Hetzer Article by Stephen Brezinski
December 2005 email: sbrez(at)suscom-maine(dot)net

German SdKfz 138/2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
In-The-Box Comparison Review for 1/72 scale
By Stephen Brezinski, Dec. 2005

INTRODUCTION
This in-the-box review covers 1/72-scale Hetzer kits released by ESCI, Attack Hobby and by UM companies in a compare & contrast manner. The ESCI is a veteran kit from the 1980’s while the UM and Attack kits are new releases. I make no mention of the fit of the parts or full clarity of the instructions, as I have not assembled any of these kits yet. As this review is written I await the delivery of Attack’s early Hetzer kit so my comments will have to be carefully based of the similar Attack sIG 33 Hetzer version and photos from Attack Model’s website. [Comparing the UM and ESCI Hetzers to this Attack model may not allow a perfect comparison but I feel that with the same suspension and lower hull they are close enough to know how Attack compares with ESCI and UM.]



The ESCI kit is a late war Hetzer featuring the wider gun mantlet, vertical flame-damper exhaust, and hood over the driver’s visor. So this vehicle can be depicted in the Ardennes and the 1945 closing battles of the Reich. I am not aware of this ESCI model being re-released by Italeri yet, though I hope and expect it will be.


The new Hetzer from UM
is of the early production Hetzer with the early gun mantlet, protruding visor and horizontal exhaust muffler. This early Hetzer can be modeled serving in France, Poland, Belgium and Romania in 1944. Parts for the late Hetzer are also included so both complete versions can be built from this one kit, or leftover parts can be used to improve the ESCI Hetzer.


Attack Hobby’s 15-cm sIG 33 Hetzer
model depicts a variant mounting the sIG 33 infantry gun with an open top crew compartment and designed for infantry support. Only about 25 of these were built in the last months of WW2. A good description of this variant is covered in Gary Edmundson’s book Modeling the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, which is listed in the Resources section below.



Attack Hobby’s Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer is also of the early variant with essentially the same features as the UM kit, though entirely different tooling and assembly of course.

Brief History for the Modeler: The Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer was designed to replace the makeshift, interim open-top Marder tank destroyers in the German Army of WW2. Production started in April of 1944. In July 1944, they were issued to Wehrmacht infantry divisions though by April 1945, over 2500 Hetzers were produced, were widely distributed and were used to replace tanks in Panzer Divisions.
The Hetzer was a mixed blessing as a tank destroyer: having a good gun, well sloped armor, and low profile; but having a cramped crew compartment, very thin side armor of only 20-mm, and very small gun traverse of 5 degrees left and 11 degrees right. [In comparison the Marder III had a gun traverse of 30 degrees left and 30 right.] This limited traverse for the Hetzer’s main gun meant that it was difficult to follow a target across its field of view. The gun was a 7.5-cm L48 PaK 39 using the same ammunition as the StuG III, Panzer IV and StuG IV. (It is termed a Pak [short for Panzerabwehrkanone] rather than a KwK gun [Kampfwagenkanone] since its purpose was as an antitank gun & tank destroyer, like the Pak 40 gun.


Above is a photo I took in 1999, of the front left side of the Hetzer on outside display at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the USA. This is a very late production Hetzer. Things to note are the late mantlet with bolt hole on the side, the fender detail, the Notek headlight post, the hood over the driver’s periscopes, and the side skirt attachment. Notice how the forward (and trailing) edge of the sideskirts bend inward to help prevent their snagging on things. On the roof is visible the guard for the gun site and the remote control MG34 machine gun mount. Note also that the superstructure side has been cut off so as to view the now very rusty interior.



Above is photo of the right-rear of the Aberdeen Hetzer showing the jack bracket on the fender, the hand tool brackets on the hull side, the side skirt brackets, and a grab handle and commander’s periscope location on the rear plate. The space between the fender and the superstructure above it is the location of the engine air intake. Note also how the rear edge of the side skirt curves in. [You will note that though the detail of these Aberdeen Proving Ground displays is good the paint scheme is wholly inaccurate and the weathering poor. They will never place at a model show!]

PARTS COMPARISON


The ESCI Hull Superstructure
: Starting at the far left in the above photo the dark gray ESCI hull is some 15 years or more older but still stands up great in detail. You may want to replace the grab handles on the engine deck and periscope guard on the commander’s hatch with wire and brass strip. The front fender braces are way too thick. The kit’s handtools are molded separately. ESCI is the only one of the three to have open crew hatches. No etched brass is included.
Attack Hobby Hull: In the center Attack’s superstructure displays the overall dimensions and engine deck. Attack’s dimensions are pretty close to those of ESCI’s though is a little bit narrower and shorter. The jack block (a piece of wood that is placed on the ground under the jack) is molded onto the right front fender where it’s a separate piece on the ESCI model. Attack’s Hetzer has no open hatches while the Attack sIG 33 variant has an open top and some interior parts like transmission and ammunition bins. The upper superstructure sides in the above scan can be thinned to scale thickness or replaced with thinner plastic card. No etched brass is included.
Unimodels (UM) Superstructure at the far left is the most complex with separate glacis plate part, separate kugellofette (the cast armor housing for the PaK 39 gun), a choice of early of late engine decks (parts 37 & 23), separate cast armored housing for the gun ball mount, and early or late mufflers and driver’s visors. [It appears there are parts for a choice of both initial & late model Hetzers in the box. What I cannot understand is why Unimodel molded the engine panel lines as raised lines rather than recessed lines like on the rest of their model, and how both ESCI and Attack do it. Raised panel lines should have become a thing of modeling history 10+ years ago! For a good display model all these raised lines will need to be carefully scraped off and new lines scribed.

