Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A3(76)W VVSS Sherman
Kit #7271

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 28 April 2008.

So the last Dragon Sherman kit in my collection to be reviewed is actually one of the first Shermans that they released. It's not a very original version as we never really had too much of a shortage of M4A3 hulls, but this was one of the most common variants of the Sherman to see action in WW II, so it's nice to have a pretty decent kit of it. Other plastic companies that have released their own verisons of the M4A3 (76)W include Eduard, Trumpeter, and a wargaming kit by HäT. The best resin version is from MR Models, and Al.By and CPL Overby's Motorpool both had versions at one time, which I believe are now out of production.

This is the same hull included in Dragon's 105mm VVSS 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. My version of this kit was one of the earliest releases, which has a problem with the bogies (described below). It is likely that this kit has since been revised to include the corrected bogie sprue that is included with all of Dragon's later Sherman releases. If you look closely at the bottom of the bogie truck, you can see where the two wheel suspension arms meet in the middle, whereas this should not be visible, because the front face of the bodie extended a little bit lower than it does on these parts. I have seen where some modelers have corrected the appearance of the bogies by adding a small piece of styrene at the bottom of the bogie to cover the wheel arms, however, this doesn't correct the height of the completed bogie assembly. These incorrect bogies sit about 0.6mm higher than the revised bogies, which may have an effect on the final appearance of the model, if not the length of the tracks as well, though I've not yet built one to confirm this.

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. The rear sides of the wheels are molded open with no detail. 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. Aidditional 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. Unlike the revised wheel sprue in later kits, this one includes only one sprocket design: the early style with the cutouts in the sprocket plate behind each tooth.

The kit includes the T-48 rubber chevron track 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.

The final sprue includes the turret parts, as well as some hull parts unique to this kit, such as a new final drive housing and the stowage rack for the rear hull. Again, more useful pieces for your spare parts box. The T23 turret is the early version with the split loader's hatch, the same one included in their M4A1 (76)W kit. To date, the only Dragon kit with the later T23 turret with oval loader's hatch is the M4A2 (76)W. The size and shape of this turret are pretty close to perfect for the scale. Details are exceptionally well-molded, with a separate armored cover for the gunner's periscope and open crew hatches with detailed inner faces of the hatch covers. All three styles of gun barrel are included: the M1A1 with no threading for a muzzle-brake, and the M1A1C or M1A2 with and without the muzzle brake. The gun barrels are just a hair too short, but not noticably so. This is pretty much the best T23 turret in this scale.

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. A length of braided wire is included to replicate a tow cable. While I commend Dragon for including this detail, I wish they would have used a softer metal that's more flexible.

Decals are included for four marking schemes:

  • 760th Tank Battalion, US Fifth Army, Italy, 1945
  • 19th Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division, Belgium, 1944
  • 761st Tank Battalion, "Black Panthers", Task Force Rhine, Germany, 1945
  • Oh, and here's something we don't see very often: markings for a German tank in an American tank model kit!

The decals are very nicely printed with sharp edges and opaque ink.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale