ARM: Review - Trumpeter 1/35 scale Soviet B-4 203mm Howitzer

Kit Review: Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 02307; Soviet B-4 M1931 203mm
Howitzer; 328 parts (320 in grey styrene, 7 etched brass, 1 nylon
string); retail price US$60.99
Advantages: first wide-market kit of this weapon in styrene; nicely
done layout and petite details for the weapon
Disadvantages: screwy assembly of the barrel will frustrate many
modelers looking for a clean finish
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all =93Redlegs=94 and Great Patriotic War fans
In December 1926 the Soviet Artillery Committee tasked designer F. F.
Lender with creating a new, more mobile 203mm howitizer for the Red
Army. The design project was completed in January 1928 and offered in
two versions: one with a muzzle brake, and one without. The latter was
accepted for further development. After developing the working
documentation, a prototype was built and prepared for testing in early
1931; the builder was the =93Bol=92shevik=94 factory. The new weapon,
designated as the B-4, underwent testing in July and August of 1931
and demonstrated successful use of all planned propellant charges. It
entered production in 1932.
Starting in 1933, the howitzer was also produced by the =93Barrikady=94
factory in Stalingrad. Later, it was also considered producing the
howitzer at a third factory in Novokramatorsk. Two models were then in
production: the B-4 MM (low power) with a barrel 22.7 calibers long,
and the B-4 BM (high power) with a barrel 25.7 calibers long. A total
of 31 B-4 MM howitzers and 977 B-4 BM howitzers were produced between
1932 and 1941.
Also, the weapons produced by the two factories, like nearly all
Soviet products, were not completely compatible with each other.
Details differed between the production of the two factories but were
not standardized, which was something which would only be encountered
during the war. Also, as the carriage design was well liked, two other
weapons were planned to go on this carriage: the Br-2 long-barreled
152mm gun with a 47 caliber barrel, and the Br-5 280mm mortar with a
17 caliber barrel. Both were slightly different, as the Br-2 needed an
additional balancer to hold the barrel in position and the Br-5 needed
a different recoil brake. A total of 27 Br-2 152mm guns and 47 Br-5
mortars were built. All were to be towed by the Voroshilovets heavy
artillery prime mover.
The Soviets started the war with 792 B-4 howitzers, but in the first
six months lost 75 in combat while getting 105 new weapons from
industry. More were lost during the war, generally due to a lack of
prime movers when needed, so the Germans did capture them and used
them against the Soviets as the 20.3 cm H. 503(r). At least eight were
in service in March 1944. At war=92s end the Soviets still fielded 30
brigades and two independent regiments of B-4 howitzers with a total
of 768 weapons. In 1955, the howitzers were upgraded to B-4M weapons
with new high-speed wheeled carriages and a more modern limber.
After several resin kits and an initial injection molded effort from
Alan, some of which were notoriously inaccurate or difficult to
assemble, Trumpter provided us with a nice new styrene kit of this
famous weapon a couple of years ago. I recently picked it up as well
as the Voroshilovets tractor for it. Note that the same kit was also
released as a joint project with Pit-Road with the latter coming with
a crew; Trumpeter offers a separate crew for this gun but in pre-war
Soviet uniforms.
I think based on measurements that the kit is of a B-4 MM and not the
more common B-4 BM weapon. The one in the Artillery Museum in St.
Petersburg and the one at Aberdeen both appear to be MM models with
the shorter barrel, and the barrel on the model comes out to right at
131mm long which is the 22.7 caliber one. The later BM barrel should
be about 145mm long. This is odd, but most preserved early Soviet era
weapons are prewar or prototypes which did not see service, and as the
Aberdeen one was captured from the Germans it may have been one of the
early war losses to the Wehrmacht.
The kit comes complete with the =93big wheel=94 Br-10 limber and two
203mm projectiles; no propellant charges are provided with the kit.
Assembly is pretty straightforward but some of the seams may prove
troublesome if care is not taken during assembly. This is a gun that
Hollywood would love for all of its =93bittiness=94 and items seemingly
stuck on it at random (they=92re not, but it looks more Victorian than a
product of the 1930s). The =93flip-out=94 spade is neatly done and if
assembled carefully actually works.
As noted the gun barrel has the muzzle molded on one half and the
second part is recessed, which most modelers report leaves a gap when
assembled. You may wish to go straight for an after-market barrel
(both for length and to avoid the seam). Note that while the breech
block and obdurator (parts F13 and F16) may be presented in an open
condition the directions show them as closed.
The directions are clear enough but you MUST follow the little grey
arrows during assembly. The drawings are sort of laid out in order but
then again they do meander.
The unique tracked suspension of this carriage is faithfully
represented with each bogie taking up some 67 parts.
While no propellant charges are provided with the kit, it does come
with two projectiles and two wheeled loading assist trays. Either they
or what appears to be platforms may be attached to the box trail.
Finishing diretions are provided for one gun with the nickname
=93Boyevaya Podruga=94 (Combat Playmate). Overall 4BO green with black
tracks before weathering and service, which is standard Soviet fare.
Overall this is a good kit =96 but why they picked an MM model vice a
BM model is a puzzle to me. Note that Trumpeter makes the previously
cited crew (No. 00427) as well as the Voroshilovets (No. 01573), but
the weapon requires a complete crew of 15.
Cookie Sewell
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