In-Box Review
PAK 97/38 AT Gun
PAK 97/38 AT Gun with Servants
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by: James [ JAMESITE ]

When the German army invaded Russia in 1941 it had completely neglected to realize that the USSR possessed KV-1 and T-34 tanks, and as such were unprepared to deal with these heavily armoured tanks of the time. The 37mm Pak 35/36 standard army anti-tank gun soon earned the nickname 'doorknocker' for its inability to penetrate the armour of these formidable opponents and the new 50mm Pak 38 gun wasn't fairing much better. With the 75mm Pak 40 gun still under development a stop-gap solution was needed and so the Germans looked towards their vast supply of equipment captured during their earlier campaigns.

Here they happened upon the 19th Century French Canon de 75mm mod'le 1897, a WW1 field gun captured from French and Polish forces. In order to bring it up-to date as an anti-tank gun, it was fitted to a Pak 38 carriage and fitted with a muzzle brake to help reduce it's vicious recoil. While a moderate success, the guns low muzzle velocity made it ineffective at long ranges and it was unpopular with crews, being relegated to rear areas and fixed installations like the Atlantic Wall as soon as the excellent Pak 40 became available. Interestingly, it was only after this that HEAT (hollow charge) ammunition was invented, which would have made the gun much more effective.

Kit Contents
Italeri supply you with 113 parts on 4 sprues (A-D) moulded in a dark blue-grey plastic, which are packed loose inside the box with a fold-out black and white instruction sheet.
  • Sprue A (19 parts) Upper gun assembly including cradle and inner shield
  • Sprue B (41 parts) 4 gun crew members and their accessories
  • Sprue C (26 parts) Lower gun assembly
  • Sprue D (27 parts) The gun barrel, outer shield, ammunition and the gun wheels

The Gun
The gun appears to consist of 2 sprues from Italeri's older Pak 38 kit (A and C) with a new sprue (D) holding the relevant parts for the French 75mm barrel version. Initial impressions are that the moulding quality is not up to today's standards by a long stretch. In fact many of the parts lack the refined detail that we have come to expect, and resembles a 10 or even 20 year old kit in many respects. For example there is a prominent mould seam on many parts with some minor flash in areas that will require cleaning up, however, this is not a major problem for most modellers.

However, the detail that is there is crisply moulded and Italeri have made a real effort to keep things 'in scale', such as the shield thickness, shell ejection guard, elevation and traverse handles and parts of the gun carriage which are very delicately moulded.

Interestingly, in what is probably the newest sprue in the kit, sprue D, the moulding is sub-par to those from the Pak 38 kit. On this sprue Italeri provide you with 8 shells and 8 empty casings, although a prominent mould seam will need to be removed and the empty cases are moulded solid and so will need drilling out for realism. The French 75mm barrel is moulded in two parts and so some care will be needed to get a smooth finish when mated together (There are no AM barrels available I'm afraid).

This however is a fair representation of the real thing from the reference pics I have, although the German-added muzzle brake will require its many small holes drilling out with a pin vice (I did this before taking the sprue photos so expect to just see circular indentations on the real kit). The real 'spoilers' on this sprue are the adjustable shield, that sits above the barrel, which is way to thick to be in scale, and the gun wheels, which are badly moulded in one piece including the tyres, and don't match the rear castor wheel in their pattern.

The Figures
The figures appear to be the same set of 4 SS 'servants' supplied with Italeri's Pak 38, 7.5cm howitzer and old Pak 40, which would make them about 30 years old! Obviously they are far outdated by today's standards and the serious modeller would probably want to replace them with a different set. However, saying that, they are not a complete write-off and some careful painting could produce a set of passable figures. The gas mask canisters, water bottles and Kar 98's supplied with the figures are not bad, but the entrenching tools and two shell cases leave a lot to be desired.

The Instructions
The instructions are the usual exploded view diagrams and are in clear, simple, easy to follow steps, and a good look through failed to spot any mistakes or problem areas. By all means a perfect set of instructions.

The painting guide however, is a different matter. Italeri use the rear of the box as a painting guide and frankly, their effort at a suggested paint scheme is terrible. The gun is shown in Dunkelgrau, which is fair enough, but the SS figures have what can only be described as an 'imaginary' camouflage scheme for their smocks, which doesn't even correspond to the two (also dubious) camouflage schemes given for reference. I'm more than disappointed that Italeri actually show a non-existent camouflage pattern on the back of their box, (which is an act of laziness from using the same pictures of figures from their older kits) when the front of box artwork is actually very good and shows the SS figures wearing 'pea-dot' pattern smocks and trousers, and should be used as a guide rather than the rear of the box.

However, this raises the issue about how suitable SS figures in camouflage smocks are for this gun, as it is doubtful the SS would have had to use such a makeshift weapon and the pea pattern smocks were issued in 1943/44 according to my references, long after these guns had been relegated to the Atlantic Wall, where they would be manned by Heer troops.

