Dragon Sd.Kfz.252 Review DN Models sd.ah.32

Dragon Sd.Kfz.252 with Sd.Ah.32/1 Trailer 1/35

Dragon Sd.Kfz.252 is a German Halftrack based on Sd.Kfz.250 and used as an ammunition carrier. It was built by Demag AG and Wegmann during 1940 and then by Deutsche Werke in 1941. A little over 400 vehicles were built and they saw action at the first stages of the war. The ammo carrier was used to support StuG III carrying 75mm shells, as for that purpose a trailer was designed. It was Sonder-Anhänger (Sd. Ah.) für Munition (7,5 cm) (Sd. Ah. 32/1), and the combination between it and Sd.Kfz.252 is now easily recognized by every StuG III fan, especially those who love the initial versions of the Sturmgeschutz. This kit was missing from the modeling scene for many years, with only 1/72 and resin /1:35/ options available. Dragon released early versions of STUG III recently andquickly realized the need of such an add on to their line. So, several months after their STUG III ausf.E , DML came up with the long awaited new tooling of the small ammo carrier. What we have is a good looking box, not very small, probably because of the Full Interior featured in the Sd.Kfz.252. In 1/35, the vehicle is quite small though. The boxart is very neat, featuring a Sd.Kfz.252 with Sd.Ah 32/1 trailer, re-supplying a Stug III on the background. The fields behind it imply that this is Ukraine, but I am not sure that the vehicles of that kind were sent there. For European theater I am certain though. The back of the box also shows some renders of the model kit, showing some of its highlights. Among those are some PE parts, magic tracks, 7.5cm shells. Full interior is also mentioned, although with the overall size of the Sd.Kfz.252 in 35th scale this is close to a nightmare. It is interesting, because in order to show the interior, the openings of the vehicle are quite limiting. So you either have to do some cutaways, or make a lot of pictures and close it forever. The instruction sheet: At first glance we have typical Dragon Smart Kit sheet. Once opened, the pictures seen show the well known arrangements of the build, which is completed in 26 steps. Once thing I notice is that there are simplified here and there. Usually, we have most of the details of the kit represented and on the mid- and final steps here we have that too. In the beginning though, for whatever reason, Dragon made the vehicle quite simple, track lengths without texture, just two outlines from each side. One can only guess the reason for that.
Check out how simple is everything to the left, compared to the right
One step of the instruction sheet took my attention immediately: this is Step 9, the engine build. There we have different colors and even a short one, it is depicted clearly and differs a lot from the initial ones. Not yet certain are there any mistakes, but I guess there will be. If you continue to read you will find out why I think that. The sprues: We don't have an overcrowded box with the Dragon Sd.Kfz.252, like we are used to with other DML kits. Everything is sealed in separate envelopes and luckily, since the box of my half-track arrived severely damaged. Now, the fact that everything was sealed and that the box contents are rather sparse saved the day! In this particular case it was a good thing. It will ring a bell though, with 410+ parts, full interior and a DML kit, to have such small sprue number. Not necessarily a bad thing though. It might turn out really good once built. What I note is that the quality if the plastic is somehow doubtful. Yes, there are sprues with the well known Dragon plastic. But some of them appears to be different to my eye. Some of the details are perfect, some - a bit chunky. I have no idea is it my immagination here or Dragon changed something with this Sd.Kfz.252. The seats are beautiful, with the springs on the back, the gauges on the dashboard, texture on the seats. But still something is strange. I won't comment anymore here, I will leave you with the pictures so you be the one to judge. The additional parts: In an envelope we have the decals and three add-ons. Those are two photo-etch sheets and a metal tow cable. The smaller PE is 2 x 1cm /!!!/  and represents the bottom of the cartridges which goes in the Sd.Ah 32/1 trailer of the Dragon Sd.Kfz.252. They are optionable, since the trailer doors might be closed when you build the kit. The other PE sheet is bigger: 2,3 x 5cm and holds the grills on the engine hood, some belts and other tiny parts. Both photo-etch sheets very thin and delicate, some of the best that came out from Dragon so far. One of the high points of the Dragon Sd.Kfz.252 set for sure! In the envelope we also find a metal tow cable, described to be 270mm, however mine is 170mm. I am no saying fraud! here, I assume instructions were messed up. Like always with Dragon kits. Sd.Kfz.252 is a rather small vehicle as I mentioned numerous times here and 170mm cable is more than enough. The tracks: Magic tracks with Dragon Sd.Kfz.252!!! Wonderful news, besides the size. As you can see on the pictures shown, we are talking few millimeters here and two parts per track link. Many many track links too. They appears to be workable, although with that size it might be a challenge to keep the pins unglued. I have a certain experience with the Sd.Kfz.251 and Sd.Kfz. 7/2. Tracks are time consuming! Is one thing I can promise you. They are not for the faint hearted or nervous modelers. Nor for a novice. So keep that in mind when scouting for Dragon Sd.Kfz.252 or any other German