Dragon 1/72 M4A2 (Sherman III)
KIT: Dragon 1/72 M4A2 (Sherman III)
KIT #: 7288
PRICE: $15.98 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Includes photo etch fret.

HISTORY

The British received far more M4 medium tanks, approximately 17,000 (roughly 34% of all M4s produced), than any other Allied nation. The British practice of naming American tanks after American Civil War generals was continued, giving it the name General Sherman after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, usually shortened to Sherman. The US later adopted the name and the practice of naming tanks after generals. In British usage, Sherman I=M4, Sherman II=M4A1 and so on. Additional letters denoted other features; A for 76 mm M1/M1A2 L/55 gun, B for the 105 mm M4 L/22.5 howitzer, C for the OQF 17 Pounder gun, and Y for the wider tracked HVSS type suspension.

Here are the different variants of the Sherman III, the subject of this kit.

  Sherman III - M4A2 with 75 mm M3 L/40 gun

THE KIT

No secret that Dragon wants to be your armor model company. However, they have a lot of competition. It does keep them on their toes and provides the modeler with ever improving kit quality. This kit is no exception. It may seem that $15 is a lot for a 1/72 armor kit, but then, you get a lot for your $15. The biggest benefits include a small quality photo etch brass fret and a set of single piece tracks that you can easily paint and glue, something I know a lot of you will appreciate.

Packaging is typical of Dragon kits with no more than two frets per polybag and in this case, each are bagged separately. It is also typical of modern kits that they be designed for multiple variants so some sprues will have parts you don't need. This one is again, no exception, as large sections of the 'B' sprue are redundant to this version. Not much in the way of optional bits on this particular tank. Basically only different mantlets, and since there is no indication of which bits go with the decal options, you are on your own in this regard or you can copy what is on the box art as all three markings options are from the same unit in the same place. I should also mention that some of the photo etch bits are optional as you can just as well use the plastic molded bits if you wish.

The small instruction sheet is sufficient to build the kit with six nicely drawn construction sequences and color references using the Gunze line. I heard the other day that Gunze may be in some sort of trouble as the local hobby shop is having problems getting colors and will no longer be carrying the line. However, being a tank, the colors are not going to be very esoteric. Markings are for three OD with sand oversprayed tanks operating with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in Syria during 1943. The paint schemes are similar but not carbon copies of each other so there is room for experimentation. If these were painted in the field, then I would have to assume that the road wheels on those painted in sand would not have been masked off so allow for overspray. Decals are well printed, though I'm not sure how opaque the yellow will be until I use them.

CONSTRUCTION

Back in January of this year, the MM Forum had a bit of a group build. The subject was small scale Shermans and so I decided to build this particular kit.

Dragon's small scale armor kits are not designed to be slapped together in a short time. The amount of detail and number of small parts effectively negates that option for most of us. Indeed, some think that these kits are a bit over-engineered and they could have a case for that.

I started by looking at the various bits provided and slowly building the kit. As I'm not that good at using photo-etch, where there was an option, I did not choose it! Much of the construction requires patience and slow going to be sure all is in place. The tiny pieces are not that simple to clean up and some were not trimmed off until glued in place, where they'd be less likely to go flying off into the great beyond.

A couple of areas were of some concern to me. One was the transmission segment pieces. These are a bit too long and do not allow the builder to properly attach the upper transmission bolt pattern piece. In fact, this long piece was a real pain to properly install, requiring trimming and retesting to get in place. The end result is not to my liking as it ended up that I had a gap between the upper and lower hull pieces.

Another area where I had trouble was with each of the suspension pieces. There are small rubber shocks (at least that is what I think they are) that fit inside the upper suspension section. No way could I get these to fit so I simply left them off. I also found the wheel attachment arms to be a bit weak and broke several.

Moving to the underside, I found that much trimming and test fitting of the various pieces on the rear where the lower hull and upper hull fit needed to be done. A wise builder will spend a lot of time being sure to get a proper fit. It makes things a ton easier. Care also needs to be taken when building up the gun barrel and mantlet assembly. This is rather fiddly and perhaps super glue would be helpful in tacking pieces in place while they are glued. It was during this assembly that I lost the little shield for the machine gun.

