by: Tom Cromwell [ ]
introductionTime was when modellers of US subjects in 1:35 scale had either the ancient Tamiya or Italeri weapon sets from which to pick those all-important small-arms details. Of these, the Tamiya set had its share of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, while the Italeri set still holds up reasonably well as long as you don’t compare it to Dragon’s Gen2 stuff. Tamiya followed up with a newer set from its Assault Infantry figures, and machine guns from Academy and Tasca also added to the ranks in recent years, before Bronco entered the fray with its Commonwealth AFV Equipment for British weapon fans. Now Bronco comes to the aid of US modellers by giving us a fairly comprehensive new set of US WWII weapons that includes both small arms and crew-served heavy weapons.
contentsInside the familiar end-opening box are three bags of sprues and a four-page instruction booklet. Two of the bags are duplicates, holding five “sprue-lets” of weapons and personal gear each, while the third bag has a sprue of rucksacks. All are moulded in grey flash-free plastic. The nature of the sprue layout suggests these parts are from several other kits, but aside from the rucksacks (from the M24 Chaffee), I cannot find any clues beyond the fact the sprues are all marked “ZF-049”.
The box has a correction label attached, because the M1 Carbines were updated at the last minute after comments on Armorama. (Nice to see a manufacturer taking constructive criticism seriously! If only more followed this principle.)
The items represented (and number included) are:
• 2no. .50Cal ANM2 MG with air-cooled “aircraft” barrel, c/w tripod and ammo box
• 2no. .30Cal M1919 MG c/w tripod and ammo box
• 2no. M1 Garand rifle
• 2no. M1 Garand rifle w/ M3 Bayonet
• 2no. M1903A3 Springfield sniper rifle w/ scope
• 2no. M1 Carbine
• 2no. M1A1 Carbinet w/ metal folding stock
• 2no. M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle
• 2no. M3A1 MG “Grease Gun”
• 2no. M1 Thompson MG w/ 20-round & 30-round clips
• 2no. M1 Bazooka w/ 2no. M6A1 rockets & 2no. rounds in card tubes
• 2no. M2 60mm Mortar w/ 2no. M49A2 HE rounds
• 2no. M1911A1 Colt 45 pistol
• 2no. M1911A1 Colt 45 pistol unloaded (w/ slide pulled back)
• 2no. M1911 Colt 45 pistol in M1916 leather belt holster
• 2no. M1911 Colt 45 pistol in M7 shoulder holster
• 4no. Mk.2 Hand Grenade
• 2no. M1 Bayonet in scabbard
• 2no. M17 Binoculars
• 6no. M1910 Canteen
• 6no. M1 Helmet
• 4no. M1936 Field Bag
• 1no. Cotton Barracks Bag
• 1no. Folded Canvas tarpaulin
reviewStarting with the easy bit, the rucksack sprue has crisp detail but suffers from hollow backs on the four sacks, the barracks bag, and the tarp. That means they can only be attached to something that hides the big hole. Technical limitations mean they would have to be two-part items if the backs were to be modelled – thicker one-piece items would invite our old friend “Sammy Sink-hole” as the plastic cooled. The four field bags are all subtly different sculptings (which is good), but they are all meant to look “full” and hanging vertically by their straps.
