Toy reviews, and my occasional ramblings on the hobby.

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The HobbyStop will no longer be updated

Posted on September 20, 2017 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

It's been a while since I've been on here.

Photobucket has disabled all image hot-linking (affecting millions of its users around the web), so all my toy photography is now on DeviantArt.

Action Figures And Dioramas Gallery

Do check it out if you have time!

My other blog entries and tutorials will remain here.

Combat Force figures by Atco

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

"Army builder" figures are always popular, especially among 1/18 military toy collectors, but are these guys worth a look?


I discovered these action figures in early 2011 - only two Chinese eBay stores carry the line.  Reasonably priced and reasonably detailed, I decided to grab a few. 

The figures come in 3 arbitrarily-named types - (L-R) "Infantry Battalion", "Armor Battalion" and "Ranger Battalion", with 3 figures for each type - Commander, Sniper and Squad Assault, for a total of nine figures in the line.

Given that these are only approximations of existing soldier uniforms, I won't bother with pointing out inaccuracies.


The figures come on a fairly basic-looking card with a flimsy clear blister.

The following pics show the Infantry figures, but the layout of the other ones are identical to these.

All the figures share the same card back design.


Here's the SAW gunner out of the packaging.  Pretty basic, with helmet, goggles, belt, weapon, and stand.

Geared up:

Yep, basic all right.  The helmet is a bit small and the goggles too big, but not overly so.  Unmodified, he'd make a great background figure for displays, and with a  couple of mods he might even be foreground material.

The face sculpts look pretty good - BBI good, in fact.  They're cleanly painted too; only the eye paint makes them look a bit goofy.

Each "Battalion" type (Infantry, Armor, and Ranger) has their own body sculpt, which is identical for each figure (Commander, Sniper, and Squad Assault).

Here's another look:

The Infantry figure (left) has a rather plain vest over plain BDUs with a decent attempt at desert tricolor camo (more on that later).  He also has a belt with 7 utility pouches moulded on (5 in front, 2 on the back).

The Armor figure (middle) has a slightly different body sculpt, with a different vest (with a hideous camo scheme), moulded elbow pads (unpainted), a US flag on his right shoulder, and a generic shield-shaped unit patch on his left shoulder. His belt has 5 moulded pouches, and a glued-on canteen.

The Ranger figure (right) looks the plainest, with plain grey BDUs and a light green RACK vest (or an approximation thereof).  The 4 chest pouches are strapped on, and a separate canteen can be attached to his waist.


As mentioned earlier, each "battalion" type comes with 3 figures, each with 1 included weapon - the "Commander" with an M4, "Sniper" with an M24 SWS, and "Squad Assault" with an M249 SAW Paratrooper.

Here's a shot of the weapons.

As you can see, the stock M4 (third down) has a thin rod sticking out of the barrel for some reason.  It may be from the injection mould and they didn't bother cutting it off.  The plastic tray on the packaging is shaped to accommodate it too.

Anyway, it's easily trimmed off with a knife (bottom).

The weapons are moulded in a hard glossy plastic drybrushed all over with silver. The sniper rifle's "wood" parts are painted dark brown.

The SAW ammo drum should be olive green, but is easily painted.

They look OK despite the soft detail, and are quite durable.  They're not bendy like PTE weapons, or undersized like some FOV ones.

The belt has a similar peg-and-hole fastener to BBI's offerings, but is moulded in a thicker material.  Because of this, it will not stay fastened for long.  I ended up supergluing the belt closed before fitting it, then slipping it over the figure's feet and up to the waist.

The helmets and goggles are nothing to write home about, but the "Ranger" figure's goggles are good enough to re-use on other figures.


Each figure has 18 points of articulation: Swivel neck, cut shoulders, cut biceps, swivel elbows, cut wrists, swivel waist, T-crotch hips, cut thighs, single-hinge knees, and cut ankles (above the boots).

Decent, but the lack of ball shoulders and hips are a no-no.  Hell, even cheap PTE figures have superior articulation.  As a result, posing these guys effectively is difficult, especially aiming and kneeling poses.  The unsightly knee hinge is another sore spot.

Pic of the knee hinge:

Dynamic posing is limited, but you can get decent running poses (with the stand) or relaxed poses.


The figures are moulded in their base colour (tan or grey, depending on which) with painted details.  While the green camo colour schemes are questionable, the paint itself is durable and doesn't scrape or flake off.

Of the two desert camo figures, I prefer the Infantry one with its reasonably convincing tri-color scheme and plain green vest.  The Armor figure features squiggly brown lines on a tan base, and an unconvincing green camo vest

The Ranger figure has the least paint  on him and looks rather plain-Jane.  A competent modeler could paint an urban camo scheme on his BDUs, or use him as a base (as I did) for a custom figure.


