by: Jaymes crowther [ ]
Black Dog have been around for a while producing some fantastic sets in 1/72nd, giving us Braille scale modellers even more choice in this scale. This is an interesting conversion for the Sherman tank fighting on Iwo Jima.
This conversion comes packaged in a black box with box art that shows the conversion built, but unpainted, on the front. The resin is in a plastic zip lock bag thatís sealed, further protected by polystyrene pieces to keep the contents safe and preventing them from breaking. The resin is cast in a light grey colour which is cast very crisp, but some parts suffer with some flash and excess resin from the moulds which will require a little clean up. The conversion is broken down into two main pieces, the turret and the hull.
The turret is made up of eight resin pieces which feature anti-personnel spikes to prevent enemy soldiers from entering the turret. The turret also features additional tracks around the turret. The turret is cast as one piece with hollow hatch openings which gives you the option of displaying them open and adding a figure inside if you wish. This will be handy for modellers as the dragon offering of the turret is split into two halves so you don't have to worry about sanding and filling the gap.
The detail isn't quite as sharp on the resin turret but the spikes are the main focal point and are really well rendered, however some had broken off of my copy which suggests they are very fragile and will break off easily. The only gripe I can see is the turret included in the conversion is a copy of the Dragon one but lacks a lot of crispness on the alternative plastic kit. The barrel is even more fragile than the spikes on the turret, the mounting point that connects the barrel and the mounting point that holds the barrel on the turret is only held together with a thin bit of resin, and with me simply handling the barrel put stress on the join, so I suggest you use the plastic offering from the Dragon donor kit.
The hatches only differ from the Dragon ones by the anti-personnel spikes. The tracks that sit on the side of the turret are additional armour and also a place to rack spare tracks. They seem to be really crisp, all of the detail is clear and you can even see where the pins are located that hold the tracks together. The tracks are cast to fit straight on the turret so you donít have to mess about bending the tracks to fit the turret. Most of the pieces are cleanly moulded, however the turret is going to need a lot of careful cleaning up as the release plug from the casting is attached to the front of the hull and the angle makes it awkward to remove without damaging the turret. Following this there are two lugs on the bottom of the turret that will need removing and gently sanding down, but remember to be careful when cleaning the resin as the dust can be harmful when inhaling.
The hull comprises 9 resin pieces that include the four wooden Ďplanksí that form the additional armour on the side of the hull and the suspension. The wood grain is superbly done and not over scale with the four pins, two at each end that bolt the armour to the suspension. I've spotted a mistake where the front additional armour slightly misaligns with the first bogie, itís nothing major and depends on how much of a rivet counter you are as to whether you choose to cut the wooden armour and add new bolts made from plastic rod.
The thickness of the wooden pieces leaves a little to be desired, I think they are a bit too thick so sanding the back of the wooden pieces would take care of assuring the additional armour is to the right scale thickness. The longer pieces of additional armour have suffered from warping and buckling from the casting process, this is probably due to the size of the hull and how thick the armour is. You can simply soak them in hot water and clamp them flat to remove those unwanted kinks.
The sandbags on the hull adorn the side, overlapping the hull and surrounding the engine deck to provide some protection against various anti-tank weapons and artillery and appear to be in scale, the sandbags even include the hessian pattern but it is a little lacking so enhancing the bags detail is a must in my eyes. The tracks that are added to the front are cast very well, the only gripe I can see is they are cast straight so they don't seem to have the natural sag as if they are drooped over the front drive housing, carefully warming and bending them would make them look more realistic.
Construction appears to be relatively easy as there are no instructions included in the kit itself. I will be doing a build review of this kit using the Dragon M4A3 #7274 so I will go into more detail about assembling the conversion kit in greater detail. Decals are not included in the kit so you will have to do some searching for some alternative ones. Aftermarket decals include the Bison Iwo Jima BD-72014, so building one of these variants is your only option unless you decide to make your own stencils. Overall this is a cracking conversion that will really make your M4A3 stand out from the rest of the Sherman crowd in PTO colors.