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Built Review
135
Soviet 152mm Howitzer M1937
Soviet 152mm Howitzer M1937 MK-20
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

introduction

No further proof of Hitler's unhinged mind is needed than his decision to invade the Soviet Union in 1941— perhaps only followed by his declaring war on the United States after his erstwhile and languorous ally, Imperial Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor instead of holding Stalin’s Siberian army in-place. Instead of being the "rotten structure" that only needed the front door kicked in to collapse, the Soviets and their Red Army were able to sustain crippling losses that would've pressed most other countries to sue for peace. Just when it seemed the Russians were on the verge of collapse, they counter-punched with a deluge of men and materiel that overwhelmed the Wehrmacht in one catastrophic battle after another.

Whatever position one takes on the relative quality of German vs. Soviet tanks, for example, Stalin enjoyed what he called "the quality of quantity." This was true, too, of Soviet artillery: by the commencement of the final Russian drive on Berlin, Marshall Zhukov could bring to bear 22,000 guns & mortars on the Nazi defenders.

One of the most-feared weapons in Zhukov's artillery park was the 152mm M1937 howitzer. First developed in 1937 as a replacement for a gun that had its origins before the World War I, the M1937 played a pivotal role in the Great Patriotic War. While the Germans built just under 5,000 of the sFH 18, their best 150mm-class gun, the Soviets cranked out nearly 7,000 of the ML-20. Those additional gun tubes shooting up to 13 different propellant charges made the M1937 a fearsome tool for taking apart Wehrmacht positions, especially given its much heavier throw weight (44kg). The gun was also mounted on the SU-152 and ISU-152.

The M1937 ML-20 was designated a howitzer because it could be elevated up to 65°, yet it had both a panoramic sight for indirect fire and a telescopic one for direct fire. Soviet military technology is often dismissed by purists as "crude," yet the 152 had a basic fire control computer called a "meteoballistic summator," a locking breech that prevented opening until after the gun was fired, and a slotted muzzle brake that dampened recoil (as well as giving the gun its distinctive look). Soviet artillery barrages were feared by most German frontline troops, with the 152mm one of the reasons.

Given the large numbers of guns and tanks captured by the invading Germans, it's not surprising this weapon turned up in their arsenal, and shells were produced for it by the Wehrmacht from 1943 onward. After the war, the ML-20 served with the Warsaw Pact armies, then later in Egypt and Syria against Israel, as possibly even in Afghanistan under its Soviet puppet government.

Trumpeter has been staking out turf as the premier plastic manufacturer of WW 2 artillery, and has added to its 203mm Soviet howitzer kit with a styrene version of the 152mm.

the kit

In the usual Trumpeter pasteboard box, you get:

8 sprues of light brown styrene sporting 280 parts
1 turned aluminum barrel
2 frets of PE
1 painting guide (Soviet green, what else?)
12-page instruction book

the review

If this kit is any indication of the direction Trumpeter is going in, then other manufacturers had better take note: the molding is among the crispest I’ve seen on one of their kits, and the seam lines are very minor even on things like poles and small brackets. The PE is well-executed, though the anti-“fiddly bits” brigade will be unhappy that some of the smaller parts are only in brass and not also in styrene.

The instructions are well laid-out, and relatively straight-forward to follow. Here’s a concept: the parts actually seem to go where the instructions say they should. Trumpeter has added an extra help, too: some parts have delicately-raised squares, circles and rectangles on them to show the exact spot you should place things like brackets, etc. on.

A turned aluminum barrel is offered as an alternative to the styrene parts, but there is no rifling— no hole at all. The vented muzzle brake is plastic, and while it builds up well (see build photos below), perfectionists will be waiting for a brass AM alternative, or trying to adapt one of the AM barrels available for the SPG version.

Overall the kit goes together well with a minimum of headaches. The detailing is very good, with the various cranks, brackets, tools and other features molded-on or added as separate parts. There is one area of concern: the gun shield attaches to the base with 2 pair of curved PE brackets. The larger pair does not go together in a straightforward way, so pay careful attention to the instructions on how to angle the shield so that these brackets “lie” properly. One suggestion would be to attach them to the shield’s rear face with a clamp so that the bond sets firmly before attaching the shield itself.

painting & decals

The gun is only shown in Soviet service with the ubiquitous green paint. That’s most annoying, since many of these guns saw service in the Wehrmacht during the early Soviet reverses during the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa. Neil Stokes, author of the definitive book on Russia’s KV-1 tank, told me he’s seen a photo of three batteries of these guns that took part in the Ardennes Offensive in 1944. It seems Trumpeter could have included a profile showing the gun over-painted in Panzer gray.

No decals are provided.

conclusion

It’s a great time for the “Queen of the Battlefield,” with numerous new artillery kits being released. Trumpeter seems to be staking out some of that turf, especially on the Soviet side, first with their release of the massive 203mm gun, and now the smaller 152mm.

Thanks to Stevens International and Trumpeter for providing a review sample to Armorama. Please be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here when ordering.
SUMMARY
Highs: Excellent subject matter. Nearly 7,000 of these guns took part in World War 2.
Lows: Turned barrel lacks even an opening, much less rifling. PE brackets for mounting splinter shield tricky to position correctly.
Verdict: Recommended for fans of artillery, as it served with the Soviet & German armies, as well as after WW2.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 02315
  Suggested Retail: N/A
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: May 24, 2011
  NATIONALITY: Russia
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 84.63%

Our Thanks to Stevens International!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2017 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. 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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Comments

Just a small correction: the ML-20 was NOT the gun on the KV-2 or the IS-1. The KV-2 mounted a much smaller 152mm howitzer, and the IS-1 mounted a 85mm gun. The ML-20 was mounted on the KV-14 (SU-152) and the ISU-152. A first look review is posted at: LINK And a full build at: LINK
MAY 25, 2011 - 09:17 PM
Thanks for the clarification.
MAY 26, 2011 - 04:32 PM
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