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In-Box Review
135
Pz. III Ausf. M
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M w/ Wading Muffler
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

introduction

I can hear the complaining now: "What? Another Pz. III?"

Dragon Models has done an excellent job in releasing all the major variants of the Pz. III. This kit brings the series to a close with all the major variants having been produced (I assume the rare A-D variants will be subjects for future Cyberhobby White Box releases).

The Pz. III started out as Germany's Main Battle Tank, with the Pz. IV intended for infantry support. However, as the war unfolded, the limitations of the 3 became glaringly apparent:

Gun too small
Chassis too light to up-gun to 7.5cm
Armor too thin to withstand combat with T-34

Incredibly, the Pz. III started life with the 3.7cm KwK 36 L/46.5 gun that could hardly knock out anything. Upgrading to the 5cm KwK 38 L/42 and later the longer 5cm KwK 39 L/60 helped extend the vehicle's roll as a tank, but gradually the III and the IV switched roles. The Four became one of the stars of the war once it was up-gunned to the 75mm KwK 40 L/43 cannon, or at least the workhorse for the Panzerwaffe. The Pz. III ended up being diverted or retrofitted as a SPG chassis: the Sturmgeschütz III.

But along the way, various manufacturers went through a series of refinements for the Pz. III, and Dragon has worked diligently to release them all. The Ausführung M was produced from October 1942 through February 1943. A total of around 250 were built, though it was decided in November 1942 to divert production of the M either to the N or to the StuG. The Ausf. N brings the narrative back to where the two tanks started: it sported the short KwK 34 L/24 7.5cm assault gun originally used by the early Pz. IV models.

No one seems to know how many Ausf. M vehicles made their way into combat, but photographs show many of them fitted with side skirts and turret armor (Schürzen) meant to ignite shaped charge tank rounds and RPGs, including bazookas supplied to the Soviets.

the kit

The usual Dragon box with colorful artwork contains:

17 sprues of light-gray styrene
1 hull tub
1 turret shell
1 fret of PE
decal sheet
A two-section container of "handed" Magic Tracks
instruction booklet

the review

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Pz. III. The old Tamiya kit was a favorite of mine years ago, and the tank has a distinctive look that says "World War 2 German." It served in all campaigns, and actually found its zenith in the StuG variant, fighting all the way to the bitter end of the war. Its design had all the flaws of early tanks (small gun, vertical armor surfaces), yet modifications like bolted-on armor plating, larger guns and side skirts kept it in the fight. I'm pleased that Dragon has chosen to give us all the variants, rather than just the highlights.

The molding is the usual crisp, flash-free effort we expect from the industry leader, and its slide-molding techniques produce excellent round pieces like the one-piece gun barrel or the MGs. Most of the hatches are operable, though engines and interiors for the kit would put such a build out of the reach of most consumers. A shame that DML can't put an engine in the kit to make all the open hatches to some good end.

Otherwise the details are good, with the wading muffler that allowed the tank to ford Russian rivers, and the smoke launchers moved onto the front of the turret from the rear of the vehicle. The major improvements like the longer 5cm KwK 39 L/60 gun and the enhanced bolted-on armor had come with the J model, and the M has the "feel" of a design that's reached the end of the line.

But the M served in the field, and the kit spares us the usual "unidentified unit" laziness for five specific tanks from actual units (see "painting & decals" below).

My biggest criticism of the kit is Dragon's decision to leave out the side skirts. This limits your options to the late 1943 vehicles. Period photographs show both with and without side skirts, but since DML has already released the Ausf. N, it puzzles me why they left them out in this later kit.

painting & decals

The painting schemes give us five actual units, all from the Eastern front:

4th Pz. Regiment, "Totenkopf" Pz.Gren. Division, Kharkov 1943 (winter whitewash over "field gray," by which I presume they mean "Panzer gray")
3rd Pz. Regiment, 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf," South Russia, 1943 (green & brown over dark yellow)
23rd Pz. Division, South Russia, 1943 (tricolor camo as above)
3rd Pz. Regiment, "Totenkopf" Pz.Gren. Division, Prochorovka, 1943 (dark yellow)
"Walter Tessmann," 8th Pz. Regiment, "Das Reich" Pz.Gren. Division, Kharkov, 1943 (listed as "field gray," but presumably "Panzer gray")

The decals, by Cartograf, are the usual high-quality, and include a variety of colorful tank numbers, unit markings and the dedication to Walter Tessmann, commander of the unit.

conclusion

While this kit will have somewhat limited appeal overall, fans of the Pz. III and those who like Wehrmacht tanks will enjoy it. This is another excellent Dragon release, though not without some blemishes such as no Schürzen.

Thanks to Dragon USA for providing this review sample. Please make sure to say you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.
SUMMARY
Highs: Good molding, sharp details, Magic Tracks, some PE.
Lows: No side or turret skirts, limiting build to late 1942 version.
Verdict: Of limited overall appeal, but a fine kit nonetheless. Why DML did not include Schürzen is a mystery to this reviewer.
Percentage Rating
86%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6558
  Suggested Retail: $47.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Dec 11, 2011
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
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

Thanks Bill for the review. I don't see why Dragon didn't include the side armor either. I have the old Pzkpfw. III Ausf. M/N imperial series in my stash and has the side and turret armor. Now that I.m looking at it maybe I start it this coming year.
DEC 11, 2011 - 09:06 PM
I'm puzzled, too, but I suspect they save 10 cents on each kit, or something like that, by not including the Schuerzen.
DEC 12, 2011 - 12:35 PM
Given Dragon's history, I think it is sort of obvious why they didn't put the skirts in the box. First they will sell a big pile of this kit. Then a few months later they will push out the same exact kit, this time with skirts (which, as y'all noticed, cost only a few cents more) and sell a big pile of THAT kit. End of story.
DEC 12, 2011 - 06:33 PM
Good point, Danny.
DEC 12, 2011 - 06:53 PM
What about a PzIII A the one with the large bogies.... I think that Soverign made a resin version of this... Mike
DEC 13, 2011 - 07:36 PM
The A-D variants are more historical curiosities than real tanks. Less than 70 of all four were produced, and those had limited service in Poland. The first real impact of the III was in France where the E & F had something to say. I would think one or more of them might make a good Cyberhobby White Box release, since the purpose of that line is rarities and other limited-run vehicles. The challenge will be the leaf-spring suspensions of the earlier variants. The Ausf. E was the first to use the signature torsion-bar suspension found on most German tanks from the late 30s onward. The leaf spring version was not the same one used on other kits like the Pz. II, so producing it will mean expensive new molds for a kit with, I suspect, limited mass appeal. This site has a line drawing showing the A, along with the B and C. Atelier infinite has a resin kit of the C and D for about $225 from Hobbylink Japan. While I love the Pz. III, that's too rich for my blood.
DEC 13, 2011 - 08:12 PM
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