Plastic V Lead

I doubt I’m the first to raise this topic but I guarantee you I’m the only one called IRO who has AND will approach the whole thing in my own whimsical, childlike and naive way!

Lets start with Plastic –


Despite the fact that my first ever miniatures were Lead Catachan Jungle Fighters I very much love plastic minis. The reason why is a simple one. I’ve no doubt said this many times but my all time favourite thing about the hobby is the converting/kitbashing aspect to it.

Just like The Eagles profound statement of “we’ll get back together when hell freezes over.” That same applies for me buying and then building a mini/model the way it’s “supposed” to be. Now the more musically educated among you will know that The Eagles actually did get back together and called their reunion tour and new album (back in 92 or 93) “hell freezes over” haha. So YES I have actually built things the way they are meant to be BUT dear friends it’s certainly not my preference. I’m soon to be jumping into a large Bolt Action Project which will mean building things the way they historically were. For some reason I’m actually quite excited about that and painting them the right way too.

Anyway where were we? Ahh yes Plastic Crack. It’s certainly become a healthy addiction for me which is also an obsession. I go to sleep thinking about more weird and wonderful conversions I could do. I’m constantly inspired by other hobbyists on this blog and from around the world via Instagram and all the other websites. I’ve done everything from swapping heads to actually slicing off faces of our tiny plastic friends, not an easy thing to do. I bloody love it. So plastic  is my clay in which I can cut shape and even melt into whatever I like. The possibilities are endless so why wouldn’t anyone prefer it over Lead????

Onto Lead –


All the old school crew looooove lead and bang on about it any chance they get. They are traditionalists. It reminds them of the old days when they had to walk to school through 8ft of snow completely naked and had to eat their own handkerchiefs for lunch. Haha nah I get it. I’m old fashioned in a lot of ways too but as I’ve read through more and more blogs of people who prefer Lead I have come to realise that it’s more than just a sentimental thing but at the same time I can’t explain quite what it is.

Over the last twenty four months I’ve been exploring more Lead minis on the web and have bought quite a few and I have to say there is something really nice about painting a chunk of Lead. Yesterday I finished off Kal Jerico and out of all the 13 miniatures in his squad it was the heavy little bounty hunter that was the most enjoyable to paint. Why? I don’t know exactly.  There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia about the whole thing but something else too. It’s just cool.

To be honest I’ll always be a plastic crack fiend because of my love for conversions over painting but the more I paint the more I have come to love Lead miniatures.

I know the old fellas are itching to comment so please, explain to us all why Lead wins over Plastic? Just fetch your glasses and your tartan rug first.

On the flip side if you love Plastic more tell us all why?



70 thoughts on “Plastic V Lead”

  1. So there I was, slippers on, pipe in mouth and doing up the buttons on my beige cardigan when along comes this post. Lead or Plastic? Lead all the way for me although occasionally I’ll do a plastic figure but only because it was a very cool figure or because I thought I was buying a lead one! Why? Yes, tradition comes into it but for me I simply like the fact that they are solid and more tactile. They stand the test of time and will be around long after I’ve gone (mine wont, the wife will chuck them). Plastic breaks. Well my plastic breaks. It can also need glueing. I don’t do glue. To be fair plastic can often be more detailed and for those like you who do conversions I can see the appeal but I’m a lead guy and that’s all there is to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi IRO,

    Have the glasses, have the blankie, have the cup of hot cocoa, and have the slippers – you forgot the slippers and the hot cocoa.
    In my day we had to walk through the snow, climb mountain peaks, fight off the bears and other wild beasties just to get to the one shop to buy some lead, because sonny there was no new-fangled internet then.
    I still shudder at the thought of sending your figure order off with an international money order in the hope that in about 6 month’s you may get something back to paint’ and yes they were the days that Nottingham GW used to sell you lead crack at English prices not inflated Australian ones.
    Enough of the nostalgia or was that dementia not sure – just can’t remember.
    Most of my collection is lead because there was no choice as that was all that was available at the time.
    The Catachan’s are a good example. Whether it is because of my painting style or ability, I found that I achieved a lot better results with the lead rather than the plastic. The figures just appear to have more depth especially the flesh tones and this despite using the same technique for both.
    The most dramatic figures are the plastic conversions because they just stand out so much.
    Another example is my Space wolves where I would never have been able to get the Viking look without the Dwarven heads on spacemarine bodies.

    Despite this I now almost exclusively paint metal figures. You wanna know why?
    Just Coz.
    Dave from P.I.G.S

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ahaha made me chuckle Dave. I wonder why there is such a difference in the finished result of painted lead and plastic, even if the same techniques are employed? You’d think it’d be just the same. Are you actually based on Phillip Island? I may have asked before. My Grandma lives on the Island. She wears slippers too 😉👍🏼


      1. The metal Catachans are good sculpts. The plastic ones are a (semi) early plastic troops kit, and are shit models. Those two factors have probably got something to do with it, possibly up to and including the additional depth in the sculpts giving the illusion of the paint looking nicer.
        Actual paint would be the same, assuming primer, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep. There are three little pigs all based on the island. With a big bad wolf about to join us when his house is finished – we can’t wait to huff and puff. And Nah don’t really have the blankie or slippers much prefer the stocking and stillettos.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a foot in each camp. I genuinely love both – and it’s not just nostalgia on the lead-side. There’s a heft to the figures for starters. Plastic (and resin) models always feel like they’re a stuff breeze away from taking flight – so I weight down my bases whenever possible.

    Metals are also a lot quicker and easier to prep for painting – which becomes more of a benefit when you’re painting units. One piece – scrape off the mold lines when and where they exist, and you’re ready to go. Compared to needing to clip off each component, scrape the lines off each component, glue them together. It’s just a lot more dicking about.

    Beyond that, metals are a lot better for undercut details than many plastics (less so these days with GW’s increasing plastic quality – but against others’ plastics…) and generally those one-off, quirky sculpts are things that are/were made in metal. Sure, you can kitbash something like that out of plastics, but straight out of the kit, metals were always great for that. Certain dynamic poses were also often only possible in metal when the plastics were all generic multiparts, but now with the increased numbers of one-pose plastics, again this is less of a metal-only benefit.

    I won’t write up the benefits of plastic, as I know you’re well aware of the many positives there. But that should hopefully offer a couple of bits of perspective on metal.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hmmm… no surprise that I’m going to ‘weigh in’ (hehe) on the lead side of this conversation… The weight & feel is part of it for sure, the ease of prep, and up until ‘fairly’ recently, they were just better minis (as per the comments above re. plastic Catachans vs. the lead ones). Also, all of these old minis were hand-sculpted before they were sent to the mould makers… back in the day, each mini had a tangible connection back to some real heros of the hobby – Jes Goodwin, Bob Olly, the Perry twins, Bob Naismith, Kev Adams and so on… That connection is still there, and you can usually recognise a sculptors work, even once they move on from GW. Newer plastics from GW are bloody marvelous, and they allow things to be done that just aren’t possible in any other medium, but I personally find it difficult to connect with the designers… There is just something a bit anonymous and soulless about super-engineered computer designed plastic – a certain disposability that reduces the emotional pull for me.

