regiment – Iraq 2003.

 

After searching around I discovered this model was fairly hard to find a decent price, until finally I stumbled across one at Alsand’s Toy Soldiers Plus website, for the bargain price of $30.  After adding on shipping to the UK also, the grand total came to $50, or a very acceptable £28 in British money – not bad posted all the way from N.Y, USA!  I was also lucky enough to snatch the last one they had in stock!

 

I decided at the very start of writing this review, that it would be as ‘out of the box’ as possible, with only the smallest of modifications.  Unfortunately this didn’t quite go to plan, as you’ll find out later on in the review.

 

 

The Louis Fletcher model is described as featuring the following accessories:

 

Uniform:

British Beret

Para Helmet

Desert DPM Helmet Cover

Irish Guard Body Armour

Desert DPM Jacket

Desert DPM Trousers

Desert Combat Boots

 

Equipment:

90' Pattern Ammunition Pouches

95' Webbing

90' Pattern Utility Pouch

British Infantry Water Bottle

Walkie-Talkie and Head Phone

Watch

Combat Knife Scabbard Pouch

Walkie-Talkie Pouch

Sun Glasses

 

Weapons:

L86 Submachine Gun w/Sight Scope

Infantry Combat Knife

  

Insignia:

Irish Guard Beret Badge

 

Others:

Men Hands with Gloves

New Head Sculpture

Clear Stand Mount

 

Upon opening the box I carefully removed all of the components and laid them out on the table, unfortunately I did not find the Beret as described, nor did I have the insignia.  There was also no place in the box where this could have been placed, so I’m not sure whether Dragon changed the product specification but forgot to update the description, or whether mine was purely missing.  You’ll also notice that this Beret does not appear in any of the promotional pictures on their website, so I suspect it was never meant to be included.

 

The body type is the original ‘Neo’ style which is narrower than the more muscular Neo 3 body and still has a fantastic range of movement.  The BBI equivalent would be a G1.0 body.  If you’re not familiar with the Dragon bodies it is worth noting that the neck joint is fixed to the body as opposed to a ball socket on the BBI bodies.  This can restrict your choice of head sculpt somewhat unless you’re willing to modify it slightly and in some circumstances glue it to the neck joint entirely.

 

The head sculpt is acceptable for the period that this model was produced, actually it’s quite detailed with good depth of features.  It is however, disappointing in the paint department by today’s standards, with a very ‘flat’ appearance with no visible shading.  I like to paint all my standard head sculpts anyway, which is something I will do in the future for this model, however like I said earlier, I’m trying to keep it as ‘out of the box’ as possible at the moment!

 

The first job was to attach the body armour.  It appears that this armour is modelled on the Osprey system, which although is the current model of armour provided to British troops, it was not in use during the period that this model represents – 2003.  Also the armour, although a good representation is not technically accurate as although it has place for a ceramic plate at the front of the vest (not included), it does not at the rear.  The front ‘plate carrying’ section of the armour was a little flattened on removal from the box, so I carefully unzipped the micro zipper with a pair of tweezers and padded it out slightly with a small square of bubble wrap.  This gave the look that a ceramic plate was present, which was good enough for me. 

 

Before I attached the body armour, I had a quick check of the uniform.  Although it is the usual good quality material and stitching you would expect of Dragon, it is held together by two metal snap fasteners, and underneath is a micro zipper which is non-functional and just for display.  I felt that Dragon could have made the extra effort to finish the zipper like they had with the body armour.  Additionally the uniform consisted of trousers and jacket, but no t-shirt underneath!   Cutting corners somewhat there I feel.

 

The armour itself has an inner thin plastic liner inside the material which gives it a certain amount of stiffness to simulate the Kevlar that it emulates which is a nice touch.  It also had a desert pattern ‘dump pouch’ on the left hand side already attached to the MOLLE style strapping; I also padded this out slightly with some spare packing material.  The webbing straps on the shoulders were a little bit too long by about an inch after fitting, so I cut these to length and heat treated the edges with a lighter to stop the material from fraying.

 

The next job was to attach the ammunition and canteen pouches to the belt, which is made of OD fabric with a click-fastener.  The belt is nicer than some of Dragon’s earlier releases whereby it was soft plastic.  In fact, all of the pouches and related fastenings are material as opposed to soft plastic which is a real bonus, as I usually swap these parts out on the earlier and cheaper figures.  The ammunition / utility pouches, of which there are two, are designed to hold the L86 magazines.  Only 3 magazines are provided, one of which you’ll need in the weapon, so I cut some strips of corrugated cardboard to fill the empty spaces and pad the pouches out somewhat.  It’s worth pointing out that on some of the earlier BBI figures; I’ve had as many as 8 spare M4 magazines to fill the vest pockets with, so it would have been nice for Dragon to provide a similar amount.