Here's a comparison shot with figures from other toy lines (click the pic for a larger version).

Left to right: Atco Infantry, Atco Ranger, Atco Armor, PTE Desert Marine, PTE China-exclusive PLA soldier, Tieka OurWar 101st Airborne trooper, BBI Marine, Hasbro Desert Ambush Duke, FOV/Bravo Team Ranger, TRU generic tank driver.

As you can see with the "Armor" figure (third from left), the simple addition of a PTE tactical vest improves the look immensely.  Even without it though, they do mix well with other military figures.


As far as I can tell, only two Chinese eBay sellers (ShopOriental and QQmodels) sell these. Of the two, ShopOriental is a bit cheaper at AUD$6.85 a figure, or AUD$16.68 for a set of 3 figures (with free postage too).

Are they worth it?  There are better-looking army builders out there, but those either cost more (BBI, Hasbro, Tieka) or have limited posability (FOV).  There are better-articulated ones out there, but the comparably-priced ones look even more generic (PTE).

For such an inexpensive figure to offer decent playability and detail, I do believe these are worth a try.

While they're far from perfect, I'm quite happy with them and, with a few modifications, they've taken their place amongst my GI Joe custom figures.

Modified Schleich "Technical"

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Just a few pics of my finished Technical.

I cut the Schleich SUV in half with a razor saw and extended it by epoxying a piece of MDF to the chassis.  I then sprayed the chassis with black plastic dye and painted the body with semigloss spray enamel.

Using an old brush, I dabbed on 2 shades of green acrylic paint for the improvised camo pattern, followed by a drybrushing with silver to simulate paint chips and wear, then brown and tan paint for dirt and rust effects.

The grill guard is from a cheap plastic Land Rover toy, and the 50-cal MG is a modified Bravo Team (Unimax) item.  I made the swiveling pintle mount from aluminium tubing and a small piece of aluminium sheet bent into a U shape.  I used a small screw to secure the U-shaped piece to the tubing.

I made the "Somalis" from a variety of figure parts (GI Joe, Bravo Team and PTE).

Schleich 4x4 SUV

Posted on April 5, 2011 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

German toymakers Schleich are well known for their high-quality figurines, which include dinosaurs, animals, knights, faeries, dragons, etc.

This SUV is part of their Farm series and is meant to go with their horse trailer (available separately).

I'd been eyeing this toy for a long while now, with plans to mount a machine gun on it and turn it into a "technical", but I was turned off the $39 price tag.  Sure, it's German-made, and that's synonymous with quality and durability, but it's a bit on the expensive side for a toy that needs extensive modification for GI Joes to fit in.

Anyway, all of a sudden these vehicles seemingly disappeared from Australian shelves.  I read on one website (which shall remain nameless) that they had been discontinued.  I was unable to find one through my usual online sources, and I started kicking myself for letting it slip away (this happens to me a lot).  This was 3 or 4 months ago.

Then last week, I was on one of my "toy patrols" and I spotted a Schleich display stand.  I immediately scoured it top to bottom, and lo and behold, I found a solitary SUV on the bottom shelf at the back of the display (where someone had hidden it?).

I bought it on the spot (for $39! What's wrong with me???), not willing to let it go again.

Now that I have it, I see that a few Amazon and eBay sellers have it from $15-$20, but posting it to Australia would end up costing more than retail.

So anyway, after that sordid tale, here's my review.


Here's a couple more shots of the packaging.  Right side, showcasing the working suspension, removable  wheels and detachable roof:

Left side, showing the horse trailer accessory.

The back of the box has a bigger version of the photo on the left side.

The box is rather minimalist, well-designed and beautifully printed, and is nice and sturdy.  There's no text on it to describe the toy - just the Schleich logo and a product number, which is why most online sources call this a jeep / SUV / 4x4 / truck.


Here it is out of the box:

First impressions are good.

The overall shape looks like a Jeep Wrangler crossed with an old Range Rover.

It feels nice and solid in the hand, with a bit of heft.  A good sign, since the thing has no metal parts whatsoever - not even screws.   All parts are moulded in sturdy plastic, and are snapped together (no glue here).

This is a good thing because it's easily disassembled for customization, using some gentle persuasion from a small screwdriver.  And yet, despite that, it won't easily take damage or fall apart - it's fallen off the kitchen table a few times and survived without even a scratch.

The driver is the standard 1/20 scale that Schleich uses, although he looks a little small when sitting in the SUV.

He's moulded in a hard rubber material, and is well-sculpted and painted.  Like all Schleich figurines, he's also non-poseable.  This doesn't bother me, as I won't be using him anyway.

