1/72 Turrets Review

LEVA Productions conversion, 72-C-10, T-34-85 Model 1943 turret & accessories.

LEVA kit #72-C-10 represents the first T-34-85 turret using the 85-mm D-5T gun in what is referred to as the 1943 version. About 300 or fewer of these are estimated built, though Zaloga and others estimate 800 built. The D-5T gun barrel was 3-calibers (25 cm or 10 inches) shorter than the later 85mm guns, though without knowing how much of the barrel remained in the turret mount I can’t say if this barrel was measurably shorter sticking out of the turret. This is the same weapon used in the Su-85 and the IS-1 tank and was an interim installation until the later S-53 and Zis-S-53 guns could be developed (Potapov).

This turret still had only a crew of two: commander & gunner, unlike the later 1944 T-34-85, which increased to a 3-person turret. The radio of this version was still mounted in the hull next to the radio-operator.

This LEVA turret conversion comes with a resin cast turret, a well cast gun-barrel with mantlet, top mantlet plate, commander’s hatch, and two smoke canisters for the rear of the hull. The turret has great cast texture that at first seemed extreme to me but on examining photos of preserved real T-34’s, I have noted that some have a surprisingly rough cast texture! On each side of the turret is the pistol port and view port. If you look closely on the sides you will note the location marks for the four inverted-U lifting rings that can be scratch-built from brass or copper wire (these types of lifting rings could also be found on early year-1944 turrets).

The commander’s hatch can be slit and modeled open so as to install a half-figure in the commander’s cupola. Like all the turrets in this review, the three grab handles should be added to the turret sides and rear for the desanti (tank riders). Most of these turrets also have six attachment loops on the turret rear for lashing on stowage. I replicated these with thin copper wire, though the etched brass sets include them.

ARMO Conversion #AR72520. T-34-85 M1943 (Zavod Nr.112, winter 1943-44)

This is the ARMO Models version of the 1943 T-34-85 turret variant with the D-5T gun and the flat ringed mantlet. It should be similar to the LEVA 1943 turret above, though it has an aluminum gun barrel.

LEVA Productions Kit 72-C-18, "Flat" T-34-85 Turret Conversion

This LEVA conversion turret represents the so-called "flat" turret, with "step-jointed" casting marks (up near the mantlet). The "flat" refers to no bulge in the turret sides. Note also the very well done vertical "fillets". I have noticed in photos that not all step-jointed turrets have these vertical casting fillets. The port-side view slit is now deleted from the turret side.

Given in this conversion, that does not appear to be offered in the Al By, ARMO and Rhino conversion kits, are the three separate armor fillets/bars that came welded to the top of the hull directly under the turret on each side and in the front. These bars added extra protection from projectiles damaging the turret ring. Not present on 1943 variant T-34-85’s or T-34-76’s, they were installed from 1944 turrets onwards. The rear smoke canisters were not present on early 1944 versions but were introduced in late 1944. (Potapov)

Left to right in the above and below photos, is the LEVA 1944 Step-Jointed turret with ARCHER dry transfer markings; LEVA’s 1943 turret with AER decals; and at far right is a 1944 Composite turret with ARCHER dry transfer markings and a Milicast commander figure. Note the port-side view slit is now deleted in the two 1944 period turrets.

LEVA Productions Kit 72-C-19, Laminated/Composite Turret Conversion

Above is the assembly instructions for this LEVA kit which also shows the prominent casting marks and vertical weld of this T-34-85 turret. I have gathered that this particular turret was made in two separate castings, front & rear, and welded together. The two rear smoke canisters, at times confused for fuel tanks by some, are well rendered and were introduced on late 1944 T-34’s. You can see that except for the turret itself, the other parts and assemblies are the same as the "Flat" version turret above.

Above is a photo of the assembled but unpainted LEVA Laminated/Composite type turret on the AER hull. Note the vertical weld just forward of the turret grab handle, the armor fillets under the turret side, the twin ventilator domes and the two part commander’s hatch: all making this a late 1944 year production. Delete the smoke canisters and add angled front fenders and this could be an early 1944 production variant. Note that the starboard-side view slit, over the starboard-side pistol port is still present on all T-34-85’s.

Above is the completed LEVA Composite turret with 1944 ventilators, cupola and S-53 gun mantlet, finished in a winter scheme and red slogan from AER’s decal set. The turret is mounted on an Eastern Express T-34 hull.

Rhino Models conversion, T-34-85 1944 Version Flat, Step Jointed Turret

The Rhino Models turret: a good representation of a 1944 step-jointed "Flat" turret. The casting lines are well done and there is a light cast-texture to the surface but not as distinct as LEVA’s. The lift hooks on the turret sides will have to be scratchbuilt (not hard to do) or taken from a brass detail set. The two-part commander’s hatch can be open for a half figure. The loaders hatch is closed but has the raised edge not seen on other turret conversions.

