by: Rick Cooper [ ]
10,619. That, according to Wikipedia, is the number of StuG III that were manufactured during the war. That number makes it the most produced German AFV of the war. It also means that it has remained as one of the most popular modeling subjects in any scale since that time. The number of manufacturers who have waded into these deep waters to produce a scale replica are in themselves far too numerous to recount. Among the most prolific, if not the number one producer, has got to be Dragon Models. They have created at least ten different versions of the StuG III, and my count is probably on the light side. The molding of even more versions of the StuG seems an almost drop dead certainty at this point.
This particular kit is a StuG III Ausf G, of the mid to late production run, as produced during the month of December in 1943. Honestly, I never thought we would see plastic models that were quite this specific regarding the manufacturing dates. It almost seems they are ripe for some kind of recall, “If you are driving a StuG III manufactured in 1943 Alkett has announced a recall over an issue in the fighting compartments air bag deployment system”, okay, that may be a bit over the top but you get the picture.
Despite poking fun at Dragon for the specificity of the kit, inside you get a nice looking pile of plastic and goodies;
15 sprues in light gray ranging in size from almost as large as the box down to a tiny 2” x 1” little guy that holds a sweet little MG-34.
One clear plastic sprue with the vision blocks and sights.
Two bags of Magic Track in slightly different shades of gray to help keep them straight.
One brass photo-etch fret.
Two nickel etched sprues.
A small length of braided wire.
A nice, but small, Cartograf produced decal sheet.
An eight panel set of instructions, plus a small errata sheet.
All comes efficiently packed in the standard top opening Dragon box.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the kit appears to be fairly comprehensive, even including a rudimentary interior, yet does not come with an overwhelming number of parts. Granted the StuG III was a simpler vehicle to produce than a fully turreted tank and I guess that would also be evident in a model as well. Still it was nice not to have to deal with 20 to 30 different sprues of parts, unless of course you were counting on stocking up your spares bin. But never fear, Dragon has not left you out in the cold, you will be able to add at least a few bit to your extras bin.
Of course, with the number of different StuG IIIs that Dragon has produced it means that most of these parts and sprues have already seen the light of day in some other kit before. This is no exception, adding only two new sprues to the growing stable of StuG III parts.
The two new sprues are easy to determine, they are just about the only ones that don’t have any unused parts and one of them has its own errata sheet. They are separately bagged and provide a new style of return roller, drive sprocket face, and the armored final drive covers. The new return rollers are of the all steel variety and have six steel ribs, the new drive sprocket faces are very nice as well and are molded without armored hubs. The errata sheet is for the final drive covers and shows the correct placement for the included drain plugs, these are fairly small parts and can easily fly away, thoughtfully Dragon has provided one extra just in case.
The rest of the wheels and suspension are the standard Dragon Panzer III, StuG III wheels. I feel bad even writing that because I am afraid it makes it sound as if the provided parts are simply a humdrum affair, when the reality is that is the farthest thing from the truth. These may be their standard parts for this series of vehicles but they are sublimely well done. The tensioning assembly, the bump stops, the swing arms, the idler wheels are all simply topnotch stuff. The lower hull tub is just as worthy of any accolades I could throw at it. Superb inside and out with subtle weld and bolt detail throughout. The torsion bar suspension is faithfully reproduced as well. I think the best part of the entire lower hull and suspension however is the road wheels, the now familiar ‘Continentau’, as well as the six spacer struts that connect the inner and outer half of the road wheel assembly make these, perhaps, the best road wheels that Dragon has done.
You will have two choices on the return rollers, the new all steel return rollers and the rubber rimmed ‘Continentau’ set. There has been much discussion as to which is correct for a December 43 vehicle, everything that I can glean seems to point to the new steel wheels as part of a MIAG produced vehicle, if you want to create an Alkett StuG than go with the other return rollers. Of course, lots of this may be something of a moot point if you install the nickel-etched schurzen side skirts as these will effectively hide your return rollers. (But you will know they are there!)
The fenders are chock full of goodies, all beautifully rendered with slide molding and an incredibly delicate nonskid surface. Each of the tools comes with the tool clasps and latches already molded in place and they look good as they are, the tool clasp handles are perhaps a bit ‘flat’ in the horizontal plane and may look better with a photo-etch replacement, but that’s up to you. The jack and jack holder are close to a small kit in themselves and should look outstanding when finished. The rear station keeping light may be incorrect, instructions call for the early version, G2 and G9, but the later tubular type may be correct, fortunately Dragon includes it as well, part G8 and J4, I am not sure when they switched styles, so check your references! The fire extinguisher is noted in the instructions with three possible locations so make sure you, everybody all together now…check your references!
