by: Andras [ ]
I was pretty happy when I saw Armory’s new release of the M41A1/A2 Walker Bulldog. I admit, not because I am a Walker Bulldog enthusiast, but because I really wanted to build a tank which used the chassis of the M41. For this reason this review focuses on the model’s quality as I have very few resources I can use for the Bulldog. (Only the information I found online.) The Chieftain’s Inside the Hatch videos are very informative, and there are quite a lot of walkaround photos.
The Walker Bulldog has not been treated very well until now for Braille scale modellers; the only model I could find in this scale was the Winneco kit from 1973 (which is quite inaccurate and off-scale). Now we have an up-to-date 1/72nd scale version.
Armory’s model resembles a mid-late production vehicle: the front mudguard is angled (early production vehicles had a straight mudguard, like on this model http://svsm.org/gallery/M41/IMGP7268), the secondary exhaust is at the front (it was moved there after the initial tanks were produced), and the bore evacuator is at the muzzle break.
Cannot comment on the accuracy of the kit as there were lots of modifications, refits over its lifetime (early production vehicles were often modified to later standards) to make things a bit difficult. Dimension wise the model is accurate based on the 1/35 plans I found. The A1, A2, A3 (export) versions were quite similar externally, so modifying the model should not be an issue.
The model comes in a cardboard box which is surprisingly large; probably two more sets of sprues could easily be fit into it. (The box will come handy storing some paints once the build is done.)
The instructions are, in general, clear and easy to follow (see the issue with the tool rack), although they could be bigger. We get a small computer generated booklet with a colored insert for the painting guide. (Apologies for the tear and red material on my copy. I was experimenting with tinting resin to create a lava-like effect, and the cup was knocked over by a clumsy hand. It is not an evidence in a murder investigation, I can assure everyone.)
Armory did commit the cardinal sin (no, not an actual sin, just an exaggeration by the author) of not numbering their parts on the sprue; you will have to refer to the plan given on the instructions. It gets really annoying when the assembly steps you are at are on the other side of the paper, but it is manageable. The instructions indicate the part numbers for plastic parts with empty boxes (no color), while the PE parts are indicated with a black box; this made building easier, though. (One last observation: I would install the tracks before adding the mudguards, and not the other way around like the instructions suggest.)
You get two options, one for a US Army tank serving in Vietnam. As far as I know Walker Bulldogs were not used by the US military in Vietnam; the tanks in Southeast Asia were exported to the South Vietnamese -by the French.
The model has 89 plastic, 41 photo etched and 3 resin parts. There is very little flash, and the detail is really nice and crisp; so far this is the best plastic model from Armory with regards to quality. Interestingly the front armor plate has a very fine set of horizontal lines, which resembles 3D printed parts (see photos). I was worried they would be visible after painting, but nothing shows through fortunately.
The hatches can be opened, and have interior details; the rest of the tank, on the other hand, does not have any, so I closed them up.
The running gear is reproduced in a very fine detail, and the road wheels, idlers and drive wheels are great both with regards to the detail and the assembly. (This can be a weak point for plastic models where the injection molding is less than perfect, and the resulting details are soft. Not for this model, though.)
The tank gets link-and-length tracks, which are great; much better than the rubber band type tracks. The detail is crisp, but there are sink marks on the surface of the rubber pads.
The mudguards/fenders are plastic, and are supposed to be attached to the hull by sliding the protruding “flaps” into their corresponding slits on the side of the hull. I was worried about the flaps being too thick for the slits (I ran into a similar problem with the Lowe before), but they fit like a glove; no problems there at all.
The PE can sometimes be a bit tedious to work with due to the many tiny parts you have to use - I used white glue for the grab handles to give me time to orient them properly. (Superglue can make a mess if you work with very tiny parts.) Some experience with PE will definitely be needed for this kit.
The build took two evenings; it was an altogether pleasant experience. I did not run into any major issues that would have caused undue frustration. The fit is generally good (except for the engine deck, which can be remedied with some filler), and the PE really dresses up the model with detail. All the engine deck handles and the box handles are made out of PE; I did wonder at the end why they were not simply molded on… On the other hand we do not get PE engine deck grilles - but the truth be told, the model does not really need them. Perhaps the armored covers for the mufflers (p 29, p30) could have been provided as PE parts, since these were very thin metal parts.
I do not understand why we got a resin 50 cal MG for the turret (instead of plastic), but it looks great, so I am not complaining.
Note: I did not add the gun lock to the tank because I am planning to modify it, and I do not need the turret itself. This is why I did not go overboard with detailing/weathering the turret, either.
Issues with the model
The holes for the towing hooks (p63) are too small.
No towing cable was included (easily remedied issue, and normally replaced with metal cable, anyway - but be aware that you do need one).
I noticed that the idler on some reference photos has actual perforations on the running surface; I can’t comment if this was a general feature on all the Bulldogs, or only on the few I could find photos of.
The sink marks on the rubber track pads… easy to fix, but still. The only other sink marks were on the gun, which were also easily fixed.
Fit issue with the engine deck: a few mm gap remains between the two panels (p14-p5); again, something easily fixed, but annoying. P14 is supposed to be a three part issue: there should be two parallel lines, dividing it up into three panels, running next to the PE handles on the sides (you can see them on the drawings on the instructions.
Not sure about the yellow stripe decals - if they are supposed to be parallel with the top of the turret, they should be slightly bent, so they could follow the bend on the side of the turret. They are perfectly straight, so they will appear somewhat “bent” on the round turret side. The gun mark decals are a bit short, so they do not go around all the way the gun tube.
The turret is held by a separate plastic part (normally the “teeth” holding the turret are molded onto the turret ring). This introduces a weak point; the plastic part can easily snap off if you are not careful when moving the turret. (Most people would not really care as you normally place the turret on, not to move it again. It might be an issue if you plan to move the turret regularly.)
Tool holding rack… this is the only major issue with the model, and it is not really major at all as you will see. The rack is a PE part, which has two issues: first, you have to fold an edge less than a mm thick. My PE bending tool could not deal with this problem; a better version which can hold down the parts more accurately might be more successful. But if you manage to make a perfectly right angle bend on each sides, you will be faced with the following problem: the tool holder is supposed to go onto the front right hand side mudguard - where there is already a PE bracket in the way. (See photo.) Looking at reference photos I have seen the tool holding rack held up by small feet to give enough clearance to the brackets (these can be made out of styrene rods). I have also seen this rack installed tilted towards the back, welded on the edge of the storage box behind it (http://svsm.org/gallery/M41/IMGP7283). The instructions are not clear exactly how you should install the rack and the bracket; on one step it looks like the bracket is installed perpendicular to the mug guard (which would interfere with the rack), but on the next step you see the bracket installed flat. (Again, see photo.) I have also seen a photo with the rack simply installed onto the frontal plate between the headlights.
Overall it is a neat little kit, with abundant PE (whether it is good or not depends on the modeller); I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with some experience under their belt. The price of the kit is a bit high, but not extraordinarily considering the amount of PE you get with it.