half-track from Dragon. The decals: We have 4,5 x 6cm sheet here, which as everything else resembles a different scale, not 1/35. On it, we have WH- license plate letters, followed by 1-9 and 0 numbers, total in three sizes. Pretty much every vehicle number you can think of is available, just if you have that information. I doubt that many will find it though, since the vehicle is rare for its time, not to mention the lack of nice pictures with the license plates visible. We have also white outlines for the fenders and the from plate. They are where the mentioned license numbers sits on. The German cross of course, and few emblems, on of which is visible on the boxart. Those decals are NOT replaceable by whatever mask set, so DN Models won't be able to help here. If you wonder why...Way too tiny. Besides, if you don't trust Dragon decals, an aftermarket sets are available for Sd.Kfz.252, if, for whatever reason you want to use some. In my personal opinion, everything is good enough to go just with the crosses and eventually add an emblem or two. The other insignia or numbers can be covered in mud or winter wash. Overall - a good small sheet of decals here. Paint & Markings: We have 4 options. For what I know about the Sd.Kfz.252, it was used in Europe and I am not sure about Eastern front. However, the first glimpse that I had on the boxart reminded me of Ukraine, with that wheat field in the background. For those of you who haven't heard about it, Ukraine is famous for wheat fields and that was one of the reasons Hitler wanted that area and probably it has something to do with the nowadays troubles there. Anyway - proving my point of the boxart, Dragon added options for one unidentified unit in 1943 and three for the Eastern Front. Maybe my boxart impression was correct after all! We have three dark grey vehicles, typical for the era of course. 2/StuG.Abt.243, Eastern Front 1942 Infantry Division Großdeutschland - Eastern Front 1942 StuG.Abt.226, Eastern Front 1942 and an unidentified Unit from 1943 mentioned above, which differ from the rest with its two tone camouflage. I haven't seen any picture of two tone camouflaged Sd.Kfz.252 but I have seen several with Winter Wash, so I assume you can go ahead and proceed with your imagination for all four of those. Not a bad choice for camouflages here and hopefully they are correct ones! Conclusion: DML6718 is one very anticipated add-on to every collection, especially for STUG fans. Among half-track lovers this is also a precious kit, especially the full interior considered. Even small, the vehicle have its own identity, which is without substitute. The plastic quality here is with some unanswered questions, as will be the plastic tires for some modelers. This is mostly because it is a mixed bag of Sd.Kfz.250, Sd.Kfz.251 and new Dragon Sd.Kfz.252. However, the overall appearance and the fact that we have Magic Tracks in the set makes this kit an interesting one. With over 410 parts in the set, the only probable let-down of that Sd.Kfz.252 might be the price. I got mine for $65 delivered, but you can expect that to go around $55 very soon. I might add that the kit is not suitable for a start-up modelers, since it is very little overall. The tracks might cause a lot of fuss - again due to the size. Also painting the ammo. But if you add this Sd.Kfz.252 with its Sd.Ah.32/1 trailer next to Dragon early STUGs, you will have a beautiful set comparable with a painting! If you are a fan of the early days of the WWII, you probably gonna love it!  
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BTR-80A in 35th scale from Trumpeter

BTR-80A is a Soviet wheeled APC designed and developed during the late 70s and early 80s, and entered into service in 1986. It immediately entered the Soviet War in Afghanistan and little by little was accepted by the armies of many countries where it prove to be successful design. The new turret and diesel engine are the main differences compared to the previous models, but not only. All the small improvements like smoke grenade launchers, new intercom system, infra-red sight and many more, made the BTR-80 a lot different than BTR-70 on which it is mainly based. Nowadays it is used all around the World in almost every possible weather condition and war scenario, including UN missions. Therefore, having a model of this vehicle is essential for Soviet/Russian model fans, and Trumpeter gave us a decent one. There is an options from Dragon/Italeri/Zvezda, but they lack the qualities of Trumpeter in almost any way. Trumpeter's BTR series are so far unmatched in design and quality. They released standard BTR-80 in 2013 and an year later, BTR-80A - with a turret and different camo. The kit features interior - although not complete one - with very decent qualities. There is no engine, but the seats for the soldiers are there, as the detailed drivers deck, turret firing system and ammo boxes. The doors and hatches of the vehicle are positionable, which obviously will give you the option to show off the insides once built. There is a lot of room for minor improvements, which are limited only by modeler's fantasy and personal goals. There are over 500 parts, with quality at a very high level in terms of detailing. I must say that this BTR-80 is one of the stars of the Trumpeter's collection. Especially the rims and the upper hull - most of the small moldings there are superb! The vinyl tires are decent but there are already tons of aftermarket wheels for off- on- road options with slightly different shapes and sizes and most importantly - superior quality. The photo-etch is separated in two sheets, not very big but enough to satisfy the basic need. Something that many other companies till omit to include in their new releases. Trumpeter's PE parts are a bit thick-ish but this isn't a problem especially when it comes down to APCs and tanks. Clear parts and decals are very nice, and although limited painting options included /considering the widespread use of the model only, not as a stand-alone kit/ I believe most of the BTR-80 fans will be happy with what's in the box. Here it is important to add the fact, that aftermarket decal companies have flooded the market with several different and unusual options lately, including some from the Syria and Ukraine wars with rather interesting camo schemes. There are also mask sets, including DN Models options /Check the store for Modern Russian Masks/, which are suitable for this vehicle and gives you a wider range of BTRs to recreate in scale. Overall, for the price, this kit is a pretty nice investment. The Trumpeter engineers managed to highlight the most important parts of this kit, the ones that are mostly visible and very attractive. This not only allows for weathering but also for a stunning results in a relatively un-weathered model, just because all the detail needed is already there. BTR-80A, with its turret is the one that I prefer because of the turret and it's overall "combat vision" compared to BTR-80. However both kits are equally nice and it is a matter of preference or, a matter of particular subject. As mentioned above, this vehicle is used Worldwide and almost everywhere, so who knows what one can find once the research starts. With no doubts, I can only highly recommend this kit to any Soviet/Russian model fan. As with all the other BTR series from Trumpeter, this is a spot-on! You can get this kit here: BTR-80A Trumpeter www.dnmodels.com
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2017 – looks like the biggest year for Zvezda

Last couple of days Zvezda announced several new kits, all new toolings, all interesting vehicles and planes. They are scheduled for 2017 release and if you follow Zvezda you might know that they work in time lately, so that will most likely happen! Latest thing from them is the T-14 Armata platform, which is pretty nice kit. It lacks colorful instructions, it lacks photo-etch parts, but it is cheap. And being cheap nowadays is important. Especially when we talk about the most accurate Armata on the market. Zvezda did their Armata alongside with UVZ - Ural Vagon Zavod, the producer of the real T-14 MBT. But back to 2017 upcoming releases - What we start here is a Boeing's 737-800 in 144th scale, a gap /not a small one/ in the civil aviation models, which requires attention for some years now. Current kits are way below the standards with thick parts and doubtful accuracy. Many will look forward to Zvezda to fix that. With their Boeing 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner releases out now, we can have some expectations for it. Next they announced Yak-130. An advanced jet trainer, slowly making a name for itself in the real world. Zvezda promised 72nd scale new tooling, which might not be a big model, but might be quite big deal if Zvezda manage to pull out an accurate and easy to assembly model. Also in 72nd scale a new MiG-29 is brewing. Yes, it is true that MiG-29 is a song that we've already heard in many different covers, but this time we are talking about the SMT, and who else but the Russians can surprise you with an accurate model of that thing? It is new, it is made in relatively small numbers and they have it for evaluation there. What we've seen with the Armata and UVZ, might be the case with Zvezda and OKB Mikoyan. We'll see soon enough. 35th scale is recently the most wanted thing out there. So, for that fan base, Zvezda are releasing the most. First comes the Sd.Kfz.184 Ferdinand. This monster of a vehicle used by the Wehrmacht during WWII was available so far from Dragon and Tamiya. Both with great qualities and also flaws /of course.../. So Zvezda announced new tooling! Well, that will be pretty tough job for them, since Dragon and Tamiya offer PE, metal parts and so on and from what we've seen so far Zvezda are missing that point in their scale model kits. Hopefully though, we'll have a new tooling Ferdinand for less money! Then we have another TIger vehicle derivative, which already is available as a base from Meng Model, Xact Scale Models and Zvezda. I am not a fan of this vehicle, but whoever is, probably will be pleased to see a new version coming down the road. This time with ATGM on the top, which will make it a tiny bit more attractive once built. Or not. Last but not least is URAL 4320 Truck, which also is pretty popular lately. Hopefully, since it is Russian again, and it is Ural, it will be done alongside with the factory, which means accuracy. Adding to that Zvezda, we'll get low price and decent quality. So it is pretty obvious, that even if Zvezda are to be the only new toolings for 2017, it won't be a cheap year for modelers. Seeing the T-14 Armata just couple of days ago, I must add that I will get at least half of those above, starting with their 737. Zvezda are showing great potential and big ambitions, which is great. Hopefully we won't have to wait long to get first of these in the stores. Come back to check for some reviews of them!
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Tristar’s Brummbar – From HobbyBoss this time.

Tristar's kits are no longer out on the market. Although wonderful kits, some of them featuring interior, Tristar's vehicles didn't survive the harsh market environment. Nothing to wonder, having in mind that better and better kits are released every week from all the newcomers like Takom, Meng Model, Amusing Hobby and so on. However, HobbyBoss are out there for quite a while, and although not official, we wall assume that they are one with Trumpeter, and they are only second to Tamiya in size. Maybe not for long too. So Hobby Boss came to the rescue, and bought the moldings from Tristar, repacking their kits and releasing them under HB serial numbers, with the same qualities, and almost exact same boxes. For Tristar fans is not all gone! Their kits are famous to be very nice, and when they were active /Tristar I mean/, they were considered as one of the best options. Some of the engineering decisions are not embraced warmly but even fiddly, the vehicles were very attractive once finished. Same goes for every kit of their line, and the Brummbar which are we looking at today is no difference from the rule. What we have on the market as Sd.Kfz.166 are Tamiya's relatively old tooling, Dragon's two toolings /1994 and 2008/ the second one of which is probably the best kit out there and repacks of those /Cyber Hobby, CMK/. Of course Tristar/Hobby Boss too. Being a rather unpopular subject, Sd.Kfz.166 Sturmpanzer /or Stupa as popular among the soldiers/ is also not so much represented in plastic. The late version is almost impossible to be found, with early and mid production vehicles available from the manufacturers mentioned above. Tristar's kit is available in two options - early- and mid- production, with and without interior. Now, repacked by Hobby Boss, the price is in the lower end for 35th scale kit and with the same quality. For the faint hearted, the interior version is not an option. It has many tricky assemblies, which combined with the large PE sheets and the single track lengths will drain your energy. The standard kit /w/out interior/ is acceptable though, even for novice modelers. It is important to say that the alignment of the turret, which is from many parts /not like DML's one piece/ might present you a problem, as well as the tracks. And if with the tracks you can get aftermarket as Friuls or any others, turret is not interchangable. So have that in mind. The kit is molded in yellow plastic, rather stiff and old-school looking. It looks like Academy or some older Hobby Boss kits, rather than new HB or Trumpeter. The photo-etch sheets are the same as with Tristar, so I cannot speculate which company made those, but they are nice for sure. Tracks are from different plastic, dark in color but again - tricky to assemble. They are not that good compared to Magic Tracks but are far better than any vinyl substitute. More than 900 parts in total, around 50 of which are PE, this is a project that requires time. The accuracy of the Tristar Brummbar has been discussed a lot over the last years and in general the opinion is that it is good enough. The price was a major issue back in a day, but not anymore. My personal opinion of the kit is that Hobby boss eventually should've released it in better plastic material, more soft and eventually add a thing or two just so to spice it up a bit. After all, the design is from 2008 and it is guaranteed that the industry has gone a long way since then. The tracks are something that I would eventually change for metal substitute too. Although nice, with all the shurzen on the sides, mounting plastic /eventually un-modified and hard to move/ tracks might be risky, compared to metal parts which are workable and won't give you a lot of trouble. In the end, the time spent to build either one of those will be pretty much the same. Now the million dollar question is: "How this compares to Dragon?". Well, to be frank, if money are no option, I would get DML or both. Dragon kit is a bit more sophisticated in terms of engineering, and even though some of their kits have inaccuracies, the Tristar/Hobby Boss Stupa lacks the finesse of DML. The turret for example, some of the small assemblies - all those things are a bit overdone with Tristar. Brummbar is a rather brick-like looking vehicle, so overcomplicating it won't help per se. Also, the tracks of Tristar are inferior. Here I must add, that Dragon's latest kits as we all know does not include magic tracks, so that beats DML. But if you get an older issue, probably Dragon is the better Brummbar. Hobby Boss Sd.Kfz. 166 is a really good thing though. The price is halfway to Dragon's and for what you get in the box it is a deal! The thing that you will require additionally, if you don't get metal tracks or some other aftermarket stuff like metal gun barrel or anything else, is patience. With enough patience, tracks can be modified to be fully workable, designing them exactly as Friuls. The stiffness of the plastic is not a "real" issue, nor the complication of the assembly. The camouflages are not so many, since the Brummbar was produced in couple of hundred vehicles only, but with disc camo mask sets /check the DN Models Store link above/ and/or properly weathered vehicle, you will squeeze a lot from this kit. It is true, that I mentioned some let downs above, but overall the kit is great. Is not the best, but it is close. And the price get it even closer. So, if you are a fan, go on and hit it. There is a link just below: Tristar / Hobby Boss Brummbar Sd.Kfz. 166
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Rheintochter from Bronco

More good news from Bronco this September: Rheintochter missile and missile launcher set is about to be released on the market very soon. The kit will be numbered 35050, and it will feature Photo-etch parts as well as many small details for that interesting missile. Rheintochter is a German surface-to-air missile from the Second World War. The name comes from Wagner's opera series Der Ring des Nibelungen and resembles the aggression in all its detail. It looks scary and very ahead of its time. The rocket was more than 6m long and for its time was a huge achievement in aerodynamics and rocket science. The project started in late 1942 and continued throughout the war, with more than 80 launches made from test sites. That include several variations of the weapon. None of them made it to the front, but it showed the potential of such weapons. Bronco made a promising announcement with this kit. Not only because this is a new molding but because it is a different set compared to the unstopping flow of tanks and airplanes that all the scale model manufacturers supply us with. I personally know quite a few rocket enthusiasts who begged for V-1 and V-2 models, so you can imagine how much joy that new Rheintochter will bring into their lives and collections. The kit will be of decent size, and can be made in several variations as seen on the Bronco's box. The final boxart is not yet announced, but there will be no let downs there. The only thing that I am a bit afraid of, is the fact that Bronco's plastic is a bit soft-ish and their kits are little over-engineered. The geometry of a rocket by itself is not a complex one, but Rheintochter has small wings/stabilizers in two stages which requires nice, Tamiya-like engineering so to achieve the perfect geometry of the model. This is my concern so far regarding this kit, but it might be only because I tend not to be over-excited when a new kit comes around. I truly hope, that Bronco /and hopefully other manufacturers/ will release similar models like the Rheintochter. There are many weird looking rockets from the Soviet era as well, so this side of the modeling is not to be forgotten or put aside. Job well done Bronco!
