Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

"So, you want to build a 1/72nd scale Sherman?"
Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 15 November 2012

Over the years I have received numerous queries from folks who want to build a 1/72nd scale Sherman, and were asking me about what is the best Sherman kit to use. So I figured I'd write this short editorial to give some general thoughts about the subject. Hopefully some of you may find it useful.

First, I can think of three possible ways to describe your current situation:

1) You are new to modeling (or at least small scale modeling) and want to build something quick and easy.

My Suggestions: First of all, the absolute quickest and easiest Sherman kits to build are the quick-build models by Armourfast or Italeri. But be advised that these kits are intended for wargamers or to be used as toys, and are VERY simplified.

If you're looking for a real modeling project, something that is detailed and accurate, yet suitable for a beginner or an out-of-the-box project, then you can't go wrong with any of the many Shermans available from Dragon. The Dragon kits are the best Sherman models available in plastic, being both accurate and highly detailed. Note that they are not "shake-and-bake" kits; the fit of the parts isn't always perfect and you typically have several options from which to choose while building. But these kits are as close to top of the line as we have available in plastic. Each kit may have some quirks or minor errors, so check out the reviews on this and other websites for opinions on how to fix or correct any potential flaws.

2) You are an experienced modeler who wants to jump in head first and build the best Sherman model possible.

My Suggestions: Option 1: In my opinion, the absolute best Sherman kits available in this scale are the resin conversion sets from MR Modellbau. No matter how good the plastic Dragon kits get, the best plastic kit still cannot compete with the best resin kit, simply because of the greater ability of resin-casting to duplicate very fine details at such a small scale. But keep in mind that these MR Modellbau kits are conversions, and were designed for use with the old ESCI (now Italeri) M4A1 kit, which is a very out of date model.

Like any subject in any scale, in order to build the absolute best representation of a small scale Sherman, you'll need to do some kit-bashing and super-detailing. The MR Modellbau sets provide the best hull and turret combinations available and are an excellent starting point. They have turned aluminum gun barrels, and several fine details cast in white metal, with some resin stowage items and accessories.

However, I find their wheels to be quite poor, which is unfortunate. Since the ESCI kit for which they were designed to convert is a rather poor choice, I recommend converting a different plastic kit instead, the best being Dragon, but Trumpeter and perhaps even Unimodel being acceptable as well. For wheels, there are a couple of aftermarket resin wheel choices. I also suggest a photoetched detail set. With all these items in-hand, a prize-winning model is sure to result.

Option 2: Since MR Modellbau kits are expensive and hard to come by, once again the plastic Dragon kits would be excellent substitutes. But in order to make masterpiece-quality models, you'll need to modify the kit wheels and improve upon some of the hull stowage details. Thankfully, Dragon includes small frets of photoetched details in their kits, so aftermarket detail sets are not necessary for these kits, although additional details would certainly improve the final result. Neither are replacement gun barrels needed, as the kit barrels are just fine. Perhaps add a few aftermarket stowage items, and it should be an easy thing to build a prize-winner with one of these Dragon kits.

3) You are someone who likes to tinker (modify, convert, improve, etc.).

My Suggestions: The final, catch-all category: the tinker. If you're interested in playing around in the realm of small scale Shermans, you have a lot of options. To reiterate the above points, the Dragon kits are always an excellent starting point. Dragon markets almost all versions of the Sherman tank, but their range is still lacking several options, which will require modelers to kitbash or otherwise modify the currently available kits.

Trumpeter, UM, Extratech/Eduard all market reasonable Sherman replicas, though each has some deficiencies that need to be corrected.

The majority of resin kits and conversions were marketed prior to the release of the plastic Dragon kits. Some of them are masterpieces, whereas others seemed to have been rushed into production and could have benefited from more research or better craftmanship.

When you combine all the choices we have in both plastic and resin, the sky is the limit for what you can create. Here are some general comments on specific manufacturers to get you started:

Trumpeter: overall fairly accurate in size and shape. Turrets are a little weak (hatch sizes are a major flaw). The major weakness of these kits is the molded-on hull detail, such as tools and whatnot. The tracks are nicely detailed but made from a rather poor material and are best replaced. Bottom line is that it won't take a whole lot of effort to make these kits into something special.

Unimodel (UM): The highlight of the UM kits is their modular hull design. They are ideal for scratch-building and conversion projects. Details on the hulls are limited, which is good, leaving it to the modeler to add just about everything. Pretty much everything else in these kits is lousy, with the exception of the wheels and chassis in the HVSS kits, which are very nice.

ExtraTech/Eduard: The best way to summarize these Czech models is to say they're "pretty good". The wheels and chassis are a bit weak, and could benefit from replacement. The hull details can be a little bit coarse (raised panel lines on the engine deck), but most everything else is really nice. Their T23 turrets are really good, and one of the best aspects to these kits is the extensive collection of spare parts you get with each one of them.

Resin: For all the available resin sets, a lot depends on when the particular set was released. Much of the Modelltrans line, as well as ARMO and the older companies, were marketed prior to the release of the plastic Dragon kits, and are converted from, or meant for, the ESCI Shermans, with all the limitations that implies. The newer Modelltrans kits, as well as Ironworks and the other new companies, are converted from the Dragon kits, and are much higher quality.

Again, check out the reviews on this and other websites for specifics on these and other Sherman models.

Welcome to the world of 1/72nd scale Sherman modeling.

Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale