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Vehicle Scale Compatability

I guess it's about time for me to "show & tell" exactly why I don't like mixing 1:43, 1:48 or 1:50, and 1:64 and 1:72 or even 1:76 scale vehicles with my 1:56 or 1:60 ones.

Firstly, a word about my measuring system. The system I have used to describe the figures (besides the actual scan), is the "Barrett Measuring System" or "Barrett Scale", which was the brainchild of Dick Bryant, editor of the Courier.
Simply stated, the Barrett Scale measures a figure from the bottom of the foot to the eyes. The stand itself is omitted in the measurement. However, an overly thick stand should be noted in the review.
Further, the figure is also assigned a 'heft' of L, M or H.

The eye level was chosen because it was impossible to establish the top of the head of many figures due to the fact that so many different caps, helmets, and headdresses obscure the top of the head. This measurement (in millimetres) can best be derived by choosing a figure standing reasonably tall and straight versus bending over. Anyone, anywhere can do this and report it in their reviews.

Even this system creates a lot of friction, because there is disagreement about being able to "see" where the top of a figure's head is or isn't, and because 'heft' can be very subjective. I'v chosen to use this system because I want to avoid any form of guessing.

Definition of Scale

Before anything else, we need to look at the meaning of the word "scale". It is usually a variation on "a proportion used in determining the dimensional relationship of a representation to that which it represents".
Some scales are given as a ratio, written as either a ratio (e.g. 1:60) or a fraction (e.g. 1/60). The number on the right of the pair indicates how many units (mm) on the original are equivalent to one unit on the replica. For example, with a 1:60 scale miniature, if the miniature is 10mm long, then the original was 600mm long.
Other scales are simply listed as a certain height, such as 25mm or 28mm (these days 28mm is almost the "industry norm"). Most people usually think of this as being the height of an average man (i.e., in 28mm scale, men are 28mm high), but there is a lot of confusion on this issue- even among the manufacturers themselves.
According to some experts, "traditional" figure heights are measured to eye level, since measuring to the top of the head is impractical for figures wearing headgear. Therefore, when a manufacturer says their figures are 25mm scale, they might mean 25mm to top of the head or 25mm to eye level.
Here, then, is our first problem- the miniatures we're so lovingly collecting are not scale miniatures, because they are "28mm" miniatures. So- we need to establish what scale they are.

Determining the Figure Scale

Converting Between Scale Types
To theoretically convert height scales into ratio scales - and assuming here that height scales measure to "eye height" while ratio scales measure to "head height" - divide 1580 by the height scale. Thus, 28mm figures are equivalent to:

1580 / 28 = 56.4     =     1:56 scale.

To theoretically convert ratio scales into height scales - and assuming here that height scales measure to "eye height" while ratio scales measure to "head height" - divide 1580 by the scale.

1580 / 48 = 32.9

which means that a 1:48th figure should be 32.9mm tall to eye level (and 35.4mm to the top of his head).

Where does the number 1580mm come from?
To get the magic number, all you need to come up with the "eye height" of the average man, measured in millimeters. The number I use is 1580 mm (about 5' 2"), based on an average-sized man.
So what is the magic number for a manufacturer who measures height scale to top of the head, rather than to eye level? Simply the height of the average man (mainly the WW2 period at present) in millimeters - 1700 (5' 7").
The average height of a human being has increased through history as a result of better diet, improved healthcare and various other factors, mostly social. The rate of this increase varies in different parts of the world as they have developed at different rates, so the height of an individual will depend on both location and the period. For models of soldiers another factor will be deliberate selection - for example grenadiers and elite units have generally been reserved for taller men in many armies. Finally, gender is also clearly a factor as men are on average noticeably taller than women.
There is often confusion over how tall a figure should be. The height will depend on two factors - the average height of the real subject and the scale being used.
Where do I get this? The average height of a man during WW2 was about 1700mm (5'7").

