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DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
7274, Sherman M4A3(105mm) VVSS. 1/72nd-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 116 styrene parts, one photo-etched brass fret, two DS100 track lengths, one piece of braided wire, three decal/marking schemes and six pages of instructions in eight steps.
DML continues to add to their line of small-scale Shermans, this time giving modelers a 105mm-armed M4A3 on the later hull. In some areas they have improved on their original M4A3 76mm kit (better fit of the differential cover and added etched brass items), but in other cases, they have seen fit to cut a few corners. This will become apparent to the reader as I go along.
Overall, this kit is still a worthy addition, so do please read on!
This kit features T48 rubber chevron tracks, presented in the now familiar DS-100 material. They can be fixed with standard styrene cements and take paint very well. They are very well-detailed, especially for the scale.
This kit features a newly-molded VVSS suspension system with straight return roller arms; stamped, pressed six-spoke road- and idler-wheels, and solid drive sprockets. The original M4A3 76mm kit had the same road-wheels, but came with up-swept return roller arms, so modelers now have another choice if they need to kit-bash.
The suspension system is cleverly molded in four pieces for each unit, with the road-wheels attached to one side of the swing arms. This is mounted to the inner half of the bogie along with separate volute springs, all of which get trapped by the outer bogie section (replete with foundry casting numbers), complete with track skid and return roller. While the idler wheel has details on both sides, the road-wheels do not; however the latter will be nearly impossible to see under normal viewing conditions. Two types of outer drive sprockets are given: solid and skeletal style.
The hull is a slide-molded item with proper belly plate layout for the Ford engine, molded-on final drive housings and idler wheel mounts. The rear deck features separate exhaust pipes (with opened ends), idler mount details, tow pintle and mount and properly configured early exhaust deflector unit.
The superstructure is of the later 47-degree welded type with large driver’s and co-driver’s hatch lids. It is also the product of a slide mold so the entire superstructure section, minus some details and hatch lids, is molded in one piece. This allows for crisp details, especially on the side plates, which feature raised weld beads at the glacis plate joint as well as opened bolt holes on the sand shield mounting strips. The pattern of the holes is not entirely correct, but a good reference photo will help the modeler fix that in a jiffy. Raised weld beads are also present on the upper hull surfaces, as are most of the tank’s pioneer tools. The nice shovel is separate, as is the engine starter crank, spare track blocks in racks, and gun tube cleaning staffs (but these are not suitable for this type, see below).
The crew hatch lids are separate parts and feature details on both sides, to include periscope heads and separate tiny brush guards. An extra driver’s hatch lid is included with a separate periscope head so it can be positioned pointing in any direction. All grab handles are molded in place and will need replacement by fine wire. A nice etched brass stowage rack is provided for the rear plate and new etched brass parts are provided to replace the front fenders. Other etched brass parts replace some of the brush guards. The final item is a tow cable made up of styrene end loops and braided metal wire.
The turret is the later high-bustle 75mm type, fitted with all-around vision commander’s cupola and oval loader’s hatch lid. The main upper turret shell comes from a slide mold so the pistol port opening is molded in place. The modeler will have to clean up the resulting mold seam and add some texture; the remainder of the turret has fine texture. Although not a single foundry number is present, the turret does exhibit the extra cast-on armor on the gunner’s side, which represents the type that was faired-in at the bottom; some work with a knife and file will allow the modeler to modify this to a sharp edge as sometimes seen. All hatch lids are separate, as are the various periscope heads and sight covers. A styrene or etched brass part is provided for the commander’s vane sight.
Most of the stowage brackets for the turret MG are present, but DML only gives the .50 cal. body, making the entire thing useless! This is not an Allied Lend-Lease tank; US units used the “fifty”! As usual for this manufacturer, there is no US-style antenna mount or search-light included for the turret roof. Finally, all grab handles on the hatch lids are molded solid and need replacement by fine wire.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Parts fit is, overall, good-to-excellent; in particular the cast differential cover fits much better that it did in the original M4A3 76mm kit from last year. Overall, molding is very well done. Some of the smaller parts, such as the periscope brush guards, head- and tail-lamp brush guards, and turret fittings are really remarkably delicate. There are no visible ejector pin marks on any parts, including the insides of hatch lids.
Accuracy and Details.
Cookie Sewell, in a recent review stated that this kit carries over the main error of its larger 1/35th-scale cousin, that of a too narrow gun mantlet; I’ll take his word for it. My beef with this kit is the lack of all the parts for the .50 cal. M2 machine gun; why give the gun and all the various brackets, but leave out the hand grips, ammo box and mounting yoke? And yet again, why has DML still not given modelers a US antenna base? In step 4, do not use part B15 as this represents the bore swab and staffs for a 76mm gun; it can be modified to represent the type used on 105mm howitzer-armed tanks and stowed on the left side of the hull in the bare spot next to the lifting ring.
The scale plans seen in reference 7 not only show that the kit matches very well in the major areas, but that the mantlet is indeed too narrow. Of course, this is only true if the drawings are accurate to begin with!
The instructions are of the drawn style and are clearly presented. All the etched brass parts are shown in a yellow color, which is helpful. The painting instructions are in full color, with all tanks being shown as four views.
Decals and Markings Information.
There are three sets of markings provided by Cartograf. They are very crisply-rendered, if uninspiring, and can be used to mark the following three tanks:
All three tanks are finished in a base of Olive Drab. The 4th AD tank has a disruptive pattern in sand and carries a serial number and three vertically stacked squares as a Tac device. The other two are in OD with a whitewash, with one sporting the yellow 15 as a Tac device.
So, in spite of some continually frustrating detail omissions and one relatively important accuracy issue, Braille Scale Shermanaholics will have another nice kit to add to their arsenal. And, that’s not a bad thing, is it?
Frank V. “Curley Stooge” De Sisto
References consulted for this review included, but were not limited to, the following books:
1. “Sherman: A History of the US Medium Tank”, by R. P. Hunnicutt.
2. “The Sherman at War”, Concord 7001, by S. Zaloga.
3. “The Sherman at War (2)” Concord 7036, by S. Zaloga.
4. “M4 (76mm Sherman Medium Tank 1943-45”, Osprey New Vanguard 73, by S. Zaloga.
5. “Sherman in Action”, Squadron 2016, by B. Culver.
6. “Walk Around M4 Sherman”, Squadron 5701, by J. Mesko.
7. “M4 Sherman”, Osprey Modelling Manual 14, by R.H. Cabos & J. Prigent.
8. “The Sherman Tank in US and Allied Service”, Osprey Vanguard 26, by S. Zaloga.
Reviewer’s note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews.
DML kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.dragonmodelsltd.com.