Back to the SUV - here's a pic showing the suspension at work:

The front and rear axles each have a central pivot which also travels up and down a groove in the chassis.  An X-shaped spring made of strong, flexible plastic sits above the axle centre.

It sounds complicated, but really isn't.  It's ingeniously simple, and a credit to the Schleich designers.


Being moulded in colour, there's not much paint on the SUV - a bit of yellow-orange on the turn signals and a bit of red on the tail lights and badge.  The number plates appear to be printed on.

The driver figure has the typical clean Schleich paint apps, with even coverage and a hint of shading, and very little paint slop.


Comparison shots with a 1/18 BBI Elite Force Humvee:

Overall dimensions look OK, but the SUV's interior needs work in order to fit 1/18 figures in it.

Here's Clutch struggling to fit in the seat:

The Schleich driver looking like a little kid next to Clutch and a Power Team Elite soldier.


It's a bit expensive at $39 , yes, but true 1/18 scale trucks and SUVs like this one are usually die-cast metal and cost $50-$60 to around $200, and are difficult to modify.

For $39 I can live with the perceived shortcomings, knowing that I got a quality toy.  Also, for that price I don't feel too bad about Dremeling the interior to fit my Joes.

Even if I were too lazy to modify it, I could still use it as a background prop for dioramas with a bit of weathering.

For Schleich collectors this SUV is a gem, and 1/18 hobbyists will also find many uses for it.

True Heroes R/C M1 Abrams

Posted on March 27, 2011 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)


I had a lot of toy tanks growing up.  A battery-operated Chieftain tank that went forward and backward... a deformed tumbler-style tank that would flip over when it encountered a wall and drive back the way it came... a big one I made out of a shoe box... my cousin's GI Joe MOBAT... tanks were a lot of fun.

I always wanted an R/C one, but they were expensive back in the early '80s.  I was insanely jealous when my younger brother got an R/C Sherman for his 10th birthday, and I wrested control of it whenever I could.

I contented myself with 1/72 static model tanks from Hasegawa and Airfix until I spotted this baby.



I spotted this last year (2010) in the clearance aisle at Toys R Us for $20 Australian, marked down from $79 because it had a crumpled box.

Despite the damaged packaging, it works almost perfectly.

The cheap-looking figure that comes with it (more on him later) is Joe-scale but the tank itself is undersized.

I'd guesstimate its scale at 1/22 - 1/24.


Comparing the toy to photos of the real thing, I'd say the detail on this looks pretty good.  The viewing periscopes are there, as are the smoke launchers and the stowage baskets on the turret.  The blast panels on the turret front are asymmetrical, which I believe shows that this is an early model M1.

No machine gun was included on my toy, although there is a mounting point for it in front of the commander's hatch.  I suspect it may have been lost when the packaging was damaged.

Obviously several concessions had to be made regarding detail vs. playability (this is a kids' toy after all), but to my untrained eye it looks "right".

The tank is moulded in a dark tan plastic, with faint hints of a camo pattern sprayed on.  It's a bit too dark for US Army desert camo, but repainting it seems like too much bother.

I decided to drybrush it all over with light khaki, which helped brighten up the dark colours.  There were several ridiculous stickers on the turret and main hull, but I was able to remove them before weathering.

A red-tipped projectile is included, which is inserted into the spring-loaded gun barrel and fired by pressing a small square button on the top of the gun mantlet.

Range is only a couple of feet, so it's pretty useless.  I put the dart into my spares box.


The remote controller has a lot of buttons on it, but the controls are easy to figure out.

This thing is a blast to play with.  It's fully-functional: it moves forward and back, turns on a dime, the turret traverses 330 degrees, and the main gun elevates and depresses.

On my tank, however, the main gun tends to jam in the elevated position and I need to push it back down by hand.

The rubber tracks also tend to slip off the rear road wheels when trying to turn on carpet, but driving in reverse a few inches usually re-seats them without having to pick the toy up.

Despite these (minor) quibbles, it's gret fun driving the tank around.  It can mount obstacles and climb up 40-degree inclines quite easily.

It can handle being driven outdoors in the garden, although plant material can get caught in the tracks and may jam the drive wheels if they wrap around the axle.

I haven't tried driving it in the wet, though - I doubt the electronics can take it.


The tank commander is a generic-looking figure, with shiny brown camo and black gear.  He has a measly 5 points of articulation (neck, shoulders and hips), so good luck trying to pose him in the turret.  As it is, he's too tall for the hatch because he has no knee joints.  I had to open him up (1 screw on his back) and remove his legs to get him to fit.

He still looks ridiculous because he holds his arms straight out in front of him.

Even though the figure is crap, he'd make an OK background character after a decent repaint.

A GI Joe figure (Beach Head, in this case) fits better, at a more realistic height (he's kneeling in there).  The tank is still too damn small though.

