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Built Review
135
US 105mm Gun
U.S. WWII 105mm Howitzer M2A1 & Carriage M2
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by: Rick Cooper [ CLOVIS899 ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction

The most iconic of all American artillery pieces has to be the 105mm gun.

While perhaps not as well-known as the infamous German 88, the US 105mm enjoyed one of the most long-lived careers of all the world’s artillery. In order to add this power-packed ordinance to our shelves of plastic, AFV Club out of Taiwan has graced us with not one, but two different versions of the M2A1. You can choose to build the old war horse on the M2 carriage, or the later M2A2 with some small changes to the gun shield.

Despite having been modeling for a little over 40 years (how did THAT happen?), I had never built a 105. How could I call myself a serious modeler without having built one of these superstars of the artillery world? Something had to give. Luckily, one of the gems from AFV Club landed in my lap. It was time to correct my seriously lacking model building resume!

kit contents

To review the contents of this kit check out the review here.

the build

Construction: First small piece of advice I would pass on to anyone about to build this kit is study the instructions, then study them again. There are some seriously small pieces in this box, and all of them have the famous arrows that indicate “attach here.” Now most of these are fairly well-done, with little doubt as to the “here” where you are supposed to attach the part in question. Note that I said “most,” meaning a few are a bit vague, and if you don’t have strong secondary references, it is easy to make a mistake. AFV Club did include some inset photos of the real vehicle here and there, which are somewhat helpful, although one of the photos only served to confuse me even more. More about that later.

Step one seemed simple enough, if a bit fiddly: the spring equilibrator assembly and its attendant bracket and base. Okay, it only seemed simple; in reality, this one is a bit tricky. Go slow; put some thought into what you are doing, carefully remove the pieces, and use a light hand during clean-up. Once the parts are ready to go, use the interior bracket (part A40) as a guide to get the three arms to line up. Once you do that, the rest goes fairly smoothly— as long as you don’t rush things and allow the glue to dry thoroughly after each mini-step. The “cool” factor of the spring assembly can’t be overstated: hats off to AFV Club for this.

Be careful towards the end of step one, as parts E5 and E6 are misidentified as F5 and F6. My only real complaint here was that many of the mating surfaces were very small, leaving me a bit apprehensive about how well they would hold together throughout the building process. Other than that, this section was a very enjoyable sub-assembly to build due to the superb engineering and fit of the parts.

Step two was the lower carriage and axle, a more or less straightforward assembly which went together quickly. The step mates the axle and the rear equalizer assembly, along with the smaller fittings. This step also has you adding the wheel hubs and hand brake levers, but again, no real issues here.

Steps three, four, and five consist of the construction and attachment of the trail arms. Again, this went off without a hitch: glue it up, and a quick pass with a sanding stick was all it took. The large spades were the only time I had to deal with knockout pins on the entire model, but they are thoughtfully placed and were easily sanded off. There are lots of small fittings associated with the trails, so be aware that you might want to leave some for later to ease the painting process. I went ahead and attached everything except the aiming stakes, and painted it all after assembly, but you may opt for a different course.

The overall fit throughout these steps is excellent; I used no glue at all to attach the trails or locking pins. These are intended to be moveable, though I have seen some kits that purport to be multi-positional, yet the tolerances are so sloppy that you really need to glue it all down. Not so with this kit: the locking pins on my example do just that. They are completely functional, and lock the trails in place, not glue.

Steps six and sevenwould have you construct and then attach the gun cradle to the carriage assembly. The construction of the gun cradle requires some careful clean-up. Not so much with the terrific gun cradle, which is a single piece molding (using slide molds I would presume), but with the small fittings that attach to it. Pieces such as the lanyard, trunnions, and traverse hand wheels all require careful removal from the sprues and clean-up. The gun cradle itself, being a one piece molding, has no seam, a real boon for modelers, but it does have two long triangular pieces that fit inside the cradle, and they require careful placement to allow the gun to slide in recoil. AFV Club has put some thought into this arrangement, and provides an extra inset showing proper placement to help out.