 

The standard issue canteen fits the canteen pouch snugly and is fairly realistic in detail.  The cup lid has folding metal handles and the top of the bottle is also removable.  It also has a nice slightly weathered effect to it for added realism.

 

The combat knife (bayonet) was ever so slightly bent on removal from the packaging, but this was easily cured by heating it gently with a hair-dryer, bending back into shape and allowing it to cool.  It’s worth noting that the bayonet is the same one issued for the L85 (SA-80) rifle but it will not actually fit on the L86 version.  The scabbard incorporates the sharpening stone, wire cutters (which are formed when then knife is fitted to the scabbard) and a folding saw which is functional.  This is all stored in the woodland pouch which attaches to the belt.

 

It was now time to attach the PRR (personal role radio) and helmet assembly, and this is where things rapidly went downhill.  You can see pictured the PRR radio with headset assembly and boom microphone.  There were three initial problems encountered with this assembly which reluctantly I modified.  Firstly the boom microphone, despite having a solid wire core to allow positioning, was at a funny angle which meant it stuck more up Louis’s nose more than it did below his mouth.  No matter how much I twisted it, it would not stay in position.  Secondly there was too much cable from the earpiece to the radio, and the stiff plastic tube it was made from made alignment very difficult.  Both of these problems were cured by cutting the ‘cable’ and rejoining in the desired places with a small section of heat-shrink tubing, which you can see in the later pictures.  The third problem was that of the strapping which attached the headset to the head, and the helmet assembly as a whole.  It was very difficult, almost impossible to get the headset to stay on the head.  In the end I made my own strapping out of a piece of elastic which proved to be very successful, this however was then further hampered by the fitting of the helmet.

 

Although there is a cut-out piece in the helmet liner to allow clearance of the headset, it was not positioned correctly and generally there was just too much ‘going on inside the helmet’ for it to fit as intended.  I tried cutting the helmet liner down somewhat, but in the end I opted to remove it entirely and coupled with my custom headset fixtures, it fitted quite nicely in the end!  This is something that really should have been picked up on by Dragon quality control, but as they say, you get what you pay for and therefore I couldn’t really complain.  Additionally throughout the nightmare that was helmet fitting, I had to modify the chin-strap also…

 

The positioning of the radio pouch I put down to personal preference.  Although there are some straps provided to attach to the main shoulder strap on the vest, I chose to mount the radio on the front of the chest slightly below the intended position using a small piece of elastic strapping.

 

Now came time to give Louis his weapon.  The L86 LSW rifle was included with an option of the SUSAT sight, or Iron Sights.  In his role as a designated marksman (the L86 was replaced in the latter half of 2003 for the FN ‘Minimi’ as a light support weapon, but stayed in service as a marksman rifle) I opted for the SUSAT.  The mounting hole needed to be enlarged slightly so that the aligning pin on the sight fitted snugly onto the rail.  The weapon itself was nicely weathered and incorporates a spring loaded cocking handle – nice touch.  It also comes with removable, and functional folding forward bipod, flip up rear shoulder plate and an OD sling.  The front iron sights were however missing, again not sure if this was intentional or just my set.

 

Final finishing touches were to fit the wrist watch and ‘un-blouse’ the trousers slightly from the boots as they didn’t look natural enough for my liking.  The boots themselves are fairly realistic looking but could possibly do with some slight colour variation (darker) on the sole so they don’t look like they’re made out of the same material to aid in realism – this is something I’ll probably touch up later.  I also didn’t fit the provided sunglasses.  Some how they just didn’t look right on this figure, so I think I’ll save them for his American counter-part!

 

In conclusion, I was fairly happy with this model, certainly for the price I paid for it.  The only disappointment was the fitting of the helmet and radio gear, which without modification would have been extremely difficult and not as robust in the long run.  I always enjoy customising my figures so for me it wasn’t really a problem, had I have paid more for this figure however, I think I would have been slightly disappointed with the quality of the fitting of these parts.

 

Considering the release date of this figure and the low price I paid for it and the items included, I would give the Dragon Louis Fletcher a score of:

 

7 / 10

 

 

And now a special thanks to Sandy at Alsand’s Toy Soldiers Plus for shipping this to me quickly all the way from the USA.  They were very pleasant to deal with and demonstrated outstanding customer service.  You can check out their website here.

JOIN. LIKE. FOLLOW.

Connect with us via Facebook®