    I still work in plastic of course, (as you know), and I also use plastic bits to convert lead minis – a middle way so to speak… Still, nothing beats the connection I get when I put a brush to something that was actually ‘made’ by a real person, (one that I stand a good chance of recognising), once upon a time in Nottingham…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s a really good point mate. The connection to an actual real person is kind of cool. I don’t know anything about the designers but I can see why someone, such as your good self, would appreciate such a connection.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Sculpting was better in the lead days to be honest. Jes Goodwin, Kev Adams, the Perry twins; their output from the 1990s has such a great look and feel to it that hasn’t translated into the newer era at all. In particular the faces on the 1990s models are so characterful and wonderful–if you could get them in the plastic I’d be happy with the plastic. I hate prepping and assembling plastic multipart figures — it’s ok for converting but not in any way ok for army building. Army building: the old monopose plastics from the 1990s–that is how plastic should be! As for the weight of metal–it’s ok but frankly can be annoying when you’re trying to transport armies, and they’re all heavy and falling over and getting chipped: then plastic might be preferred. Righto matey, I’ve just dropped cigar ash on the lapels of my smoking jacket must clean it off, then get a snifter of port (or Horlicks maybe) before bed.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. OK, I am an old git but I actually don’t have a preference one way or the other with plastic or metal! You can’t eat either of ’em with chips! For me, it comes down to if the model I really want is only available in metal (or plastic) I’d buy it and get it painted (well, OK, after letting it age a bit)! Nothing more to it than that!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Fair point mate. Even though I love my conversions if I see a model that’s cool and in metal I’ll still buy it. I have to, it’s an addiction. Don’t judge me… stop looking at me… where’s my cardigan damn it

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well as I sit here in my twinset and pearls (oops shouldn’t have written that!), I am old nearer 50 than 49 now, and so as you probably already guessed I’m a lead chap all the way, sorry but they are just more substantial, more planted on the table, just….better! I’ve nothing against plastic and they are easier to convert, but I prefer metal, maybe it’s because I don’t buy bany GW stuff nearly all my figures come from much smaller manufacturers and they all still use metal as it’s so much cheaper to set up than plastic, even if the unit costs are higher.

    We do have Ovaltine before we go to bed (this is true, I am really that old!!)

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. As I was born in the UK I still miss Haulicks 😔 Ovaltine was here for a while but haven’t seen it in years. We mostly drink Milo which is similar to Ovaltine. I hear what you’re saying about the heaviness. The best I can relate it to is chess. I bloody love chess but the only set I have at the moment is a cheap plastic one and the pieces are easily knocked over. My mother in laws partner has a a huge pewter set (Romans V Egyptians) and it’s just beautiful and solid and sighhhh…. I’m considering stealing it from him.


    1. “Great thing about plastic, you don’t need to wash your hands after handling it 👍”

      Like your “willy” then, or is that the other way around, can’t remember must be getting old!

      Sorry i’ll get my coat…cheers Roger.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Either or for me- they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Lead is easier as assembly is a pain and they are easier to paint as you don’t get any hard to reach bits. Plastic is cheap and flexible…



    Liked by 1 person

      1. For low level skirmish games its perfect- when you have a couple of hundred of them to do less so I guess. Vehicles are tedious though- much prefer resin for those.



        Liked by 1 person

  9. Shoot, if rantingsfromunder is old, then that makes me old too! Aw man. I feel/look young though. Probably because I’ve always identified way more with people younger than myself, though that has started to change as I get older.

    Anyways, I do like the heft of metal, and that has had an important tactile feel in my Blood Bowl games. I’m starting to weight bases on plastic minis, and should probably compare notes with Azazel someday. Also, as others mentioned the multi-parts can be a pain in the butt to get together. I also hold some nostalgia for old D&D minis.

    For the most part though, it just depends on the mini. If it’s something I like, material is a secondary consideration. Unless it’s really crappy plastic, and then I might have to just skip it. I don’t do a lot of conversions though.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Plastic every time for me. I have a lot of lead minis but more plastic. In an old ish git (been doing this hobby in and off for 30 years) and I have a lot of nostalgia for some of those old sculls but I now prefer. Why? For me it’s all about the building, the assembling, posing and kitbashing. Conversions are a real drag with lead. My other issue with metals is the paint does chip or rub off with a lot of play.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. When I read that rantingsfromunder is closer to 50, I am jealous as I am now midway to 60. But I have been told I look much younger, sooo I’m running with that.

    Need to clear up something first – most if not all of minis from the late 1970’s onward were not pure lead, they were alloy, typically mostly lead/tin with some antimony/bismuth in there. When I cast, I have been usually using 67%/33% lead tin, but I am hopeful to get less lead into my mix. Brittania is mostly tin, and can be quite tough vis-a-vis conversions which are quite dear to you. However, conversions with metal is all too possible as I hope that I have shown. A jewelry saw, wood carving knives, and cut gloves are necessities!

    I have worked with both and agree with Alex on the connection with the sculptors. Plastic is OK, but I like the weight of metal and the durability (as long as we’re not talking about dropping them).

    Mikeland82 mentioned paint chipping, but I have not had this happen with proper handling and varnishing. Metal minis must be washed with soap and water first and properly primed. They also need proper varnishing to protect the paint jobs.

    Love the Plastic Man cover – was one of my childhood favorites!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yea, Plastic Man might be a bit of an acquired taste. I’m a fan of a lot of the comic art styles from my time, so the stories are sometimes secondary to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh man. If you like zombie/survival stuff, read The Walking Dead. I don’t even like zombies, but I couldn’t put that series down. It’s all black and white, but you would probably get used to it.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m finding BA a little daunting. I love war history in general so I just want to do the painting justice. Whereas, obviously, usually I make my own rules and come up with my own versions of minis.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Despite priming and varnishing unfortunately I have had paint chip and rub off, I think it depends on the metal used in casting as I have found certain manufacturers it happens with others it doesn’t. But fair point on handling, unfortunately when you play with others they don’t always handle with respect!

      Liked by 3 people

  12. For me, it all comes down to visceral aesthetics. Metal miniatures create a connection to the larger hobby — a metal Warhammer mini could get plunked down on a kitchen table for a D&D campaign, for example. It has a weight and a heft that suggests limitless potential.
    Plastic, on the other hand, says “board games” to me. Sorry, there it is. Plastic figures are board game pieces. I don’t dispute that they’re technically flawless, and certainly easier to work with for IRO’s beloved conversions. But they create a connection to a segment of the hobby (board games) that is a bit too far afield for my tastes.
    Do I still paint and game with plastic figures? You betcha! The new Death Guard models from the Dark Imperium boxed set are the core of my Nurgle 40k army. But I always make sure to spend some time with good, old-fashioned lead, just to nurture those early, nostalgic connections to the hobby.
    Great topic! Nice to see everyone’s perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Board games? That’s taking it a bit far, surely. Board games have only had figures worthy of being called “figures” for a few years, while RTB01 Imperial Space Marines date back to 1987 while PBS01 Skeleton Horde and PBS3 Warhammer Fantasy Regiments go back to 1986 and 1987!
      Plastic is as much a part of the modern Wargaming hobby as metal. The balance has shifted in a big way through the years, but it’s been there for (at least) 30 years, and that’s without counting people who played Napoleonics and WW2 with Airfix, etc before Citadel started releasing plastic.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. While blog-reading and trying to paint last night, I dropped a plastic mini. Not once, by twice. Each time, I cringed. Picked up the damned thing and looked it over very carefully to see what piece broke off! Luck was with me on that one, everything is fine. But that’s been a prob with some of the plastics.

    In our first Blood Bowl games with the new minis, I found several spikes afterwards that had got chipped off the minis. Then again, the teen isn’t too careful.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Plastic minis tend to bounce but if there are thinner or smaller bits they’re bound to get damaged. How annoying is it when you drop a tiny grenade or something and it just simply disappears haha. First world problems

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ugh, losing stuff happens way to often! I don’t know why I even bother scouring the carpet anymore, I swear those small parts just totally obliterate when they hit the floor!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. For me it’s the sculpt that matters, not the medium. That said if it’s a straight up choice between two hypothetical models, one in plastic and one in lead then plastic please, every single time. Metal is for music! When I got into the hobby GW seemed to be in a weird place where their new models looked worse than the old. Plastic was replacing lead and whilst the old lead sculpts were top notch no-one really seemed to have got the hang of plastic yet. Time has fixed that though, the quality of the new plastics is just outstanding. When I started I dreamed of seeing this come to pass and it’s simply excellent that it has.