The next step is concerned with the assembly of the gun and the recuperator cylinder and piston, along with the brackets that hold the whole thing together. I had a bit of a hard time getting everything to line up like it was supposed to with this step. There are three pieces— I’ll call them ring brackets for lack of a better term— which hold the gun tube, the recuperator, and the long recoil piston all in alignment. This step requires careful study, as the recoil piston will not work properly if you are a bit sloppy with the glue.

Also, the placement of the three main sub-assemblies (gun tube, recuperator, recoil piston) through the three ring brackets (parts B14, 15, and 16) can only be accomplished in a very ordered sequence. Make sure not to allow any glue on the middle bracket, leaving it free to slide back and forth to ease the installation of the main gun tube.

The gun tube (a turned aluminum piece) has a two-part plastic collar arrangement that needs to fit as tightly as possible. I needed a bit of extra work with the file to get a good fit, as well as a bit of filler putty to insure that the seam disappeared. With all that, I still had a difficult time getting the gun tube to pass through the ring brackets. I would test fit, then realize I needed a bit of file work to the inside of the bracket, which would then cause a bit of yaw to develop between the recuperator and the recoil piston. Push everything back into place, another test fit, more filing, more yaw. It turned into a bit of “lather, rinse, repeat” before I finally got it all together, but eventually even one as ham-fisted as I got it correctly-assembled.

Another thing to be careful about, which I completely messed up, is the front of the top piece of the recoil mechanism: it should be placed straight up & down, with the two butterfly wings perfectly lined-up side-by-side.

A bit about the gun tube: the aluminum piece is nice, but the rifling inside the barrel is a real head scratcher. Rifling is present, but it amounts to nothing more than a half-hearted attempt that doesn’t come close to what the real thing looks like, simply some parallel carvings. I guess they figured the gun tube should have something other than a smooth surface inside, but it comes across as a poor attempt at gizmology (to borrow an old Shep Paine term). One thing of note to add: the data plates. I love them. AFV Club has included the two data plates for the howitzer that really add to the overall level of detail in the kit.

Steps nine and ten will have you building up the breech block assembly, the only other area on the kit that required any filler putty, along with the panoramic telescope assembly, the range quadrant, all followed by sliding the gun tube assembly into place. Well, welcome to the land of tiny parts, my friend, and enjoy the well-detailed ride! Everything here is very nicely-detailed; they even include as a separate piece the firing pin (part B35), although I have no idea why. If you want to build the gun being serviced, have at it.

I particularly was impressed with the breech block operating lever (part B4), which is just one fine piece of molding. Also included here are some very small knobs and such (C22 and B1)… Why? AFV Club could have just as easily molded these in-place, but noooooo, now you face the daunting challenge of the dreaded “tweezers launch,” probably a former Olympic event, right up there with pigeon shooting in popularity.

You do have a couple of options in these steps: open breech or closed, and position the locking handle accordingly. The ranging telescope can be in the extended or stowed position, with different parts depending on your favorite flavor. And the gunner’s quadrant (part C15), can be either mounted in-place on top of the breech block, or can be omitted altogether. I eventually decided to build mine in-place, then changed my mind and removed it, then flip-flopped again and reattached it. Oh well, I guess I am deeply in touch with my feminine side!

The panoramic scope has a nice trunnion to fit onto which provides a firm mount. Not so with the ranging scope: it is attached to a long rod assembly, which is in turn part of the elevating hand wheel assembly that has a small platform-like bracket which in turn attaches to the back side of the elevating gear housing without any real good mating surface. That eventually all holds up the ranging quadrant. It’s abetted by another one of those helpful instructions that show “stick here” type of assistance— except that the “here” in this particular instance is perfectly situated in the middle of the very busy right hand side of the breech, lanyard, and carriage, and so it’s not at all clear. Truthfully, I used a dab of glue and a prayer. Luckily, the modeling gods were with me, and the gun still slides in the carriage.

Step eleven was the easiest, because I mostly just skipped it. It concerns the addition of the .50 cal MG on top of the recuperator, which I ditched altogether, tossing the very nice Ma Deuce into the spares bin. The only thing I did here was the attachment of the second data plate to the left elevating arc. On to the home stretch!

