Kit Review: Italeri 1/35 scale Kit No. 6460; PAK 97/38 AT Gun with Servants; 111 parts in dark grey styrene; price US$16.00
Advantages: compact kit of an offbeat weapon
Disadvantages: somewhat crude, "mix and match" combination of parts to produce a new kit
Recommendation: to all German fans
There are times that exigencies create strange bedfellows, and the tale of the PaK 97/38 is one such story. When the Germans went up against the Soviets in mid 1941 they found to their horror their normal antitank guns - the 3.7 cm PaK 36 and new 5 cm PaK 38 - had little effect on the heavy armor of the big KV and T-34 tanks. Their interim solution was to simply get a bigger gun - in this case strapping 700 obsolete France 75mm Canon Modelle de 1897 barrels onto the carriages of the new PaK 38 gun. They did take precautions, such as adding a muzzle brake and reinforcing bands, but the guns, while moderately successful, were clumsy and not popular, and were relegated to rear area security and the Channel defenses as quickly as possible. (It was much later in the war that "hollow charge" - e.g. HEAT ammunition - was developed; this could have made the gun a success from the start, but that is the way of the world.)
Italeri has now released a kit of this weapon that basically uses three sources to produce a single kit: their nice PaK 38 carriage of a few years back, a new barrel and ammunition, and what appears to be the crew from their PaK 40 of about 30 years ago.
The gun barrel appears to be hurried into production, but on the other hand so was the original. Alas, instead of using the pressed steel wheels from the PaK 38 kit this one provides relatively mediocre late-war "spoke" wheels which look a bit out of place with the pressed steel castoring wheel fitting provided. A new cradle for the 75mm barrel also comes with the conversion, as do eight full rounds and eight casings. The latter are unfortunately not "slide" molded like their Asian competitors and as such will need to be drilled out for realism.
The gun shields do make an effort toward scale thickness, and the main shield is "spaced" to provide a realistic look. The lower shield may be fixed in firing or travel positions, but no instructions cover stowage of the castoring wheel in movement order.
The figures appear to be for late-war SS troops in camouflage smocks, which is sort of unfortunate as most of the action these guns saw was either early in the war in Russia or on D-Day against the Allies. As they appear to be the 30 year old moldings of the PaK 40 crew - which was great when it came out and better than the Tamiya one at the time
- they now appear a bit crude and tired in comparison with modern figures. The positions are not bad and with some work and good painting can be turned into a good companion set for this gun.
Box artwork is very good but the box painting directions, as with many recent Italeri efforts, is awful. Use the frontside, NOT the back, for painting hints.
Overall this is a good, not a great, kit, but it is reasonably priced and a good value for the money, and with a bit of work will yield a nice model.
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.