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Zvezda - German 20-mm Anti-aircraft Gun with Crew FLAK-38 (6117) _________(EXT)

 

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6117
Year 2010
No. of Figures 2
No. of Poses 2
Additional Items FLAK38, Wargaming card, base and flag
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Medium
Glue-ability Excellent (Poly-cement)
Conversion-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939  - 1945

 

Review

With their new sets released under Art of Tactic logo, Zvezda not only has strived covering major gaps in the field of WWII German Army but also has succeeded to address to all branches activating in the hobby. The top quality of figures and accompanying arsenal as well as the price asked per box certainly have determined  wargamers, collectors and diorama builders to find more than tempting the tenders in case.

After the first release of two sets in the same time but in dissimilar materials, respectively hard and soft plastic, the third, German 20-mm Anti-aircraft Gun with Crew FLAK-38 proves the manufacturer decided to continue their announced series in hard material. Definitely, in terms of fine details as well as assembly and conversion purposes, hard plastic is by far superior to soft material. Its draw-back is the lower capacity of resisting to bending, falls and other shocks, the soft version clearly managing better. A proof on the matter is the fact that during transport, some of the hand-wheel handles or even the jacks of the pads might arrive broken. However, analysing advantages and disadvantages, Zvezda judged right in choosing hard plastic, the material better putting in valour sculptors hard work in deeply detailing the products. Moreover, the company uses a hard plastic fairly resistant to bending and other accidents, featuring the hard substance characteristics but also borrowing a part of the soft plastic elasticity. Quite similar materials are utilised within various kits by Pegasus Hobbies, Imex and newer, HaT and Caesar. 

The first WWII German cannon launched on the market by Zvezda is FLAK38, but the company is granting special attention to artillery pieces, PAK35-36, 105 mm LeFH 18, PAK40, FLAK36 being announced or in the pipeline. KStN provided for most of WWII German cannons at least a five member crew and the downside of Zvezdas offers is including just two crewmen for each gun. Still, it is much better receiving even a limited number of figures than none as it is the practice of various famous producers that have released WWII German artillery weapons like Revell and ACE.

FLAK 38 set out as the main armament of light AA units, a platoon (Zug) usually incorporating three guns towed by anti¬air¬craft unit light trucks Kfz. 81 and operated by twenty soldiers. The 2 cm Flak 38 was introduced in 1940 as a replacement of earlier 2 cm Flak 30, that was utilised for the first time in 1930 by Kriegsmarine and later adopted by all German Army branches as standard light anti-aircraft cannon. However, the differences in shape between FLAK 30 and FLAK 38 are inexistent, only the practical rate of fire was increased from 120 rounds/minute to 180-220 rounds/minute. Mounted on single-axle trailer Sd.Ah.51, the cannon was towed by various vehicles as well as horse-drawn and its weight permitted to be easily towed into action by crew. Likewise, the gun weight allowed it to be fitted in a large number of armoured vehicles as main weapon, and plenty of field conversions featured it mounted on different trucks or half-trucks. Fed by a 20-round magazine the recoil-operated FLAK 38 could be fired in automatic or single shot modes. Although its main role was anti-aircraft, FLAK 38 was often used with devastating effects either against enemy infantry or light armoured vehicles. Generally fired removed from the trailer, if the situation imposed, the cannon could be fired from its carriage, too.

The Zvezda kit rests in two sprues, one for cannon and another for figures, base and flag as well as assembly guide and wargaming card, all packed in a now classical Art of Tactic mini-set box. The front artwork proposes a FLAK38 in action, operated by two crewmen in identical poses with those included in the box while in the background a column of motorised vehicles is stopped, perhaps due to an air attack. On the back there are available the standard information given by this manufacturer such as content description in Russian and English, image of the wargaming card as well as three images with the assembled and painted figs manning the cannon, all fixed on a base that misses the flag. Likewise, out of ordinary emerges not providing any photo with the unpainted version, the producer delivering such images for their first kits.

Although a fast assembly snap fit kit not requiring gluing, the proper proportions and the top class details put forward by cannon turn it into one of the best models of the weapon in Braille Scale. Until now this gun has never been depicted with crew by 1/72 mass production sets, several FLAK38 being issued by ACE and MAC Distribution. The cannon also appears mounted in various vehicle kits produced by the just mentioned companies as well as by Esci/Italeri, Roden, and UM.  Still, from many points of view, Zvezdas version is more detailed than the other tenders. In this light, the gun benefits by a finely modelled barrel, shield, upper and bottom carriage as well as sight and operating systems but missing the Sd.Ah.51 trailer.

Printed on an A4 sheet, the instructions are clear and cover both the gun and the figures. Likewise, there is highlighted the optional variant, the traverse and elevation hand-wheels being provided in the hands of the layer as well as separately. That is a proper approach giving the modeller the possibility to display the weapon either with or without crew. On reverse of the guidelines there is repeated the text encountered in the other Zvezda sets, advertising the Art of Tactic board game in Russian, English, and German.

The cannon comes split in 11 parts and its assembly is fast and smooth, the pins generally fitting in the allocated holes and firmly keeping the pieces in positions. A couple of pins emerge a hair thicker than the matching holes and it is necessary thinning them a little. Anyway, modelling knife or razor blade rapidly solves the issue and even without glue the weapon proves excellent stability. Diorama builders might wish to glue the parts, another painless operation while the deployed hard plastic greatly responds to standard modelling glue (polly-cement).

With the 20 mm FLAK38 barrel most manufacturers encounter a problem in thickness but Zvezda managed quite well in terms of length and thickness even if it emerges a little over-scaled. An inconvenient represents the fixed barrel, the solution adopted by the manufacturer making impossible further adjustments, so the gun permanently remains as attacking air targets. In order to get a more accurate image, the muzzle needs drilling, a thicker needle coming out as a good tool in this regard. Both base and upper carriage arrive properly detailed as well as the shield featuring some nice and tiny characteristics, but again, its position is fixed, the cannon cannot rotate. Layers seat is another fine piece, perfectly accommodating the provided figure while close to its end might be recognised the pedal-operated trigger mechanism. As previously emphasised, for traverse and elevation hand-wheels the hobbyist can choose using the ones from the hands of the layer or those separately supplied. The sight is delivered as individual piece and for attaching it to the upper carriage a pin was designed on it. However, it could be noticed in some boxes that the upper carriage features the related hole while other miss it. For such cases, easier is removing the pin of the sight and simply glue the part in position. The artwork presents the cannon while firing but the model cannot reproduce the same scene because it lacks the 20 round curved box magazine hinged on the left of the gun. Taking in consideration both the magazine held by loader and the one on the base, it might be assessed that the cannon has just finished firing a magazine and the crewman prepares to insert the new one. A special remark needs the magazine thrown on the base that ideally could be removed and fixed on the cannon. Unfortunately, the detailed side is the one facing the ground, so impracticable to portray a magazine in use. Likewise, not very inspired was sculptors decision to feature the round jack pads utilised for levelling the undercarriage on the base and separate from the gun. This forces the hobbyist to remove the pads in case he does not want to display the weapon on the supplied base. Practically, for such cases the surgery is mandatory, otherwise the cannon would have a serious accuracy problem without pads. Luckily, the intervention is facile and achievable with a thin blade, following then the pads to be glued to jacks delivered on the carriage. A further remark aims the jacks, it might appear the situation these land broken due to transportation. Nothing to fear, the missing one/ones are immediately replaced with new parts scratch-built from melted spure, the location of jacks making impossible noticing the substitution. On the other hand, as plenty of reference images attest, many times the shield missed and due to the way of assembling the kit, it is offered the hobbyist the liberty of attaching or not the shield. This might represent an excellent facility for increasing the diversity in case of having more sets.   

KStN provided for FLAK38 a six or seven men crew, namely cannon commander, layer, loader, range-setter, course setter, range-taker and vehicle driver. From these, Zvezda has furnished only two but definitely the key positions for the weapon, the layer and loader. Concerning garment, they continue on the line established within the preceding kits, with M36 tunics, regular trousers, steel helmets and marching/jack boots. Gear is scarce and rests only in canteens, a normal thing at crewmen who generally prefer to be lightly kitted while operating a cannon, particularly one attacking aircraft, danger coming from the ground being inexistent. The light aspect is further enhanced by wearing just the left handed Kar98K ammunition pouches, an accurate detail while by regulations, all FLAK38 crewmen, including commander, were endowed with Kar98K as personal firing arms.

The two lifelike poses are inspired by a reference photo other than the one slotted in the upper part of the wargaming card. One seat trooper acting as layer and another standing as loader, spotlessly interact with the cannon, particularly the seat crewman who not only has to fit in the chair but also should operate the traverse and elevation hand-wheels. Like in Zvezdas MG34 kit, the figures come with separate arms, the adopted pin and hole system perfectly working and permitting several readjustments, other than standard. However, the hand-wheels held by the seat crewman force the modeller to put the arms in a single pose because the pins of the hand-wheels have to match the holes on the cannon. For this reason, it is of major importance not gluing the arms, the modeller following to rely on the pin and hole method in order to have the possibility to rearrange them after emplacing the soldier in his chair. At its turn, the standing loader greatly fit near the gun, with the magazine in his hands he looks up in the sky as monitoring the enemy aircraft. His arms holding the magazine might be fixed at various elevation angles with or without slight modifications at shoulders and after setting up the final position, those can be glued.

In case of owning more kits or simply wishing to better endow with extra items the crewmen, in other words for conversion purposes, the hard plastic utilised for casting the minis permits painless addition of mess tins, bread-bags, entrenching tools and bayonets, ammunition pouches, binoculars, flash-lights, weapons or similar stuff offered in massive amounts and on separate sprues by diverse Preiser, Dragon and Caesar figure sets. Furthermore, the same material and the separate arms move towards allow effortless replacements in order to attain quite interesting and uncommon poses, excellent resources on the matter proposing several Preiser sets supplying extra arms. The same thing goes for heads swapping, Preiser and DML granting multiple choices. The standing army-man can be converted in endless variants but a little tricky is the seat figure. This one has been designed for sitting on a FLAK chair and his legs are straight for reaching the firing mechanism, so not a normal sat stance. Because of that, he hardly portrays a driver or a trooper occupying a regular chair, perhaps best converted destinations for him would be an army-man at rest, leaned against a wall, fence, rock, vehicle, tree-trunk or even bed.

The excellent body size applied by Zvezda within previous sets is maintained as well as the facial expressions taken by the crewmen, with perfect noses, eyes, eyebrows and mouths. Fingers are in their places, normally grabbing the objects while the palms truly respect natural proportions. Boots are again just the right thing, faultlessly reproducing the real model, including the stitched central, vertical spine to the reverse. Despite the fine general appearance of the uniforms, featuring proper details like collar and shoulder boards, authentic creases and some buttons, the details on the chest pockets of the standing figure are not sufficiently enhanced while some buttons miss. Anyway, the problem is not so vital since the standing figure holds the FLAK38 magazine close the chest, the object satisfactorily covering the lack. Helmets are proper shaped and their size is close to the one found in Pegasus Hobbies, Imex, Esci, Revell and other manufacturers. 

Flash is medium but some of its lines come down right on the middle of the faces. With extra care and patience these can be eliminated, restoring sculptors initial masterwork as well as the rest of flash displayed on bodies parts and also in a lower percent, on the cannon. Likewise, the multi-part solution has led to a product free of excess of plastic. Hard plastic admirable accommodates enamel and artistic oils, not altering the initial properties of colours and holding them even after heavy handling. One of the main destinations for this cannon and its crew is the wargaming table and for this reason, a common base, referred to several times in the present review, was supplied. If the gun fixes in the pads carved on the base, the standing figure does it via a pin modelled in its sole that is immediately removed in case the trooper goes in places where such pin emerges as unnecessary.

The largest amount of 1/72 WWII Germans are issued in M36 uniforms and on account of  attire and size of bodies, Zvezdas FLAK38 crewmen are in perfect harmony with the vast series of figures made available on the topic by Preiser as well as DMLs 7.5cm PaK 40 w/Gun Crew + 3.7cm PaK 35/36, El Viejo Dragons German Infantry Walking 1939-45, Escis German Soldiers Airfixs German Infantry (only the 1/72 poses), IMEX German Troops and Pegasus Hobbies German Mortar Teams. In case that size differences do not count too much, the crew can be used together with smaller or higher minis launched by Caesar, Italeri, Atlantic, TQD Castings/Under Fire Minatures, Miniaturas Alemany etc. Nevertheless, between all Zvezdas sets released until now, a wonderful match regarding both garment and size comes into sight.

As previously stated, the two crewmen provided by the manufacture are not enough for covering the needs of personnel imposed by a FLAK38. In case of wanting more troopers to operate the weapon, perhaps Preiser and DML plastic soldiers as well as the new Zvezda artillery-men from German 105 mm Howitzer LeFH-18/18m  WWII  set out as proper choices, especially in case the spare box of the modeller supplies FLAK38 related items such as magazines or range-finders. On the other hand, the figures provided together with FLAK38 can be used as crewmen for other guns, especially the standing army-man, after replacing the magazine with a projectile belonging to the new gun the mini is used in conjunction with. 

Although distributing a limited number of figures as well as missing extra ammunition and the Sd.Ah.51 trailer, considering its fine and accurate particulars, the first cannon and crew set released within Art of Tactic not only promises an interesting series of artillery pieces at more than reasonable prices, but also makes harder the wait of the next ones. Besides, the fast assembly and the proper detailed figures and guns make these kits highly recommended to wargamers, collectors and diorama builders, no matter the age.   

 

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