I then attached the suspension pieces and glued on the idler and sprockets. When attaching the idler wheel's mount to the rear of the tub, there is no indication as to whether this part has the idler 'up' or 'down'. I chose 'down' and it seems to be the right choice. There are several sprocket gear patterns to choose from and I picked the one recommended in the kit. Bad move as I found out a few months later.

It is here that I left the kit. Most of the parts were in place, though several still had to be attached. You see, I had ordered some decals from Bison early in January and now waited for them to arrive to be sure I had the proper bits attached for the Sherman I wanted to do.

Move forward from early January to mid-May. After several e-mails and an 'I don't know where they are' in relation to the decals I ordered from them, they finally arrived. Apparently the people originally chosen to print them had not been reliable and the art work was sent to someone else as I was told they were originally to be done by someone in Thailand and they ended up being produced in Russia.

Anyway, I now had them in hand and looking over the sheet discovered that I'd chosen the wrong sprocket pattern for the tank I wanted to do. Also, the initially chosen option had a machine gun on the turret and that was not shown at all in the Dragon instructions. So I picked another option. Building continued with more and more of the fiddly bits being added on, including the photo etched Jerry can basket and rear bustle grab handles. I left off the tracks and had the kit in three major pieces when getting ready to paint: turret, upper hull and lower hull.

COLORS & MARKINGS

As mentioned, I ordered Bison Decals sheet 72010; New Zealand Armor in Italy. The sheet is printed by Begemot in Russia. They do a fairly good job though there are some registration issues and some the finer details are not there (like the unit badges). I chose to do a tank of the 19th Armored Regiment, 4th Armored Brigade at Faenza during Christmas of 1944. The instructions state that the tank is either Light Mud with Blueblack camo or two shades of Olive Drab. I took the middle road and did mine in a lighter brownish OD with darker greenish OD splotches. I used paints I already had mixed and on hand.

First the overall lighter shade (an enamel) was painted on. This paint was one I found in one of those small square Testors bottles. Once that had dried, I attached the turret to the upper half, thinned some Pollyscale greenish OD to water consistency, turned down the pressure to about 5-7 psi and used my Skybow AB-100 to spray on this color. I'd thinned it with rubbing alcohol to let it dry a bit quicker. Seems to have turned out OK. I then painted the road wheels, my least favorite thing to do with armor. Initially, I outlined each wheel with a Sharpie, then painted the wheels using Floquil's Weathered Black. Once that was all dry, I gave it a wash with dirty thinner and then applied a clear coat in preparation for the decals.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

 Dragon's one piece tracks were duly painted and glued in place. I was quite unable to get the tracks completely tight so there is more of a gap than I'd like in them. You can see that pretty easily towards the lower rear in the images. To glue them, I put one drop of glue on the tab, pulled the other end up to it and used a pair of locking tweezers to hold the ends together while it dried. It dries VERY securely so you have to get it right the first time. Once in place I cemented the upper and lower hull together. It is a very tight fit and while the rear went together with no worries (thanks to all that careful building and test fitting earlier), I could not get rid of the gap above the transmission cover.

Next step was to apply the decals. They fit fairly well and the yellow and white markings are nicely opaque so no worries there. The sheet is jammed full of markings so it is difficult to tell what goes with what just from looking. Fortunately, Bison includes a guide to help you pick out markings. I used Microsol to help the markings snuggle down. Apparently they don't like it all that much as I couldn't get the star on the rear to snuggle into the louvers. Any attempt to apply some pressure to help it conform only caused it to start to break up.

Once the markings were in place, the tank was given a matte clear coat. I use Future/Kleer mixed with Tamiya or Gunze flat base for this. It allows me to make it as matte or gloss as I want. Then I grabbed some of Tamiya's weathering shades and started applying them to give the tank a bit of a worn look. Were I really good, I could have sprayed on some dust and other stuff, but I'm not so I didn't! Still, looks better than pristine and that was the intent.
CONCLUSIONS

Despite the usual trials and tribulations, it is a nice kit and certainly looks the part. I'm sure that I'll do another when the opportunity arises and for the price, it certainly is something that will provide a good value, considering the time it took to build it. If you want something simpler to construct, perhaps the Revell or Airfix Sherman would be the ticket. However, for detail, I think that Dragon pretty well has that down.

REFERENCES

 

http://en.wikipedia.org

May 2008

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