Now on to the more complex new stuff! One thing I noticed was the sometimes awkward placement of sprue connections – the one on the Thompson barrel means I’ll need to reshape the barrel where it sits on the front grip. The carbines have the classic “three point” attachment that means any squeezing of the sprue will bend the parts (note the bent barrel of the M1A1). Then there is the lack of slings, especially given Bronco’s predilection for photo-etched brass in its vehicle kits. (This goes for all the weapons…)
The weapons generally look very good, with decent detail. The Garands are okay, being more refined than others I’ve seen and matching the real thing in length, but are a bit too “thin” at the front end. The carbines are the WW2 variety without the bayonet lug (as discussed on Armorama earlier), and come with the 15-round straight clip. Unfortunately they are a tad overscale, measuring a scale 41” instead of 35 ½” – both Italeri & Tamiya got this right. The Thompson comes with separate clips of both 20 & 30-round capacities, since both were common in the War years. Note however this represents the M1 with side-mounted cocking lever, rather than the earlier M1928 version with top-mounted lever that was provided to the British early on. (The earlier version, with 50-round drum magazine, was in Bronco’s Commonwealth AFV Equipment set.) Fortunately this gun is both the right length and the right shape! The Grease Guns are nice and have the sliding metal stock as a separate part, but this is provided with short slides (“pushed in”) so cannot represent a fully-extended stock – an extra part to offer the choice would have been nice. The pistols are good in length, although the grips swell a bit towards the base giving them more of a swept-back look than a Colt should have.
The M1903A3 Springfield sniper rifle shown on the box art has the prominent “pistol grip” of the later type C wooden stock fitted to the A1-A3 models, coupled with the M84 telescopic sight. It also retains the standard front sight. The kit part, however, has the interim “scant” wooden stock with very small “grip” area used in limited numbers during factory rebuilds, making it a rare 1942 product. Most sources say the Army issued the sniper rifle as the M1903A4 with type C stock, narrow tube-like M73 scope, and no front sight. (This is what the crude lump in the old Tamiya set represents.) Still, the unusual combo represented by the plastic was possible…
Bronco’s 60mm mortar is a real treat! The parts are suitably fine, with no fewer than eight for the weapon. The parts breakdown should make it possible to model it stowed (with a little surgery to the legs). This is light-years ahead of the old Tamiya mortar.
The aircraft .50cal MG is lovely – the slide-moulded receiver interior offers plenty of diorama potential, and the muzzle is cored out with slide-moulding too. The sight is a post & ring type rather than the normal ones seen on the M2HB. Bear in mind however that many of the detail parts are microscopic! A very steady hand will be required… It comes with a tripod that includes the T&E mechanism and very delicate locking levers for the legs, but there is something wrong here. The tripod has the design details of the big M3 Tripod (designed for the .50cal), but is scaled down to the size of the much smaller M2 (for the .30cal) so unless there is a mysterious “M2 1/2” model I hadn’t heard of I’m stumped. The rather nice .30cal M1919 MG on the adjacent sprue comes with the M2 tripod, which is fine. (Academy’s MG set has a better M3 tripod, although of course Tasca makes the best one I’ve seen in plastic.)
Bronco’s take on the M1 helmet lacks the front strap (actually the chin strap from the liner) typical of WW2, so is more likely representative of the 1960s batch made for Vietnam. However, the rather faint and simplified rigging inside is more WW2 in shape. If you can get in to sand the inside smooth it could always represent the steel pot without liner, with its chin strap secured around the back. The bigger issue is the way the sprue attaches at the front and back, making it a challenge to remove with the rim intact.
As for the canteens, they look a little “straight” to my eye. I’d have preferred more of the characteristic curve across the front, and better definition on the flaps. The grooves at the side are meant to be wrinkles (not sewn details) and are too regular. The vertical ones on the front are too few – images of the real thing show six “ribs” in the cloth rather than four. Still, given how tiny these are, you’ll only notice if you do lots of macro photography for an online review! However, I still prefer Tamiya’s canteens as seen in most of their figure sets.
conclusionI’m not really sure how to sum up this set given the mixed bag of issues highlighted above. It contains quite a range of useful weapons that were in real need of a face-lift, so it should prove popular. A few of the choices are unusual, but then this just adds variety to the range of weapons available in 1:35. Unfortunately there are too many parts that just don’t cut it in my estimation, but then not everyone will be taking a ruler to theirs for a review, so it may not matter too much. And there is enough good stuff here to make it a worthy addition to the collection of small-arms sets in this scale, so I’m glad to have it.