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In-Box Review
135
M4A1 (76mm) WET
M4A1 (76mm) WET - Operation Cobra

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction

Any attempt by me to add to the already complete 'biography' of this variant would be superflous. As a change from the usual format, it is worth mentioning that at a time when we are somewhat (unhealthily) obsessed by the activities of Wittman, I'd like to introduce another name - Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool. There is some 'method' to my madness. While commanding a series of M4a1s , Pool acheived the distinction of destroying no less than 258 Enemy Vehicles ... One of the subjects of the decal sheet of this model, is Pool's (first of three vehicles with the same name) M4 - 'In the Mood' . Pool was nominated for the Medal of Honor (first nomination lost, the second refused) but was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star, Belgium Fourragere and Order of St. George Medal.

Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool, 1919 - 1991.

For a brief biography of Pool, look here.

Dragon's New kit - General Overview...

The first impression has become very common in recent Dragon releases - a large box filled to bulging... there are no less than SIXTEEN plastic sprues, one sheet of etched brass parts, turned aluminium barrel and two brass 76mm shells. A metal tow cable is also included.

The boxart is not DML's best effort to date, it lacks the attractiveness of the Volstad box-art we have become accustomed to. That said, it's what it's in the box which counts. As this is a major release I will do my best to actually do it justice, by dealing with the seperate areas covered in the kit and only taking an overall view in my final conclusions.

The specifics...

The instruction sheet
The first surprise, comes in the instruction sheet. On the first page, comes a plan of the sprues with the unused parts highlighted in blue. Virtually an entire set of suspension components is unused, along with other¡ parts which belong to the earlier Shermans from DML - the DRA6255 - M4A3(76)W VVSS and the earlier DRA6188 - M4A2 (76) . The sheet follows the usual style with a series of exploded views although, as is customary, care must be taken when plastic or PE alternatives are presented.

Suspension / Running gear.
The Bogies: are the Type 2 (Heavy-duty) VVS. Each bogie consists of 12 parts with the (correct) six-spoke road wheels with finely-detailed grease plugs. The skids are finely enough moulded, with only the three attachment bolts missing. Minimal clean-up is necessary on these parts.

Rear Idlers Are the solid pole type with the two relef valves moulded in. The Idlers are hollow, and the 'purists' will need to find either replacemnts or cut two idlers in half to get the 'solid' aspect. Not a major quibble, but something that should have been corrected.

Drive Sprockets Thes econsist of the 'Simple-Plate' type drive sprockets with both the shape and the correct number of bolts accuately reproduced.

Bottom Hull - a well-executed, single piece casting which includes correct details for the lower plate.

Drive Housing Essentially correct, however some M4a1s can be seen with an additional curved bracket added.



The turret.
Turret Casting Few problems are immediately obvious in the top and bottom halves. Some 'scarring' could be added as there were often weld-scars on the original . The kit turret is missing the 'foundry' marks seen in many examples (on either side of the turret. That said, this could be a variation between early/late castings.

Front Mantlet A strange feature on the mantlet in the original vehicle, were two sets of numbers - one upside down, the other right-way up. DML have included this feature. Not very noticeable, but it's nice to know it's there! The point where the barrel is inserted into the mantlet, seems a little 'flat' in profile compared to the original , although, in fairness, this is totally unnoticeable unless you're actually looking for it.

Top Hatches/Cupola The cupola is superbly executed with clear plastic inserts for the periscopes and the vision blocks. No innaccuracies are immediately obvious.

Pistol Port This is provided as a seperate part with fine detail.

Periscopes A superb example of the quality of the 'little' details in this kit, all components are seperately moulded with again, a clear plastic insert.

.50 Calibre MG I'm going to stick my head on the line (again) and state that the roof-mounted MG, is the best ever-produced. This is no doubt due, to my understanding that the design team for Generation 2. are doing items for some of the AFV kits. In a word, sublime!



Other Details There is little which seems to be missing and such small details as ventilators are superbly well-executed. Mention should also be made of the 76mm gun.barrel in turned aluminium which is excellent.

The Hull.

1) Front Hull / Glacis Plate An option is provided to use the kit's plastic parts or the (supplied) PE parts in areas such as the 'cages' over the two periscopes on the hull hatches. PE is also provided for the headlight guards.

2) Engine Deck checking my references, everything that should be there, is there. The fact that there is a fourth filler cap with the splash rail (inboard on the rear engine access panel) indicates that this is in fact an Early-Hull M4a1.

