First to Fight - Pak36 German Antitank Gun (PL1939-022)_________(EXT)
|Manufacturer||First to Fight|
|No. of Figures||3|
|No. of Poses||3|
|Additional Items||1 PaK35/36, one ammo box|
|Material||Soft Plastic/Hard Plastic|
|Optimal Period||1939 - 1945|
Since its first appearance on the market, the Polish mass-production manufacturer First-to-Fight (FtF) has strived to please hobbyists with various things, distinguishing either through attractive presentations of their sets or for the efforts in covering existent gaps in terms of 1/72 WWII German soldiers. Likewise, from the moment when they started the activity in the field, the company has shown an impressive productivity, succeeding to launch in few months several figure sets.
Focusing on very early WWII German Army, the fourth set in the series titled “PAK 36 German Antitank Gun” brings another surprise, emerging as the first multi-media kit of the firm, with the PAK 35/36 in hard plastic and its crewmen in the well-known soft one. Generally, manufacturers provide all content in the same material, but a similar attempt of a multi-media kit was done in a brilliant manner by Pegasus Hobbies within their renowned “German 75 mm le IG18 Infantry Gun with Crew”.
However, under FtF label are issued not only figures, but also vehicle kits, so the company has at hand the necessary resources to make hard plastic products and for those not familiarized with their kit tender, Pak35/36 attests high capacities in terms of designing, sculpturing, and casting, somehow in contradiction with their soft plastic figures that do not impress with mould and cast.
Coming with a finely detailed PAK35/36 gun seems a good choice while on the market this cannon is one of the most depicted, many labels delivering their interpretations over it inside kits with or without crewmen. Related 1/72 offers with soldiers are made available by Esci/Italeri, HaT, MAC Distributions, Zvezda, and Dragonwhile ACE puts forward one without figures. Doubtless, the best versions are from Dragon and ACE, seconded by Zvezda, but it should be highlighted that FtF reproduction is in the top, almost on equal footing with Zvezda’s gun. It is a quite impressive feature considering that furnishing suitable products for gaming, highly detailed and at cheap prices, sets out as one main preoccupation of Zvezda, FtF following the same line, at least in terms of cannons. Unfortunately, not the same thing can be said about the crewmen that are much inferior to Zvezda’s figures.
At the outset of WWII PaK35/36 represented the standard German anti-tank cannon, but fairly soon it became ineffective when fighting against French, British, and Russian armour, on that occasion also receiving the unpleasant nick-name "door knocker". Produced in in over 15.000 pieces by Rheinmetall, the gun fired small 3.7 cm projectiles and remained in service till the end of war and since 1943 the capacity of penetrating enemy armour being increased with Stielgranate41, a hollow shaped charge warhead rocket loaded in the muzzle. Towed by various motor vehicles, horse-drawn or by improvised means as motorcycles, its weight permitted the crewmen to drag the gun on short distances. Moreover, a large number of WWII German vehicles, either in standard or field-converted versions, received PaK35/36 as main weapon. Regulations provided for the cannon to be manned by a six member crew, the chief of section being responsible for seeing that all duties are properly performed, all commands executed and all safety precautions observed, the gunner laid the gun, no. 1 loaded and fired the gun, no. 2 and 3 handled the ammunition, and no. 4 drove the prime mover.
The kit arrives on the market in the customary FtF package, the box and the accompanying information magazine being wrapped in a transparent sealed bag. The nice artwork, inspired after a reference image, show the gun operated by three crewmen and although the kit includes three distinct poses as well, those differ than the illustrated ones. As we can find out from the box, the manufacturer duplicates one time both the cannon and the sprue with figures, so the hobbyists get two guns and six figures. FtF distinguishes for their efforts in delivering accurate miniatures as well as comprehensive information related to the product, thus it appears quite bizarre the cannon is named Pak36 while the correct designation was Pak35/36.. The assembly guide for the weapon is available on the back of the box together with the painting instructions appropriate for the early war period and referring only to Vallejo colours.
Inside the 22th number of “September 1939” magazine dedicated to PaK35/36, hobbyists can learn lots of info about that cannon or if not knowing Polish, just admire reference images with the gun and its predecessors as well as with the built and painted 1/72 model. On account the huge amount of data generously given by the manufacturer, including the history and technical data of PaK35/36 as well as gaming info, corroborated with the international dimension of their kits, commercialized nowadays in a great number of countries, it is a real pity the magazine is just in Polish, bilingual editions with translation in English would have been much better. However, at least from the images and titles all modellers can discover interesting stuff and definitely will be a pleasure just thumbing through it.
The Pak35/36 sprue hosts the eight parts of the weapon and despite the reduced number of pieces, its final appearance will be really good. The model is clean, with just a small amount of flash and putting it together is a true pleasure, the parts excellent going in positions and easily gluing with the standard model glue (polly-cement). The level of details is more than decent, with not a thick shield featuring correct rivets and other characteristics as well as an opened sight window, more than appropriate for cannon in combat. The supplied sight perfectly matches the opening and the breech turns out acceptable, too. The trails are cast as opened, thus the model can be displayed only in combat, for transportation mode, hobbyists having to cut and glue the trails. These also come out very nice, recording fine proportions and ending with more than fair spades and towing ring. The barrel makes a pleasant impression with its not over-scaled size and fine points, though for a more realistic presence will require drilling. At such a nice model, introducing plenty niceties, it is quite disturbing the manufacturer forgot to make the traverse and elevation mechanism with its related hand-wheels. Nevertheless, with the gunner set in position the device would be harder perceived, but for those wanting to display the gun without crew, then scratch-building the traverse and elevation mechanism is almost mandatory. Still, an admirable decision was to supply on the gun sprue an ammunition container, such items being extremely useful considering that the great majority of Pak 35/36 kits available in 1/72 scale do not feature any.
As regards the sprue with figures, as previously pointed out, this is of soft plastic and exclusively hosts three crewmen in crouched stances. However, the sprue seems cut in two halves, maybe initially FtF thought to deliver other three crewmembers for the gun but later decided three are enough and to use the rest of figs inside a future set. In conformity with the aimed period by the manufacturer, namely the Polish campaign, the minis got the M36 uniform, marching/jack boots and steel helmets, the very early aspect being emphasized by the lack of “Y” straps, a key item for WWII German soldiers broadly introduced after 1939. Their overall appearance best matches the early stage of WWII, but definitely they can be deployed throughout the whole period, M36 uniforms, with or without “Y” straps, and marching/jack boots continuing to be worn by troopers until May 1945.
According to their gear and poses, the easiest and most certain to identify is the chief of the section, arriving in an attractive position with both knees on the ground and looking through binoculars. He is appropriately armed with pistol in holster, gear resting in map case, bread bag, mess-tin, canteen, gas mask container and gas cape pouch. A nice touch to this figure, emphasizing FtF team’s good knowledge of the market, is the presence of binoculars case, an extremely rare depicted item in 1/72, a scale encompassing hundreds of figures with binoculars but issued without the related cases.
Due to their poses, establishing almost no contact with the weapon, the right distribution of the roles within the section of the other two crewmen is fairly difficult, but a plus of these figures, perhaps the most valuable one for modellers, is that they feature round their bodies the straps used for manually dragging the cannon on the battle-field. The flat miniature with a projectile in hands can be no. 1 or one of the others handling ammunition. However, embodying no.1 is less probable while he holds the round as prepared to hand it over to a comrade and not for loading the cannon. His comrade, keeping both hands on the towing strap establishes almost no interaction with a weapon in combat, the only utilizations of this figure could be setting it close to the end of the left trail, as just finishing or preparing to drag the weapon. Nevertheless, considering the inexistent 1/72 PaK 35/36 crewman adopting such stance, this might be saluted by collectors having a large number of miniatures able to better portray soldiers operating the cannon in action. On the other hand, for those not disposing of similar resources, it is an almost useless crewman.
Inside the magazine we discover manufacturer’s proposal for arranging these two soldiers around the gun, with the one with projectile to the left hand of the gun and the one with nothing in hands, to the right. Both of them are set at the end of trails and such deployment is totally odd, while the cannon will be operated in combat by nobody, gunner and no.1’s places being empty and the commander has no one close to transmit his orders. In terms of personal armament of these two soldiers, in conformity with their Kar98K ammunition pouches, they would have been endowed with such weapons, although in that moment they have no rifles, perhaps dropped around the gun for not hampering their moves. Regulations enforced for PaK35/36 crewmen to be differently armed, the chief of section, gunner and no.1 receiving pistols while the rest got Kar98K. Practically not only through the location of these two crewmembers at the end of the trails, but also adding them Kar98K ammo pouches, the producer stresses they are not envisaged to embody the gunner and no.1. The rest of gear spotted on the two figures consist in bread bags, mess-tins, canteens, gas mask containers and gas cape pouches adjusted in front to the gas mask container strap, totally appropriate for the referred period, later on troopers starting to keep that pouch rolled around the container. In addition, the soldier with projectile got bayonet, fitted to the waist on the left. Nevertheless, as previously enhanced, the most attractive and useful item encountered on these crewmen are the towing straps rolled around their bodies.
While numerous WWII photos taken in combat show only few men around a PaK35/36, supplying a three member crew for their PaK35/36 can be assessed as a satisfactory number, especially in gaming purposes although static model builders might try to bring new mates in the team. Some good resources in the field are identified inside other FtF sets on WWII German Army, providing miniatures suitable with or without modifications to occupy positions around a PaK35/36, especially in gunner’s and no.1 places. Taking profit of the good glue-ability of FtF’s soft plastic, excellent responding to cyanoacrylate, especially at gel one, and bearing in mind the great majority of their figure sets supply three identical sprues, than such conversions are highly advocated.
Contrasting with the fine model of the gun, the general quality of the figures envisaged to operate it is less satisfactory. Though correctly placed and accurate, the sharpness of small details seen on uniforms and gear is not vibrant. Without impressive creases, still the uniforms received suitable pocket flaps, shoulder and collar boards, buttons that could be further enhanced during painting, the same applying for gear, too. In terms of proportions anatomy is good but facial details still disappoint, the luckiest being the commander while the binoculars cover most of his face. Except the palms of the commander that hold the binoculars and perhaps facilitated by their positions, the others have received proper fingers.
An identical situation as above is registered in terms of flash, seam lines, and excess of material, the hard plastic cannon arriving really clean but the soft plastic soldiers record a percent of all those. Even if it might pass as a decent level, removing the unwanted stuff will still require a lot of patience because the soft plastic utilized by FtF has the unpleasant propensity of producing fluffs. Enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils will properly integrate on both kinds of plastics that retain and hold the painting effort despite repeated handlings. As usual for FtF toy soldiers, also these land on thick bases that are completely useless, modifying the interaction ratio between crewmen and cannon. Especially now, even in gaming purposes, will be advisable to remove the figs from the initial bases and glue them on larger ones, at the same level with the gun.
In the small/medium side of 1/72 scale, these crewmen can be utilized in conjunction with hundreds of WWII German troopers similarly dressed, particularly with those included inside various Caesar, Airfix, HaT, and Esci sets. Nonetheless, as also the images on page 10 of the magazine reveals, the ideal comrades to complete the crew of the cannon are to be found within sets issued by FtF, the miniatures having the same size of bodies and gear, sharing also the sculptor and the quality.
For a tender that can be purchased at the newspaper kiosk, “PAK 36 German Antitank Gun”pleasantly surprises with its finely detailed cannon and even mainly targeting gamers and collectors, the product may get the interest or curiosity of static model builders as well. Rather than binning them, with some cleaning work, it is possible to obtain something decent from the supplied figures, which are also extremely useful on the nowadays related market and fill a gap with their towing straps. At the end, It should be highlighted that the below scores strictly refer to figures and do not rate the gun, which is a respectable model from all perspectives, except the lack of transverse and elevation mechanism.