Ed. Note: it seems that recently (2012) UM has addressed the issue of the raised panel lines:

Many thanks to Piotr Pyrczak for bringing this to our attention.


Above is a scan of Attack’s Hetzer sprue that I borrowed from their website. Though not very clear this gives us a good idea of the parts included. Fortunately most of the parts are shared by Attack’s 15-cm sIG 33 Hetzer, which I did have for this review.


Gun Mantlet Comparison The exterior gun mantlet from the darker gray ESCI model (part ) is notably narrower than the two mantlets in the UM model. Based on my photos the ESCI mantlet just does not look correct and is too narrow [it may be suitable for a JgPz 38 Starr variant which has a narrower mantlet, if you chose to scratchbuild-convert one of these versions.] UM’s two mantlets (parts 36 & 21) look very good. Three boltholes will need to be drilled: on the top and each side of the mantle.


Except for some prominent ejector pin marks, the hull sides from the old ESCI Hetzer kit in the center appear to have to best detail. Little of these parts and marks will be visible on an assembled model unless we are modeling it with a wheel or two missing.


Wheels Comparison. The dark gray ESCI wheels at the top compare well with the newer UM model. I am aware of about six variations of idler wheels and ESCI gives us an eight-hole late idler. Since UM includes parts for both early and late Hetzers both early 12-hole and late 8-hole idler wheels are included. UM impresses me as having the most accurate and finely molded sprocket. Attack’s idler & sprockets are well shaped but the holes need to be drilled out, a very tedious chore. [At least it is fewer holes to drill than Dragon’s T-34-85 roadwheels.] Etched brass replacement sprocket wheels and idler wheels are available.


Track Comparison: Attack’s hard plastic tracks at the top have decent exterior detail but no interior surface detail and the track guide teeth are just small nubs. Some etched brass frets include replacement track teeth. These are the same tracks issued with the company’s Pz 38(t) tank kits. To wrap them around the idler & sprocket wheels it will help to score the inside surface of the track length with a razor saw or scriber, which also creates rudimentary links.
The ESCI stiff polyethylene, rubber-band type tracks in the center are the least accurate of the three and are so stiff they are hard to wrap and drape naturally over the wheels. Heating them in very hot water and bending them around a wood dowel before cooling helps considerably by making the curves around the idler & sprocket permanent.
The UM link & length hard styrene tracks, at the bottom of the scan, are by far the best of the three manufacturer’s. I wish UM sold these tracks separately to use with the Attack and ESCI kits.

ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
ESCI, UM and Attack all give us exploded view drawings for assembly in 5-steps for the ESCI and the Attack kits and 12-step for the UM kit. All three directions are adequate and designed for assembly without written instructions.

KIT DECAL MARKINGS
All kits come with water slide decal markings. ESCI offered markings for four different vehicles but give us no information as to the units and time periods the markings are for. I presume that if Italeri re-releases this old ESCI model they will correct this deficiency. Attack has simple cross markings for their sIG 33 Hetzer. Attack’s Panzerjager Hetzer appears to have markings and painting instructions for two vehicles. UM included markings and descriptions for three early Hetzer vehicles with extras (for the late Hetzer release?).

CONCLUSION
All three kits will build into decent Hetzer models but I am surprised to see that, in my opinion, the old ESCI kit is still the better of the three [except for the tracks and gun mantle]. Attack Model’s molding is a little soft, which is common of limited run styrene kits. Still, Attack gives us a good model and the company offers us vehicles that I doubt anyone else will offer in plastic. The Unimodel Hetzer has some great features and particularly has great looking tracks, I am very disappointed with the raised panel lines on the engine decks. At this time I know of no etched brass frets for the 1/72 scale Hetzer, but perhaps soon? My greatest wish were that a manufacturer soon offers good replacement tracks for the ESCI and Attack models. Replacement tracks can cover not just a few Hetzer models but a wide span of Pz 38(t) and Marder III kits offered from Attack and ESCI.
This review has no comments on the fit of parts, which will come in a construction review.

BUILDING & HISTORICAL REFERENCES
HETZER Jagdpanzer 38(t) and G-13, by Horst Scheibert, Schiffer Publishing (1990). Good inexpensive softcover book with WW2 era and contemporary museum detail photos. [The G-13 is the post-war version as used by the Swiss Army.]

Modeling the Jagdpanzer 38(t) ‘Hetzer’, by Gary Edmundson, Osprey Modeling #10 (2004). A very good softcover written for the modelers with up to date information on Hetzer development and good photos of the progressive assembly and painting of four Hetzer variants. I find the photos too small unfortunately.

Jagdpanzer 38 ‘Hetzer’ 1944-45, by Hilary Doyle, Tom Jentz, and Mike Badrocke, Osprey Publishing’s New Vanguard #36 (2001). Another very good book covering development, features and combat use of the Hetzer. Good photos and color drawings. Doyle and Jentz are recognized as being among the best authorities on German AFV’s.

www.attack-hobby-kits.cz Website for Attack Hobby in the Czech Republic, producers of styrene & resin kits and accessories.

www.lemaire.happyhost.org/char/complet/451.html#100172 This website is a very helpful online encyclopedia with information and photos of AFV’s and artillery.

pedg.org/panzer/public/website/hetzer.htm The Achtung Panzer website of George Parada. Copious amounts of great information and photos.

www.pzfahrer.net A website dedicated to the detailed study of Hetzer vehicle, by Richard Gruetzner: all Hetzer all the time. Hosted @ George Bradford’s AFV News website. One of the best online sites on the Hetzer.


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Article Last Updated:
23 November 2012