With the Joes standing next to it, you can see the scale discrepancy:

Still, it doesn't really bother me because the tank is usable as a background prop in forced-perspective photos, like the next shot:



If this were a simple static toy I probably wouldn't pay the $79 TRU were charging.  For that price I can get the "Power Team Elite" M1 Abrams, which is correctly scaled, comparably detailed and includes 3 figures with superior articulation.

$20 seems about right for this - IF it were a static toy.  The fact that it's a fully-functional RC makes the $79 price tag reasonable, and the fact that I snagged it for 1/4 of that makes it an absolute bargain.

Despite its obvious flaws, I think this is a very cool toy.

To see the tank in action, please visit my Videos page or click the links on the sidebar.

Inexpensive Gem

Posted on March 16, 2011 at 11:33 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm always on the lookout for stuff I can use for dioramas or photographic props.  I was on one of these "expeditions" recently when I spotted this 1/18-scale wired-RC excavator (made by Xiongda) in a local Chinese gift shop for $14.95 Australian.


The colorful box (and the obligatory "engrish" text) caught my eye.  Note that the illustration on the box doesn't match the actual toy.

The box was pretty sturdy, and it had to be, considering the toy was just sitting in it with no plastic or cardboard inserts or twist-ties to hold it in place.  Remarkably, the toy was undamaged and ran well right out of the box on 3 AA batteries.


Here's the excavator (after a 15-minute weathering job) with its tethered controller. Note that a G.I. Joe figure fits perfectly in the seat.
A few of the stickers were applied crooked.  Even though they tore when I tried to peel them off, I was able to straighten them out with minimal damage.  Any visible rips were camouflaged by the weathering.

The control scheme is a bit strange, because the directional control sticks only move left and right.  The left-hand stick controls the forward and reverse movement of all four wheels, and the right-hand stick steers by driving the wheels on one side (like a tank).  The central stick controls the bucket's up-and-down movment.  The bucket has no tilt function, unfortunately.

If you're used to other R/Cs, this control setup feels unnatural and counterintuitive, but with a bit of practice it's easy to use.  My main gripe is that the control wire is too short and is always being run over by the rear wheels when reversing.

Speaking of wheels - the tyres look rubber, but they're moulded from hard plastic.  They look great, but have little grip on a wood floor.  You're better off driving it on carpet, or outside

The next photo is a closer look at the control cab.  It's nicely detailed, with raised tread-plate, non-movable tiller and levers, and driver's seat all cleanly moulded with no excess flash or mould marks.  Fantastic for such an inexpensive toy.  I applied a thin brown wash to bring out the details more.  Note that there are no foot pedals, or much room for the figure's feet.

Below is another shot of the detail on the rear.  Note the cleanly-moulded ventilation grills, fan detail on the rear, plus an air cleaner and chromed exhaust on top.  The exhaust "pipe" doesn't have a hole in the end, but that's easily added with a low-speed drill.

Another shot of the raised bucket.

The bucket mechanism can easily lift two GW paint bottles, but struggles to lift three.  I haven't tested it outdoors yet, so I can't comment on how well it actually digs dirt.


For Aus$14.95 this is a very good toy, with clean mouldings and sharp detail, and the plastic looks to be good quality as well - none of the shiny, brittle stuff you'd expect from an unknown (outside China) manufacturer.  The weird control scheme took some getting used to, but it doesn't bother me now.

If you're fascinated with construction machinery, looking for diorama fodder, or just want an unusual R/C subject, I'd recommend picking this up if you can find it.

Doing what I can with what I've got

Posted on February 17, 2011 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I'll be using this, my own little piece of the web, to post about things I've made or collected that I think are cool., and I hope you like them as well.

I'm not after 100% accuracy with my models - for me, close is good enough.

I'm tired of hardcore (read: overzealous, anal-retentive, etc) modellers criticizing the work of others with regard to the correct number of rivets on a model, or the correct shade of paint, or scale appearance, or some other BS, which has caused many people to stop showing their work, or leave the hobby altogether.

It's sad, and in my opinion, goes against what the hobby is about - FUN.

This hobby (or ANY hobby, for that matter) should be fun, first and foremost.

If you enjoy achieving complete superdetailed accuracy on your models, good on you.  I applaud those with the skills to create such breathtaking models.  It's also a vital part of the hobby in the sense of creating a replica of a piece of history.

Unfortunately, not everyone (myself included) is blessed with the skill, time, or money to create such works of art, and we resort to "doing what we can with what we've got."  It's also a good way to derive enjoyment from the hobby and is more liberating as well.

There is a place for both types of modelers/collectors - the die-hards and the casuals.  I've been on both sides of the fence over the years; long enough to know we can coexist peacefully.