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STUG III Ausf. E – DML #6688 Smart Kit

This STUG III kit came just like an early Christmas gift to me. Not so long ago, I was deeply inspired by a video I found on YouTube about Stug III. It featured specifically STUG III Ausf. C and Ausf. D and showed many vehicles with a lot of stowage, roaming around Soviet union during WWII. That gave me an idea to begin a project, especially featuring early STUG III with short gun barrel and dark gray scheme. There was only two decent choices then: Tamiya Ausf. B and old Dragon tooling of Ausf.C/D - #6009. Both are not bad at all, but they are not exactly up to today's standards. So I was almost ready to hit Tamiya's gun, when information appeared about Bronco's Ausf. E being in its final stages before hitting the stores.
DML Stug III ausf. E #6688 box back
That was great news, especially when they announced that desert version of the Ausf. D will be available too. So, while I was discussing that with a friend of mine, he mentioned about upcoming Dragon 6688 - STUG III Ausf. E. He mentioned, that it isn't exactly a re-boxed version, but rather new tooling parts, incorporated with fewer old-toolings enclosed in a new box, but with Magic tracks, Photo-etch and so on. Not long after that, the postman rung the bell and delivered that long awaited kit to me. Meantime, Dragon STUG III Ausf. C/D /DML #6851/ and STUH 42 /DML #6834/were announced, which, of course were not unexpected, just the contrary. But today we will take a closer look at the Ausf. E from Dragon.
Bronco's upcoming Sturmgeschutz III Ausf. D North Africa version.
There are several things needs to be mentioned before we start to dig in the box. First is that this is a Smart Kit, and this time, most of the features of the Smart Kits are present. We have Photo-etch sheet, we have several different camo schemes and most importantly - Magic Tracks. About them, I have to add, that it is extremely annoying, when reading the Dragon reviews I see comments like: "people will be disappointed by the lack of DS tracks" or "people will not like the Magic Tracks included". Seems like there is no solution to that, because the modelers are just too damn picky! Well, Dragon STUG III #6688 features both types. Yes, that's right - we have DS and Magic tracks inside. Now, go complain! The goodies doesn't stop there. The kit features also Interior. That includes complete fighting compartment with the main gun and the sights, gun mount and ammo storage bins and a radio set. The last one is with new housing and from what I can tell - with better texture compared to the old one. The rifling inside of the gun barrel is there and the gun itself is a 7,5cm StuK37 L/24. There are front fenders and mudflaps made from photo-etch parts, cooling intakes covered with PE grills, antenna trough made from a mix of PE and plastic and a newly tooled gun cleaning rods. All of them - top quality! The kit is made from the typical Dragon plastic - gray - and is very nicely detailed. It is the best out there. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed. Compared to Takom, MiniArt and even Tamiya, this Dragon STUG III just looks better. The feel that the parts gives you, the feel that built model creates in you - that is the Dragon magic. Camo schemes are interesting, because they are not only dark grey this time. Of those we have two. One from Klin, Russia,Stug.Abt.191 - November 1941 and one from Crimea, Leutenant Johann Spielmann, Stug.Abt.197 - 1942. The others are dunkelgelb, first one is single color - 3./StuG.Abt.190, Crimean Peninsula, Russia 1942 #373. Second one is two-tone camo dunkelgelb and khaki green - StuG.Abt.197, Kerch, Ukraine from March 1942 and the last one, probably the most interesting from modeling stand point: Div. "Ferdinand von Schill" /Wehrmacht XXII Korps of the 12.Armee/, south-west area of Berlin, April 1945. It is Dunkelgelb with khaki green and red brown. The colors are shown in a way that suggest that they were done with a brush and paint streaks are visible, so that will mean a lot of painting techniques are about to be involved. Not only that, but this is very late in the war, which means that this vehicle eventually suffered throughout different climates for couple of years and the weathering possibilities here are enormous! Instructions of the Dragon Stug III are the typical Dragon instruction leaflet, which I think is about time to be changed a bit. They probably feature errors, but I can only guess here. There is a need for improvement there, that is certain. Although nicely depicted, the repetitive use of same sprues usually creates confusion and you gotta know what you are doing when dealing with DML. Besides Dragon STUG III is one of the longest running vehicles from that company, which additionally complicates the project if there are errors present. The rest, as I've said before is the Dragon magic. Everything is perfectly done, clean, crispjoy for the modeler. What he have here, is a kit suitable for both beginer modelers and advanced ones, probably even for the masters out there and this is OOTB. This cannot be seen often. MiniArt are great for advanced and masters, but they are nearly impossible builds for newbies. Tamiya are great for newbies and even advanced but are unbearable OOTB for the masters. Here, we have best of both worlds. Magic tracks are some sort of a bonus for the first production run of this kit, or at least is what I am told. But since this is only couple of weeks since it was made available on the market, I doubt that this will be an issue. In other words, you will get your magic tracks most likely. It won't hurt to check though. The thing that's missing is the cardboard that usually holds the PE, metal cables and magic tracks, but Dragon eventually spared some dollars from the production costs removing that. Let's not blame them. Just imagine - a major airline in US saved several million dollars for 12 months after removing the olives from the menu, and there was most likely an olive per meal. So, this is the modern world that we live in. I can say mostly nice things about the kit. The rear of the box is one of the best out there - with drawings and what not. The boxart is crazy cool, and the goodies just enough for everybody. The price is quite right, and of course that's not all. You get an interior! On the other hand, instructions doesn't look any better than before, the box might be a bit sturdier and the missing cardboard sheet makes the kit looks cheaper, which is actually an illusion. But hey, we all know Dragon are struggling to survive with all that competition around. So, final words: 5 camo schemes, 350 parts, interior and magic tracks. "Smart Kit all the way" I would say! Dragon quality, reasonable price, all around pleasure 35th scale vehicle. I can only highly recommend! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do, not because STUGs are one of my favorites, but because this kits really deserves a praise! Kudos Dragon! Keep up the good work! You can get this kit here: Stug III Ausf. E with Interior DML6688 Please enjoy the video that inspired me, special Thanx to Panzer Picture and don't forget to visit their channel in Youtube : P.S. What I've noted is that repeating numbers on DML kits, especially in pairs, like 6688, 6600, 7700 or what not, are usually their best kits. Scout for those, you will see that I not fool you around!
