Dragon 1/35 M103A1

KIT #: 3548
PRICE: $82.00 SRP
DECALS: See review
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


Heavy Tank M103 served the United States Army and the US Marines during the Cold War. Until the development of the M1 Abrams in the mid-1970s, it was the heaviest and most heavily armed tank in US service. The M103 was manufactured at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant and the first units were accepted in 1957. The last M103s were withdrawn from service in 1974.

In Europe, the US Army fielded only one battalion of heavy tanks, from January 1958, originally assigned to the 899th Armor, later redesignated the 2d Battalion, 33d Armor. The US Army heavy armor battalion, in contrast to other armor units, was organized into four tank companies, composed of six platoons each, of which each platoon contained three M103's, for a total of 18 tanks per company. Standard US Army armor battalions at the time had three companies per battalion, each with three five-tank platoons, with 17 tanks per company (two tanks were in headquarters platoon). The US Marine Corps assigned one M103 company to each of its 3 Marine tank battalions, including its Marine reserve units. The M103 was never used in combat.

While the US Army deactivated its heavy armor units with the reception of the new M60 series main battle tanks in 1963, the remaining M103s stayed within the US Marine Corps inventory until they began receiving the M60 series main battle tank. With the disappearance of the heavy tank from US forces came the full acceptance of the main battle tank in 1960 for the US Army, and 1973 for the US Marine Corps. Although the 21st century's M1 Abrams main battle tank utilizes the same caliber of main gun, 120mm, the M103's cannon was a rifled gun firing a separate-loading round, in which the projectile was loaded into the breech, followed by a cartridge case consisting of a brass case, primer, and propellant in a fixed unit. This separate-loading system necessitated the use of two loaders. The only part of the cartridge case consumed during firing was the propellant and a plastic cap on the end of the brass cartridge case. The spent brass cartridege case was ejected after firing. The M1 tank's 120mm main gun is a smooth bore firing a semi-caseless round, ejecting only a back cap of the original loaded round; the bulk of the M1's 120mm shell casing is consumed during firing.


This kit is being hyped by Dragon as a new line and while it could be something similar to the arrangement with Cyber-hobby, until the name 'Dragon' is removed from the box, I'll continue to refer to the kit as Dragon.

A look at the sprues shows that most of this kit is new tool. What isn't are the suspension bits, being the same as with the M48; just more of them. That will explain the 'not used' bits on the parts diagram. The machine gun is also from the Patton kit. The kit comes in a very large box, fitting for such a large tank. However, the parts count is rather low for a Dragon armor kit, thanks in part to the use of their excellent DS tracks.

The kit looks very much like it will build as nicely as the previous M48. The suspension bits are separate units that attach to the tank hull. Road wheels and return rollers as well as the sprocket and idler gear look as if they could be added just about any time, though I'd want to install the return rollers prior to the installation of the fenders. Rear engine decking is just a few pieces so should fit snugly. The travel brace forthe barrel can be built open or closed. I found from the M48 that the took boxes and braces on the fenders fit quite well though one does have to take care in properly placing them. All of the various hatches are designed to be closed, but if one has a figure to put into them, then it is a simple matter to modify them.

The rear basket on the back of the turret is butt joined and I only hope that the metal tow cable that is provided (with separate plastic ends) is long enough, though this time it fits on the fenders and not the back of the turret. The gun barrel is a single mold and while there is no breech, since there is no interior, it very much looks the part. The photo etch fret is minimal compared to some other Dragon kits and is used in areas which are appropriate for the medium.

Instructions are typical Dragon in that they are quite busy and I wouldn't doubt there is an error in there somewhere. Markings are for three tanks, all US Army in Germany during 1959. Decals are well printed and will work with setting solutions.


Just the other day I was asking the LHS owner if anyone had done an M103 and now we have one. Judging from what I've read, there are possibilities of four other boxings of this tank and I'd be very surprised if they are not produced.


March 2014

My thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. You can get yours at your local retailer.

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