by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Japanese type 41 75mm mountain gun was a small, highly portable field artillery piece adopted for service in 1908 (The 41st year of the Emperor Meiji's reign) and based on the Krupp M.08 mountain gun. It was a standard pack artillery piece that could be transported complete or broken down into components and carried by 6 pack horses with special harness. It was replaced by the improved type 94 gun, but remained in service, particularly in infantry service with four guns per regiment, and was used extensively throughout the War in the Pacific. The gun crew consisted of 13 men, with one squad leader, one each of aimer, gunner, loader and one man operating elevation and traverse, one man inserting fuzes into the rounds, one man handing the rounds to the loader, two reserve gunners and the remaining five men shuttling ammunition from the stockpile to the gun.
Fine Molds has released two versions of the type 41 mountain gun with the difference between the two being the type of gun shield mounted (and the accompanying figures). The subject of this review is the later type of gun shield, which folded in half, as opposed to the earlier type which folded in thirds.
I ordered Fine Molds kit F39, Type 41 75mm mountain gun from Hobby Link Japan, which had the best price I could find, and was the first to have it in stock. It came in a large box, securely packaged to prevent movement and damage in shipping. The kit box itself is also quite large in comparison to the contents, showing box art of four Japanese soldiers pulling the gun along a road, which was possible due to the weight and portability of the gun. Inside the box there are four parts trees in tan styrene with 129 parts by my count, a decal sheet, piece of string and the instruction booklet.
Sprue A is the main gun components. The gun barrel is in two halves. There is good detail on top and bottom surfaces and only one part had ejector pin marks that might have to be dealt with, being the lower side of the carriage. The spade is molded half on the carriage frame and half as a separate part for improved detail. Three spare rounds and three empty cases are also provided.
Sprue C is the gun shield, again with good detail on the front and rear, ammo box, gun shield braces and wheel hubs with tow rings.
Sprue E is the four figures. Detail on the uniforms is fairly nice, with straps and pockets generally well defined. The faces look a little thick and lack some detail, and there are some seam lines to clean up. Also, adjacent to the seam lines there is a lack of detail on the torso.
Sprue Z is the excellent accessory set that was first seen in the IJA infantry set, consisting of the standard issue gear, three each of type 38 and type 99 rifles with separate breech and bolt, plus helmets and field caps.
The decals consist of rank badges, unit type identification (the mountain crest badge), stars for helmets and other uniform decals. There is nothing for the gun but I have not seen any significant markings on the guns in photos.
The piece of string is to be used as the tow ropes the figures pull to haul the gun.
The instructions are clean line drawings, with each step clearly defined, including order of assembly for completed sub-assemblies. The only error, if it could be called so, is for the parts that are not to be glued. There is a picture of a glue bottle crossed out, the label on the bottle says "grue". Assembly of the gun and figures is in 25 steps, including attachment of the tow ropes. A paint guide is included for the gun (in IJA Khaki) and the figures, with colors provided for GSI "Mr Color" and I believe Aqueous hobby color, and Tamiya paints. The paint color is also provided in English. Fine Molds typically includes basic English in the instruction portion, but the rest of the details in the instructions are in Japanese, particularly the portion covering the history of the gun. I really do wish Fine Molds would include an English translation for this, but they may not expect to sell that many outside of Japan and therefore don't feel it is necessary.
As I was going on vacation and rain was expected for part of the time, I thought this would provide an excellent opportunity to assemble the kit.
Assembly is quick and easy. First page is steps 1-8. The gun halves are assembled, and line up well, followed by the breech and gun rail. These are then assembled in one piece. The gun sight assembly is added next and the gun portion is complete.
Step 8 is the elevating gear, which leads into the next page, assembly of the carriage, steps 9-13. The mounting base for the gun is placed carefully as it is to be moveable, and the elevating gear is then attached, also movable. The spade is completed, gun lock installed and the gun set in place. With the gun lock the gun is fixed in position but it can be removed and the gun able to move, allowing the modeler to place it how they desire. Seats for the gunner and aimer are placed in the stowed position and the gun shield is attached.
Step 14 assembles the elevation wheel, step fifteen installs it and steps 16 and 17 add the spoke wheels and hubs. Line drawings that appear to be scale show placement of the parts from top, left side and front views. Step 18 adds the tow rings to the spade and the gun is complete.
Step 19 is assembly and painting of the ammunition box and ammunition. Step 20 is assembly of the rifles and painting the bayonet for the figures.
Steps 21-24 are assembly of the figures. I did only partial assembly of the figures to check for fit. The figures are broken down into head, torso, separate arms and legs. The two leg sections had minor gaps as I assembled them, but I was lacking tools and so couldn't clean up the fit as well as I wanted.
There has been discussion in the past about artillery crews and web gear. As pertaining to this set, photos I have found online show that Japanese gun crews in infantry artillery are frequently wearing all their gear, including water bottles, pouches, bayonet and ammunition boxes. As such, adding these items to the included figures would not be out of the ordinary.
With included distractions, it took me about two hours to complete the kit. The wheels were not attached as I want to paint the kit first. The figures are of course still incomplete as well. The only potential issue is how the gun barrel sits on the rail, as there is not a set locating pin. Make sure the breech is sitting right. Also, the gun lock is off center a bit as it cants the gun a little to one side. Other than this, assembly was very simple. The only major difficulty I can see is getting the paint match for IJA khaki.
Japanese infantry subjects are very hard to find, and something like this field gun even rarer, so this is a very nice and welcome release. I have found that Japanese kits are much cheaper from online stores in Asia, and again, the best price I could find was from HLJ. Suggested retail was about $26.00 US. I purchased mine on a preorder sale price and with shipping it was just a little more. Prices vary considerably, up to over $40 US, so shop carefully.