|Scale Accuracy Considerations
|by Doug Chaltry
|18 August 2001
|A concern of many
modelers (inlcuding me), is the scale accuracy of their
model kits. As one can deduce from my article comparing
1/72nd and 1/76th scales, I like to be reasonably sure
that my models not only "look like" the
vehicles which they are supposed to represent, but can
also stand up to dimensional scrutiny, some times with a
How many times have we seen discussions on the various newsgroups revolving around the questionable scale accuracy of particular kits? How many of those discussions end with conclusive evidence one way or another? Many times, certain kits get labeled as being dimensionally inaccurate, and these reputations spread by word of mouth (or keyboard), until it is "common knowledge" which kits are not correct. But some times, the initial accusation is incorrect, and some kits are unfairly criticized for non-existant flaws.
I think that the main cause for these errors is that modelers will readily spread around "facts" about certain kits, without actually checking out the "facts" themselves. This is compounded by the lack of reliable scale plans with which to base judgement. Scale plans for armor models are not as common as for airplane models. Additionally, many of those plans in circulation are not reliable. One person makes a judgement about a particular vehicle, either with scale plans or not, and then passes along this information, whether it is true or not.
Case in point: The ESCI M4A1 Sherman. I have corresponded with other modelers about this kit, and have seen many comments on newsgroups that offhandedly mention the "underscale ESCI Sherman." There are persistent rumors that this kit is actually 1/76th scale. I would very much like to know where this belief comes from, and if anybody has done any original research on the subject. My initial thought is that it comes from comparison with the so-called "scale" plans included in the Sherman In Action book from Squadron-Signal. Unfortunately, those plans are NOT printed to scale, which is a common problem for Squadron's In Action book series.
I have checked the ESCI kit against the dimensions included in R.P. Hunnicutt's book, Sherman - A History of the American Medium Tank, which I think most armor modelers consider to be THE source for accurate Sherman information. According to this book, with the exception of the hull being about two millimeters too short, the ESCI kit is very accurate for 1/72nd scale. For example, one of the most common complaints about this kit is underscale wheels. Real Sherman wheels had a diameter of 20in (508mm). Divided by 72, that gives us 7.05mm. The wheels in the ESCI kit measure 7mm, and maybe just a hair larger. So as you can see, according to this reference source, the ESCI wheels are almost perfect. The wheel suspension units are likewise 1/72nd scale, as are several other hull, turret and detail dimensions that I measured.
I think my point in writing this article is to encourage modelers to back up their claims of inaccuracy (and even accuracy, for that matter) with evidence that they checked the accuracy first. I, myself, was caught in a false claim in my ESCI Panther A review. I had stated in the review that the kit scales out very well against scale plans in Achtung Panzer, when in fact, it was the Jagdpanther kit that I had previously measured, and I had assumed the Panther to be the same. In fact, it is not. When a viewer wrote to me pointing out the mistake (very politely I might add - thanks Albert), I went back to the book, made some measurements, and corrected the review. I am now going through all my reviews, making sure that I made no similar assumptions.
Of course everybody has OPINIONS on the looks of certain vehicles. I think it is perfectly valid for someone to say that a kit "looks good" to him, as long as he doesn't lay claim to it being accurate or not, without first checking the accuracy. Consequently, the official policy for my reviews on this website, is to not make any mention about the scale accuracy of any kit, without first measuring the kit against reliable plans. If you read a comment in my review about the model being accurate, that means I measured it against scale plans (which I will quote). But that does NOT mean that I am right. My plans may be wrong, or I may make a mistake in my measurements. I encourage everybody to make their own conclusions about kit accuracy by making their own quantitative, and qualitative, measurements.
Post-script: I received an email from Gary Zimmer who pointed out some interesting thoughts about vehicle sizes. He has personally measured several British Matilda tanks at various museums, and found each of their size measurements differ by a small amount. When vehicles are hand-made such as these, no two are identical. This is a very important thing to keep in mind when one starts to get overly particular about scale accuracy. Thanks for the information Gary.