by: Jan Etal [ ]
With the release of this kit Dragon Models Limited has graced us with yet another Sherman to add to our collections. Their Sherman offerings now number almost twenty, and if rumors of future releases are correct this one won’t be the last.
The Dragon Armor Pro kit, number 7330, represents an M4A3 with VVSS suspension, armed with an M4 105 mm howitzer and equipped with wading trunks or stacks. These tanks were employed principally in the direct infantry support role. According to various sources the M4A3 105 mm began unloading on the continent on 17 September 1944, but were apparently not issued to units until October. Obviously this meant that none would have been employed during the D Day landing operations. Suggestions have been made that these tanks with their wading gear were employed for crossing rivers but I was unable to find a source to confirm this.
Contents of the box include four individually bagged Dragon grey styrene sprues along with an upper hull, lower hull and two lengths of DS100 track. While the total plastic parts required to complete this kit numbers 107, a further 13 parts will add to your spare parts container. A 20 piece Photo Etch fret is present as well as Cartograph decals for two vehicles and a length of wire for a tow cable.
A one page, six sided instruction sheet with parts plan, three and a half pages of build diagrams and two sets of paint/decal instructions are also included. The build diagrams are standard Dragon exploded view drawings broken into 9 construction steps.
As with other Armor Pro kits you will in no way be disappointed by the superb and fine level of detail visible on even the smallest of parts. As one might expect from recent Dragon releases, flash, mould seams and ejector pin marks are minimal.
A previous Dragon Sherman with Deep Wading Kit possessed a different upper hull from this kit. The area where the main engine air intake grill was moulded had a two step elevated box as opposed to having the actual grill present. This meant that you did not have the option of building an M4A3 without the forward snorkel or stack. On this kit the grill is present and the kit could be built without the deep wading gear or with only its lower pieces present.
The first eight out of nine construction steps are identical to those of the Dragon M4A3 (105 mm) VVSS, kit number 7274. Herein lies the first problem the modeler will run into. As these first steps appear to be copied from those in kit 7274 there are a number of references to parts from the older kit that are not provided in the newer one. In most cases these are references to PE parts.
Construction begins with the assembly of the six suspension bogie units. Each unit is made up of four parts and the details on these parts is to the point where they exhibit a cast texture and even have casting numbers present. This level of detail extends to most of the plastic kit parts even to where moulded on weld seams are discernible. From other reviews and personal experience, care will need to be taken when assembling the suspension units. There are left and right side components and the instructions list these subassemblies as A and B. Parts C1 and C2 have a central locating pin that I found in a previous kit is a bit too long. Trimming this part may be required to get it to fit properly when mated with parts C5 and C6. Several reviewers have suggested that the DS tracks are too long and should be trimmed by two links per side. My experience with the Dragon M4A2 kit with a similar suspension suggests that an appropriate fit may be achieved by the removal of only one link.
This new kit shares with the older one the same moulded on hull tools. This is unfortunate as other tools are provided as separate pieces. One pleasant surprise is that while the older lower hull had holes in it, the new one does not. Both kits share some impressive details for the scale. Unlike other manufacturers, Dragon allows for all the hatches to be positioned opened or closed and internal detail of the hatches is impressive as can be seen by the full individual periscopes. The rest of the construction involving the plastic parts should pose little problems to the moderately skilled builder. Care will need to be taken when removing some of the smaller parts from the sprue, as the sprue gates for them are on the large side.
The PE fret is the largest this reviewer has ever seen in this scale. The material is perfect for representing the sheet metal of the wading stacks. Of the 20 pieces, 16 are used in this build while 4 tiny ones with the number 15 beside them go unreferenced in the build diagrams. A pair of PE headlight guards and fenders are the only non wading pieces on this fret. The upper portions of the exhaust and air intake stacks are identical and involve two pieces. The larger of the two pieces will require four folds along creases in the metal. The other piece fits inside the completed upper stack. Two pieces form a box that is the base for the forward stack while the remaining six form the rear stack base.
I foresee the assembly of these stacks being extremely difficult for all but the most experienced builder. While the instructions call for these pieces to be joined using CA glue, someone experienced in soldering may prefer to join them using that method. Another issue is that there are no joining or alignment tabs for these pieces. In my mind I feel that some judicious use of strip styrene may be required to assist in aligning and/or reinforcing certain joints. It is my opinion that Dragon should have provided a styrene alternative for these stacks for the less experienced modelers.
The final finishing instructions are for one of two vehicles. One vehicle is from the 7th Armored Division and is shown in a basic olive drab colour scheme. The second is of a vehicle from the 3rd Armored Division and is a camouflage scheme of olive drab with black mottling. Each vehicle has its own distinct set of the Cartograph decals.
Having built previous Dragon Sherman kits I cannot foresee any major difficulties in constructing the plastic portion of the kit. That being stated, there may be some fit issues when assembling the VVSS suspension components.
The basic tank itself should be build-able by anyone with a modest skill level. The skills required to assemble the wading stacks and lack of plastic alternates for them will present all but the most experienced builders with problems. Because of this I cannot recommend this kit to the less experienced builders.