The sIG 33 (schwere Infanterie Geschütz
or “heavy infantry howitzer”) was first developed in 1927 by the firm of Rheinmetall, joining the army in 1933 (hence, the explanation for the designation “33”). It became the standard infantry support gun of the German army in WW II. At 15cm, it had a larger shell than any other dedicated infantry gun (the US 155mm was not, strictly speaking, an infantry support gun). The size made it a formidable weapon in its own right, but in addition to its size was its versatility: the sIG 33 could fire a range of ammunition, including the bunker-busting 90kg Stielgranate
42 demolition round (lit. “handle grenade”). This finned monster had the same name as the hand-held “potato masher” grenades issued to soldiers because of the "handle" inserted into the muzzle of the sIG 33 for firing.
The howitzer was initially intended for horse-drawn movement as Germany (and the rest of Europe) prepared to re-fight the First World War. All that changed with the ascendancy of the doctrine of Bewegungskrieg
("maneuver warfare," which became popularly-known as Blitzkrieg
or “lightning war” after the fact). Bewegungskrieg
was a combination of air superiority, fast-moving spearheads (including tanks and motorized infantry) and artillery for smashing breakthroughs and key strong points. Brakes were added so the sIG 33 could be towed by mechanized vehicles, including the Sd.Kfz.11 and Sd.Kfz.251. The gun’s powerful punch even led to it being mounted on a variety of gun platforms as well, including the Pz. I
, II, and III, as well as the Czech-designed Pz. 38(t) “Grille”
CyberHobby has already released a wooden-wheel rarity (reviewed here
by our own Charles Reading), and DML recently brought out a version with brakes for motorized transport batteries (reviewed by me here on Armorama
). Now AFV Club has joined the mix with perhaps the best kit yet, one that lets modelers build the horse-drawn version, the one for towing by vehicles, and a “late war” version with wooden-spoke wheels. With over 4,500 sIG 33s built by 1945, this kind of attention by two and a half styrene companies is well-deserved.
The kit comes in the standard “clean” looking AFV Club box with sepia graphics. It contains:
6 sprues of tan styrene plastic
1 small fret of PE
1 turned aluminum barrel with rifling
a small sheet of decals with battery letters
16-page instruction booklet
The molding is AFV’s usual crisp standard, and flash was minimal; mold seams are light and for the most part, in easily-removed places. There appear to be no simplifications as with the DML kit, so the result is a profusion of tiny parts, so be careful when removing them from the sprues lest the carpet monster eat them up. The plastic is soft and delicate parts will break easily. I found my usual "coarse"-grade sanding stick literally ate away too much styrene.
With the previous kit releases by CyberHobby and DML, as well as an AM barrel from China’s OrangeHobby (reviewed by me here
), none got the sIG 33’s barrel right. Finally AFV Club has it: the rifling extends from end-to-end! Given the short, stubby barrel and its large size in 1/35th scale, the rifling has to extend all the way down the barrel if you’re going to show the gun being loaded with the breech block open, especially as this gun was often fired at extreme elevation to rain shells down on fortifications or other improved strong points (what we would call today a “hardened target”) . Keep in mind, when this gun was first introduced in 1933, German strategy anticipated going up against the French and their Maginot Line.
A mentioned, there are three versions of the wheels: one with full tread, the horse-drawn option without tires (with a brake-less wheel sub-assembly), and the Late War variant with wooden spokes, reflecting German’s lack of resources as the war raged on. A larger fret of PE to include some tool latches would have been a welcome upgrade that wouldn’t cost a lot. The latches are molded-on, and while acceptable, I replaced them for this build with AM brass PE latches.
The kit fairly falls together, though it is not an easy build for those without modeling skills. The frame relies on none of the usual shortcuts, and the brake assemblies are complex and finely-detailed. The designers did understand the nature of the kit's complexity, and included at least one nifty aid: a false axle used to build the chassis that you literally cut away when it's time to mount the barrel assembly (see photo below).
The instructions are, for the most part, entirely clear and self-explanatory, with a good painting guide along the way. The styrene thicknesses for things like the splinter shield or the various tubes and levers is some of the best I’ve seen in 1/35th, and I can't see a crying need for a PE upgrade.
In addition to the gun itself, the kit includes a sprue of ammunition, with the shells, their wooden transport frames, and the brass powder charges for launching them. Fired and unfired charges are present, along with metal lockers to hold them, a sure hit for diorama builders. No crew is supplied but Dragon’s field howitzer crew (#6461) is still available in some places.
Markings & Painting
As with most axis artillery kits, there are two painting options: "Panzer" gray and Dunkelgelb
. No tactical markings are included, nor are any units even suggested. The decal sheet shows battery letters A-F, though generally German army artillery batteries were four in number until the mid-war, so only A-D would be proper for a gray paint scheme.
For this build, I chose to use the tricolor pre-war feuersicherer Buntfarbenanstrich
(“fireproof multi-color camouflage”). In this case, the paints are courtesy Andrew Preston of DOA/Devil Over the Atlantic
paints. Andrew promises a set of the pre-war camo soon, so watch this space for a review of the paints, which went on easily and rendered a very good version of these under-represented camouflage colors.
The decals are a no-name variety made on Taiwan and inferior in my estimation to the usual kitmaker-supplied ones, especially the Cartograf variety. One partially disintegrated under average handling, and I suggest AFV Club change suppliers.
This is a superb kit with excellent detailing. In the “if you’re only going to buy one sIG 33 kit” vein, I would say this is definitely the one. The gun sight moves as the barrel rises, and the barrel pneumatic tubes are pre-hollowed-out rather than made from two pieces glued together (with the inevitable seams). There is simply more detailing than the DML version, so if you’re looking for the highest authenticity, this is the one.