Classic Airframes 1/48 MiG-3 (early)

KIT #: 405
PRICE: $Out of Production, but it was about $30 when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Jonathan Prestidge
NOTES: Short run injected plastic with resin interior and photo etched details


The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 was a progressive development of the MiG-1, it was in fact, the first Soviet fighter of what was considered the “modern formula” to be delivered in quantity to the V-VS. It started to reach operational squadrons on March of 1941.

Its debut represented a quantum leap in Soviet fighter performance, albeit at the expense of maneuverability and handling, in consequence it also demanded a higher degree of pilot competence, which the V-VS was finding difficulty meeting.

The MiG-3 was designed for maximum performance at altitudes above 20,000 feet, it was therefore unfortunate that air combat on the Russian front typically took place at much lower altitudes, coupled with its inferior armament, it quickly found itself at a distinct disadvantage when it faced Luftwaffe fighters. Nevertheless, many of the later Russian “aces” achieved impressive results with the MiG-3.

When production ceased in the spring of 1942 a total of 3,322 of the type had been produced, however it was to remain an important aircraft in the fighter inventory for a further two years, being employed primarily for rear area defense.


The Classic Airframes MiG-3 represents the “early” version of this airplane. Until Trumpeter released their “early model” MiG-3 recently, this was the only 1/48th scale injected kit of this cool little fighter. Having just finished ICM’s “late model” MiG-3, I felt bold enough to tackle my first “short-run” multimedia kit. The date on the instructions was 1996 so this is not one of Classic Airframes later releases.

There are 29 injected parts made of a light gray plastic that is hard and shiny with very petite surface detail. There is also a five piece resin interior, film instruments, a vacuformed canopy (only one, yikes!), and photo etched details. The decals are printed by Propagteam and include markings for Pokryshkin's “White 5” in summer camo or a winter camo (white) MiG-3 with red arrows on the sides.  


It sure looked simple in the box! I decided to try to build it in one weekend. The first thing I did was put on a mask and sand the pour stubs off of the resin parts, trying to keep the dust well contained. Next, I detached and cleaned up the injected parts, dry-fitting as I went. I glued the oil coolers and prop shaft to the fuselage sides and glued the fuselage halves together. This is where the trouble started. You see, the top of the fuselage just forward of the canopy was slightly too wide. I could have easily sanded the halves in this spot but I did not notice it until much later on in construction. By then it was too late. The upper engine cowl is just narrow enough that it leaves a step at the transition from fuselage to upper decking just above and aft of the exhaust. I have seen pictures of pretty rough looking seams on V-VS aircraft so I just chalked that one up to typical wartime Soviet workmanship.

I sanded the interior side walls until it fit nicely into the fuselage. I then sprayed the interior a blue-gray and painted the details per the kit instructions. I assembled and painted the instrument cluster as well as adding all the PE fiddly bits. I gave the interior a wash and dry-brush to highlight the details. Once complete, I used white glue to attach the interior to the fuselage. I have had much better success with white glue than with super glue.

Next, I assembled the wing, trimming and sanding the gear wells to fit. I then glued the wing and tail planes to the fuselage. I used minimal filler and sanded everything down lightly. Here is where I deviated from the instructions. I saw that several block-off plates were needed to keep daylight from coming through the fuselage openings (radiator, wing root ducts & cockpit foot well). I cut some thin cardboard to fit, painted it black and attached it with white glue. Since I had not yet attached the upper cowling, this was easy to do. I recently found out (post build) that the MiG-3s had covers that closed up the wing root openings when the planes were on the ground. I have seen photos of this on later aircraft but I'm unsure if these covers were on the early planes.

This was my first vacuformed canopy and I was a little nervous. I cut out the canopy with a sharp #11 X-acto blade, leaving a little extra around the edges. I then sanded down the edges while fitting it repeatedly to the fuselage. When I was happy with the fit, I glued it on with white glue. I masked the canopy using Tamiya tape and a sharp #11 X-acto blade.

I had to drill the mounting holes for the landing gear and wheels. Care is needed here to get the correct alignment of the holes. I started each hole using a pin vise. I then slowly enlarged the holes by hand until the landing gear fit tightly in place and the wheels fit snuggly on their axles. I did not glue them in place until after painting. While I had the pin vice out, I also drilled out the exhausts and the gun ports on the nose.

By this point, the extra time spent on the block off plates, canopy and landing gear had blown my one weekend timetable. Painting, decals and weathering were pushed off until the next weekend.


I chose to use the kit markings for Alexander Pokryshkin's “white 5”. Pokryshkin was the second highest scoring ace of the V-VS in WWII. An experienced pilot before the war, Pokryshkin started his wartime career flying a MiG-3. He was an aerial combat tactician who taught other pilots that to survive they must maintain either altitude or speed. To be caught low and slow in the combat environment was certain death.

There are no photos of Pokryshkin's MiG that I'm aware of. After studying many color photos of early MiG-3s captured in the first days of the German invasion, I felt I had a pretty god idea of what the plane would have looked like. Aside from a yellow spinner, I painted the plane in the standard V-VS green over blue early war camouflage. The color profile of the plane in the instructions shows it as almost chocolate brown. This is not correct. The correct color should be a green close to FS34102. I used FS34127 “French Khaki” from the Poly Scale acrylic line for the upper color and “Russian Underside Blue” from Poly Scale for the lower color. I initially painted the prop blades flat black but have since gone back and painted them aluminum with a blacked-out section on the back side of each blade.

At this point, I applied pastel weathering to the panel lines and exhaust stains. I then sealed everything with a coat of future.

I used the kit decals for this one. The Propagteam decals were very thin and a bit “sticky”. I had to apply ample water to the area where the decal was to go and float the decal into place. Several of the stars broke during application but I was able to save them. I used Tamiya red acrylic paint to touch up the broken decals. Once the decals were in place and almost dry, I brushed on some Champ setting solution and I’m pleased with the results. After weathering the decals, I gave the plane a final semi-gloss coat of future to represent the hard-wearing wax coating applied to most Russian planes of WWII.


The landing gear, exhausts and other final bits were added at this time. I used Testors silver (oil-based) to simulate chipping around maintenance panels & scuffing on areas walked on by pilots and ground crew. I used a thin, brown, oil-based wash applied with a fine brush to bring out the petite panel line detail. I used a Q-tip dipped in mineral spirits to remove any excess wash. I used some dirty paint thinner applied with a fine brush to represent oil and fuel stains. I kept the weathering to a moderately low level since MiG-3s did not usually last that long at the front. Pokryshkin himself was shot down several times in MiG-3s. 


I really enjoyed building this kit. It was my first “short-run” build and while not show quality it does look great on my display shelf next to the ICM MiG-3 in winter camouflage. I gained experience with vacuformed canopies, photo-etch and resin – all of which gave me anxiety attacks before. I finished the kit over two weekends (about 15 hours). I guess the added construction time was offset by the low parts count and simple paint scheme. Recommended to those with some model building experience looking to tackle their first “short-run” kit.

Jonathan Prestidge

May 2010

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