Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A1 Sherman
Kit #371

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 26 May 2008.

The third Sherman release from UM, this kit represents an entirely new kit design and shares few parts with UM's earlier HVSS kits. This is only the second early, small hatch, M4A1 kit we've had made available to us in plastic, the previous kit being from Dragon. As I have now come to expect from UM, this is not a very good model, though many parts of it may be salvaged for other projects. Or conversely, this kit may be able to be built if using some spare parts from other kits.

This is pretty much the best part of the kit, though that's not saying a whole lot. The hull is fairly well done, but it has a few errors in its shape. The crew hatches are not centered in the armored hoods, being located a little bit too far towards the hull center line, and the slope of the front hull may be a little bit too long as well. But all things considered, I think these are minor problems and could probably be easily ignored.

Some positives, there is a very fine cast texture to the plastic that I like very much. The crew hatches are open, and so is the engine bay, in anticipation of some industrious aftermarket company giving us an engine campartment detail set. It's interesting how a kit that's overall as mediocre as this one can surpass the nice Dragon kit in this regard. There is also a spare stowage bin on this sprue for use in a future kit release (probably a British Sherman). My favorite aspect of this hull is the lack of tools molded onto it.

The sprue on the left includes several parts that are not used in this kit, but will be seen again in future releases. I think that people who are into scratch-building and always wanted to make an early version of a welded-hull Sherman will be very happy with these parts. Interestingly, these armored hoods are nicer than the ones cast into the M4A1 hull pictured above. Um... you can't see it, but the two hull crew hatches are fairly nicely detailed on their outer surface, on the reverse side of this scan. The sprue on the right includes the lower hull plate and the pioneer tools. This is the only sprue shared between this kit and the earlier releases. Although the tools aren't 100% accurate in size or shape, it sure is nice having them as separate parts and not molded onto the hull.

OK, the wheel sprues. Mixed bag here. The tracks are hard plastic, which is very nice, but they are too narrow and the chevrons look like something in between the rubber and steel varieties, not being completely accurate for either one. At first glance I like the bogie suspension parts very much. I am particularly pleased that the track return skids are provided as etched metal parts. The wheels, however, are another let-down of this kit. OK, the sprockets are fairly good. Only minor complaints about them, the most serious of which is how they are attached to the sprues. Great care is needed to carve the teeth into shape at the sprue attachment points. The spoked road wheels are worthless, as they have one too many spokes. The stamped wheels are a little better, though the surface detail is a little shallow and on some of the wheels, molded off-center. The same comment applies to the idler wheel (only the stamped variety is provided in the kit; not the open spoke variety).

The turret is another fairly decent part of the kit, though again, that's not saying much. Size and shape appear to be very good. It is a low bustle version with the pistol port and no loader's hatch. Like the hull, it has a very subtle cast surface texture to it, though the other surface details, such as the periscopes and ventilator are over-simplified. Curiously, the periscope for the gunner is facing to the rear, giving him a nice view of the commander's hatch ring. Gun barrel is decent, as are the gun mounts. Two styles of gun shield are included, and so are three styles of the rotor shield: the M34 and M34A1 for the 75mm gun, and the shield for the 17 pdr cannon for the upcoming Firefly kit. There are several Firefly turret parts here, which may come in handy for other conversion projects.

Etched metal parts (which I think are copper, not brass) include the headlight guards, fender details, nose piece bolts, and the aforementioned track return skids. I feel this is the best way to represent these skids.

Three marking options for US Army tanks are included:

  • "Duck", 11th Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Division, 1943
  • "Hell on Wheels", 13th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Anzio, April 1944
  • "Electric", 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Armored Division, Sicily, 1943

All in all a mediocre kit. While it has some very poor aspects to it, it also has some that aren't so bad. Hell, compared to the old ESCI kits, this one is pretty decent. Only when compared to the new Dragon and Trumpeter kits does this kit look poor. But realistically, against which kits is this one supposed to compete? The ESCI kit, or the new ones?

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale