by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
In June 1946, the General Electric Company was awarded the contract for "Project Vulcan", a six-barrel weapon capable of firing 7200 rounds per minute. General Electric delivered first weapon prototypes in early 1950s, with T171 20mm gun selected for further development and finally standardized by the US Army and US Air Force as the M61 20mm Vulcan in 1956. Due to the problems with its linked ammunition, the original weapon was soon upgraded to M61A1, which featured linkless ammunition feed system.
The M61A1 Vulcan is externally powered, six-barreled, air-cooled, electrically fired Gatling-style rotary cannon which fires 20mm rounds at an extremely high rate. It is the standard cannon armament of the US Air Force, with its primary use in the extremely short range air-to-air environment or in a ground strafing role. The M61A1 is also the basis of the US Navy Mk15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System and the M163/M167 Vulcan Air Defense System.
Master Model is a small Polish company, specialized in producing high quality metal turned barrels for model scale aircraft and ships. The company recently ventured into 1/35 scale with the first release in the new “Ground Master” 1/35 scale line: M61A1 Vulcan 20mm six-barrel rotary cannon (35001).
Master Model sets are packed in a zip-lock bag supported by a hard cardboard backing. This particular set consists of:
- 6 turned metal barrels,
- PE fret (14 parts),
- metal ring,
- metal axle,
- instruction sheet.
Upon closer inspection all the pieces in the kit look really good and the level of details delivered in 1/35 scale is absolutely amazing. The instruction sheet is concise and short, but gives a really good overview how to assemble the barrels. This set is based on measurements taken from a real Vulcan gun in Air Force Museum Gatow (Berlin). The real M61A1 Vulcan is a complex weapon system and transferring all the gun assemblies to 1/35 scale required some intelligent engineering from Master Model, in order to produce a kit which is not too difficult to assemble for an average modeler.
The barrels feature small indentations which simulate barrel muzzle openings, stop shoulders, and various other details. The barrels are inserted into a PE disc which is then used to attach the barrels to the rotor assembly. The mid-barrel clamp assembly is positioned near the center of the barrels, with the clamp tabs engaged in the slots of the stop shoulder on the barrels. The mid-barrel clamp assembly in this set is made of two PE discs which fit on either side of the turned metal ring. The muzzle clamp assembly is positioned at the front end of the barrels, against the flange on the barrels and secured by the pressure of the self-locking nut assembly against the opposite side of the shoulders. This is by far the most complex section of the weapon, represented by five PE discs (3 in the front and 2 in the back of the assembly), 6 small PE shields and metal axle in between, holding the assembly together.
I had to dry fit everything several times before actually opening the bottle with CA super thin glue. I would recommend making the mid-barrel clamp first taking care the barrel holes are aligned well. After inserting all the barrels through the mid-clamp assembly, I would suggest attaching the barrels to rear PE disc to properly position the barrels for securing the muzzle clamp assembly. A jig made from styrene is of great help here. As mentioned, the muzzle clamp assembly is pretty complex and I recommend fixing the front and back PE discs plus the metal center axle first. Take good care to align these well, not to ruin the geometry of the entire barrel assembly. Now the small PE shields can be attached to further ensure proper geometry of the muzzle clamp.
As I said, some dry fitting here is a must, and perhaps you will have more success following your own assembly sequence. My pointers are just a suggestion, something that worked fairly well for me. The process is not easy, but the end result is absolutely well worth the extra effort. I'm also going to use a blackening agent from Master Model to get perfect results with these Vulcan barrels.
Being in a process of making a M163 in 1/35 scale, I am constantly looking for ways to improve and super-detail the old Academy kit. I have Hobby Fan’s M163 conversion, which offers a great deal of additional resin goodies for the vehicle inside and out. The conversion is extremely useful and very accurate, however the metal barrels supplied in the kit are just not realistic enough for me… and what a shame as Vulcan gun is the most prominent feature of the M163.
Master Model to the rescue! The M61A1 Vulcan 20mm six-barrel rotary cannon(35001) really is a dream come true for me and a final piece of puzzle for making a super-accurate M163. The set is based on measurements taken from the real gun and delivers a very accurate M61A1 Vulcan cannon in 1/35 scale. The assembly is a bit complex, particularly getting the muzzle clamp assembly geometry completely right, but the final outcome is well worth the extra effort. Well done Master Model, you have produced a real gem!
EDIT: Please note the photos of my Vulcan barrels do not feature small PE shields. Also, note the difference between Hobby Fan metal barrels and Master Model offerings... the quality of Master shows really well.