    When it comes down to it my preference for plastic is in the ease of use. I want to be able to build a whole squad of models and have every one different- no massed ranks of clones for me. I want to be able to convert with ease. I remember as a nipper wrecking my new and hard earned hobby tools hacking slowly away at lumps of unyeiling lead, only to discover I then had to send off for something called “greenstuff” and then learn how to sculpt, all without any online resources to learn from and no help but old grognards looking down their noses at me. Converting models used to take days. Stuff that shit!

    Also the quality of the finished model is easier to maintain, metal scuffs easily and if you varnish it then you have to deal with it being glossy, which can be done but makes even more work.

    Then there’s the durability; if you drop a plastic model it bounces, if you drop a metal model it shatters along every join (and the limbs bend, and the paint scuffs again). Half the time heavy parts just don’t stick together anyway (see the infamous meme about Abaddon and his arms, or my ork nob with the banner who needs fixed every couple of months). Again there’s a fix for this (pinning) but that’s yet more, more work, compared to just glueing things together and having done with it. I still bitterly recall trying to afix a tail to a miniature only for it to break off repeatly. The advice I got? “Just drill it out and pin it”. Good idea, thanks, of course there’s nothing a teenager wants to do more than drill and pin something less than a milimeter wide. In the end I tried making a tail out of greenstuff – which looked as ghastly as you’d expect.

    Also metal weights a ton. Ever dropped a big metal model on your toes? It hurts (and breaks, and the paint scuffs…). Then you’re in pain, you think you’ve broken your toes and you have to start repairing the model (again). I even worry about all the old codgers putting their backs out just moving their collections around (he said with tongue firmly in cheek – it’s probably a good thing I’m commenting on this after everyone else has, this way hopefully no-one will notice and I won’t offend anyone…).

    Lastly plastic is more versatile, there’s just so much we can enjoy now that wasn’t an option in the old days. Can you imagine Imperial Knights made of lead?!

    Apparently you’ve tapped a deep vein of ill-feeling towards metal models that I didn’t even know I had! That said I’m feeling nostalgic for metal models now – I may even go and paint one until I recover. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Another point that I don’t think got brought up is the general stability of the models. I found the bending issue with swords, arms, etc. often to be a major pain on the old metal models. Have a spear on the model? Doubt that it’s going to be anything near straight! Now, the same is very true for a lot of plastics (I’m looking at you rubbery Reaper Bones pieces!), but with hard plastic things are a lot better. At least in the support structure of the material.

    And as mentioned by Wudugast mentioned, if you drop a metal mini, it can get bent up or dinged in pretty bad. Stuff that is hard to fix. Drop a plastic mini, and chances are something will snap off, but at least (if you can find it) the piece can be glued on and the shape itself isn’t deformed.

    I’ll be showing off some old minis (on Old Mini Mondays) at some point, that have bent (or missing) weapons for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d ask the Az man, as it seems he has a lot of them. Some pieces seem ok, but some are way too rubbery for my liking. Good news on those, is that they are pretty drop-proof. But yea, material seems to vary a bit.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. For me, Plastic wins for vehicles purely because the angles come out square and mould distortion is absent. Metal figures win most of the time because the detail is excellent. The caveat is that I mostly model WWII in 15mm, and some firms produce apalling little stumpy-legged dwarves instead of people. See here:

    Kind regards, Chris

    p.s I’m 108 and we had to carve figures from the bones of our defeated enemies 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I can see why you would prefer plastic with the way you create your own pieces from a combination of others. It definitely seems to free you up to a lot more creativity. 🙂 It’s like you get to be Dr. Frankenstein and piece together all the choice bits to create your own perfect monster! 😀 Haha Just hope the villagers don’t come out with their torches soon. 😛

    Liked by 2 people

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