After a couple of recent Italeri releases such as their Camionetta AS 42 Sahariana, which have had excellent reviews, it is obvious that Italeri really didn't try very hard with this kit. They saw a gap in the market that they could fill by making one new sprue and re-boxing some older ones and that was about all the effort they put in. While you could accept the older parts with a nicely done sprue for the newer parts, the reality is that the newer parts are possibly lower in standard, and this coupled with their tired set of 'servants' and a terrible painting guide make this a disappointing release from Italeri.

The bulk of the gun however is nice enough and will build OOB into a great representation of the real Pak 97/38 with a bit of TLC. Aside from the old DML kit it is the only version of this unique PaK on the market and at 6 / $12 it's not going to break the bank. Worth getting only if you want to build this gun in particular. If new to modelling it's a great simple learner kit, and beginners and kids alike probably won't have any problems with the issues mentioned here.

Highs: A good representation of the Pak 97/38, simple to build, clear instructions and cheap to boot.
Lows: The old set of figures are tired by today's standards, moulding is also below par and the paint guide is awful.
Verdict: A great kit for those with an interest in this unique weapon and willing to add some TLC, or those just starting out and wanting a nice simple and fun kit to build that will look good OOB.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6460
  PUBLISHED: Oct 27, 2007

About James (Jamesite)

Copyright 2021 text by James [ JAMESITE ]. All rights reserved.


Thanks for the review! Isn't this a rebox of the old DML kit? (Eduard makes a pe set for that one.) Here's a good walkaround of the gun: IIRC this gun was also issued to Luftwaffe Feld divisions.
OCT 28, 2007 - 02:02 AM
No. The lizard's kit is a bit better detail wise. However, unlike the Italeri kit, the lizard's does not come with the castor wheel or a gunsight. And, like the Italeri kit, you have to drill out the pepperpot muzzle brake. Chris "toadman" Hughes Toadman's Tank Pictures
OCT 28, 2007 - 02:32 AM
As James says in his review, I think this is a bit of a "pot noodle" of a kit, using bits & pieces Italaeri had lying around. If the figures are the same as the old 75mm howitzer kit, they do indeed date back to the 70's, & they were originally Esci (rather like the Italeari "new release" Sturmtruppen & Rest Area). Though old they aren't absolutely awful, but interestingly from the painting point of view, the original Esci box showed them in the Heer splinter pattern camo (there was a Heer smock, but it had an attached hood & it did not have elasticated cuffs). The new kit box is wrong in every respect, the front shows the M1944 "pea pattern" suit, this is not what the figures are wearing. They wear the interesting mix of early camo smock & gaiters. The back is pure fantasy, so anyone buying this kit & intending to keep the figures needs to do their research. It's not completely impossible that this gun was used by SS troops; even the first line units got some "transient" equipment up to 1942(e.g. the original Marder III with the 76.2mm Russian A/T gun). There were plenty of second line SS units which used a lot of captured material (e.g."Prinz Eugen"& "Politzei" which were never first rate, & the Eastern European Volunteer Legions). The units raised later in the war did much of their training on obsolete or foreign weaponry (I have seen photos of "Hohenstaufen" training on Russian or Czech(?) howitzers, which have to be drawn by the men themselves!), before being issued with the latest German equipment for combat.
OCT 29, 2007 - 09:28 AM
Hi guys, glad you liked the review, its my first so great to get some feedback. Firstly thanks to Henk for posting it and being patient with my e-mail server that refused to send the attached pics! Marc, I think Chris cleared up that it is different to the DML kit. From what I have seen, the DML Eduard PE set should work with this gun. However you'd be better off with the Eduard set for the Pak 38 as it will fit this kit better and almost all the parts for both sets are for the shield and carridge and so leave the barrel untouched. Thats a great walkaround you posted, and the same I used to asess this kit. Steve, thanks for the info. I think we can safely say that anyone wanting to depict this gun with a crew is better off buying a different set of figures! I have done some construction on the gun scince the review and can say that it will build up ok with some TLC. I decided against a PE set and instead detailed it with spare PE and other bits. I filed down the sheild to scale thickness, and while time consuming and awkward in places, this does give a good final impression. PE rivets and catches were used to detail the inside of the sheild from an Aber Pak 40 kit, and I replaced the sight with a DML Pak 40 sight too. I also used copper wire for the 'shield support rods' and to add some other details. Apart from this a bit of filling was required in places. I have not tackled the lower half of the gun (wheels and trail arms) but have painted up a couple of the supplied shells which brush up ok with a bit of work. This pretty much confirms what I said in my review, with a bit of TLC this will turn out quite nicely, but it won't 'fall-together' as nicely as some other new kits. Thanks again, James
OCT 31, 2007 - 12:57 AM

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