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Smaller scales /48 /72 – The Barkas Build kit options Part 5

The article picture is...48th scale StuG III. Can you believe that!?!? Two words - Michael Rinaldi... ...talking about different /smaller/ scales we have few options when it comes down to armor. It was once considered that 1/100 is an option for that, but nowadays no company which consider themselves a serious game player does not make those for armor. So except for 35th which is pretty much the standard, we have two more. 48th and 72nd. Now, as I promised I will mention only kits worth buying and those suitable for The Barkas Build, but I really do hope that these articles will help other modelers /not participating/ as well. So here, again /!!!/ we have two main players. Tamiya and Dragon. But there is one difference. They do not compete because they offer kits in different scales this time. In other words - each of them is king in its class. Let's start with 48th scale following the path down from 35th. 48th scale is very popular in Japan, especially due to the fact that it is well suited for diorama mix in between aircraft and armor vehicles. Tamiya  have small in numbers but with amazing quality series of vehicles in that scale, sometimes even better than the ones in 35th released from other companies. But for The Barkas Build we are talking Panzer III and StuG III in particular so we will focus onto those. And yes, Tamiya have them. And they are extremely nice and worth the money - and by money I mean not much! Japanese manufacturer have two Panzer IIIs - Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. L - Sd.Kfz. 141/1 #32524 issued in 2006 and Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. N - Sd.Kfz. 141/2 #32543 released the following year - 2007. Interesting to mention with those two is the die-cast lower part of the superstructure, made for balance and adequate position while resting at the bench. They are light because they are small, in case you wonder why. Both kits represents a bit different vehicle variant, but are based on the same thing Panzer III. Once build they are cute, do not take too much space and they are very accurate and competitive with 35th scale as well. Yes, the details are a bit chunky compared to the larger ones, but this is scale modeling not a engineering contest after all. Both of those kits are very highly recommended. Nothing bad to say about them honestly! After those two, in 48th Tamiya hits hard with their StuGs. This time we have three options. First one is Tamiya 32507 Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. B (Sd.Kfz. 142) released in 2004. This is the best of the StuGs in 48th if you ask me. It has a large decal sheet and all the accurateness of the vehicle possible in that scale. Shake-and-Bake kit, suitable for every modeler, Tamiya does not disappoints with it. Lower part - again die-casted and for the same reasons as the above. Then in 2006, Tamiya released two more, both Ausf.G - and both of them state of the art of scale modeling. The first option is Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G Sd. Kfz. 142/1 #32525 and it is a winter camouflaged option of the famous vehicle. I believe that winter camo is always nice to be applied because of the endless weathering options aftterwards. But it works with all the kits available anyhow, its not only because of the boxart. On the other hand,  if you decide that you want something slightly different /Early version/ you might want to try and go with the other one: Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G #32540 Here it might come down to which one you would like more or even which boxart catches your eye. But whichever you decide to go with, you will be spot on. They does not seem promising when you see the size of the box, but they are, trust me! And since Tamiya pull it off here, I might add - this is it guys, 48th scale is done. If you want 48th scale Panzer III or StuG III for The Barkas Build, this is what you will go for. Period. Now let's shrink things even more. Go to good ol' fashioned 72nd scale. Again, suitable for dioramas, and even crowded ones this time. I never believed that a tank might worth something in that scale, but Dragon proved me wrong with their Armor Pro series. No real competition here, so I will just list the options: Dragon 7385 - Panzer III ausf.L Dragon 7290 - Panzer III Ausf.M w/Wadding Muffler Dragon 7407 - Panzer III Ausf.N with Side Skirts Dragon 7372 - Panzer III Ausf.J Dragon 7323 - Panzer III Ausf.M with Schurzen Same goes for StuGs. Cheap, accurate /according to the scale of course/ with good fit and not a great need of any aftermarket. We have only three options here which is a bit worse compared to the bigger diversity we get with standard Pz.Kpwf.III in 72nd, but I believe they are just enough. Actually the options are two in terms of versions, because Ausf.G appears twice but one of them have schurzen, the other doesn't. And the third of course is StuH. Dragon 7283 - StuG III Ausf.G Early Production Dragon 7284 - 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze Ausf.G Dragon 7354 - Stug III Ausf. G Early w/schurzen Concluding everything, in 48th scale the player is Tamiya, in 72nd is Dragon. And I am mentioning all those because they are all worth it. So in case you are wondering which, go for the boxart or for the type that fit your preferences best. Also, I deliberately missed to mention Revell in 72nd scale, which makes some options. But honestly, I haven't had one before and what I found was somewhat controversial as quality description. So I decided to sick to the well known and most used brands, because for those I can pretty much guarantee that the quality is nice. In other words, if you are entering The Barkas Build with smaller scale vehicle - 48th or 72nd, and you are still wondering what to get, take another look on the written above. They are all there! Proving my words of quality is the art that Michael Rinaldi does in plastic. Check out his 48th and 72nd built kits here:  
