Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Small Scale Measurements Simplified, from 15mm to 1.72

Model Scales - 1/100, 1/87, 1/76 and 1/72

Authenticast 1/100, Airfix 1/76 soldier, early ROCO 1/90

There was a time when ranges of small-scale military models were far from comprehensive. In the 70s, for instance, ROCO had many models of US and German WWII and NATO vehicles. There were few Soviet and World War II British vehicles in its inventory. At 1/100, Roskpof had a very complete inventory of Warsaw-Pact armor as well as a good range of US and German NATO and some World War II. Airfix made mostly World War II, with a variety of US, British and German vehicles and one Soviet piece, the T34. Hasegawa at 1/72 had a few early World War II US pieces and some German armor. A small-scale wargame usually involved a selection of three or four of these scales. KV series heavy tanks in 1/100 were outsized by 1/72 scale Lee medium tanks. Those of us who collected and wargamed small-scale took it in stride.

ROCO, Roskopf and Airfix each marketed soldiers in their preferred scales. Respectively, these were HO : 1/87, 1/100 and OO : 1/76. The size of the figures were notably different. Here is a breakdown of figure sizes, based on the height representing a 6 foot tall man.

1/100 is 3.04 millimeters scale foot. A 6 foot man would be 18.24 millimeters
1/87 is 3.5 millimters to scale foot. A 6 foot man would be 21mm tall
1/76 is 4 millimeters to the scale foot. A 6-foot man would be 24mm tall.
1/72 is 4.23 millimeters to the scale foot . A 6-footman would be 25.4mm tall

That is a 3mm difference between 1/100 and HO. Ditto for HO and 1/76. The difference between 1/76 and 1/72 is 1.4mm. On the other hand, the difference between 1/100 figures and 1/76 is 6mm. It is 7.4mm when compared to 1/72.

Imagine a vehicle10 scale feet long:

In 1/100, it would be 30.4mm long.  That is a little more than 1 and 3/32 inches
In 1/87, that is 35mm long. That is around 1 3/16 inches long.
In 1/76, that is 40mm long. It is a little longer than 1 and 1/8 inch
In 1/72, it is 42.3mm long. That is between 1 and 3/16 inches and 1 and ½ inch.

The difference between 1/100 and 1/72 is 12mm, or ½ inch.

Let us borrow an idea from model railroading. The 40 foot boxcar is a standard. More models of the 40 footer are made than any other boxcar, in every scale from O to N.* 40 foot is distance we can understand. Here we go:

In 1/100, 40 feet is 121.6mm That is almost 5 inches
In 1/87, 40 feet is 145mm. It is about 5 and ½ inches
In 1/76, 40 feet is 160mm. This is close to 6 inches and 1/4 inch
in 1/72, 40 feet is 169 mm. That is close to 6 inches and 3/16 of an inch

There is almost a 1 ½ inch difference between 1/100 and 1/72.  That is quite a lot for small scale models.


Though they use tanks in 1/100 to 1/109 scale, the actual scale for 15mm figures is closest to 1/120. This is also close to TT scale. Though TT did not lasti in the US, it was popular in Eastern Europe. 15, scale is 2.5mm to the foot.  Therefore , a ten foot platform would be 25mm, almost an inch. A 40-foot platform would be 100mm, almost 4 inches.

The tanks originally used for 15mm gaming were recognition models buy Comet / Authenticast and Denzil-Skinner.  Comet / Authenticast’s 1/109 tanks set a standard for 15mm wargaming.

Indeed, adherence to precise scale was not always the case up to the late 1970s. This was true even in the 1/35:50mm to 1/29 - 1/30 : 60mm scales. Magazines were usually fussy about scale dioramas. However, it was common in the early to mid-70s to see featured dioramas blending 1/32 and 1/35 models, or HO paired with 1/76 figures. In military models and model railroading, the awareness of scale accuracy has increased since the 1960s.

One example for model railroading was the first run of N scale trains. Scale? Close, but not always. Then again, some of the HO sold in the 50s and 60s was not always close. One maker, IHC (and its predecessor AHM), was known for selling 1/76 scale locomotives as HO scale. (These were actually British style OO - 1/76 made to run on HO track). Scale was a crapshoot in the old days.


*The 40 foot boxcar was a standard for much of the 20th Century. Many remain in service, though they have been eclipsed by 50" and larger boxcars. Model railroad scales are:

O (American O is 1/48) 1/4" = 1 scale foot
S is 1/64. 3/16" is one scale foot.
OO is 1/76. 4mm - 1 scale foot.HO is 1/87. 3
HO is 1/87.1 3.5mm = 1 scale foot
TT is 1/120. 2.5mm = 1 scale foot
N is 1/160. 2mm = 1 scale foot

Trains that run on G scale track may be:

1/32  3/8" = 1 scale foot.
1/29 10mm = 1 scale foot
1/24 1/2" (12.7mm) = 1 scale foot
1/20 15mm = 1 scale foot
1/22.5 scale, = 1 scale foot.

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