Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A3 105mm HVSS
Kit #7313

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 9 April 2008.

Dragon's second HVSS kit, this one represents the later version of the 105mm support tank.

The hull is the same as in the M4A3E8 kit. I took several different measurements and find that it scales pretty well to 1/72nd, though it may be just a little bit short. That being said, however, the hull is a very nice part, with outstanding detail and open crew hatches. I don't like the tools molded onto the engine deck, and it would have been nice to have an open engine bay, but since nobody makes an aftermarket engine yet, I guess that's no great loss.

The above sprue is included with all of Dragon's Sherman kits, and includes a plethora of detail parts, many of which will end up in your spare parts box (which is a good thing). All of these parts are perfectly molded. The .50cal MG is the best in this scale, though not all of its parts are on this sprue (hand grips for example), which are included on the turret sprue. The headlight, tail light and periscope brush guards are provided in plastic and are amazingly delicate and well made for such small parts, which demonstrates that there is no technological reason that the pioneer tools could not have been molded separate from the hull as well. In fact, there are a couple included here, such as the shovel, which is extremely well made.

Next up is the bogie and wheel sprue. Again, this sprue demonstrates Dragon's trademark model-making: very high level of detail, with really dumb shortcuts. The rear wheels are molded onto the bogie frames, and I really have no clue why they would do such a stupid thing. Thankfully it's not the outer wheels so hopefully it won't be too noticeable. Once assembled, the bogies look great, though assembly takes a really long time because some of the parts are very small. I guess we should be thankful they molded half the wheels to the frame, because that will save us about 3% of the overall time it takes to assemble these units. All sarcasm aside, these are the best looking HVSS units in this scale.

The tracks are the later, T-80 style, different than in the M4A3E8 kit, which comes with the T-66 track style. Fairly well molded and detailed (the chevrons could have been molded in greater relief), they look like crap once mounted because of how flexible this plastic is for such wide and thin tracks. The tracks don't bend realistically (at the hinges between links), and they flex in the center of the links where they wrap around the sprocket wheel, so some sort of reinforcement will need to be devised behind the tracks to prevent this from happening.

The above sprues provide some hull parts unique to the M4A3, such as a new final drive housing and the stowage rack for the rear hull, plus the applique armor plates for the M4A3E8 kit, as well as the fenders and other details applicable to all of Dragon's HVSS kits. I'm not sure why I scanned a close-up of the rear hull plate, but I found it in the graphics folder. I must have scanned it for a reason that now eludes me, so I'll post it anyway.

The final plastic sprue includes the turret parts, representing a late version of the M4 turret with the pistol port, oval loader's hatch, and the 105mm cannon. It is a late version of the 105mm turret with the all-around vision commander's cupola, which I guess is appropriate for an HVSS vehicle. It would have been nice if Dragon would have included the split turret hatch ring as well, to give the modeler a choice of early or late 105mm turrets, but they didn't. Like all of Dragon's turrets, this one is extremely nice, with excellent detail, open hatches, great surface texture and an open pistol port. The gun mount is probably the best one available in plastic, though the rotor shield is a little narrow. The correct measurement for this part in 1/72nd scale is 14.3 to 14.6mm depending on the source, and this one scales out to 14.0mm, which I really think isn't too bad, especially since I feel the 14.3 measurement is probably the more correct one. Note that this part has been improved since the release of Dragon's earlier VVSS M4A3 (105) kit (kit #7274). The rotor shield in that kit is 13.5mm wide, which caused a lot of complaints from modelers, so Dragon tried to fix it. While it's still not perfect, it's now much closer to being correct.

Other than the new rotor shield, the only differences between this sprue and the turret sprue in the M4A3 (105) VVSS kit are the gun cleaning rods at the bottom of the scan, and the first aid box (part #29).

The etched brass parts are pretty much optional, since most of them are also provided in plastic if you prefer to not use the etched parts. But the brush guards and fenders in particular will likely look much better using the brass pieces.

Decals are included for four marking schemes:

  • 713th Tank Battalion, Okinawa, 1945
  • 67th Armored Infantry Battalion, 13th Armored Division, Austria, 1945
  • 752nd Tank Battalion, Italy, 1945
  • 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division, Germany, 1945

The decals are very nicely printed with sharp edges and opaque ink. My knowledge of Sherman markings is sorely lacking, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the markings included here, but they certainly look nice. Dragon should be commended for improving on the pathetic markings selection in their earlier kits, by now providing us with more than one marking scheme.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale