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Zvezda - German MG34 Machinegun with Crew (winter) 1941-1945 (6210) _________(EXT)


Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6210
Year 2013
No. of Figures 3
No. of Poses 3
Additional Items Brick Wall
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly cement)
Conversion-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939  - 1945

Review

With a very long tradition in the field of automatic firing arms, history recording the first attempts of multi-shots fire weapons as made in Nuremberg in the XVIth century, during WWII the same nation succeeded to develop the best machineguns, two distinguished representatives in the field being MG34 and MG42. Furthermore, understanding the key importance of such weapons, since the outset of WWII, the German High Command decided that each regular Rifle Squad, the basic subdivision of a platoon, to be grouped around at least one machinegun, the combat tactics and the main power relying on that/those weapon/s. In this regard, the theory and practice assessed the MG as the primary weapon, the riflemen having to carry out backup or protection tasks. In addition, KStN provided for the establishment at Battalion level of specialized MG Companies, Platoons or Groups.

The privileged position of the machinegun within WWII German Army has not been ignored by Zvezda in their board games issued under “Art of Tactic” logo depicting campaigns taking place in warm/temperate environments, each of those featuring that support weapon operated by a crew wearing the M36 uniform. Obviously, for the new starter board-game “World War II: Battle for Moscow 1941” aiming at troops in winter, it was necessary to produce a MG crew properly dressed, the chosen garment being the well-known greatcoat. Of course, except the MG crew, the other winter troopers introduced by the board-game are infantry-men, mortar (Grantawerfer 34) teams, and Headquarters, all soldiers having greatcoats. As habitually for this manufacturer, except the HQ, these sets are commercialized separately as well, within the Mini-Box series.

For the great pleasure of the modellers, and taking into account the available offer on the market, the Russian company decided to deliver in heavy role their summer and winter machinegun kits, the weapon, MG34, being installed on the famous Lafette tripod. Proving high professionalism, Zvezda approached differently the tripod within the two sets, in the summer kit the device being adjusted close to the ground for permitting the crew to fire from prone while for the winter one the Lafette tripod is elevated at the normal height, the crew manning the gun from crouched positions. Moreover, the increased experience of the firm is also emphasised by other several factors, namely the inclusion of a three member crew for the winter kit, the correct number enforced by regulations for a MG in heavy role, while for the summer crew only two were provided as well as by the ammunition utilized. The winter MG is fed by ammunition belt, the right way for a machinegun in heavy role, while the summer one was fed by a 50 round drum magazine, a not so correct but still possible approach. Most of the times MGs in heavy roles were belt-fed and a plausible interpretation of the drum magazine in the summer set might be the intention of illustrating a weapon often moved, the low profile of the tripod sustaining such idea, too.

The “MG34 Machine-Gun with Crew 1941-1945 (Winter)” comes in Zvezda’s classic mini-box package and includes the two sprues of the kit as well as the assembly guideline and the gaming card. The front artwork reveals the three members of the team firing the weapon that is installed behind a brick wall. The three men will be encountered after opening the package, the miniatures being in identical stances with those displayed in the artwork. Still, it is not necessary to open the box to find out this, the reverse artwork showing two photos of the masters and another of the game card. Of note is the brick wall that has been supplied, the information being enhanced by the images and the written content description highlighted on the reverse. It should be pointed out that “German Machinegun MG34 with Crew 1939-42” set, with crew in M36 uniform, has duplicated the sprue one time, so there are available two MG teams, but the set featuring the crew in greatcoats offers just a single team even if the necessary parts for putting it together are distributed on two sprues. Here one of those comprises the components of two figs and the brick wall, the other incorporating the parts of the third member of the team and the gaming accessories, respectively the base and the flag. The trench game representations miss this time, but certainly it is more useful a brick wall section than those gaming items, completely useless for static modellers or hobbyists not playing Zvezda’s board games.

Easily identifiable after its air-cooling holes on the barrel jacket, the MG34 is well-known and was the most produced machinegun by Germans during WWII. Kept in production till the end of war and fighting on all fronts, 354,020 MG34 and other 1,700 of its upgraded version, MG34/41, arrived to units. An extremely versatile weapon utilised both in defense and offensive, MG34 could be deployed in light/medium or heavy roles, the difference resting in the device from which the weapon was fired off. Basically, the MG34 represented the first general purpose machine-gun and was also installed as primary defensive weapon on armoured vehicles and aircraft. With an impressive rate of firing, between 800-900 rounds per minute, depending on the skill of gunner, the MG34 was fired off from a bipod attached to the weapon, close to the end of the barrel in light/medium role while in heavy duty, the weapon was mounted on a Lafette tripod. Mounted, MG34 could be used in direct and indirect fire roles, a device allowing to automatically sweeping a preset area while the gunner kept his head down. Likewise, its range was considerably increased to 3,500 meters while fired from the bipod, the effective range was 1,200 meters. The MG34 could be belt-fed and magazine-fed, except the familiar 50 round drum magazine, a drum-saddle magazine with 75 rounds was designed especially for anti-aircraft role. Ammunition could be transported in different containers, the most deployed being the metal box generally housing five or six 50 round belts. Moreover, the belts had a link and length option, for assembling a longer belt and exempting the loader to repeat the operation, the team gaining valuable seconds that in combat could make the difference.

The Lafette tripod was delivered in two very similar designed variants, M34 and M42, the first one being recognizable by the forward gun mount for the barrel shroud. The M42 model appeared when MG42 was released because the weapon could not fit without modifications on the previous M34 version. The Lafette featured three legs that could be set at various heights, including anti-aircraft for which a special adapter was supplied, together with a distinctive ring-shaped anti-aircraft sight fitting on the barrel. The tripod had a frame for fixing the weapon, a fire mechanism, traverse and elevation devices, and a telescopic sight for a proper aim.  Likewise, a collimator was delivered for establishing the safety point of minimum elevation for firing over the heads of advancing comrades. For easier transporting the folded tripod by soldier, two pads had been emplaced on the first leg as well as a sling that could often miss, as images of the period attest.

In most part of WWII, a MG team in a rifle German squad consisted in three soldiers, respectively gunner, loader and ammunition bearer. However, in the late war organisation schemes, the ammunition bearer was removed, his load being transferred to the riflemen of the squad. On the other hand, throughout the whole war regulations enforced that a MG in heavy role to be operated by a three member team, namely commander, gunner, and loader, the gunner carrying the weapon and the loader transporting the tripod, all of them being armed with pistols as side arms. The quantity of ammunition enforced for a squad using light/medium machinegun and one endowed with heavy MG was different, regulations providing for 1,150 rounds per each light MG and 2,150 rounds for a heavy one. Nevertheless, the enforced amount was mostly on paper and could vary quite much, depending on the missions and available supplies.

For obtaining a more than realistic appearance, the figures are multi-part but assembly is uncomplicated, bodies being spit in two halves and with separate arms. Likewise, the tripod arrives in two pieces linked with gunner’s arms, one including the MG and most of the tripod and the other one leg and a section of the frame. Separately are supplied the ammunition belt, the metal container, and a shovel, all these pieces having to be set with the loader. The assembly guide gives fine instructions and includes the correct modality for snapping the parts without breaking the pins. As usual for Zvezda miniatures, there is no need for glue, the snap system via pin and hole functioning fairly well. Anyway, in order to avoid any move and eventual gaps, recommended would be deploying a drop of adhesive, as a hard plastic product, the classic modelling glue (polly-cement) offering perfect results. Taking profit by the multi-part approach, an excellent move would be painting the figs before putting them together, the brush having easier access to the narrow areas. Obviously, after gluing the soldiers, covering the traces and the fine touches are necessary, but the painting procedure will be much simplified. 

In terms of number, the heavy MG34 crew in greatcoats submitted by Zvezda is in accordance with the regulations and consists in commander, gunner, and loader.  The personal weapons repartition within the team contradicts a little the rules allocating for the crew of a MG in heavy role pistols as side arms  for all members because it was considered that the gunner had to carry the MG and the loader had the tripod, which definitely was an extra burden. For MGs in medium/light role only the gunner had pistol and both the loader and the ammo bearer received Kar98K. Within the Zvezda team, the gunner has pistol, but the loader was endowed with Kar98K while the commander had got not only the pistol but also a MP38/40. Nonetheless, in the field such weapon distribution could be possible, so the inadvertence is really unimportant.

The soldiers are dressed in M36 or M40 greatcoats and received steel helmets and marching/jack boots, toques and five finger knitted gloves. However, due to the fine size of the palms, their hands fit to be painted without gloves, too. The garment is in accordance with the Battle for Moscow, the scenario aimed at by the board-game, but because the greatcoat was maintained in production throughout the whole war, the miniatures can be deployed on any front, embodying either Wehrmacht or Waffen SS troopers.

Gear is almost the standard one and is carried by most Zvezda soldiers in greatcoats, namely bread-bags, canteens, mess-tins, Zeltbahns, gas mask containers with gas cape pouches rolled around, and shovels, one of them with bayonet attached. Likewise, the commander has got binoculars, ammunition pouch for his MP, and a map/dispatch case while the gunner was endowed with MG tool case and the loader with Kar98K ammo pouches.

Although extremely complicated for a lot of 1/72 manufacturers, Zvezda excels with the machineguns, their MG34 being one of the best available on the market. The weapon impresses with its perfectly done air-cooling holes, flash hider, muzzle booster, front and back sights, and AA ring sight base. The Lafette tripod is of top-quality as well, in scale, with thin legs and correctly emplaced pads and featuring the elevating and traversing mechanism, tripod firing trigger, base for anti-aircraft adapter, lugs for attaching the gun to tripod, and wing nuts. The sculptor did not refrain to add a telescopic sight even if occasionally MGs in heavy role missed that device. 

The poses fit with their tasks and superlatively interact with the weapon, the commander checking gunner’s performances through binoculars while the gunner, staying with both knees on the ground and credibly leaning over, fires off the MG with the eye on the telescopic sight eye-piece. The stance of the loader is a little odd, holding only with the left hand the ammo belt while with the right is on the shoulder stock of his rifle. He does two things in the same time, perhaps while feeding the MG, his rifle fell backwards and now he tries rearranging it. If not using the base provided by the set, a special remark should be done in terms of the ammunition container and belt. Theoretically the box must be snapped onto the base and a part of the belt has to enter in a place specially created inside the container and the other end should reach the section held by the loader. In this light, a diorama builder not deploying the original base must glue the two parts of the belt as well as the bottom end in the box. Furthermore, it is highly recommended to carefully study before gluing the left arm of the loader how the ammunition belt goes into the right place on the MG. Only after finding the proper angle glue should be employed, so in order to avoid strange positions of the belt, either upper or lower, first it has to be put together the machinegun. The ammunition belt looks fairly good, maybe a hair overscaled and the opened ammo container misses details inside, where should be the rest of the belt but the hobbyist can effortlessly suggest the belt through painting.

All poses are extremely lifelike and they seem duplicating a MG34 team appearing in a fairly known photo taken in WWII, but those soldiers were dressed in M36 uniform. Engineering and sculpture are outstanding, the greatcoats perfectly folding and following the moves, at the bottom the mantels being modeled opened and not full. This certainly increase with much the accuracy and general aspect, also allowing to be perceived the trousers and the upper side of the boots. In addition, shoulder boards and most of the buttons were added, only the ones on the back tails missing. The greatcoats, trousers, and toques abound in fine creases, just on the chest of the gunner details are little softer, but this does not influence with much the quality of the mini while the area in case is hidden by the weapon. Footwear always impress at Zvezda, featuring a perfect shape and the marching/jack boots have got nice details stitched central, vertical spines to the reverse and the rear heel panels. The dimensions of the equipment and weapons match the ones encountered at all figures by this manufacturer while anatomy charms with its excellent proportions and outstanding facial details, eyes, eye-brows, noses, and mouths being sharply carved. Moreover, palms are perfect, with naturally gripped fingers and the size permits painting or not gloves, except the knitted type, leather ones representing another option. Likewise, helmets fit to be depicted in more colours, white, gray, dunkelgelb or camouflage, the same colours being suitable for the Lafette tripod as well. 

The product is made of the wonder Zvezda hard plastic, fulfilling the needs of gamers because it remarkably takes powerful shocks without any damage and can bend quite much, as well as of the diorama builders, being suitable for conversions, the classic polly-cement perfectly functioning. This plastic also ideally hosts enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, without influencing the colours characteristics and maintaining the paintwork even exposed to repeated handling. Cast and mould are generally great, flash and seam lines are low and material in excess is not encountered, the way the figures were created certainly facilitating such appearance. Not only the hard plastic, but also the multipart approach facilitate conversions, by mixing limbs and heads between the soldiers form the three Zvezda Mini-Boxes on winter troopers can be released some novel and eye-catching stances. In addition, other hard plastic arms in greatcoats such as those available in Preiser’s “Military Police. Guards” or even soft plastic ones like those from Pegasus Hobbies’ “Germans in Berlin 1945” represent extra options in the field. Of course, for joining soft plastic parts to this hard plastic it is necessary employing super glue gel, but the created bond is extremely durable, too. Probably the most difficult figure to convert here is the MG gunner, his arms being sculptured together with the weapon and he also received complete standard equipment. Due to the ideal interaction with his MG34 and Lafette tripod, it will be a pity to affect that relation by changing his head or similar things to his anatomy. Still, a new look is obtainable by adding extra gear as a pair of binoculars and a bayonet while to the weapon could be glued a folded or unfolded bipod, Preiser, Dragon and Caesar proposing lots of those inside various hard plastic figure sets. Because of the size and shape, maybe the ones fitting the best on the remarkable Zvezda MG34 barrel are the Preiser ones, and various images accompanying the present review introduce a conversion done as above described, plus a photo-etched ammunition belt by OKB Grigorov. For snapping the crew and weapon onto the base there are pins in the soles and knees of the soldiers as well as in the MG ammo box and tripod legs. If moving them in other locations, then it might be possible the pins not to be needed and these can be immediately removed with any sharp blade.

Belonging to the tall side of 1/72 scale, these troopers ideally match with the other winter Germans proposed by Zvezda in “World War II: Battle for Moscow 1941” game as well as with soldiers wearing various winter attire issued by Revell, Pegasus Hobbies, Italeri, Esci, Strelets, and Preiser. Cottage industry labels like Juwella, TQD Castings, Weathering Factory, Miniaturas Allemany, and El Viejo Dragon list lots of 1/72 WWII Germans wearing winter clothes and performing various actions. HaT and Caesar have more winter troopers in greatcoats, but those soldiers are slightly smaller than the rest and can go in the same diorama with taller figures only after a well-studied emplacement.

Although MG34 in light/medium role proliferates in the 1/72 mass-production tender, representations of the same weapon mounted in heavy duty on Lafette tripod are really scarce. Armourfast in "WWII German Machine Gun Team", Revell in “Africa Corps”, Plastic Soldier in “Late War German Infantry Heavy Weapons”, and again Zvezda in“German Machinegun MG34 with Crew 1939-42” have such devices, both the MGs and the tripods delivered by Zvezda being the best. Moreover, Esci in “German Soldiers” and Italeri in "German Elite Troops" put forward mounted MGs on some weird devices, a bizarre combination between a bipod and a Lafette tripod, larger than a bipod and lacking the third leg of the Lafette tripod.

Thanks to Zvezda efforts, since now the 1/72 WWII German soldiers in winter attire benefit by a perfect representation of a MG34 in heavy role and operated by a complete crew. This weapon in heavy role manned by a team in greatcoats completely missed until now in Braille Scale, so the value of “MG34 Machine-Gun with Crew 1941-1945 (Winter)” is really huge and restate the importance of Zvezda sets in covering essential gaps in the field of 1/72 WWII German Army. Additionally, the top-quality, the high accuracy, the lifelike stances and the hard plastic increase the charm of the kit, making it suitable for all categories of hobbyists which receive premium quality at an extremely affordable price.

 

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