Date Height
AD  100 1620mm
AD 1000 1670mm
AD 1900 1700mm
AD 2002 1750mm

Visual Problems with the Mathematical Scale

Well, there aren't any. Or are there?
Of course there are. People look at the models on their table and say "but that SdKfz 251 halftrack is waaay too small compared to my Panzergrenadiers looming over it!"
This is where the curse of wargaming rears its' ugly head. Figures are based for a number of reasons (whether to conform to a specific set of rules, or because they'd simply fall over without bases, or because the wargamer wants to depict mini-dioramas with groups of soldiers). Unfortunately many wargamers don't base their vehicles as well. This leads to a sudden increase in stature of nearly 17cm for the figures in most cases (especially for those based on GW's slottabases or equivalents) relative to the vehicle.
The simple, and (in my opinion) more correct, solution is to place the vehicle on a base that is the same thickness as the figures' bases. This also helps to tie the vehicles into the infantry visually, as they will all have the same bases and look as if they belong together. I put all my vehicles on a base that is the same thickness as my infantry (I use washers for bases) to ensure that they all have the same relative height above ground level.
Of course, those who feel that having their vehicles on bases detracts from their visual appeal when travelling in an environment different to the surrounding terrain will always find that their vehicles are too small, unless their infantry are based on very thin bases. This naturally leads me to asking another question- "What about the infantry? Don't they also look odd on grass in a paved street?". I personally feel that, as long as the troops and their vehicles look in scale with each other, I can forgive the odd bit of grass on a pavement...
The other thing that makes vehicles look a trifle odd is the simple fact that we aren't always aware of exactly how big or small a vehicle really is (how many of us have stood next to a Tiger tank or Vickers Mk VI, after all? And, even more worrying- we aren't aware of how big (or small) many vehicles are relative to each other.
I remember the first time I saw an SdKfz 251 in real life as opposed to in a picture. I was shocked at how small it was- how on earth were a crew of two PLUS ten men supposed to fit into this little space, especially with all their kit? It's only 5.80m long, 2.10m wide and 1.75m high!

A restored SdKfz 251/1 Ausf C

By comparison, a new Mercedes S-Class (W221) is 5.07m long, 1.87m wide and 1.47m high! Just try to fit five people in there with some luggage and you'll see that the SdKfz 251 was not exactly the lap of luxury.

A Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Scale Accuracy of Models

Another thing to bear in mind is that inaccuracy creeps in in varying places. Not only do we have to contend with different ideas of what the correct scale for 28mm figures is, but we also need to consider that the model itself may be inherently inaccurate by virtue of simply having been made!
       Scale line drawings can give 0.3mm (the line) inaccuracy which equates to 12mm or so at full scale- if they were accurate in the first place!
   A bad ruler can add 0.5mm inaccuracy, and the blade used to make the cuts another 0.3mm.
   If you have consumed too much happy juice the night before add another 0.5mm for hand tremors...
This means that many models can be a full two inches (or more) out at full scale even on a good day. Two inches equates to nearly a full scale point deviation so even a 1/56th model may vary between 1/55th and 1/57th and be as accurate as humanly possible. This does not even take into account the humidity when the model is cast, inevitable mould shrinkage over time, resin shrinkage during curing, etc., etc.
This, of course, also goes for 1/48th commercial models even from the top manufacturers...

The Choice?

The long and the short of it, though, is that the scales don't mix that well. There are two main schools of what vehicles to use with 28mm figures.
The one group (mainly Americans) tend to use 1:48th and 1:50th (and even 1:43rd) vehicles, usually die-cast or models, with their figures. They base their figures, quite often on the standard plastic bases some companies provide, and don't base their vehicles. In this instance (although I don't personally subscribe to the ethos), the vehicles can give the appearance of being correct, as the over-sized vehicles without bases end up having the approximately correct height next to the based figures.
The other group (mainly UK-based, although it is growing elsewhere as more and more 1:56th kit becomes available) seem to prefer using figures based on washers and using based vehicles. This combination gives correctly-scaled vehicles that also appear correct relative to the height of the figures.
There are, of course, any number of other combinations too- slotta-based figures with based vehicles and washer-based figures with die-cast vehicles, or a mixture of these methods.
My personal preference goes with the figures based on washers and based vehicles- and here I must confess a slight departure from a strict scale preference- of either 1:56th or 1:60th scale. As can be seen in some of the comparisons, these two scales will work together, especially as many manufacturers don't make exact scale models. I wouldn't buy the same vehicle from different companies, although completing a force from different manufacturers who make different vehicles would be fine (e.g. my Baker Company Finns have an S&S T-34/85 and an Anglian Miniatures T-26 along with Force of Arms trucks and artillery, while my Germans have eBob Opels, a mixture of AGNM SdKfz 251 A/B and KHI SdKfz 251 C/D, FoA Pak 40s and sIG and AGNM Kübelwagen.

The section below is intended to show how some of the various vehicles all match up. All of the tanks below (PzKpfw IV H, Churchill Mk V, Sherman M4A3, PzKpfw VI E Tiger, Somua S-35 and T-34/85) have been resized to the same scale. Simply drag the image of the tank you want to compare over the base drawing, and drag any other image over it...

Base for Comparisons
Average man in WW2- 1.7m high, the helmet and boots add a little height.

The German PanzerKampfwagen IV Ausf H The British Churchill tank The American Sherman tank The German Panzer Kampfwagen VI Tiger I The French Somua S-35 tank The Soviet T-34/85 tank

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