Short Gun Sturmgeschütz
III kits in 1/72
|by Stephen 'Tank Whisperer' Brezinski|
Edited by Rob Haelterman
The Sturmgeschütz III & Sturmhaubitze 42 are one of my favorite family of vehicles to model. We can easily model an entire collection of 12 or more vehicles and not repeat a variant. This review will be a compare and contrast review, or preview, of the short gun variants, armed with the 75mm Kanone L/24. These would be the Ausführung A through Ausf. E, produced by four manufacturers. Years ago we small scale modelers only had the Fujimi StuG III Ausf. D model if we wanted a plastic short gun Sturmgeschütz. The Fujimi model is about 1/72 in width but is 1/76 scale in length and sold as 1/76 and is not included here. Visit this link for more information on the Fujimi StuG D.
In this review we will mainly discuss injection molded styrene kits, not all the cast resin kits. There are many more small scale StuG III models than I cover here, but these will be representative. I'll not show every sprue and part. Many kits share parts with other StuG and Panzer III models already reviewed so I'll not duplicate that work here.
In my reviews I often make mention of a kit making a good display, or a good wargaming model. I in no way mean to denigrate war gamers or their models, but I recognize that a good gaming model has different needs than a good display model. I think a wargaming model needs to be more durable and perhaps accuracy and delicate parts is not as important.
Notice at the upper left corner it says ARMOR PRO; considering what is in the box, DML should delete this statement from their latest 1/72 kits, but more on that later.
Above the driver's visor are the two driver's vision holes, and the hole for the direct gun sight particular to the StuG III Ausf. A and Ausf. B. Notice that the sides of the gunsight opening are ribbed to deflect bullets from ricocheting into the gunsight opening. On the bow we see the very large hinges for the transmission hatches and the two hoods for the headlights. On the side plate next to the driver's visor is a view slit, and a lifting ring above it. On the rear fender there is no barrel cleaning rod we see on other variants. I have references that show the stored rod on some and none on other vehicles.
This early model has no welded or bolted on appliqué armor. An odd variant of the StuG III Ausf. A consist of 20 vehicles assembled with the superstructure of the Ausf. B and the hull of the Pz III Ausf. G tank. This Ausf. A variant can be identified by the 20-mm appliqué armor bolted to the bow, and an escape hatch on the hull sides and other features of the Panzer III Ausf. G hull. (Panzer Tracts No. 8, page 8-4 and 8-7).
idler wheel at the rear does not look like the correct wheel in
this painting. For those familiar with the StuG III Ausf. G notice
how different the early sprocket wheel is. This early StuG would
use a narrower track than that used on the Ausf. E and later Sturmgeschütz.
Models also offers a StuG III Ausf. A kit, no. 72829, but I have
not seen it. I surmise it is similar in parts and assembly to
the Attack Models StuG Ausf. E kit discussed below.
The StuG III Ausf. B externally looks the same as the Ausf. A except for the small roof hatch for the gun sight, and the front return roller which has been moved forward more over the front roadwheel. This new return roller position is where it will remain in all the later StuG III variants. The driver's side viewport needs work by trimming and cutting in the vision slit. The U-shape lifting ring over the visor is missing. The idler wheel looks reasonably good. On the fender next to the pannier is a stored gun cleaning rod.
Overall it looks like a fairly accurate StuG III Ausf. B. The rear fenders lack the storage boxes. An antenna is in the lowered position in a horizontal trough, but my references show the Ausf. B did not have an antenna trough. Underneath the rear roadwheels we see the bulge where the two ends to the band track connect; we could maybe hide this problem with a display base with high grass, snow or mud. This is a common problem with band tracks.
A potential problem is that the sprocket wheel appears to be incorrect: my reference shows that this variant should have the sprocket of the Ausf. A, with the round holes. Of course, perhaps some StuG III Ausf. B could have been upgraded with a new sprocket?
In the above box art of the assembled and painted kit, we note the open crew hatches, a tow cable molded to the engine deck, and the early sprocket and idler wheels for the StuG III Ausf. A and early Ausf. B variants. On each side of the lower hulls is an escape hatch particular to early Pz III tanks not readily visible here.
What looks odd is that there is a large gap between the end of the mudguard and the idler wheel. I think the idler is mounted too far forward. The front return roller will need to be relocated further back centered between the two roadwheels. Bolted-on appliqué armor will be added to the nose, available as a spare part in a number of StuG and Pz III model kits.
Unlike Dragon instruction sheets of a few years ago we no longer have high quality glossy paper with multiple color images showing the painting and marking options. At the upper right are the kit's water slide decal markings for two StuGs. This set of assembly instructions is almost the same as those for the Dragon StuG Ausf. C/D kit so we'll see more of them in Part 2 of this review.
My Alemany Miniatures StuG. III Ausf. B (Ausf. A) model came with no assembly instructions of any kind. With access to instructions for the Trumpeter or UM Sturmgeschütz models we should be able to build this model without any problem.
The Dragon StuG III Ausf. A kit comes with 28 pale gray injection molded parts, and two black injection molded 1-piece track-wheel assemblies. The two 1-piece track-wheels pieces Parts-L and R take the place of about 32 parts in the Trumpeter and the UM kits.
