The early/mid-war period has always been fertile terrain for modellers. This is particularly true when one looks at some of the camouflage schemes which were introduced during this period along with some colorful (if a touch 'garish') markings carried by many AFVs. The other aspect which greatly attracts modellers is, undoubtedly the vehicle types themselves. From the large and impressive such as the Lee and Grant to their sleeker, more 'recognizable' contemporaries such as the first deployed Sherman variants....
Dragon's New Kit DRA6313 - Sherman Mark III
is a 1/35th scale model of the 'Commowealthized' U.S. M4A2. The kit, as is now standard from DML
, is moulded in light-grey styrene. On opening the box, there are ELEVEN plastic sprues, one clear, a sheet of photo etch, a length of (metal) tow cable, the one piece tracks (moulded in 'Dragon Styrene'), a fold-out sheet of instructions and a small decal sheet.
About this review
With its many variants, one of the difficulties in any review of the M4 series is to correctly identify whether or not the manufacturer has done their 'homework' as to putting correct components according to the version being portrayed. Therefore, to simplify matters, the principal areas of the kit will be looked at in detail to establish that the designers of the kit didn't fall in the many traps which the original Ordinance boards seemed to have created 60 years ago.
1 - Turret
: The turret portrayed in this kit is the British modified version of the low-bustle turret. This is distinguished from the M4A2 turret with the narrower, more-simplified mantlet. Several different mantlets (four in total) are provided with only one used in this version - the 'narrow' M34. Regarding the 'big picture' several points are worth noting: firstly, the shape of the turret, as far as I can establish, is absolutely correct. The correct bustle is present along with some beautifully-rendered texturing. The vision blocks, for the turret periscopes are provided separately in clear plastic. All relevant details such as the pistol port are well done with both good design and execution. The rear of the turret is provided with the British storage box which was hinged at an angle again, this is correctly and convincingly done. An option is given to model the box open or closed, The 75mm barrel itself is plastic and with the use of slide-moulding looks very good indeed - gone (one hopes) are the days of solid plastic barrels... The PE set comes into play on the turret, firstly. rather than casting numbers being moulded onto the surface, these are provided in the PE set - not something which TOTALLY convinces me as they are a little too flat to be practical - better to use some of the '3D' lettering available in various sizes. What does work, are the straps provided for the rear of the turret (should the British box not be used). Slide moulding is used to good effect with the 'bomb-thrower' on the rear bustle. The two (possible) aerial mounts are also present - British or American. Also well done is the forward facing searchlight as well as full INTERNAL detail for the hatches.Regarding the pintle-mount MG, it was certainly present in many Sherman III's but is NOT included in the kit. It isn't a major oversight and is very easy to add should one wish...
On previous M4's by Dragon
, one of the major criticisms was the lack of weld-marks on the hull. Previously, these had to be added with putty or thin, stretched sprue. In this kit, the weld-marks are present and done with a finesse of detail which is frankly superlative. The double-door engine hatch is provided as separate parts. The fuel-filler ports are separate mouldings and can be portrayed open or closed due to the detail moulded below them. The tools are good but unfortunately don't have their mounting brackets provided separately - once again the AM companies provide a wealth of possibilities. Moving onto the front glacis, more options present themselves to use the plastic light - guards or to use the PE alternatives which give a more convincing 'thickness', Inevitably, the bulk of the PE comes in the sand shields which were such an obvious aspect of the 'desert' version. These are moulded in PE and closely follow the original in their attachment. As these were subject to considerable wear and tear, a more 'used' appearance will be more desirable in the finished model.
Lower Hull/Running Gear
: Two types of suspension are available to choose from - the 'horizontal' roller or slightly 'upswept' type. The wheels themselves are the five-spoked open type these are very nicely moulded indeed with only a slight amount of cleaning on the outside.The rear idlers are again 'open' spokes with a separately moulded hub. The drive sprockets are also well-moulded with the correct number of bolts and fittings.One of the more innovative aspects of this kit, is without a doubt the 'three-piece' transmission cover which is a superb piece of moulding. On the rear, all details are 'present' and as far as I can tell, 'correct'.
: A pair of T54E1 tracks are provided - which are moulded in 'Dragon Styrene' - a material which has received a lot of ill-informed criticism since it was first introduced. The tracks are SUPERB. Not good, not adequate, but absolutely impressive. Detail is sharp and crisp and there is no indication (at least in my copy) of any signs of warping or defects in the moulding process. I'll keep saying it - in the case of (the majority) M4 tracks, separate links are unnecessary. With 'DS', the manufacturer seems to have found the ideal medium....
The nicely printed sheet comes with markings for three vehicles - all of which are for the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in 1943, nice enough individually, but totally lacking in imagination - one perhaps, but three? These are definitely worth considering their replacement.
: It may be that I'm getting more accustomed to the style, but these seem to be a little easier to understand than others from DML
- there again, it may just be wishful thinking!
This is, in my opinion, Dragon Models'
best M4 to date. There have been notable attentions to detail and corrections which simply weren't as obvious on other Sherman kits from the company. One question which many will be asking however, is regarding its suitability for a relatively inexperienced modeller. It's complex, but not in an exaggerated way. I wouldn't unhesitatingly recommend it for an absolute novice, but someone with a few moderately complex projects under their belt could tackle it and produce a good model. As this is obviously part of a continuing program of M4 releases, we can expect them to get better and better. This release bodes VERY well for future Shermans...
Reference material and acknowledgments
- First of all, my thanks to Vinnie for the pics which come as close to capturing the reality of the kit as one could imagine. Secondly, in the preparation of this review, I used a number of references, in particular, two books:M4a2 Sherman (Part 1)
Images of War: Sherman Tank