3) Hull Details As I mentioned previously, there are some very subtle details. Headlamps, ventilators etc. are all well done. There are some particularly 'classy' additions such as the PE screen for the engine ventilators. The tools are also well-done, with the following 'proviso'. In recent (Axis) armor kits from Dragon Models, two versions of the tools have been provided. One with the clamps moulded-on, the others with seperate PE clamps. This is unfortunately not the case with this kit, although I am confident that this will be a feature in future kits... There are two final areas which deserve a further mention. One is the Rear-Storage Rack which is immaculately done, the other is the Exhaust Deflector which is an incredible manifestation as just what can be acheived with current moulding technology.

4) Hull 'Angles'. One of the real 'issues' on previous hulls by a variety of manufacturers, has been some of the angles (particularly on the rear hull) DML have revised the angle of the rear wall and they have made the angle slightly more 'acute' by extending the lower edge further back. The hull is now around 1mm longer than previously. They have also added casting detail to the rear wall. This is an important improvement which will be present on 'Production' copies of the kit from now on.
Photos of the NEW hull , can be seen above



Casting Texture Some statements have been made that the 'texture' on the two cast areas, is overdone. Let me put myself 'on the record' at this point. In my opinion, it is correct and subtle, rather than over-stated. In the actual vehicle, the hull and turret were not particularly smooth and variations could be expected in the various foundries which cast the hulls and turrets. Variation could also be expected between batches at the same foundry, depending on many factors - not least the sand used in the casting process.

The T48 Tracks
If not the most complex, this is certainly one of the 'fiddliest' parts of the entire kit. each side consists of 78 blocks and 156 end connectors. Each part is well cast with minimal cleaning-up. I don't envisage any problems if some sensible preparation is made before assembly. That said, I will raise the following point. Not all modellers are happy with the idea of seperate track-links and particularly in the case of less-experienced modellers, a set of Vinyl 'rubber-band' type tracks would have been a nice option - perhaps this could be considered for the future?

The Decals
The decal sheet is well-printed with good color/register. Five options are provided, four U.S. Vehicles and one (at last!!!) Polish...

The subjects are:
1) Polish 2nd Armored Regiment, Polish 1st Armored Division, - Holland 1944

2) U.S. 2nd Armored Division - France 1944

3) 'F' Company, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd U.S, Armored Division, Belgium 1944

4) I Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division , France 1944

5) D Company, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, 'Operation Cobra' , France , 1944


Conclusions and summary....

A recurrent problem in many of DML's previous M4s has been some of the hull angles. This I believe has been corrected in this kit. One of the more 'debatable points' has been regarding the angle of the cast hull. The hull sides (in this kit) are not competely vertical with a few degrees of angle, The angle of the rear hull has also been corrected to what seems to be the correct angle.

This is an excellent kit, which although it has only been 'dry-fitted' does suggest that few problems will be encountered when actually building it. I have expressed a few doubts - the 'hollow' rear-idlers, the instructions definitely need 'clearing up' a bit - why, for example is the (plastic) 76mm gun tube shown with a muzzle brake? Nor am I particularly happy with the lack of vinyl tracks. In the case of M4s, the tracks were lacking 'sag' - this may put off some less-experienced modellers, who will see seperate track-links as a daunting process.

The decal options are good if not spectacular. Perhaps a little more imagination could have been applied in the choice of options. That said, a definite 10/10 for the Polish option!



Detail is, in general, superb, I am particularly happy with the cast effect on the hull and turret. With the addition of some stowage and some quality crew-figures, this will build into an incredibly good and accurate replica of one of the more attractive Sherman variants. This is a model which is long overdue, the other M4a1 76mm (Wet) can now be safely consigned to the spares box.
Now, what about a new M4a2 an M4a3e8 and a Firefly 1c?

Very Highly Recommended

Further details and acknowledgements:


This (advance) sample of DRA6083 - M4a1(76mm) Wet 'Operation Cobra' was kindly provided by Dragon Models Limited

For further reading, the books which appear in the side images are a vital source in getting 'acquainted' with the M4a1. I would also like to thank Kurt Laughlin for some (invaluable) technical assistance particularly regarding the complex subkect of casting.....

For another point of view on this model, Terry Ashley 's P.M.M.S. Site has another review which can be seen: HERE
SUMMARY
This is undoubtedly one of the most long-awaited kits of a very used Sherman variant for the later war period. DML have done an excellent job on a subject which has been either ignored completely or was only available before in 1/35th as a kit which was grossly past its sell-by date, requiring considerable additions....
  SUBJECT:90%
  RESEARCH:85%
  ADDITIONS:90%
Percentage Rating
85%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6083
  Suggested Retail:  $37.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 22, 2006
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.06%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.23%

Our Thanks to Dragon Models!
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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)
FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2017 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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