Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No.6381; M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage - Smart Kit; 470 parts (443 in grey styrene, 17 etched brass, 8 clear stryene, 1 brass chain, 1 nylon string); estimated retail price US$42-50
Advantages: first new kit of this vehicle in 30 years; very detailed and complete Maxson turret and hull details in rear compartment; uses previously designed rear suspension which solves much of the problems with American halftracks
Disadvantages: retains same moldings as original M2/M2A1 release
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all American halftrack fans and =93Duck Hunters=94
Nearly every army in WWII realized that for low altitude air defense heavy antiaircraft guns were too slow and awkward to use against enemy aircraft. As a result, they tended to adopt light weapons =96 either heavy machine guns or small caliber automatic cannon =96 grouped together to provide maximum firepower and =93wall of lead=94 tactics. The Soviets used a quadruple Maxim machine gun mount (7.62mm), the Germans quadruple Flak 38 guns (20mm) and the Americans quadruple .50 caliber machine guns (12.7mm). The US originally used a twin .50 caliber mount, but realizing that it could carry four machine guns with little additional effort, the mount was quickly upgraded to four weapons.
Back in the late 1950s Monogram released a 1/35 scale model of the first series vehicle, the M13 with twin .50 caliber guns, which was a very nice kit in its day. In the late 1970s, Tamiya released the M16 version with four machine guns which proved popular, but both kits were really let down by their clumsy suspensions (in Monogram=92s case it was the 1950s and =93play value=94 =96 e.g. rolling wheels and tracks = =96 had the advantage over scale results.) When DML announced it was going to do a new series of halftracks and then released their first one (6329), a combination M2/M2A1 =93Smart Kit=94 in October 2006, the M3/M3A1 and M16 were also announced. But while test shots of the M16 went out in January 2007, for reasons best known to themselves DML did not release this kit until now (September 2008) and are still holding the M3/M3A1 2-in-1 kit.
Having received the test shot in 2007, it was only recently that DML permitted Steve Zaloga to release an article on his build of that model, and as it was very nice and covered the history of the vehicle as well I will not rehash what he has already written.
DML has taken their solid basic sprues for the American halftrack series and provided six new sprues of parts for this particular variant. One sprue is a continuation of the =93C=94 sprue with the parts for an M3 series hull such as the longer mine racks, which is apropos as the M16 series halftracks normally used the longer body of the M3. The sprues cover the new rear hull with separate flaps at the top for road march or combat poses, modified frame and body parts, and the M55 Maxson electrically powered turret.
The turret is a late model one with the gunner=92s platform at the rear and is very nicely done, complete with a clear styrene reflector sight; the earlier metal =93spiderweb=94 ranging site is not provided. Each of the machine guns uses slide molding to achieve a hollow bore and consists of a gun and separate ammo loading cover, as well as three 200 round ammo cans for each weapon (e.g. four loaded and eight spare for the kit).
Steve noted that due to the test shot version he had it came with multiple radio sets; this one does not, and only comes with the complete late-production SCR-528 radio set in a forward facing cabinet. There is no provision for the earlier radio mount on a shelf facing the rear compartment (which Steve noted had to be added from scratch as it was not in the kit; this is not a lick on the kit, however, as it builds as the later production variant and not the early one.)
As it uses the M2 base kit parts, the bogies and track runs are very impressive, as the idlers and drivers are =93slide molded=94 with respectively thin details and openings. Each bogie assembly consists of 18 parts and is very petite; the mounting suspension provides five more with the track tension adjusters nicely portrayed. The tracks are very interesting: DML molded them in hard styrene plastic in two halves, cut in such a way that the =93chain=94 plate drive tooth guides in the center are represented as they are found on the actual vehicle. Since the tracks were metal with rubber =93endless belt=94 casings vulcanized onto them, this is a neat way to portray it.
While the sides of the cab unit are molded in one piece as well as the hood DML has grooved the inside and provided open space for the stowage bins if the modeler wants them opened. =93Boo birds=94 carped that the vehicle is assembled with screws and not rivets (true) and that DML provided no screw head slots. This is still the case, but since each screw head is about 0.008" or less in diameter, if you are really that picky get a sharp Number 11 blade and score them.
The =93cab=94 is neatly done, and two sets of grille mounts are included =96 open and closed, but the open one must use the etched brass louvers. This vehicle only comes with the =93Combat=94 lights which mount on the grille shell. The model has the =93civilian=94 style dashboard, so note that the instruments are a brushed aluminum color on preserved/ restored vehicles and not the more common black with white numerals. DML provides no decals, but Archer Fine Transfers has a dynamite dashboard set for all M2/M3 series halftracks.
The winch and roller each come with their own bumper and accouterments. The winch has a length of nylon string for the cable and a chain for the final hook arrangement, which matches photos of wartime models in service. Note that the driveshaft for the winch needs to be installed in Step 4.
Other bits include the fact it comes with the so-called =93potable=94 water carrier versions of the =93jerry cans=94 with flip-up lids (the gas cans normally had screw-type caps with better seals). Steve noted that the mounts for these are not correct (solid versus skeletonized) but once the cans are in place it is a moot point; if you leave them off, you need to scratch build new ones.
The only item of major discussion with this kit remains in the box =96 the =93bulged=94 tires. While a large number of =93Boo Birds=94 complained they were wrong, for every photo of a US halftrack with round tires one with slightly bulged ones can be found, and the majority of preserved ones always seem to bulge a bit (recall the weight of the engine and armored cab are on the front axle.) Still this tends to be an individual matter of taste more than a major error.
Markings and finishing instructions are provided for six vehicles:482nd AAA Battalion, 9th AD, Remagen 1945; 390th AAA Auto Wpns Battalion, Germany 1945; Unidentified Unit, Western Front 1944 (codes mudded out); 457th AAA Auto Wpns Battalion, Luxembourg 1945; 209th AAA Auto Wpns Battalion, Luzon 1945; 1st Light AA Regiment, 1st Polish Armoured Division, France 1944 (black and OD camouflage). A targeted sheet of Cartograf decals is provided.
Overall, even with nits to pick this is a superior kit and a great advance over its two predecessors. Still, no clue why we had to wait20 months for it to be released!
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.