The fender supports are a bit of a question, I checked Andreas Larka’s information on his excellent website “Dedicated to Finnish WWII Armour”, and there you can see that the fender supports called for are of the type manufactured by Alkett, but this appears to be a MIAG produced vehicle. The fix is pretty simple, substitute the supports from the G sprue, (32 and 33) and save the L sprue supports for another project. Also, add a triangular support piece affixed to the top of the support and you should be good to go. I can’t find a use for part MA-12 in the instructions and I have a suspicion that these are the triangular supports you would need although they are not called out or noted in the instructions. At any rate, I would check out Andreas’ website for more nuggets of information regarding not just StuG IIIs but all the vehicles that Finnish forces used during, and after, the war.
The upper hull and rear engine deck are beautifully molded as well. The crew hatches are well done, no knockout pin marks in sight anywhere, and detailed on both sides. The commanders hatch sports all the bells and whistles, seven periscopes molded in clear plastic, telescope, photo-etch inner surround, and hatch latches and stays. The fighting compartment sports very nice weld detail and features very nice slotted screw detail all around the roof. The machine gun splinter shield is well detailed, front and back, and as with everything else in this kit, without any trace of knockout pins. The rear of the fighting compartment has bases for both radio aerials, both bases have a very slight impression to help guide the placement of an aerial however the kit does not provide one, but a bit of stretched sprue should solve the issue. It does provide some very nice photo-etched intake covers as well as the armored engine intakes with separate coaming for the rear deck.
Inside the hull you get a couple of very nicely done radios and racks. The floor and rear fire wall of the fighting compartment are provided and completely detailed as well. The gun is for the most part complete, cradle, breech block, recuperator, hand wheels for traverse and elevation as well as a clear gunner’s sight and seat. The interior should look more than busy enough to satisfy most builders, and is all very well done at any rate. The gun is a beauty as well with just a bit of cleanup required of the mold seam. The business end of the gun is a three part affair that should more than hold its own once the mold seam has been taken care of. The mantlet is another area of some question, the instructions call for the ‘topfblende’ type but MIAG used the trapezoidal bolted style, not quite as aesthetically pleasing but perhaps more correct. Lucky for you, both styles are included in the kit, now don’t you just feel special?
The tracks are of the aforementioned Magic Track style, separate little bags, different shades of gray, left and right hand specific 40 cm type track. They require virtually no cleanup at all and I have found them to always assemble quite easily if you work them in smaller sections rather than try to assemble the complete run at one time.
The kit features a nice rear end, hope my wife doesn’t read this; she’ll jump to the wrong conclusion! Nicely thinned deflector, great looking tow shackles, good mufflers with opened pipes, and it all finishes up with a piece of photo-etched brass for the underneath screen.
Marking options are limited to three; a Luftwaffe field division operating in Ukraine, 1944, an East Prussian 1945 vehicle attached to StuG Brigade 226, and a 12th Panzer Division vehicle in Estonia in 1944. The decals look to be well printed although they lack any divisional or brigade flashes. Perhaps these particular vehicles never were liveried in them but I always like to add them for the splash of color they often provide. Fortunately we have Archer and Bison among others that can provide some variety.
The instructions are the typical Dragon effort, eight panels, front and back, and much easier to fold back in place than your typical road map. It is the common ‘arrow pointing here’ type of assembly, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Most of the locations are intuitive but a few are nebulous; B1, the rear deflector, the gunner’s seat, and the support brackets for the skirt armor might be good places to collect your thoughts before you charge in and ‘start a gluing’.
With that you may already be dreaming about the paint scheme on this fellow, well slow down partner, were missing something rather substantial. For all the good things that Dragon did with this kit, one tiny thing that they omitted is that all of these vehicles should have a factory applied zimmerit coating. The two manufacturers, MIAG and Alkett, had different patterns for their factory applied coating. Alkett used the waffle iron pattern while MIAG used the small tile pattern. There are a number of different aftermarket ways in which to deal with this as well as a quite a few home-brew methods. I use a two part epoxy and a small metal stamp that I picked up years ago at a hobby show. I believe that ATAK makes both styles as does Cavalier if you wish to go that route. At any rate, you will need to do something to add the zimmerit coating before you get to any painting or weathering.
This is a very nice kit, they clearly know how to work with multi-part and slide molds to get details on all surfaces while reducing and eliminating those pesky knockout pin marks. What it builds out of the box is a bit of a question, it almost looks more like a Finnish vehicle than any other. You will need to be careful if you are stickler for accuracy with the correct parts for the Alkett or MIAG produced vehicle as well as adding the zimmerit to whichever version you choose.