Steps twelve and thirteen are concerned with the construction and attachment of the gun shield to the carriage. The fit of the two left and right shield flaps was very tight; it almost felt like I could have left off the glue altogether, but in the end, I opted for the far more popular and secure route of using actual adhesive. The two folding shield supports did need a bit of filing to get a snug fit into the brackets, but nothing too daunting. Add a couple of the slick little brass retaining chains, and you are good to go.

AFV Club has two scope storage boxes for you: a smaller one to the inside of the shield, and a larger one on the front side. I could only find the larger front shield box used, but my references are a bit limited, and you may have better information. That being said, I only used the front box and I am holding onto the smaller one in case someone takes me to task over it. I cracked the cover and needed a bit of glue and putty to effect a repair, but no big deal. Just be careful, because the lid is thin and fragile.

The attachment of the shield was much easier than I anticipated: three struts and two brackets down and below; all went together quickly and firmly. The shield itself is a thing of beauty, pleasingly thin, no knockout pins. It doesn’t need beveled edges to give the appearance of thin because it is thin. Hats off to AFV Club on this.

The last optional part for the cannon is the tail light, which slips over the gun tube, but should only be used if you are modeling your gun in hauling position. Be aware that if you go this route that you will need a bit of cabling, pigtail connector, etc., from the assembly back to the hauling vehicle. If you do opt to place your gun in tow, you have three different pintle hook assemblies to choose from, depending on your prime mover. Your options are the GMC 1 1/2 ton truck, the M3A1 Scout Car, or the M3 half-track, all using the same arrangement. You also have parts to employ the 2 1/2 ton truck or the 1 1/2 ton weapons carrier.

The last thing is the installation of the tires and rims. I wasn’t really happy with the way that the rims fit the tires: you are left with a small gap were the rim doesn’t quite fit against the tire. If this is an actual problem with the fit and not a mistake that I made in putting these together, I would guess that the aftermarket boys will step into the breach quickly with corrected versions. The wheels come with the common poly cap collar allowing the completed pieces to be pressed onto the axle stubs after painting.

Painting & decals

No decals are provided, or really needed, so with that you are done with the construction and ready for the painting. It was a pretty easy affair: a couple of thin coats of Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab, one shot of lightened OD for a bit of contrast, and I was almost ready to weather a bit. Before I did a bit of wash work, I painted-up and attached the last few detail pieces: aiming stakes, brass knobs, and such. I kept the weathering to a minimum: one quick wash with the new MIG Productions “Deep Green Wash” for green vehicles, and after that dried thoroughly, a final general- and pin-wash using another new MIG Productions product “Earth Wash” for all types of subjects.

Conclusion

Well, with that I was done with my first 105, and my modeling bucket list was one step closer to being filled. AFV Club has done a great job in just about everything associated with this kit: superb detail, great engineering, terrific fit, almost no annoying knockout pins, and just enough options to keep almost everyone happy. I wish that the fit around the wheels had been a bit better, and the incredibly small parts were a bit of an annoyance at times. But don’t let that put you off, this kit is a clear winner. Thanks AFV Club for such a knockout!
SUMMARY
Highs: Incredible fit, slide molded spring assembly, ultra thin shield. A great effort and an enjoyable build.
Lows: Tiny, tiny parts. Poor rifling and poor fit of rim and tire.
Verdict: Loved it! Despite a few inconsistencies a very nice plastic kit.
Percentage Rating
93%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: AF35160
  Suggested Retail: $30.49
  Related Link: technical manual for 105mm howitzer
  PUBLISHED: Jun 06, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.73%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 89.65%

Our Thanks to AFV Club!
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 Rick Cooper (clovis899)
FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES

I have been modeling for about 30 years now. Once upon a time in another century I owned my own hobby shop; way more work than it was worth. I tip my opti-visor to those who make a real living at it. Mainly build armor these days but I keep working at figures, planes and the occasional ship.

Copyright ©2017 text by Rick Cooper [ CLOVIS899 ]. 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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