by: Rick Cooper [ ]
Clearly the German high command wasn’t thinking about stealth when they approved the marriage of the s.IG.33 15cm howitzer and the Panzer III/Stug. III chassis.
The resulting sIG33 auf. Fgst. Pz. Kpfw. III (Sfl.) must have looked something like a medium-sized garden shed clanking down the road, albeit one carrying a very large punch. While not entirely successful (only 24 were built), they at least provided a way to project the large blow that the gun provided until the more advanced Brummbär began to reach the front lines in the spring of 1943.
Dragon— never one to shy away from an esoteric vehicle, especially a German one— has put all their “Smart Kit” technology to good use in producing this new s.IG 33 Fgst. (I have always known this vehicle better, and more simply as the sIG 33B). This kit provides most of the bells and whistles that we have come to expect from the DML folks, and must be a real bummer for everyone that has one of the myriad expensive conversions for this vehicle in their stash already.
Inside the usual Dragon box you'll find:
23 light gray sprues that are anywhere from 'full' sprues all the way down to one sprue with only two pieces on it as well as the one piece hull.
2 clear sprues
2 sheets of PE
1 decal sheet (3 marking options)
1 turned aluminum barrel
1 metal tow cable
2 small pre-bent wires
2 bags of handed Magic tracks
Usually you can find some information on the number of parts but try as I might I could not find a precise number; suffice it to say it is a large box of parts that I would estimate somewhere between 500 and 1000 counting the Magic Track links. Trust me, you won’t run out of plastic anytime soon with this fellow. A quick estimate says that about one third of what is in the box is extra. There are so many extra parts that it looks suspiciously close to having a spare Panzer III hiding inside.
The reason for the large number of unused parts is that DML has used sprues from recent Panzer IIIs, s.IG 33 howitzer kits, and StuG III kits to provide almost everything that you need. The new parts that are needed to construct this particular vehicle appear to all be provided on three different sprues (b, T, and W).
Construction starts with the wheels, suspension and the rest of the lower hull. It is all very well-detailed both inside and out with everything that we would expect from Dragon, individual torsion bars, separately molded bump stops, swing arms, and multi-part road wheels. The idler wheels feature the now familiar brass inserts for extra fidelity, and both the road wheels and the return rollers sport the embossed Continental logo. It all comes together to give a nice, even level sit to the kit; with a bit of minor surgery you can even pose the model as part of a diorama. Now if all this sounds familiar, it should, as all of the parts that go into these first steps are the same ones that DML uses for their earlier StuG III and Panzer III kits, but no worries as these are excellent models.
The rear lower hull comes next, and includes the very nice brass piece for the heat deflector. The only drawback is that it does not come preformed and will need to be gently rolled to get that distinctive, lightly curved shape. Once again, all these parts come from earlier Smart Kits from DML.
Onward to the fenders: and once again nothing but superlatives throughout here. Detailed on both sides with all the juicy detail you could ever want; everything is very well done with brass PE parts for those pieces that plastic is just too thick to replicate. The casemate of the superstructure ends up covering-up a goodly portion of the fender, so not a whole lot of on-board equipment, but what is there is well-done. Add a brass clasp for the axe from the spares bin, and you should be ready to go.
The next step has you constructing the rear upper deck with all those air intakes and hatches for the engine. We have come a long way from the days when a separate hatch was something to be marveled over. Nice brass PE pieces for the intakes, and of course all the engine access hatches can be positioned open if you happen to have a spare motor laying around that you want to throw inside the engine compartment. The tow cable configuration comes with a couple of choices: one lets you add each of the individual clips and construct your own cable using the included metal wire and towing eyes. Or you can go with the injected-molded tow cable that already has everything in place. In years past, I would have built up my own, but the injected plastic part is very, very nice, and I think I would opt for the easy way out here.
When you get to step ten (there are only 16 steps in the entire construction process), you will finally start to see the parts that are unique for this vehicle. That means building up the large flat-sided casemate that protects the gun and crew. The detail on this is limited to the outside only, although the outer shell is very well-done. It does provide a complete hull machine gun.
Next you will put together the gun, pedestal, and floor for the fighting compartment. The gun is of the turned aluminum variety with very nice rifling in the bore. The gun can be adjusted up and down, and with or without recoil if you are judicious with the use of glue. While DML doesn’t provide much in the way of an interior, the gun fills up a lot of space. A good reference and a decent spares bin can probably help you fill out the interior if you want to leave any of the rather large hatches open.
Magic tracks at this point just about finish the kit off. The track links are handed, and to help you from getting them mixed up they are molded in slightly different shades of gray. But I am betting that I will still be able to get them mixed up just because I’m that kind of modeler! Finally, the large storage bins on the rear deck of the vehicle: these are very well-done with all the appropriate detail, so easily could be posed open. The inner floor does have a knockout pin mark, but it should prove to be pretty easy to overcome.
decals & marking
That should just about do it. The only question you will have now is the markings and setting for the vehicle. The kit provides a small, but very nice set of decals from Cartograf with marking options for three vehicles:
One, an all gray vehicle from the fighting around Stalingrad as part of StuG. Abt 177 in 1942
The other two in three-color camouflage as part of the 23rd Pz. Division in 1943.
The 23rd received the 12 surviving vehicles from the Stalingrad campaign and continued to employ them until 1943, when they were all lost in the fighting around Kursk.
Yes, it is a DML kit, so most everything will be molded to the highest standards and the fit will be excellent. Along with that comes the instructions so many love to hate: meaning busy to the point of distraction, and some parts locations a bit ambiguous. Even DML got a bit confused as the kit comes with an errata sheet for the instructions that modifies four of the sixteen steps. You might find that later boxings of the kit may have this corrected. The lesson to be learned is to take it slow and easy, check and double check, keep some reference handy and in the end you’ll have a rather distinctive and unique model.