Articles

Zvezda - German MG34 with Crew 1939-42 (6106) _________(EXT)

 

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6106
Year 2010
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 2
Additional Items Wargaming cards, bases and flags
Size Tall
Material Soft Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Excellent (Superglue Gel)
Conversion-ability Difficult
Optimal Period 1939  - 1945

 

Review

When Zvezda took the decision to portray WWII Germans soldiers in 1/72 scale, it did it in a remarkable manner, issuing in the same time not one, but two figure kits referred to the brave and experienced Wehrmacht infantry. If the first set, considered like that only due to registration numbers, targeted regular troopers endowed with rifles and submachine guns, the second aimed specialized units, operating the famous and most trustful support weapon of infantry, the machinegun. In full accordance with reality, where MGs were an usual presence on the front line as the main weapon of WWII German infantry squads, Braille Scale figure sets abound in MGs, existing also few other tenders exclusively dedicated to such armaments. Still, in heavy role, respectively on Lafette, tripod offers are scarce and the accessible ones do not succeed to catch a proper picture of the device in case. Zvezda proposal plans to fill in exactly this major gap and accomplish it in an admirable manner, the MG, its tripod and the crew really impressing.

On the other hand, the opening Zvezda twin sets on 1/72 WWII Germans might be assessed as a market test, the company launching the first in hard and the second in soft plastic. Obviously, in hard material details appear finer and sharper and the two kits in case perfectly exemplify this fact-finding. The sensitivity of MG barrel and other thin parts determined the manufacturer to select a soft plastic approach, perhaps appraising that it confers better resistance to them, a key issue particularly in wargaming. Indeed, the present MG and its tripod excellent react to bending, being almost unbreakable, but the same material clearly affected the quality of details on figures.

Although tagged as second in Zvezda’s line dedicated to 1/72 WWII German Army matters, the MG kit might represent the first one. The producer weighted the pros and shortcomings of the two materials and acknowledging the superiority of hard plastic gave off to soft one in the following sets. The assessment is sustained by the continuation of the above mentioned series, in spite implying assembly, the kits being commercialized in hard plastic. Part of “Art of Tactic” board game joining figures, vehicles, and other military technique in different scales, the game probably benefitting by the most detailed figs that cover attractive topics, too. Since the beginning, the company aimed with “Art of Tactic” articles both wargamers and diorama builders, fact emphasized on the back of the box where on the left is mentioned “for gamers” and on the right “for modellers”. For sure the top quality of the toy soldiers allows the manufacturer to affirm this and with the perfect anatomy, fine details and accuracy, those figs are rather closer to the standards of static modellers than the usual understanding of wargaming products.

The importance granted by WWII German High Command to machine guns is stressed by the establishment at Battalion level of MG Companies, Platoons or Groups. Furthermore, each regular Rifle Squad, the basic division of a platoon enforced by KStN, was grouped around at least one MG, its strength principally relying on that/those weapon/s. The German theory and practice regarded the MG as primary weapon of infantry squad, the riflemen having backup or protection roles.

The widest spread German machine guns were MG34 and its intended replacement, MG42 but Zvezda set puts forward only the earlier MG34. In use on all fronts, MG34 was maintained in production until de end of war, 354,020 and other 1,700 of its upgraded version, MG34/41 accompanying and sustaining soldiers either in assault or defence. The same MG was engaged in light/medium or heavy roles, the difference being established by the device from which the weapon was fired off. Practically, MG34 was the first general purpose MG and was used not only as an infantry MG, but also as primary defensive weapon of armoured vehicles and aircraft. In light/medium role, MG was fired off from a bipod attached to the weapon, close to the end of the barrel, while in heavy duty, MG was mounted on a Lafette tripod, adaptable at various heights, including anti-aircraft.

Mounted, MG34 could be used in both direct and indirect fire roles, a device allowing to automatically sweeping a preset area while the gunner kept his head down equipped the Lafette tripod. Fired from bipod the MG34 effective range was 1,200 meters but fired from the tripod the range significantly increased to 3,500 meters, the mount facilitating a proper aim thanks to its telescope sight.

In terms of MGs, a major aspect represents ammunition and how it was carried, MG34 allowing magazine-fed and belt-fed ammunition. More types of containers were developed, extremely common emerging the 50 rounds drum magazine and the metal box normally accommodating five or six 50 rounds belts. Likewise, a different magazine, designed for MG34 is the saddle drum with 75 rounds. The 50 rounds belts featured a link and length option, allowing creating a continuous belt, in this way circumventing losing time with weapon reloading. That was a major characteristic bearing in mind the remarkable MG34 rate of firing, between 800-900 rounds per minute depending on the skill of gunner.

For a long part of war each MG team in a rifle Squad consists in three soldiers, namely gunner, loader and ammunition bearer. In the late war organisation scheme, the ammunition bearer was removed and his burden was transferred to the riflemen of the squad. The quantity of ammunition carried by a squad using light MG and one endowed with heavy MG was different, by regulations 1,150 rounds per gun being supplied for a light MG while the heavy one received 2,150 rounds. Of course, these quantities were just on paper and varied quite much.

Two identical spures of figures, two wargaming cards and an assembly instruction sheet forms the content of “German Machinegun MG34 with Crew 1939-42”. Likewise, each sprue takes in two figures, one MG34 and its tripod, as well as a wargaming base and flag. The same model of box used for the rest of “Art of Tactic” figure mini-sets was selected for the German MG kit. Benefitting by an outstanding front artwork picturing more MG teams supported by riflemen defending a position settled in a ruined factory, the front team is almost in an identical stance with the one from inside. In fact, the poses are based on a reference photo, the kit providing an image sneaked in the upper side of the included wargaming cards. However, although depicting a heavy MG34 team, the photo in case is not the one that served as inspiration for the sculptor. There is another with more similitude, where not only the real soldiers adopt identical stances with the ones of Zvezda’s minis and feature identical gear, including the binoculars case, but also the tripod is angled down to the ground. As the previous WWII German troopers set, the back of the box puts forward an ample guide describing the comprised stuff. On the right there are posted few images with the painted version of the figures while on the left they are showed on the allocated wargaming base. Centre illustrates the wargaming cards and specifies both in Russian and English the full content of a box.

As the sister set on regular infantry, “German Infantry 1939-1942”, the here reviewed kit slot in two spures with less figures than the previous one but compensates with a MG and its tripod. Moreover, the content requires little assembly, figures and MG coming split in few pieces. Nevertheless, manufacturer’s remark “Snap fit” is not in vain, all pieces adequately fitting in places through pin and hole solution. The proper engineering confers to the system a good steadiness, strongly keeping the parts in positions even if a little space might be visible between the left leg and hip. However, if the technique greatly works in wargaming, diorama builders cannot be fully satisfied by it and would want to permanently fix the parts. Nothing more simply and due to soft plastic characteristics, only cyanoacrylate adhesives functions, super glue gel perfectly succeeding to bond the pieces.

Figures are provided with separate arms and left leg, the pin and hole approach allowing some variation related to the angles of the arms. If for the MG gunner this is not so relevant, it gets more importance for the figure with binoculars. In standard stance, the soldier does not hold binoculars at the eyes and for making a small distinction, the arms of the similar figure from the other sprue might be arranged with the binoculars closer to the eyes. Nevertheless, the distance between the two described positions should be petite otherwise it is distressed the ratio arms/shoulders, ending up quite bizarre. In such a case further carving in the shoulder area sometimes appear necessary, but definitely it is an extremely facile surgery.

The MG 34 comes linked to the front leg of the tripod, the same piece comprising distinctive components of an MG fired from tripod such as elevating and traversing mechanism, tripod firing trigger, lugs for attaching the gun to tripod as well as the telescope sight although not all tripods were endowed with such aiming device. The manufacturer not only paid a lot of attention to very small details, but also succeeded to accurately depict them. In this regard, the MG barrel presents nicely done air-cooling holes, flash hider and muzzle booster, front and back sights as well as AA ring sight base while the telescope sight comes with a greatly sculptured eyepiece.

The other two legs of tripod are delivered as a separate part and trough the pin and hole method must be joined to the piece integrating the MG and front leg. There are known two versions of Lafette mount, respectively M34 and M42, but even in reality the versions are hard to be identified, so perhaps here we receive the M34 type. The tripod might be considered as the best in the scale, featuring correctly shaped and emplaced pads designed for carrying the folded tripod by a trooper as well as other finely shaped details such as the AA mount socket. Furthermore, the thickness and length of the tripod legs emerge in scale, the sculptor succeeding to underline its angle close to the ground.

An accuracy problem raises the drum magazine feeding Zvezda’s MG34. In reality, when fired from Lafette tripod, the MGs were belt-fed not drum magazine-fed and all reference images on the matter undoubtedly emphasise this fact-finding. Anyway, on the front line there emerged situations requiring the crew to load the heavy MG with a drum magazine and not a belt. Commonly, MG34 could be belt reloaded in 10 seconds, but with drum magazine the operation was a little faster. The team might run out of ammunition belts and for stopping the enemy advance, the MG needed to continue firing. In this situation, the crew could go for the ammunition stocked in drum magazines, standard issued to any MG team. Taking into consideration such reasons, the mounted MG drum magazine-fed correctness is not so significant, although preferable would have been to get here a belt-fed weapon.

Likewise, bearing in mind the kit aims depicting a heavy MG34 crew, in order to respect KStN provisions, it would have been better to receive three figures and not two. The reference photo assessed as inspiration model for the set shows not only a belt-fed MG, but also the three men crew. The gunner is in identical pose as well as the guy with binoculars which could be taken as the ammunition bearer or NCO. The image in case unmistakably presents the loader feeding the weapon from the left. In addition, MG spare barrel containers, opened and closed ammunition boxes as well as some ammunition belts would have been some nice and more than useful adds within a set dedicated to a German machine gun in heavy role. Unfortunately, neither of those have found their place within the present kit.      

Zvezda’s MG34 crew wear M36 tunics, regular trousers, marching/jack boots and steel helmets, attire coming out in full accordance with the title quoted period. According to their garment which practical is utilizable till the end of war, temperate or warm environments set out as the most recommended climates. With caution and in particular situations, the thickness of uniforms somehow allows deployment in cold areas, as well. 

Both troopers carry suspended by belts and “Y” straps the standard infantry back gear formed by bread bag, canteen, gas mask container with gas cape pouch attached, Zeltbahn, mess tin, shovel and bayonet. The items are correctly and identically set on them while secured by a single strap, the gas cape pouches are rolled around gas mask containers. Bearing in mind their specialized role as MG crewmen, they feature dedicated accessories, namely pistol holster for loader and MG pouch for gunner. However, it is remarked the absence of pistol holster on the MG gunner, pistols representing the personal firing arm of such trooper. Occasionally the weapon could miss due to several motives and here the prone stance adopted by gunner hides the omission. Of particular interest is the binoculars case hung on the chest of the soldier holding binoculars in hands. Despite existing huge amounts of 1/72 figures with binoculars, no other manufacturer touched the subject, endowing their minis with this wide spread and essential accessory. It is only Caesar which just in 2010 has supplied within “WWII German SIG 33 Infantry Heavy Field Cannon with Crew”, on the separate sprue of gear, a differently shaped binoculars case. Not only the rarity of the piece, but also its location, hung on the chest, emphasise the efforts put in by the manufacturer in identifying and covering gaps of 1/72 WWII Germans. This characteristic is enhanced both by the present set and the next ones encompassed by the “Art of Tactic” series, substantive problems in the field finally finding their interpretations in the scale thanks to the professionalism of Zvezda team. Obviously, the main weapon of the kit is the MG34 fired by the gunner while the other soldier received a pistol in its holster, perhaps a P38 based on the model of holster.

For their heavy MG34, Zvezda has chosen to depict in prone poses both the MG gunner and the loader, pretty unusual because the other tenders submit crouched crews for MGs on tripod.  Prone, but a little hauled up from the ground for firing the weapon, the MG gunner sets out as an excellent figure perfectly suggesting the intended action. The tripod was angled down to the ground for allowing the gunner to fire prone, several reference images illustrating such scenarios. Provided as separate part, the right arm comes together with the MG while the left one, also separately, has to be adjusted as holding the tripod in an attempt of conferring better accuracy to the burst. For the right hand there are not many optional angles but the left one grants some liberty in adjusting it in several positions. The figure was specially designed for being emplaced in a rough terrain and the supplied base offers perfect conditions in this purpose. Laid down in a levelled field the soldier will look bizarre but setting him in an uneven environment, the situation immediately changes for depicting a brilliant heavy MG gunner performing his duty. A static model builder might wish to use the figure without the included base, so a rough terrain will be necessary. Anyway, there is extremely easy to recreate such terrain, the figure immediately finding its place there due to a studied and well-done design.

The stance of the loader excellent evokes a soldier ready either to take a peek through binoculars or who just removed them from the eyes after surveying the enemy. Such stance is extremely rare in the scale, the classical approach of figures with binoculars focusing on holding binoculars at the eyes or on the chest. Moreover, prone 1/72 infantrymen with binoculars are scarce, on the matter the great majority of producers preferring standing or crouched army-men. The prone loader does nothing in giving the smallest clue related to his role and if the figure had been seen out of the “German Machinegun MG34 with Crew 1939-42” framework, it would have been impossible to apprise him as a MG loader. In this light, he would rather be taken as a NCO or gun or mortar commander than a private handling MG ammunition. Nevertheless, at a precise moment, the action he portrays should be carried out by a loader, so nothing to reproach in terms of accuracy. The trooper was endowed not only with gear carried by privates and NCOs but also with pistol in its holster, as dedicated weapon of heavy MG loaders, suitable for other specialised privates as well.

Faultless anatomy proposing perfectly sized bodies and agreeably facial details with ideal noses, mouths, eyes and eye-brows characterise the MG crew. Palms are also in scale, with all fingers in place and correctly grabbing the objects. Attire includes collar and shoulder boards, stitches and genuine creases but on the side facing the ground the sculptor did not put the same effort in carving the uniforms like for the visible areas. Still, those are suggested, not completely missing as other manufacturers have proceeded. The marching/jack boots are one of the strong points of Zvezda figures, the excellent profile and length as well as the stitched central, vertical spine to the reverse setting up as a distinctive mark of the producer. In straight comparison with DML and Preiser separate helmets, Zvezda’s ones are properly shaped, but a hair oversized. However, their size is identical with the one reproduced by most companies such as Pegasus Hobbies, Imex, Esci etc. The compatibility also applies to gear, not only with the just mentioned manufacturers, but also with other minis launched by Zvezda. As previously stated, the MG34 is one of the best in the scale, fully suitable with Preiser products, perhaps the best of mass production and cottage industry MGs, above DML, Caesar, Revell or other manufacturers acknowledged for their releases in the field. As highlighted at the beginning of the review, the soft plastic deployed for manufacturing the product cast a negative influence on the fine details of gear and uniforms, the hard plastic counterparts being superior. Still, the material confers to the MG and Lafette tripod exceptional strength, nearly indestructible no matter crashes, bending or other accidents.  

Flash is present on all parts in medium amounts, but its removal is possible and facile while the material does not make fluffs. Taking profit by the multipart approach, excess of plastic is inexistent. At their turn, enamel and artistic oils are well accommodated by Zvezda’s soft plastic, not influencing the characteristics of the paints and totally capable to keep the work even at severe handling. The figures and Lafette tripod share the same base which was shaped for matching the angles of the minis. The method of fixing the troopers to the base is the now common pin and hole one. Each soldier has got a pin and the base the related holes but in case of using the MG crew in other places, then it would be necessary removing those pins. The intervention is extremely easy and does not let any mark, the initial location of the pins being on the side facing the ground. For wargaming purposes, a third hole was dug for the flag, “Art of Tactic” sets receiving such ensigns. 

The M36 uniform is the largest spread attire on 1/72 WWII Germans and on account of garment and size of bodies, gear and weapons, the here reviewed minis are wholly matching Preiser’s series issued on the topic as well as DML’s “7.5cm PaK 40 w/Gun Crew + 3.7cm PaK 35/36”, El Viejo Dragon’s German Infantry Walking 1939-45”, Esci’s “German Soldiers” Airfix’s “German Infantry” (only the 1/72 poses), IMEX’ “German Troops” and Pegasus Hobbies’ “German Mortar Troops”. Nonetheless, these are only several examples, with some inspiration Zvezda’s figures can stay next to smaller or higher army-men issued by Caesar, Italeri, Atlantic, TQD Castings/Under Fire Minatures, Miniaturas Alemany etc. Obviously, the best compatibility is achieved with the other Zvezda’s minis, no difference between all sizes being recorded.

Concerning 1/72 mounted MG in heavy role, Armourfast in "WWII German Machine Gun Team" and Revell in “Africa Corps” forward their interpretations on Lafette tripod but the tripods and MGs are inferior to Zvezda’s model. Furthermore, Esci’s “German Soldiers” and Italeri’s "German Elite Troops" incorporate mounted MGs on some bizarre devices, an odd combination between a bipod and a Lafette tripod, larger than a bipod and lacking the third leg of a Lafette tripod. If not removed by the modeller, in the happiest case those could be interpreted as field conversions although no reference image attests such thing. Other 1/72 kits utterly dedicated to MGs are Armourfast "WWII German Machine Gun Team" as well as Preiser’s “Advancing Grenadiers with MG” and Extratech’ “German Machine Gun Crew “but these last two refers to light/medium MGs, obviously missing the Lafette tripod. On the other hand, as previously pointed out, plenty of 1/72 kits on WWII Germans abound in MGs in light/medium roles.

With reference to conversions, except the pointed out variations of arms, heads replacements are also possible because Zvezda’s soft plastic perfectly accepts superglue gel, making a strong liaison either with soft or hard plastic pieces. The complete gear does not provide any space for extra additions, but a pistol holster might be recommended for the MG gunner, Preiser, DML or Caesar providing them in great numbers on their separate sprues of accessories. Gear is fine, but who is not satisfied especially by gas mask containers and Zeltbahns, can make improvements substituting those with correspondents released by Preiser or DML. For modellers that cannot live with the issue of drum magazine feeding a heavy MG34, than OKB Grigorov “7.62 mm (.30) machine-gun belt” (GD 01072011) immediately solve the issue, after removing the drum magazine the high detailed photo-etched belt/s perfectly fit on Zvezda’s MG. Likewise, for diversity, a simple cut detaches the MG34 from the gunner and the weapon and right palm can be swap with others from the spare parts box while the MG goes to other figures, Pegasus Hobbies’ Waffen SS Set 2 representing a more than appropriate place.

With the kits launched under “Art of Tactic” logo, Zvezda succeeds to supply at an exceedingly accessible price 1/72 WWII German figures in a superb quality and historically accurate, also covering important gaps on the matter. Furthermore, the target group is not limited either to wargarmers or static modellers, the characteristics of the products addressing to both. A top required and most useful item, MG on tripod finally benefits by a great and out of ordinary interpretation, with the mount angled down to the ground. Though existing plenty of choices related to MGs in general, certainly “German Machinegun MG34 with Crew 1939-42” advances the best depiction of a MG34 mounted on Lafette tripod of Braille Scale.

 

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 9
Sculpture 10
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 9