(Scan by Doug Chaltry.)

There are no vent openings in the Rhino Models roof ventilators unlike the other resin conversions, these will have to be drilled and cut if you wish them. I easily and satisfactorily made these vent openings by heating a small flat screwdriver in a candle flame and gently melting the vent slot into the resins (see photo below to see results). The gun mantlet is for the Zis-S-53 gun. A big plus is that the mantlet is molded with the gun barrel allowing it to be modeled in different elevations (unlike the AlBy and ARMO turrets).

This is a turret suitable for modeling 1944’s Operation Bagration and later. Unfortunately Rhino Models appears not to be producing at this time and this turret is not available at the time of this article (September 2002).

In the scan above, the completed Rhino turret is on the right. The unpainted turret on the left is from ARMO.

ARMO Conversion #AR72521 T-34-85 Model 1944 flattened" turret, 1944 production

Comes with separate turned aluminum barrel. Similar to ARMO conversion #72526 below, but with the twin rear ventilators. Should have two-part cupola hatch. For a representative review of the ARMO turrets please see the review below.

ARMO Conversion #AR72525 T-34-85 Model 1944 "composite" turret, 1944 production

Comes with separate turned aluminum 85-mm gun barrel. Similar turret casting to ARMO turret conversion #72522 listed below, but this version is with the twin rear ventilators of 1945 and earlier. Should have two-part cupola hatch. For a representative review of the ARMO turrets please see below.

Al-By T-34-85 turret. Conversion #768.

(Model & Photos by Dave Showell)

According to Dave Showell, who has previously posted a very good construction review including this turret, I understand that this turret is a Zavod No. 174 'flat sided', angle-jointed turret like the Rhino Models turret above. The side lift hooks are present, as well as the side pistol ports and starboard (right) side viewport. It has the 1945 single-hatch commander’s cupola, but retains the twin ventilators at the rear, so it cannot be modeled as a 1946 turret. The mantlet is the Zis-S-53 type and is molded into the turret so the gun can be modeled in a higher or lower elevation. This turret is too late a version for Operation Bagration, but also perfect for a Budapest or Berlin period. The commander’s hatch can be modeled open like the LEVA turrets for a half-figure.

I understand that the casting is very good. This turret should be modeled with the 1945 version front angular fenders as provided in the Eduard etched brass set (a vehicle in combat, such as in Berlin, may be modeled with no fenders as another option.)

ARMO Conversion #AR72522 T-34-85 M1944 "composite"

Above is a photo of two ARMO resin cast turrets with their parent AER styrene-plastic turret at the far right. At left is the Composite turret (kit #72522). Center is the ARMO Angle-Jointed turret (kit #72526). In the foreground is ARMO’s turned aluminum gun barrel that comes with their 1944 and 1945 (1946?) version turrets. This gun barrel is noticeably longer, and thinner at the end, than the LEVA and PST 85-mm gun barrels. Information in this turret review is largely applicable to the other ARMO T-34-85 turrets as well.

As far as features, the two ARMO turrets I own are of very nice quality amber resin with few to no bubbles or flash. No clean-up is needed except for widening the hole in the mantlet for inserting the aluminum gun barrel. The casting lines are well done and accurate though the turret surface is totally smooth and has none of the rough cast texture I have seen on real T-34-85 turrets. My judgement is that this texture would be visible even in this scale. The rough texture could be replicated in styrene with a little solvent glue and stippling with a stiff toothbrush, but will be difficult with resin (perhaps with acetone?).

The ARMO turrets come with the mantlet molded in with the turret so the gun cannot be modeled in an elevated or depressed position, unlike the LEVA and Rhino resin turrets where the mantlet is molded with the gun barrel. With the ARMO turrets both hatches are molded closed. There are no pistol ports, no starboard-side view slit, and no view slits molded in the cupola. A small etched-brass fret from PART supplies enough accurate looking view slits to glue on the turret but getting them straight and in the proper locations is a challenge! The PART brass also supplies a replacement loader’s hatch, turret-lift hooks, mantlet cover, and good looking Mk. 4 periscopes. Resin periscopes and hatch(es) will need to carefully shaved off the turret in order to use the brass replacement parts.

ARMO Conversion #AR72526 T-34-85 M1944 "angle-jointed" turret, 1945 prod.

Above is a top-view photo of ARMO’s resin 1946 turret (center) prior to detailing with brass included in the kit. At right is AER’s injection-molded styrene turret for comparison. Note the difference in length and diameter of the grossly over-large plastic AER gun barrel, next to the aluminum ARMO gun barrel. According to my research, the separate mushroom vents of the ARMO turret indicate a 1946 (post 1945) variant and did not see service in WW2.

In the scan below, the Rhino turret is in green, and the ARMO turret is painted in Syrian colors and markings.

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