|PT-76 Amphibious Scout Tank||by Doug Chaltry|
|28 January 2004||email: doug(at)ontheway.us|
A Comparative Review of the ACE, ARMO and PST Kits
This will be an interesting article to write, because not only will I contrast and compare three kits from competing model companies, but we are also seeing three different types of manufacturing used for making model kits. Each of these three manufacturing technologies has strengths and weaknesses inherent to them, and as you will see, these characteristics are reflected in the three kits being reviewed herein.
What most people consider to be the 'normal' manufacturing process for AFV models is, in fact, high-pressure, injection-molded, styrene plastic. This is the type of manufacture used by such companies as Hasegawa, Revell, and many others. In this particular review, the kit made by PST is produced using this method. Hereafter, I will refer to this method simply as "injection-molding". Some benefits to injection-molded kits include: typically low cost for the consumer; ease of construction; large production runs that typically result in wide-spread availability; and the ability to easily make kits with several options (such as open crew hatches, small parts, etc.). Specific draw-backs to this method are: two-part molds are capable of producing only a moderate amount of detail because of limitations inherent in molding on flat surfaces; and most importantly, the very high cost of making the molds themselves.
Another form of injection-molding uses less-expensive molds and low pressure injection. This manufacturing method is known by several names, the most common of which is "limited-run molding", which is how I will refer to it in this article. Limited-run molding also normally uses styrene plastic (for vehicles; most figures are cast with polyethylene plastic), and consequently shares many of the same limitations as normal injection-molding. Detail on these kits tend to be to a lesser standard than injection-molding (although this is highly variable by company), as do kit options. The molding quality can be rough, which equates to more time being necessary to build the model. Since these models are made in limited quantities, they are usually more expensive than injection-molded kits, and sometimes harder to find. The main advantage to this method, is the much cheaper costs of mold-making, which is what makes this method feasible for small manufacturers. In this article, I will be reviewing a limited-run kit made by ACE Models.
The final form of model production seen here is resin casting. Resin kits are hand-made, and therefore usually uncommon, and expensive. The molds are cheap to make (with RTV rubber), but the resin used in the casting of the kit parts can be quite expensive, and the intensive labor involved in the production of these kits adds up to a high price tag. Many resin kits tend to be rather simplistic, with solid bodies and few parts, most of the detail being molded directly onto the main vehicle parts. However, in recent years, there has been a trend for resin kits to become much more complex, with many parts, and hollow-cast hulls (which of course drives up the cost even more). The main, and highly significant, advantage to this method of manufacture is the extremely high level of detail that is possible to attain. Rubber molds are very elastic, and allow for detail to undercut kit parts, and also be molded on sloped or even vertical surfaces. I think that the impressive detail possible with resin kits is the primary appeal of these models (in addition to the fact that many vehicles are available only in this medium). The ARMO PT-76B reviewed herein is a resin cast kit.
The PT-76 is an old design, having its beginnings around 1950, but it can still be found in service with many countries today. Unlike many [former] Soviet AFV designs, this one has relatively few variants, and the vast majority of vehicles still in service are of a single version: the PT-76B. All variants had essentially the same turret, hull and chassis, and are best distinguished by their armament. The earliest version of the vehicle mounted a D-56T 76.2mm cannon (which can trace its development back to the F-34 cannon of T-34 fame), and is identified by a smooth barrel with a multi-slotted muzzle brake. The gun was later upgraded to the D-56TM, which has a bore evacuator on the barrel, and a simpler, double-baffle muzzle brake. At one time, a 12.7mm DShKM AA machinegun was mounted on the turret, in which case, this vehicle was designated PT-76A. Some internal improvements were added in the late '50s, such as NBC protection, and a better stabilized gun (now designated D-56TS), and this version is known as the PT-76B. As far as I can tell, the only external difference between the PT-76A and PT-76B is the DShKM on the PT-76A, though I believe that some PT-76Bs were fitted with these guns as well. I admit that my references on this matter are limited.