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Barkas Group Build – for Panzer III lovers

Hamilkar Barkas is one of the first YouTube modelers and currently - one of the biggest and most popular channels for scale models. He caught my attention few years back, when I found a video build of a Stalingrad Station Diorama in few parts. I was pretty 'green' in armor modeling back then, and this video answered a lot of my questions and gave me additional boost of motivation. Apparently, that happened with many out there, through his videos of building various subjects of armor and showing the process in very nice and positive manner. So now, few years later, with our growing and diverse YouTube modeler community, TacticalJackalope /another fellow youtuber/ decided to make a Group Build dedicated to Hamilkar Barkas, called Barkas Group Build, featuring Hamilkar's favorite vehicle - Panzerkampfwagen III. The Barkas Group Build is dedicated to Hamilkar Barkas efforts to promote the hobby, share his experience and the ultimate goal that he achieved doing that - get back many modelers to the hobby and kickstart some others. His inspiration is huge, and I can tell you that from my own personal perspective, being constantly motivated from watching his videos, his techniques and learning from his approach to armor modeling.
Stalingrad Station Diorama by Hamilkar Barkas
Hamilkar was a myth when I fist saw his Stalingrad Station videos, and now, few years later I am proud to call him a friend! He is truly wonderful human being, very knowledgeable, kind, friendly and helpful! I must tell you, his videos were the reason I know him, /and the Sunday Google+ meetings that TacticalJackalope is hosting/ and I understand perfectly the reasons why Barkas Group Build is happening. Hamilkar, maybe unwillingly managed to gather us into a new small/growing/, but friendly and helpful society, called YouTube Modeler's Community. Modelers who share their hobby not through forums, but making more efforts than the rest of the guys and elevating the hobby into another wonderful thing - videomaking. He did inspired a lot and as I've said, that wasn't left unnoticed. We know him as a person, not only a YouTube celebrity, as a friend and as a modeler. From there, the idea obviously emerged, making his favorite tank into one big Barkas Group Build, where all of us participating will be able to show our personal touch of that famous WWII tank. Paying respect to Hamilkar Barkas and his efforts, making his channel even more popular and acknowledging his achievements in turning YouTube into another modeling platform, seems to be behind that Group Build. For me personally, Panzer III is a subject that I long to build, especially since I saw Ausf.N built and winning gold at Scale World Competition in Istanbul, 2015 The Pz.Kpfw.III tank is something that I discussed more than once with Hamilkar Barkas and I will participate in Barkas Group Build, showing my progress in my YouTube channel and sharing my experience with the other guys doing the same. Last year due to other engagements I missed the STUG Life GB held by Adam Mann /if I am not mistaking/, but this time I am in! Barkas Group Build will feature all kinds of Panzer III tanks, in any scale and any variant including STUGs. It will start late April or early May and will continue throughout 2016, up until its end. It will feature only one model per participant, due to the fact that usually many go in, few get through and get out with build kits in those Group Builds. Also, TacticalJackalope mentioned that he might have Hamilkar pick the top three kits built in Barkas Group Build once it end, but this is not yet confirmed.
The Master Modeler and a good friend: Hamilkar Barkas
So, if you have a YouTube channel and want to share your modeling, and you love Panzer IIIs, this is the right time to get on board! I am still wondering in between Tamiya or DML Ausf.N or Dragon Ausf.J in 35th scale. I also considered Tamiya's 1/48th scale Ausf.L, but it will all depend on what time I can set aside for building. My personal preference for the moment /not only for Barkas Group Build/ is Ausf.N with winter tracks, but the final one I will announce in my Barkas Group Build announcement video. We have about one month to go! You can visit our YouTube channels and get into action with us: Hamilkar Barkas Myself - DN Models TacticalJackalope DN Models will make 50% off of Panzer III mask sets for participants in the Barkas Group Build. They are designed to work best with Pz.Kpfw.III from MiniArt but can be used with other Pz.IIIs as well. To get 50% discount, all you have to do is send me a link to your entry video, which have to feature Panzer III vehicle for Barkas GB. Panzer III Ausf.B mask set Panzer III Ausf.C mask set Panzer III Ausf.D mask set
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Patriot System – Trumpeter, then Dragon and now another one!?!?

Patriot is definitely a behemoth of a kit in 35th scale. It went extremely popular subject once Trumpeter announced their release in 2015, but shortly after they made some changes. The whole Patriot System is a huge thing. It contains a tractor vehicle /HEMTT M983/ and a launching station /M901/. The second one holds AN/MPQ-53 Radar set of MIM-104 Patriot SAM System (PAC-2). So cleverly, Trumpeter decided to separate the kits for two obvious reasons: the price of the whole set and the size of the box.
Trumpeter HEMTT M983
Trumpeter HEMTT M983
Price is something you can live with, but imagine a box weighting several pounds and the transportation costs for that, not to mention the questions from some of your lovely wives once the kit arrives. Lucky for me, mine is a modeler too :) That on the other hand didn't stopped Dragon /DML/ from announcing their own new tooling of a Patriot system with MIM-104B and SAM System PAC-1, which is a bit different version of the same thing. However, what we recently have here, is a third party in that Patriot game - the AFV Club. And they did the most tricky thing ever, getting Patriot from Trumpeter /the sprues only/ and repacking it, spicing it up with their perspective of a good model kit. Including photo-etch parts, resin parts, new wiring and some different decals.
M901 Launching Station & AN/MPQ-53 Radar set of MIM-104 Patriot SAM System PAC-2 Trumpeter #01022 1:35
Trumpeter M901 Launching Station
I cannot talk about Dragon Patriot yet, since it is not out and I haven't got my hands around it. But for Trumpeter, I can tell you that it is very nice kit, although a lot of modelers complain about missing details and the usual subjects of "what if Trumpeter added...". Yeah. I know it is boring, but hey, Patriot system is one helluva big kit and I agree that it deserves a bit extra attention to detail, especially for what we pay for it!
Dragon Patriot System Due out sometime 2016
Dragon Patriot System
So AFV Club eventually heard the cry and they repacked everything, with - supposedly - the bits missing from Trumpeter release. I thought Eduard and Wingman are best in doing that - repacking kits with add-ons, turning them into super-kits and for little extra money to please the most pretentious modelers. But obviously AFV Club entered the game too.
Colored hoses visible here
  I cannot say that this step was a necessity, because we have Voyager PE upgrade set for Trumpeter and not only that, but the Patriot System kit is a challenge even for experienced modelers, thus they will know how to scratch super detail the thing. Yet, AFV Club is covering slightly different market and that was another reason to do it that way.
The Launching System M901
A trailer of the Patriot System
I am pretty sure most of you will be pleased to see it in the stores soon! I will be! You can get two Trumpeter kit here /same sprues/: Launching Station HEMTT Tractor Watch the Trumpeter kits reviewed here:  
Pictures of the AFV Club Patriot System seen in the article are from various sources, mainly AFV Club Facebook Page
 
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2016 – Looks like the year of the Abrams

This is part of the Dragon Boxart of their latest Abrams version
Even though with the wonderful Dragon Abrams kits that we have on the market, and cheaper Italeri and Tamiya substitutes for DML, the modelers still have demands for new additions to the line. The modelers...they always want more and better! So last months of 2015, Meng announced that they will release M1A2 version, in collaboration with T-Rex design studio and it will go with two options: TUSK I and TUSK II. Knowing their usual delays in releasing the kits, it is expected that thing to go for sale sometime in 2016, but it is still not clear when exactly. Their marketing department released several pictures and a video, unveiling some of the engineering decisions that TRex applied on that kit, and I must admit, it looks great!
There aren't many pictures of TUSK II side round-armor plates, and it might be difficult to say how accurate the kit is in that matter, but on the other hand same goes for Tamiya, and their kit is already on the market, so supposedly Meng learned from them if any mistakes were found. And then in the first days of 2016, yet another company announced the same project. It is Rye Field Models. And they even got further, giving us 3 in 1 kit, with two versions of M1A2 - TUSK I and TUSK II and one for M1A1 - TUSK. The model will feature workable tracks, highly detailed sprockets, more than enough Photo-Etch, and great looking decal options. I really hope the decals will be easy to work with, because they are mandatory for an Abrams tank. Both kits aim at the same customer target range, and even though Meng seem to have a slight advantage in terms of their established name in the business, Rye Field Models made their announcement with their second kit of Tiger I /with full inetrior/, showing that their aim is high in the sky. If their fit and quality of materials is similar to Trumpeter, Meng and other players, they definitely shoot to kill, and with such detail that they offer, RFM promise to ask for the King's crown pretty soon. The prices that they are showing are not high at all, and even though if the Meng and their kit are similar in quality, they are not equally available all around the World so I assume, that we will see many of those build and finished in very competitive manner, with a lot options exposed from the master modelers. On the other side, Italeri kit features an engine in it, and I am pretty sure, that 2016 releases won't leave that door open just like that, and very soon we will see versions with interior. Meng have done it with Achzarit and Bradley, showing two kits with and without Interior, and RFM offered Tiger I at first plain and simple, and then stunned the Tiger fans with Full Interior vehicle, which I might say brings only joy in the modeling world.
picture is taken from Armored Warfare site
I won't be surprised to see another market key player to join Abrams race in 2016, because we already have seen this battle more than once. Not only, the tank is one of the best options in Armored Warfare online game, and I trust that gaming and modeling are now interconnected, so guess what will happen if the best tank in the game is opted as a scale model kit...
The top article image of the Abrams is from Tamiya website
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