The Royal Ordnance L7 105 mm was developed during the Cold War out of necessity. In a classic Cold War move, the British examined a Soviet T-54A that was driven onto the British Embassy grounds during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It was quickly determined that the armour of the T-54A and the capabilities of the 100 mm main gun outperformed the British 20 Pounder main gun. Development began on a 105 mm rifled tank gun which resulted in the first L7 being mounted in a British Centurion in 1959. The L7 stayed the course through the Cold War and has fired in anger in many conflicts around the world right up to the present day. Variants of the L7 were used on tanks in the U.S, South Korea, Argentina, Sweden, and Germany to name a few. The German variant is called the L7A3 and was specifically developed for use in the Leopard 1 series.
The L7A3 uses a horizontal sliding breech block and has a unique feature of a reduced upper rear corner of the breech block in order to maximize the depression of the gun without hitting the inside of the turret roof. The 105 mm rifled barrel is capable of firing a multitude of ammunition. The gun has an eccentrically mounted fume extractor mounted halfway down the barrel which assists in removing smoke and propellant fumes from entering the turret when a round is fired. As the Leopard 1 developed, metal barrel jackets were added to the barrel. The barrel jackets consist of a collar that attaches to the mantlet and covers a portion of the barrel behind the fume extractor and two upper and lower halves that cover the barrel forward of the fume extractor. The forward sections are clamped together by using four permanently attached metal clamps just forward of the fume extractor and five removal clamps placed along the remainder of the barrel jacket. On some L7A3 barrels the five clamps along the barrel jacket only form a half circle and do not extend around the entire upper portion of the barrel jacket. On other barrels, such as on the Canadian Leopards, full circle metal ring clamps are used to secure the barrel jackets. Modelers need to ensure that if you are building a Leopard 1 of a user nation other than German that you try to see what type of barrel jacket clamps are being used to make it fully accurate.
Perfect Scale Modellbau has produced a resin L7A3 105 mm barrel for use on Leopard 1 kits. This has come at a perfect time and will be welcomed by Leopard 1 fans with the scarcity of the Model Point turned metal L7A3 barrel. The barrel can be used to replace the kit barrel on any Leopard 1 kit in or out of production.
The barrel comes packaged in a small zip lock bag with the label indicating “35021, 105 mm L7 Leopard 1 Gun Barrel, 1/35”. The barrel is cast as a single piece in a light gray resin and appears to be very well detailed. There is a casting block at the breech end of the barrel and only a small amount of resin residue at the muzzle that would be simple to clean up.
Starting at the muzzle I noticed that there is no visible rifling. I think I got a bit spoiled with the Model Point barrel rifling as it is visible at the muzzle end of the real L7A3. I consider this only a minor omission as I would imagine that it would be very difficult to cast the rifling in the barrel with the same level of detail as a turned metal barrel. The two long sections of barrel jackets are well produced and the detail on the clamps is great. While the Model Point barrel is very well machined, none of the barrel jacket clamps are included on their barrel. The Italeri Leopard 1A4 also has the correct clamp details, but the Perfect Scale Modelbau barrel has better definition of the clamps.
The fume extractor has the correct offset eccentrically mounted placement and the raised ends. To the rear of the fume extractor is what appears to be a locking ring with recessed bolt holes but this is not the correct placement or the correct configuration. On the actual barrel there is a small gap behind the fume extractor and the front portion of the second inner barrel jacket. On the end of the barrel jacket there should be a ring with raised rivet detail. The Italeri Leopard 1A4 barrel has these features correct and the Model Point barrel has the correct gap and raised ring but there is no bolt detail.
Moving to the rear section of the barrel jacket closest to the mantlet, I noted that the three ribs running around the section are present and well defined. In fact they are too well defined compared to references of the actual barrel. They appear a bit too high and this can be easily fixed with some even sanding. The barrel also includes the horizontal weld seams that are on both sides of the barrel jacket section. This is a good detail to have on the barrel as it has been overlooked by both Model Point and Italeri on their barrels. The weld seam should also be scaled down in appearance as it appears slightly too well defined.
I compared two Perfect Scale Modellbau L7 barrels and both had equally good cast details, but both were slightly warped in both the horizontal and vertical planes. It was not anything significant but it was visible and should be able to be fixed with some patience and a dip into hot water.
The barrel should be able to be mounted as it comes to the Leopard 1 kit of your choice. The casting block on the breech end also serves as the mount to the mantlet as it appears to have the same rounded shape with a flat bottom section as the Italeri barrel halves. Some minor tweaking might be required to have it fit properly.
I compared the length of the Perfect Scale Modellbau barrel with both the Italeri and Model Point barrels. The Perfect Scale Modellbau barrel measures 107 mm from muzzle to the end of the last section of the barrel jacket. The Model Point barrel measures 103 mm from muzzle to the end of the last section of the barrel jacket. It should be noted that the Model Point barrel also includes a small portion of the mantlet mount. This portion was not included in the measurement as it is not included on the Perfect Scale Modellbau or Italeri barrels. The Italeri barrel measured 105 mm from muzzle to the end of the last section of the barrel jacket. As a final comparison I compared the Perfect Scale Modellbau barrel with the 1/35 scale drawings of Leopard 1s mounting the L7A3 in Michael Shackleton’s Leopard 1 Trilogy book series. The barrel scales exactly with the 1/35 drawings as the barrels in the drawings are 107 mm in length.
It is excellent to see a new aftermarket barrel on the market for Leopard 1 projects. Filling barrel seams is never any fun on a smooth barrel, and taking into account the variety of clamps, barrel jackets, and the fume extractor on the L7A3 the Perfect Scale Modellbau L7 barrel makes a Leopard 1 project much easier. With the Model Point Leopard 1 barrel appearing less and less on the aftermarket shelves modelers can now turn to a far less expensive option to get greater details on their Leopard 1 projects. Despite some minor omissions and inaccuracies such as the lack of muzzle rifling and the ring on the back side of the fume extractor the barrel is very nicely produced. The raised details on the rear section of the barrel jacket can be easily sanded down to a scale appearance and the front barrel jackets have very well cast and detailed clamps. As with any resin product modelers should expect a small bit of warping, especially in a long barrel. This is an easy fix for modelers with experience in working with resin parts.
It appears that Perfect Scale Modellbau has done their accuracy homework in respect to the correct barrel length and even though the ranges of length is only 4 mm between the three barrels compared those modelers looking for accuracy should take note.
Economically this after market barrel is a good buy, in my opinion, and will surely see use on many of my Leopard 1 projects.
Highs: Dimensionally accurate and very well detailed.Lows: Small over scale details and minor inaccuracies.Verdict: Excellent value for a well detailed resin aftermarket barrel.