Tad Bit Of History (What’s In a Name?)
Above in the review title I use the names given by the model kit
manufacturer. For brevity I will used the term “Grille”
in this model kit preview. According to Jentz & Doyle, the official
name for this self-propelled infantry gun was SF mit S.I.G.33 auf
Fahrgestell Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) (Motor Mitte) Ausf. K Geschuetzwagen
38 fuer sI.G.33/2 (Sf) (Sd.Kfz.138/1), or “Grille”.
In Nielsen’s book he uses the term 15cm Infanteriegeschütz
33/1 auf Selbstfahrlafette 38(t)(Sf) Ausf. M (Sd.Kfz. 138/1). I
understand Grille to be the/a common name which translates to “Cricket”
in English. Jentz & Doyle in 2002 clearly states “The
name Bison was never used during the war for the 15 cm s.I.G. auf
G.W.38: its suggestive name was “Grille”.
contrast, the assessment of Joachim Engelmann in his 1992 book is:
“Despite the frequent confusion as to type names, this gun
never officially was called “Grille” (Cricket). Foreign
assertions are incorrect. On the basis of its chassis, it is basically
a member of the “Marder” (marten) family…”
In his book Engelmann refers to the 15-cm s.IG.18 mounted on the
Pz. I, the Pz II, the Pz III and on the Pz.38(t) all as the “Bison”.
I have seen online the term Bison being used with the self-propelled
sIG33 guns: the Sturmpanzer I Bison and Sturmpanzer II Bison, and
if you see it on the internet, it must be true? Engelmann has quite
a respectable list of publications on German AFVs and artillery
but I also know and trust Jentz & Doyle and their research from
original German documents so will accept their and Spielberger’s
decision to call these Pz.38(t) based vehicles Grille or Geschuetzwagen
38 Ausf. K.
vehicle is a self-propelled 15-cm infantry gun, a short-range howitzer-like
weapon that fired a powerful high explosive shell in direct support
and control of the front-line infantry. A previous Grille version
had a large high superstructure atop a new or rebuilt Pz 38(t) chassis.
This variant had a redesigned hull and superstructure initially
developed for the Panzerjäger 38 Ausf. M and modified for the
15-cm sIG33 with the engine installed forward next to and behind
the driver compartment making for a better-balanced vehicle and
UM kit 346 Sd. Kfz.138/1M boxart depicts an accurate Grille in a
cold winter setting. The gun is at a high elevation with a hinged
armor flap underneath. In front of the gun is the travel lock which
could be folded down when the gun is in action. Superstructure construction
is riveted. On the bow we see a new sloped glacis with angular welded
driver’s hood of the Ausf K chassis; the Marder III on the
same chassis was seen with a cast driver’s hood. On the lower
port-side we see the engine air intake with the engine exhaust pipe
that goes to the muffler mounted on the rear. Below the fenders
is the old Pz.38(t) leaf spring suspension system and large roadwheels.
The sprocket and idler wheels are the original type common to the
Pz.38(t). The kit name on the boxart is Sd.Kfz.138/1M Bizon (Bison),
following Engelmann’s naming.
Not officially being reviewed because I do not have one, but deserving
of an honorable mention, this is the short-run injection-molded
Attack Hobby kit that I believe is no longer in production at this
time in 2021 but still seen in collections and on eBay, etc.. The
kit has 88 parts and a small etched metal fret. Some plastic parts
go unused. Based on the extended hull sides with towing eyes and
the sprocket wheel this is a late production Geschuetzwagen 38 Ausf.
K. Assembly of this Attack model appears similar to the UM model
though being short-run molding the parts are often softer edged
and with more flash and sinkholes. A kit like this can offer an
easy, more rugged model than the Revell kits for a wargamer, but
on the other hand offers more fun and challenge in detailing and
improving the parts to make a display model. The model and others
were released in 1/72 long before anyone else and I thank Attack
Hobby Kits for that.
Revell kit 3315 Sturmpanzer 38(t) Grille Ausf. M and Revell kit
3316 are formerly unreleased Toxso Models kits and all new tooling,
not a former Italeri or ESCI kit. The gun travel lock is portrayed
folded forward. On this and the UM boxart we see spare track links
mounted on the bow and glacis. The driver’s hood is welded
plate rather than cast. The sprocket wheels appear to be a later
style seen on the Hetzer which was produced at the same time as
this vehicle. This model kit represents the later Grille variant
while the UM model represents an initial production. What makes
this a late Geschuetzwagen 38 Ausf. K vehicle are the towing points
built into the side-hull extensions, the welded lower hull parts
and the late style sprocket wheels.
camouflage scheme looks quite complex to duplicate on a 1/72 model
but the only marking is a simple cross. The model’s name “Sturmpanzer
38(t) appears to be a misnomer as this lightly armored self-propelled
gun is unlike heavily armored Sturmpanzers like the Sturmgeschütz
III and Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär. I make no claim to be an expert,
but this was certainly not an assault, or storming, vehicle to assault
a position but should stay in the background and provide artillery
support from a distance.
The Kit Parts
UM kit 346 Sd. Kfz.138/1M boxart contains 126 pale
gray injection-molded styrene plastic parts for the vehicle plus
an additional 54 injection molded plastic link & length track
parts. There is a small etched brass fret with five parts. There
are no cast resin parts and no crew figures included. Parts are
well molded with little significant flash but a few sinkholes. The
parts are not slide-molded so the hull will be assembled from multiple
parts and the gun muzzle (part 42D) will need to be drilled open.
Many parts and sprues are the same as in the UM 1/72-scale Marder
and Pz 38(t) model kits and we have extra unused parts.
UM kit 346 Sd. Kfz.138 Sprue-B is common with the UM Marder III
M, kit 344 and holds the lower hull and superstructure parts. It
looks like the roof (part 138B) has the welded driver’s hood
with no hatch, but the welded driver’s hood with round hatch
is a separate part (part 28C) allowing for a choice of the welded
or the cast driver’s hood (part 81B); UM likes modular kits
and reuses sprues for multiple variants. There is an etched mesh
screen (part-57E) that goes around the muffler (part-292B) however
in reference photos I have seen this screen used on the Grille once,
but I have seen the screens on the Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer and the
Panzerjäger 38 Marder III. Revell’s kit has no protective
screen for their kit muffler.
UM Sprue D at left holds the s.I.G.33 gun parts and is common with
UM kit 345. Sprue-C is particular to this kit 346. I notice that
on this kit there are unused parts for which UM fails to give part
numbers in the instructions; I counted at least five unused parts
in these two sprues. Looking closely at the gun barrel part 42D
I see significant sinkholes near the gun breach to fill in and sand
smooth. Rivet detail on the exterior of the superstructure is done
well, but there is no rivet detail on the interior surface. There
are wide sinkholes on parts-27C and -54C, the lower superstructure
sides, to fill in.
Part-80C above is the deck area the gun mounts to and compares with
the rear of Revell’s part-A8. Based on the available interior
photos the long edge of this UM part should be narrower and more
pointed like on the Revell part-A8. UM’s part resembles more
the gun deck of the Marder III and may be just taken from UM’s
Marder III kit.
Here is one of the two Sprue A holding the wheel, suspension and
track parts which is common to other UM Pz.38(t) based kits. For
comparison, we have the same type of sprocket wheel done in dark
gray cast resin (OKB
set 72311). The UM link & length hard plastic track is done
very well and was among the best available in small scale until
the Revell Marder III and Grille kits, and until the dark gray color
OKB resin track sets at right in this photo. The two MG37 ball-mounted
machine guns will go into the parts box.
kit 3315 Sturmpanzer 38(t) Grille Ausf. M has about 146
medium gray color, injection-molded, styrene plastic parts. There
are no resin nor etched brass parts included. Revell used slide-molding
to open the gun muzzle (part D10). The parts are sharply molded
with no significant sinkholes, misshapen parts, nor flash. Two crew
figures are portrayed in the box art, though no figures are included
in the kit. These Revell/Toxso Model kits of the Grille (and Marder
III) are all new sprue and model parts and not a reissue of an older
Revell’s Sprue-A above holds the hull and superstructure parts
similar to UM’s Sprue-B. This sprue is common with the Revell
Marder III kit 3316. The photo below of Sprue-A and Sprue-C shows
the nice interior surface detail of the hull and superstructure.
In mid construction of the hull there is a significant difference
in the way the crew compartment looks, though this may be due to
different assembly and the compartment overhang (parts-C15, C22,
C23, C25, etc.) being separate pieces on the Revell model. Both
models look pretty similar at this point. I do notice that the driver’s
hatch on the Revell model in notably larger than UM’s model.
The above photo shows the good interior detail of the hull and superstructure
parts, much of this rivet and panel detail is missing from the UM
Above left is Sprue-D holding the 15-cm infantry gun parts with
open muzzle of the gun barrel (part D10).
Here is a comparison of the mostly assembled s.I.G.33/2 from the
UM Models kit in pale gray color, and the Revell kit in medium color
gray. The UM gun consists of 12 injection molded plastic parts compared
to 27 parts for the Revell kit gun. The difference in number of
parts shows in the more accurate Revell gun. The white parts on
the UM piece are scratchbuilt changes and detail I added to improve
the model, using the Revell gun and reference photos. The Revell
gun has an obvious hole on the bottom of the gun carriage so it
can be accurately traversed (5 degrees left or right) on the model;
the UM gun is designed to glue to the deck and not traverse. The
traverse & elevation wheel parts, and the breach area on the
UM gun have been significantly rebuilt; compare this with Step-8
of UM’s instructions.
With both of these guns there are so many small parts is was agonizing
to keep all the parts from sagging, installing crooked. The breach
lever atop the Revell gun was improved with a handle, while the
breach handle for the UM gun had to be built from scratch. The two
long rods on each side of the gun cradle are hydraulic cylinders
for counterbalancing the gun elevation. The weapon could be elevated
to 72 degrees so it could function like a 15-cm mortar.
Loosely installed in the partially assembled models we see that
the counterbalancing cylinders do not rest on the deck below. Note
the model putty over ejector pin marks on the UM model. The breach
of the UM gun was drilled out. A big plus of the Revell gun is that
the breach can be modeled open.
The two Sprue-B are also common with the Revell kit 3316 and hold
the Pz.38(t) wheels leaf spring suspension and long band track that
is supposed to bend around the suspension, so no fidgeting with
individual links around the sprocket and idler wheels. I found the
exceptional Revell track detail only surpassed by the OKB aftermarket
OKB offers aftermarket cast-resin track and sprocket wheels which
will offer a little improvement over the very good Revell parts.
The Revell and OKB sprockets here are a later type seen on the Hetzer
and this Grille which were in production at about the same time.
The OKB resin sprockets appear to be a millimeter or two larger
in diameter than the Revell sprocket wheel. I hope that will not
be a problem. Revell pale-gray plastic tracks are among the most
realistic in smallscale only surpassed by the darker gray OKB resin
The UM kit offers a good parts diagram and clear step-by-step instructions
that I find a bit cluttered and need to be well studied. The Revell
instructions are expanded into more and larger steps, and printed
in multiple colors on glossy paper. Both UM and Revell have multiple-view
drawings showing painting and placement of the water-slide decal
In order to keep from breaking and losing parts, I recommend ignoring
the instructions and adding many of the small detail parts such
as muffler and ammunition after the model is assembled. Note that
up in the upper left corner of Step-12 we find the little jig part
21C for bending the brass part-100E to form the rain guard over
the radio, similar to how they form the track skid atop the UM Model’s
M4 Sherman kit suspension bogies.
UM offers a plethora of decal markings but many are not used with
this model kit. The small etched metal fret carries various parts
such as the fender storage box (part 58E) and some fender braces.
The decal sheet gives recognition that this vehicle is called both
Grille and Bison. It is odd that the side views appear to show two
return rollers per side when in reality the kit and real vehicle
only has one return roller per side. The etched brass fret, I believe,
is similar to many of UM’s Pz. 38 based model kits and has
the number 345 on it which is the kit number for their Ausf. H Bison
Assembly of the Revell kit hull and suspension is very similar to
that of the UM kit. I am so glad that both UM and Revell chose to
go with individual wheels and separate track rather than go with
the one-piece quick build suspension. There is a significant error
that is fortunately not difficult to figure out. In Step-5 and Step-6
Revell instructs us to install the eight roadwheels (parts B10)
on the wrong pegs (axles) of the four leaf spring bogies (parts
B1). The roadwheels will only fit on the outer, smaller, pegs.
The camouflage scheme depicted for the two “unknown unit”
vehicles should be a challenge in smallscale but will look great
if done well. The small decal sheet has just four variations on
the Balkenkreuz. A nice attention to detail in the diagram is the
track sag over the single return roller.
In my opinion, within the box these two models look like well designed
and produced model kits. They compare well in size and appear to
reliably be 1/72-scale.
purchased my UM Models, OKB and Revell Model products at
From an old Aberdeen, Maryland, display, looking forward and up
at the gun breach (with firing mechanism removed), gun cradle and
gun carriage, and vertical 15-cm shell storage at right. The hydraulic
counterbalancing cylinder is in the center foreground. At upper
left is the location of the gun sight.
This is the left rear of the interior showing the location of the
radio equipment held within a metal frame with triangular rubber
dampeners for vibration. Above the radios is what appears to be
a storage box for a shell casing. To the right is a vertical holder
for a 15-cm projectile. At lower right we see the end of a hydraulic
counterbalancing cylinder, and notice that it does not touch, or
is mounted to the deck as I have seen some modelers build it. At
far left the rear door has been folded down and we can see the edge
of the ready rack for three projectiles.