by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
introductionThe Sturmgeschutz III was an assault gun built on top of a Panzerkamfpwagen III hull and running gear, and was an attempt (successfully at is turned out) to provide the infantry with it's own fire support. Field trials were begun as early as 1932, with the first production variants built with Pz.Kpfw III Ausf. F running gear during 1940. The subject of this kit, Sturmgeschutz III Ausf. G (Early) was first produced in December 1942, and first saw action in January of 1943. Although this has been produced by the major injection moulding companies before, each has had it's problems regarding accuracy, and therefore this is a completely re-tooled kit from the ground up.
the kitOpen the box and we're presented with all the usual Dragon inclusions. First the Dragon card, holding a decal sheet, photo etched fret, small transparent sprue, length of wire tow rope and a small sprue holding an MG34 and mount. In addition we get a further six large sprues and three smaller ones, with a separate hull bottom. In all over 500 parts!
At first glance it's difficult to fault this production. The moulding is extremely sharp indeed, without a hint nor trace of flash anywhere at all. Absolutely immaculate. The kit is supposed to represent an early production Ausf. G, and has all the feature you would associate with this model such as the commander's cupola, no schurzen, MG shield, 30mm armoured plates on the hull front, and the correct rod-shaped supports for the fenders with the small triangular plates above. The roof of the fighting compartment also has the correct screw heads rather than the bolts in earlier kits. The rear of the hull is also raised and the rear wall of the superstructure set at ninety degrees.
According to two of the references I have the Commander's cupola should have eight periscopes, and according to one of the references it should have seven. The kit one has seven, and I believe this to be the correct configuration?
The torsion bar suspension as supplied by Dragon can be made to articulate by removing a small locating pin beneath each swing arm, although leaving these in place ensures a perfectly level suspension. The idlers have photo etched inserts as in the Panzer IV kits. The thing that immediately struck me when I opened the box was the tread plate pattern on the fenders. I've included an extreme close-up photograph of these so that you can appreciate how finely engraved the pattern is, and this pattern extends to the underside as well, again as in the superb Panzer IV kits. All the three grills for the vehicle are supplied as photo etch, as well as the triangular strengthening plates for above the fender supports. As this is another in the Dragon 'Smart' kit range, the tools are supplied with the clamps moulded on, which can look a little thick, but are certainly the best injection moulded clamps I've ever seen.
The tracks are supplied as 'Magic Tracks' and are in this case handed, so care must be taken not to get these mixed up during assembly, as you'll need a strong magnifying lens to tell the difference! All optics are supplied as transparent parts, including the periscopes for the Commander's cupola, which has interior details of course. All hatches including the steering brake access hatch, have interior detail and can be modelled opened or closed.
Moving to the inside of the fighting compartment, we have a full radio setup, receiver and transmitter, seats, floor with tread pattern detail, and full breech Assembly for the main gun. Although super detailed, it will form a very good basis for those of us who might want to go there, or will look good enough if a figure is to be placed in the open hatch.
The muzzle brake for the main gun, as we've come to expect from Dragon is in three parts, and really doesn't need replacing, as neither the barrel is, which is a one piece moulding and therefore won't need the dreaded seam removing.
The instructions for this kit are uncomplicated and easy to follow. Whether this is Dragon responding to modeller's criticism's or as a result of the Smart Kit series requirements I don't know, but in any case, they are clear and uncrowded. The engineering of this kit also looks to be well thought-out, particularly the one piece slide-moulded superstructure, with a separate roof. This method of construction is followed throughout the kit, whereby Dragon have tried to mould parts rather than have you construct them, and one of the benefits of this is that all the correct weld seams can be moulded, rather than have them along a seam which would require the modeller to touch them up afterwards.
Marking optionsThe kit provides for five marking options, the most interesting one being the last option offered, that of the 1288 SP Gun Regiment, Ukraine 1944.
2.StuG.Abt., Pz.Div. 'Das Reich', Russia 1943
Pz.Gren.Div. 'Grossdeutschland', Eastern Front 1943
Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front 1944
3.Pz.Div. 'Totenkopf', Ukraine 1944
1288.SP Gun Rgt., Ukraine 1944
Edit* It has since emerged from Tom Cockle, one of the technical Advisors for the kit, that the fifth marking option could not be verified, but was included since the decal sheets had already been printed.
conclusionA smart kit in every sense of the word. Good, clear instructions, clever engineering keeping the construction uncomplicated, all go together to make an accurate representation of an early StuG III Ausf.G. Highly recommended.