by: Mike Del Vecchio [ ]
By the late Thirties, it was realized that the existing US 155mm towed howitzer, M1917A4 Schneider, was obsolete. Work began on development of a new 155mm howitzer, and by 1941 the M1 155mm Howitzer was issued. Soon after adoption, the electric brake system was changed to an air brake system, and the gun was re-designated M1A1. This version saw use during WWII and Korea.
The ratchet plate jack for the firing plate was changed to a screw jack plate, and the travel lock was modified on the M1A2. In 1962, the M1A2 was re-designated the M114 155mm Howitzer, and saw extensive service in Vietnam. By the mid 1980s, the M114 Howitzer was replaced by the M198 155mm Howitzer. Currently the M198 is being phased out by the M777 155mm Howitzer. Due to the production number of the M114 and its predecessors, it is still in use in many countries around the world.
The M1A1 was also employed in a self-propelled version: the upper carriage and gun were mounted on a modified M24 Chaffee chassis as the T64, and eventually adopted as the M41Howitzer Motor Carriage. The same carriage was also made into the M1 4.5 inch Gun, though this had limited production, and only saw use in WWII. After the war, it was considered obsolete.
Bronco Models has now released a styrene version of the M1A1.
The kit is packaged in a large standard model box. Upon opening the box, you find all of the parts packed in a main plastic bag. Each sprue is then individually packaged in its own plastic bag. There is also a decal sheet and a small photo etch fret. The instructions are an 8 page color glossy booklet.
There are two large sprues, six medium sprues and two small sprues. It is immediately clear that the way the sprues are laid out, and by the way they are marked, there will be multiple kits from this offering. They have already announced the M114, and I would also think with an announcement of the M24 Chaffee that an M41 HMC may be in the future, and with possibly an M1 4.5 inch gun.
All of the sprues are clean with no flash. Larger parts have faint to no mold lines, and ejector pin marks appear to be placed where they will be hidden after assembly. All the sprues are molded in a medium olive green color.
Sprue A (large) essentially makes up the lower carriage and trails.
Sprue B (large) makes up the gun and recoil assembly. Also on the sprue is the howitzer sight system, which is highly-detailed and the best recreation of a panoramic telescope I have seen in a model kit
Sprue Ea is a medium sprue, and two are supplied. Each sprue makes up one wheel assembly. Bronco assembles the styrene wheels in the new fashion of building “sandwiches” to recreate the tire treads, rather than trying to cast them in one or two pieces. Each wheel is 5 parts, one for each sidewall, with three rings within, The seams are hidden in each tread.
Sprue Eb is a small sprue and, again, two are supplied. Each contains 4 powder bags as part of the ammunition. This is the first time I have seen an ammunition set in styrene which is correct for separate loading ammunition. It not only includes the powder canister, but also the powder bags.
Sprue H is the ammunition, and contains 16 projectiles and powder containers. You can see it is also set up for sale in the future as a separate set, and for use on the M114 kit. There are parts not used on this kit, including the modern projectile’s 8-round pallet.
Sprue G is a medium sprue with two supplied. Each makes up one of the equilibrator system and small detail parts. The equilibrator springs are outstanding, as they are an individually-molded spring that promises to yield a very realistic-looking equilibrator system when assembled.
Sprue D makes up the upper gun carriage and shields. The shields appear quite good for styrene, and not that usual “too thick” look of previous kits.
Photo Etch Fret: The fret is very small, and contains about a half dozen details for the howitzer.
The kit includes a detailed decal sheet for the WWII-era rounds. The decals are very complete for marking the different projectiles: HE (High Explosive), Smoke and Gas. This set is based on WWII-style markings and colors, and has stencils for the powder canisters. They even include the red dot marking the end that has to face the primer. Again, this is very transferable to a separate ammunition set.
The kit instructions are well laid-out and very clear. There are a total of 28 steps to the assembly, each of which is clearly labeled and shown pictorially. The last page gives painting and decal instructions. There are options shown throughout, such as the barrel in recoil or in battery, in travel mode or in firing mode, as well as elevating and depressing the tube.
This kit appears to make a great addition to any 1/35th scale collection. Many artillery enthusiasts have been patiently waiting for a replacement to the old Peerless/Italeri kit, which is no comparison to this kit. By all standards, it is well worth the wait, and Bronco has done an outstanding job bringing back the M1A1 or as the Redlegs refer to it— ”the pig” (which this kit is not!).
Future offshoots such as the M114 or the M41 HMC will also be eagerly awaited and purchased by this reviewer.