Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A4 Sherman
Kit #7311

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 25 November 2007.

One of Dragon's best kits. This is the first M4A4 in plastic, and is pretty much the best M4A4 on the market. The only other good M4A4 kit available is the resin conversion from MR Models, which costs substantially more than this kit, and requires a donor plastic kit anyway, so here you have it all in one box. ARMO makes two versions of the M4A4, which were based on conversions of the ESCI kits, and lack the high quality moldings and detail of the MR Models kit, and this new plastic kit from Dragon.

The above scans show Dragon's "standard" Sherman sprues that are included in most of Dragon's Sherman kits. The left sprue shows all of the standard Sherman details, many of which are not needed for this kit, so your spare parts box will fill up a little bit more. The sprue with the bogie parts (sprue C) is the revised sprue, which includes the corrected bogies. My main complaint here (and you will here this in all of my Dragon reviews) is that the wheels have been molded onto the rear rocker arms, supposedly to ease construction. Here's a tip for Dragon: most modelers don't need or want that assembly short cut. Three reasons: 1) all of the wheels are molded in the same position so it looks very strange to see all of the spokes and grease plugs in the same position for every bogie; 2) if one wants to model a diorama with a Sherman missing wheels, he is forced to perform surgery to remove them; and most importantly, 3) what if we want a different wheel style on our Sherman? All of the Dragon Shermans have the pressed spoke wheels, which isn't appropriate for all Shermans as Dragon would have you think. So for my ranking system, it really should be 4½ stars instead of 5, but I've not been using half stars, so the kit lists show a perfect score of 5.

A couple of other notes: the bogies have the horizontal return roller arms with raised return rollers; and the kit also includes two sprocket styles: the early style with round cutouts behind each sprocket tooth and no dimples in the sprocket plate, and the late style with the flat sprocket plate and no cutouts or dimples. Again, it's nice to have spares, but it would be nice if Dragon would eventually give us the mid-style with the round cutouts and dimples in the sprocket plate.

These two sprues give parts that are more unique to the M4A4, and are not included in most of the Dragon Sherman kits. The hull details sprues includes parts unique to the M4A4 hull, such as rear hull plates and exhaust parts, 3-piece bolted nose, and several parts that are used on the Firefly VC, but not with this kit. The nose piece is very nice, and could be easily assembled and copied in resin for use in kit-bashes and conversions.

The turret is the early style with a low bustle, no loader's hatch, and a selection of all the different gun mantlets: M34 with and without armored side protection for the barrel, and the M34A1, although the armored side protection plates on the M34A1 are molded incredibly thick for some reason. They are molded beautifully thin on the M34 mount, so I wonder why that happened. The tip of the gun barrel is molded open, as is the commander's hatch. Periscopes are separate parts and appliqué armor plating is included for the right front cheek of the turret. Generally speaking, the Dragon turrets are absolutely gorgeous with a very fine surface casting texture, sharply molded details, nice options and excellent scale and detail accuracy.

The hull, as you can imagine, is specific to the M4A4, being longer than the standard M4 hull in order to accomodate the larger engine of this version. These hull parts are just about perfect, with open hatches, raised weld lines between the welded armor plates, very finely molded surface detail, and scale accuracy. My only complaint is with the pioneer tools molded onto the hull, which rather sucks. Why does Dragon mold some tools separately (like the shovel) and others onto the hull? Be consistent! I have seen some people comment on the fact that the mounting racks on the hull sides for the side armor skirts have raised bolt detail instead of empty bolt holes. I don't know if these holes were always empty when the skirts were not mounted, but right now it just looks to me as though they left the bolts in place for mounting the skirts in the future. If this doesn't look right to you, I guess you'll need to take the time to scrape them all off, and drill in the bolt holes. Not a very appealing prospect, if you ask me.

The tracks are the T-62 design, which were very often seen on British Sherman. An excellent choice for inclusion with this kit. Normally I despise soft plastic tracks. However, I have been very happy with the DS100 Sherman tracks from Dragon, because Sherman tracks are very thick and stumpy, and they actually look very good in the DS100 material, not having any of the weaknesses typical of soft plastic tracks (poor detail, inability to glue or paint, inability to replicate track sag, bendable individual links). Unfortunately, my particular sample suffers from poor molding and have kinks in several locations along the track length. I think it won't prove to be a problem when building, because it should be possible to hide the kinks on the inside of the track run.

Etched brass parts are included to replace several of the plastic kit parts, for an increased level of detail. Headlight and periscope guards are necessary in my opinion, and the other details will also go a long way to improve the final look of the model.

Highly original markings are included for four vehicles:

  • RHQ 13th/18th Royal Hussars, Normandy 1944
  • 1st Chinese Provisional Tank Group, Burma 1945
  • 1st Motorised Artillery Regiment, Polish 1st Armored Division, Falaise Gap 1944
  • Free French Army, "ST-QUENTIN", Marseille 1944

The decals are very thin, with sharply printed and vibrant colors, and excellent registration.

It seems that Dragon is still trying to tread the line between giving us highly detailed scale replicas, yet also taking assembly short cuts in deference to their line of pre-built models. These kits are so close to being perfect, all they need to do is change a couple of design choices (the molded-on wheels and tools), and they would be as perfect as possible.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale