Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

Sherman M4A3 (105mm) VVSS
Kit #7274

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 9 April 2008.

Another Sherman variant using the late M4A3 hull, this one is the infantry support version mounting the 105mm howitzer. Dragon markets two versions of this tank, this here kit with the standard VVS suspension, and kit #7313 mounting the late-war HVS suspension.

The hulls between the two 105mm kits are identical, except for the front fenders, this kit having the narrow fenders for the VVS suspension. 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.

The wheel sprue is the revised sprue with the corrected bogie trucks. The return rollers are the raised style (not upswept). The wheels are the stamped, six-spoke variety, and for some ridiculous reason are molded onto the rear suspension arms. All wheels are molded in the same position, regarding spoke and grease plug orientation, which looks quite silly, and surgery will be required if one wants to change the style of wheel used on the model. What an absolutely moronic shortcut for Dragon to take. Additional negatives to the bogie trucks include not giving the modeler any options of articulating the wheels, and they have molded-on track return skids. But on the positive side, they are very nicely molded with the casting numbers even molded on the front face. Very cool. The idler and sprocket wheels are very nicely molded as well with sharp details. Two sprocket designs are included: the early style with the cutouts in the sprocket plate behind each tooth, and the late style with the solid sprocket plate.

The tracks are the common T-48 rubber chevron style. The detail is excellent, and even though they are molded in soft plastic, I think that the nature of the Sherman VVSS tracks (being thick and stumpy) lend themselves well to looking good in this medium, so my normal complaint about soft plastic tracks doesn't really apply here. Plus, if you want to increase their realism where they wrap around the sprocket wheel, you can carefully slice part way through the plastic between each link with a very sharp knife.

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. I show a close-up of the rear hull plate so you can see its reverse side.

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. It would have been nice if Dragon had 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 too narrow, measureing 13.5mm wide. The correct measurement for this part in 1/72nd scale is 14.3 to 14.6mm depending on the source. Note that this part has been improved since the release of this kit, and in the M4A3 (105) HVSS kit (# 7313), the rotor shield is a little bit wider (14.0mm). While it's still not perfect, it's much closer to being correct than the part in this kit. Will it really be noticable on the final model? To be honest, I doubt it, but if someone knows what to look for, they may notice it looking a little small.

Other than the new rotor shield, two other parts are different between this sprue and the turret sprue in the M4A3 (105) HVSS kit: the gun cleaning rods at the bottom of the scan, and the first aid box (part #29). Those two parts are not included in this VVSS kit.

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 three marking schemes:

  • 6th Armored Division, Luxembourg, 1945 (x2)
  • 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France, 1944

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.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale