Articles

ESCI - German Antitank Gun (8020) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer ESCI
Scale 1/72
Set Code 8020
Year Unknown
No. of Figures 8
No. of Poses 6
Additional Items PaK36, PaK40 and Flakvierling38
Aspect Medium/High
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray or Light Brown
Flash Level High
Glue-ability Excellent (polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 -1945

 

Review 

In 1980's ESCI occupied a leading position in the field of 1/72 WWII military technique and figures kits, both the good quality for those times, with few exceptions assessed as fine even nowadays, and the large number of sets, including few rarely encountered topics, representing definable characteristics for the company. ESCI class is also highlighted by that a large part of their catalogue has been reissued by various companies, at present Italeri assuring the presence of old ESCI kits on the market.    

"German Antitank Gun" kit is not one representative for ESCI excellence, but still aims an exciting subject, depicting three of the most important WWII German artillery pieces as well as few crewmen. Since the beginning it should be pointed out that on the one hand, though the title of the set is at singular, inside the box we get three guns, and on the other hand, it is registered another mistake of the same title, stating that the kit is about anti-tank guns while only two were anti-tank weapons, one being projected as an anti-aircraft gun. Pak35/36 and Pak40, the featured models of anti-tank cannons, correspond to the standard weapons of WWII German Army in fighting against enemy tanks in a particular period of the war. The anti-aircraft gun is the famous 20mm Flakvierling38 that except the initial designation, was also used against light vehicles and soldiers, its impact on infantry being devastating. Likewise, it has to be stressed that at present Italeri reissues the kit under the name "German guns set". Labelling Pak35/36 as Pak 37, a cannon that has never existed, we are in front of another completely wrong title, perhaps the mistake occurred due to confounding the name with the 3.7 cm calibre.

None of all three included guns is perfect, sculptured pretty simplified, with low level of details, missing key components as well as featuring some inaccuracies and other issues giving headaches to modellers such as the very thick barrels of Flakvierling38 or the PaK40 barrel depicted in recoil. Collectors and some wargamers might be interested in this set, but if you are a static modeller then it is better to leave the box on the store shelf and look for the same model of cannon in other offers, with or without crewmen. Mass production companies manufacturing PaK35/36 are ACE, HaT, MAC Distribution and Dragon, of course the best cannon being the Dragon model followed by ACE. Both crewmen and guns provided by the other two just listed companies are weak, the present reviewed set being far superior.

PaK40 is available in much more offers, it is probably the best represented WWII German anti-tank cannon in the 1/72 scale. Kits offering not only the gun, but also personnel are Italeri's "PAK 40 AT Gun with servants" and HaT's "German PaK 40 Anti-tank Gun". Special dedicated 1/72 crewmen for PaK40 are incorporated inside Preiser's "German PaK 40 crew" as well as Airfix's "Opel Blitz and Pak40", a set where the cannon and truck are in 1/76, but the soldiers are made in 1/72. The best interpretations of crews for PAK40 are accessible in Preiser and Italeri sets on the matter, under the reserve that Italeri projectiles are over-scaled, too thick for matching the 7.5 cm calibre of PaK40. Sets providing a PaK40 but missing the crew come from Odemars, Roden and Dragon, the most accurate image being conferred once again by Dragon seconded by Roden.

We can meet either PaK35/36 or PaK40 guns without carriage within a huge amount of kits aiming WWII German armour, while these cannons were intensively used mounted on vehicles like Sd.kfz.251, Sd.kfz.250, Sd.kfz.234 etc that luckily, are ample reflected in the 1/72 scale. In addition, it has to be highlighted that the old ESCI sprue comprising the PaK40 parts and three figures was used by Italeri for their new Sd.Kfz.234/4 kit. This is not a well received approach while on their excellent brand new Sd.Kfz.234 chassis Italeri wants to force us attaching the old and pretty odd ESCI PaK40 gun. Of course, the large majority of target groups will be very disappointed by such a mean and cheap strategy, looking for other solutions for the gun inside their spare parts box.       

With reference to Flakvierling38, this is an extra sensitive issue while quite strange, only a couple of mass production companies rushed to fabricate an intensively used German anti-aircraft cannon that besides transportation on its standard Sd.Ah.52 trailer was mounted on a large number of vehicles, trains, battle ships and submarines. Except the ESCI version, another well-known interpretation is Hasegawa's, a Flakvierling38 without trailer being available on a Sd.kfz 7 in the kit entitled "8 Ton HT 20mm A.A. Gun" and inside "PzKfw IV Flakpanzer "Wirbelwind"". However, Hasegawa repeated the same major mistake like ESCI, delivering much too thick barrels for the gun. A far superior image of Flakvierling38 is granted, surprisingly for those knowing only their WWII Volkswagen Beetle series, by Military Wheels (MW) and accessible in two sets, as a common gun or mounted on a captured T34 chassis. For modellers unsatisfied by short run kits, an additional option is inside the white metal Miniaturas Alemany set "FLAK Wierling with Crew" where we get both Flakvierling38 and few crewmen. 

Returning to the main goal of the present review, the figures, ESCI's "German Antitank Gun" supplies only eight troopers for covering the necessary of personnel for all the three cannons. This is an impossible mission, while eight soldiers hardly handled a single gun, crewmen of eight operating either PaK40 or Flakvierling38, PaK35/36 being manned by a team of six soldiers.

Summing the crewmen established by KStN for these types of cannons, we can easily notice that the number of troopers contained by the set is far insufficient and additionally, one pose is repeated two times. Anyway, beneficiaries of 1/72 kits have got used not to receive enough soldiers for manning the gun, sets fulfilling such an objective being extremely rare and a true exception in the field. Nevertheless, not the coverage is the major problem of these figures, but the dreadfully low anatomy of the crouched poses as well as the ugly faces and poorly shaped helmets of all. If the heads may be replaced relatively easy, the modeller will run into a very complicate problem concerning the upper part of the right leg of a crouched pose, which is really huge and having a direct consequence on the upper part of the right boot, hideously injuring it. The issue would impose the full replacement of the leg, but it is not a so facile maneuver like for the heads and per total the figure does not deserve all efforts put in such surgery. Reviewer's piece of advice is to let it be how it is and just to add a new head, weapon, gear and even some new arms, following the modeller to try hiding the leg through a proper emplacement capable to cover the mistake.  

Mixed between the three sprues incorporating the parts of the guns, the eight figures are delivered in six distinct poses, but bearing in mind that the arms are in most cases separately, there can be easily achieved eight different stances. Being manufactured in hard plastic, the usual modelling glue is of great success and the standard arms match the bodies quite satisfactory. Released with the purpose of operating the provided guns, these soldiers do not succeed a great interaction with the weapons and for this reason it is better finding other roles for them, more appropriate.  

Regarding attire, this is the one characterizing the Early Part of WWII, namely M36 tunic, regular trousers (one pair of breeches) and marching/jack boots. On the heads all wear steel helmets, but these are very bad shaped and together with the extremely ugly facial expressions create an assemble that definitely should be removed and replaced with Preiser products, a company that in general offers more heads than necessary within their sets.

Gear varies from pose to pose, except the commander, all having "Y" straps and some possessing gas mask containers and canteens, five of them wearing also the ammunition pouches for Kar98K.  A pistol in holster and a bayonet are the only personal weapons shown on bodies, but again Preiser can save us through a large array of available firing arms from where we can pick the ones suitable for these ESCI troopers. Moreover, extra gear is also in abundance within Preiser boxes on WWII Germans, so nothing to worry about weapons and gear, the Preiser solution representing a reliable and adequate way out. A further weapon available here is a MG34 aimed to be handed by the one of the prone poses, but the MG looks quite over-scaled and much too thick, being without ammunition, too. Separated on sprues there are a telemeter and a pair of binoculars, these items can be attached to any soldier minus the commander, who already received binoculars on the chest. The poses impress us with nothing, Hasegawa having several very similar inside plenty of their kits. From all the eight figures, not inspiring too much dynamism, two stands, four are crouched and two are prone. Probably the finest are the standing figures, particularly the commander, holding his binoculars in the right hand and pointing with the left to a potential target. His torsion is well achieved and with a new head he is able to turn into a quite good figure. Except binoculars, he has at the belt a map case and the pistol holster, clues corroborated with the absence of "Y" straps and breeches leading to the conclusion that he is the commander, most probably an officer.      

Both uniforms and gear are unsuccessfully detailed, only the just mentioned officer's equipment may pass as good. However, some uniforms received few nice small details, especially the buttons being quite nicely shaped. Various references to bodies have been done along the present review, and once again it should be reiterated the ugly aspect of faces of all as well as the poor legs of the crouched figures, mainly the one with the huge upper leg. Perhaps when working on this figure, the sculptor had in front of him a Parma Prosciutto Crudo and decided to take it as reference for the leg of the soldier in case. Flash is present everywhere, excess of plastic is noticed at a crouched figure at the leg area and each body wears the mould mark materialized in a small circle, showing us from where the figure was fixed when it was cast. Enamel and artistic oil are well received by this hard plastic which does not influence at all the initial characteristics of the used paints. Few differences appear between the size of the heads, but this is an insignificant problem while all heads really need to be replaced. Enclosed in the medium and tall size of the 1/72 scale, the ESCI gunners best matches from size and attire points of view with MAC Distribution gun crew, Airfix "Opel Blitz and PaK40" crew and with soldiers from various Hasegawa and Preiser sets dedicated to WWII German Army. No base is delivered here, but even the standing figures have a good balance, thus no need for supplementary equilibrium devices.

Of a venerable age and despite featuring not so well detailed and accurate guns, with crewmen with poor anatomy sometimes saved by good palms and fingers, with a leg looking closer to a huge Prosciutto Crudo than a normal German soldier limb, the set still represents a remarkable endeavor of ESCI for the period when it was created for the first time. Likewise, the kit represents a valuable asset for wargaming, at an accessible price getting three guns and few crewmen, all being put together quite fast. On the other hand, this kit is superior in terms of details and accuracy to many offers launched on the market nowadays. Up-grading and trying to improve the figures is one of the few "pleasures" reserved by the set for static modellers, but many of them do not want to spend plenty of time for such an activity and might refrain from buying it. Nevertheless, the soldiers from "German Antitank Gun", being made of hard plastic, can be "saved" with the support of Preiser or Dragon weapons, gear, heads and arms, consequently getting new poses capable to fulfill various tasks according to each modeller necessity. Finally, the memory value should not be neglected, this kit embodying one of the first appearances of cannons and crew in the 1/72 scale. 

Historical Accuracy 7
Anatomy 4
Poses Quality 6
Details Quality 7
Mould Quality 6
Sculpture 6
Recommendation/Utility 6
Reviewer’s Opinion 6