|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|
Wargaming Kit Comparison
|Italeri vs. Armourfast
Kit #7521 / #99012
|Article by Stephen Brezinski; last updated 1 June 2018|
These 1/72 scale Sherman kits are produced for the wargaming market so we must not expect the same fidelity and accuracy as a fine display model. Wargaming preferentially calls for durability and simplicity. But we should still expect a semblance of vehicle accuracy. I tend toward display models rather than wargaming so that will be the focus of this review.
Many of the observations of these kits will also apply to Italeri's and Armourfast's other wargaming Shermans. The M4A3 is a gasoline engine Sherman preferred by the US Army over the diesel engine Sherman.
The Box Art, What is Supposed To Be In The Box.
In the Italeri box art we see a photograph of the two actual models included within the box and completed and placed on a snowy game or diorama board. We see that this is the late Sherman hull with the one-piece 47 degree glacis, large driver hatches, and no drivers hoods. The hull is the welded assembly rather than cast steel like the M4A1. There are no applique armor plates on the hull side confirming that this hull has wet-ammunition storage in the floor rather than dry storage in the sponsons. You will often see the wet storage noted by a W after the name: M4A3(76)W, M4A1W, etc. Because of simulated snow sprinkled on the model we cannot make out a lot of the surface details, or lack thereof.
The turret is the T23 style with the long 76-mm high velocity main gun. It appears to be an early-mid production T23 turret with all-round vision block commanders cupola, and split hatch loaders hatch (a hatch used as a commander's hatch on the M4(75)). There is a 50-cal. AA machine gun mounted on the loaders hatch ring.
The two models appear painted in olive drab with simple markings of white stars within circles. The models appear coated in snow, not white washed for winter camouflage. At upper left it states that two model kits are included with decal markings for three versions.
The Armourfast M4A3(76) box displays a nicely done painting of what looks to me to be an accurate M4A3 with T23 turret. The track looks to be the steel chevron block style. The painting will be helpful with detailing if you wish. The the nose of the hull shows a wedge shaped differential cover but this is not exactly what is given on the model. The lifting rings, headlights, and thread protector at the end of the gun barrel look good but are not featured on the actual model.
There is no 50-calibre AA gun portrayed on the turret roof. The Armourfast boxart Sherman is finished in olive drab and with no markings at all. At lower right is states that two complete kits are included in the box.
The Kit Parts
The Armourfast M4A3(76) box contains 22 dark gray-green, injection-molded, styrene plastic parts for the two model kits, 11 parts per model. The molding is good with no sink hole or serious defects, though detail is softer and more simplified than the Italeri model.
The Italeri M4A3 box contains 24 light-gray injection molded styrene plastic parts for two M4A3(76) tanks, 12 parts per model. Molding appears very good, crisp, with no sink holes noted.
At upper left is the Italeri M4A3W hull with the characteristic large engine grate. The features look reasonably accurate and well rendered. The hatches are molded closed, and tools, headlights and the gun travel lock are molded onto the hull: common for a gaming kit. Looking at the top of the drivers hatches we can see that Italeri molded the wire periscope guards onto the periscope; this came out fairly well considering the limitations of the molding.
In the center is the accurate rear engine plate and the well rendered exhaust deflector grate at bottom.
The hull bottom at upper right includes the sponson floors and good bottom detail. The Armourfast gaming Shermans have no sponson floors. Below is the T-23 turret, which except for the pistol port is very well done. On the turret rear are the AA machine gun storage brackets. The 76-mm gun muzzle is slide molded open, so no drilling.
The one-piece suspension & track assembly at lower left is the weak spot in wargame models. Unless they make separate tracks like Zvezda and Plastic Soldier Company do, there will be a compromise in detail. Italeris compromise is a lack of track guide teeth and the sprocket wheel that is solid across from left to right; this is how Armourfast models their Sherman sprocket wheels also. On the track face are worn-looking chevrons so I think these pass as well worn rubber chevron T48 track. These M4A3 tracks are an improvement over the tracks in my Italeri M4A2(75) kit which have straight bars across the track face so they appear more like Panzer III track links.
Starting at the left of the photo we have the four light gray parts for the Italeri. The turret shape looks accurate. Italeri supplies a pretty accurate gun mantlet. Notice that the 76-mm gun barrel has the thread protector and is significantly longer than the HaT gun barrel. (The turret AA machine guns are not shown here.)
The three parts for the dark plastic Armourfast T23 Sherman turret in the center in dark green. The gun mantlet of the HaT is too thin and lacks the lifting rings at the upper corners but these deficiencies can be fixed with some plastic card, model putty and copper wire. The HaT turret is also missing the AA mg storage brackets at the rear. At far right is a resin copy of the old Revell T23 turret from their M4A1(76) turret.
Both have the all-round vision commander's cupolas. The Armourfast turret has the late style oval loader's hatch with machinegun mount on the rear of the turret roof; while the Italeri turret has a split-hatch with machinegun mount like that used as the commander's cupola on the M4(75) turrets. The Armourfast oval loader's hatch sits raised above the roof when it should be flush.
An interesting feature of the Italeri turret is the antenna mount located on the edge of the left side of the turret, a feature only on initial production T23 turrets. Atop the Armourfast turret forward of the loader's hatch is what looks like an antenna mount but should be a rotating periscope.
While the surface features on the Italeri turret look pretty complete and accurate, features on the Armourfast turret look simplified and details are missing like the machine gun mount on the turret rear. The Armourfast turret has separate glue-on pistol port and rear vent dome. The Armourfast turret needs glue to assemble while the Italeri turret pretty much snaps together.
Accuracy wise, the gun mantlet is a weak point with the HaT kit, the shape is overall simplified and the mounting to the turret inaccurate. Not a problem for a wargamer maybe, but calling out to be fixed for a display model. The Italeri gun mantlet is better but not perfect.
Both upper hulls have closed driver's hatches, gun travel lock molded onto the glacis, part of the differential cover molded onto the upper hull, and cover over the air vent between the driver's hatches. On this last feature, this cover over air the U-shaped air vent is a late M4A3 Wet hull feature and probably should not be featured on the Italeri kit. Both kits are comparable in scale and compare well in size with other M4A3 kits advertised as 1/72.
The Italeri hull features molded on hand tools lights and the light brush guards. It is interesting in that the Italeri turret and hull both feature molded-on periscope guards, I have never seen the periscopes done this way on other Sherman kits, a nice touch.
The Armourfast hull appears greatly simplified. There are no tools, lifting rings or lights included either separate or molded onto the hull. Detail I find not as sharply molded as the Italeri kit; for example, a lot of fine detail is missing or more crudely done around the engine deck grates. The ventilation dome that is supposed to be located to the right behind the turret is missing. At the left rear of the turret splash guard appears to be an additional fill cap within the lower left turret splash guard that is missing from the Italeri hull.
A comparison of the bottom shows the Italeri hull at right to be comparable to the best of the display models like Trumpeter and Dragon. On the rear of the Italeri hull the rear plate has been snapped in holding a passable towing pintle and exhaust deflector grate.
The Armourfast lower hull is greatly simplified and the twin engine doors at the rear tell me that this hull piece is designed for and used for the Armourfast M4 kit. This hull has no forward or rear tow lugs though the Italeri hull does.
Comparing the one-piece VVSS (vertical volute spring suspension) systems we see a week point in most gaming tanks. Plastic Soldier Company is among the few companies to overcome this issue well by molding each track in two parts, top and bottom runs, that drape over the bogies.
Italeri has the significantly more accurate looking suspension. Due to nature of non-slide molding the track surface is very simplified and there are no track guide teeth. The space between the sprocket teeth is solid, something challenging to fix.
Among ways to improve the track and suspension for both models is with a thick coat of mud or snow, a lot of scratchbuilding, or replace the whole thing with aftermarket parts, or parts taken from another 1/72-scale kit.
The exploded-view Italeri kit instructions are very simple and clear. I like how the grate-like exhaust deflector (part-5) snaps into the rear of the hull.
The Armourfast instructions are pretty simple exploded view type. I notice here that the hull machine gun I am missing from my kit is present in the instructions as part-8. This model will require gluing.
No markings are included in the Armourfast M4A3(76) kit nor in the other Armourfast Sherman kits I have. The box art will act as a painting guide.
Unlike the Armourfast gaming kits I have, this Italeri M4 kit includes water slide decal markings and 3-view painting and marking guide showing markings for three US Army tanks serving in Europe.
I find it interesting that the diagrams include the track teeth not present on the model. Please note that the rear engine plate portrayed in the three drawings with two large doors is an M4 Sherman rear with the Continental radial engine, not for the M4A3 this drawing is supposed to portray, so do not use this as a guide of what the rear should look like when built.
Improving & Detailing
An etched brass fret can supply many small details like light brush-guards and AA machine gun parts. Some parts can be taken from the extra parts present on some Dragon and UM Sherman kits. Hull and turret lifting rings can be replicated with copper wire.
The lower slide-molded hull and the upper hull are done well enough that with some extra VVSS (vertical volute spring suspension) bogies, idler wheels and sprockets (such as from Trumpeter Sherman kits, and with some aftermarket tracks) we can convert this Italeri gaming kit to a nice display and contest model. With the softer details, incorrectly shaped turret, simplified mantlet, etc., the Armourfast model will need more work to make it a good display model.
This M4A3 hull also was mounted with the turret and 90-mm gun of the M36 Jackson tank destroyer to create the M36B1.
The Sherman Design & Development, Son of Sherman, Volume 1, The Ampersand Group Inc. (2013)
Armored Thunderbolt, The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga, Stackpole Books (2008), ISBN: 978 0 8117 0424 3. I have the highest recommendations for this book; for a modeling and history fan this book was an absolute pleasure to read, twice.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|