With the Trumpeter StuG III Ausf. B kit I counted 73 pale gray injection molded styrene plastic parts on three sprues, a 1-piece slide molded lower hull, and two soft plastic band track. There are several unused parts that go with other Trumpeter StuG III kits.
The Alemany Miniatures StuG. III Ausf. B (Ausf. A) kit contains a one-piece resin full hull part, and about 40 white metal parts like track lengths, roadwheels and hatches. There are two white metal crew figures and four infantry figures. The tracks appear to be copies of the old hard plastic ESCI StuG III and Pz IV kit tracks. Overall molding quality is mediocre to poor compared to the Modelkrak, Hunor or MarS resin kits in small scale. There are no etched brass parts or decals. There are aftermarket Pz III & StuG III tracks to improve this model.
Looking closely at the Alemany resin hull I sense a homemade aspect to it. For example, the bolt or screw holes on the superstructure and the hinges are uneven like they were made by pushing a pin down into the soft resin by hand. The direct viewport and roof hatches for the gunner looks more like the Trumpeter StuG Ausf. B kit; and this strengthens my assessment that this Alemany model actually represents one of the twenty StuG III Ausf. A produced by mating the StuG B superstructure to the Panzer III Ausf. G lower hull. Common sense tells me we should call this an Ausf. B, but both the Jentz and Spielberger books claim it is referred to as an Ausf. A. Though it has open hatches, the only one of these short gun StuG kits with open hatches, the hatches are only deep enough for a half figure. Despite its flaws, I like this model.
Moving next to the Dragon StuG III Ausf. A: like other kits here, it features molded on tools, and closed hatches. The upper hull part A1 is molded as one part except for the separate engine deck part A22 (not shown). This looks like a reasonably accurate StuG Ausf. A superstructure. The driver's side viewport needs work by trimming and cutting in the vision slit. (UM nicely offers this viewport as a separate piece.)
It appears to me that Dragon has taken advantage of its skill in slide molding to simplify assembly and number of parts. At the same time the company has simplified by giving us fewer options in building the kit, and less detail and accuracy. While still offering great molding sharpness, I am afraid Dragon has drifted away from superb display models and more toward gaming kits. Where in years past Dragon small scale kits used to have the greater number of parts, detail and sophistication, now the Trumpeter StuG III kits outshine them in this series of StuG models, in my opinion. The greater number of separate parts in the Trumpeter and the UM kits allow for greater options in assembling it.
The Trumpeter StuG III Ausf. B model upper hull and superstructure parts B1 and B4 are at far right. Holes in the fender are for separate parts like the jack, antenna troughs and storage box. Alas, the crew hatches are molded closed. It's hard to tell exactly, but I think that all the large hinges on the Trumpeter kit look more accurate than the hinges on the Dragon kit.
At top are the common Trumpeter Pz III and StuG III roadwheels on Sprue-A. At bottom right of this sprue are the slide-molded return rollers. At lower left are a set of Pz III/StuG III sprocket wheels that can be used on the StuG III Ausf. B and later versions. The roadwheels look good, and crisply molded. At the bottom of the scan are Trumpeter's soft plastic band track with good detail on both top and bottom sides.
In the center of this scan is Dragon Model's black plastic one-piece set which includes the continuous band track, three return rollers, the six roadwheels, and track teeth visible in-between the wheels. A big problem for this supposed model of a StuG Ausf. A is that the front return roller is too far forward, it should be centered between the first two roadwheels for the StuG Ausf. A only. Cutting the return roller off, repositioning both the wheel on the track, and the axle on the lower hull will be a challenge. This Dragon track has disappointing inside and exterior track detail, on the inside surface there is no link detail at all, just smooth plastic. Nice for a gaming kit but unacceptable for a first rate display model.
In the center of this scan are the silver-colored white metal roadwheels, sprocket and idler wheels for the Alemany StuG Ausf. A. The roadwheels I think are copies of the ESCI Pz III roadwheels. The sprocket and idler wheels look rough, poorly cast. The holes around the circumference of the idler wheels are not regular in size. The track lengths also look to be copies of the old ESCI hard styrene track parts which I think are better than the Dragon track. If they look this poor when the model is assembled, perhaps some thick mud is called for?
Rather than molding the idler wheels as two separate wheels, Dragon molds it as one thick wheel; very disappointing. When I assemble this model I will have to drill out eight oval holes around the circumference of the idlers and saw cut a gap between the wheel to get them to look more accurate. Now tell me, why would Dragon go through the trouble to mold the shock absorbers separately (parts A15 and A-16), yet mold the idler wheel as one thick block of plastic rather than two parts, when the idlers are much more visible?
Please see Part 2 and Part 3 of this review for further information on the current short gun StuG III kits. The Trumpeter StuG Ausf. B models and the Dragon StuG Ausf. A models are similar enough to their other kits: what we know of one can carry to the other kits of their StuG variants. An example is the roadwheels and tracks, and the lower hulls which are the same through the Trumpeter, Dragon and UM Sturmgeschütz kits.