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52K 85mm Soviet Heavy AA Gun

Ace 1/72 52K 85mm Soviet Heavy AA Gun Build Review

By Llarry Amrose

Date of Review April 2011 Manufacturer Ace
Subject 52K 85mm Soviet Heavy AA Gun Scale 1/72
Kit Number 72276 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detailing Cons Short-run, instructions vague in spots
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $21.95

Background

During the 1930s, advances in airpower led most nations to realize the need for more powerful antiaircraft guns. Pretty much all the eventual major combatants ended up with a gun in the 85-90mm range, powerful enough to throw a large shell to high altitude. Rather than design a gun from scratch, the Soviets started with their incredibly successful 76.2 mm antitank gun and enlarged it.

Production started in Kaliningrad, but had to be moved east of the Ural Mountains after the Nazi attack. In 1944 the gun was improved to handle a shell with a more powerful propellant charge. The 1944 version (also available from ACE) included a gun shield, which had just been an option on the early 1939 version. Both guns were produced in large numbers, and ended up being used around the world, even to this day.

Large AA guns were often pressed into service in the anti-tank role, and the 52K was no exception. This 85mm gun was so successful that it became the basis for the 85mm guns used in Soviet tanks and tank destroyers. The Germans were very fond of it when they captured any, usually rechambering them to 88mm.

The Kit

Four sprues of light gray plastic. The first two are identical, and contain the wheels and other symmetrical parts of the transport carriage. There are even three shells on each (six total) for use if desired in a diorama setting. Also included are the stakes (4x part 20) used to anchor the stabilizing arms when in firing position. The third sprue consists of the gun mounting and controls. The fourth sprue has the gun itself and the main portion of the carriage.

Make no mistake, this is a short-run kit, and some care will be needed in the construction. Still, “short-run” doesn’t quite mean what it used to. Gone are the crude castings, prominent ejector towers and huge sprue attachments. A few years ago I built one of ACE’s antitank guns, and there was some issue with the alignment of the two halves of the molds. I’m happy to say this kit is much better in that regard.

The instructions are the fairly usual folded page, with one page of parts diagram, two pages of construction, and one page with three paint schemes. The construction diagrams are a mixed bag, with a couple of exploded diagrams, but most of the parts shown in place. In a few places, this can make it harder to figure out exactly where certain parts are to be attached. There is no historical account or statistics, but ACE has an interesting solution. Their website (www.acemodel.com.ua) includes every kit, even those currently out of production. Each page has pictures of the sprues and links to walk-around photo essays of real examples on display. There are no decals.

Assembly

The builder has a couple of important choices to make, and they pretty much need to be made right at the start. The first is whether to build the gun setup for fire or transport. If choosing fire, then there is the option to have the gun in high or low elevation. Finally there is an option of an early version of the suspension at the front axle. The standard version uses part 17 and is shown in the main diagrams, and the early version uses part 15 and is shown in an inset.

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I chose to build the gun in transport position. This meant mounting the axles with the wheels down and two sections of the crew platform folded up. The stabilizing arms were folded in, though if careful, you can mount them so they remain moveable (one of mine is still moveable, the other only got stuck closed during painting). The gun mounting then needed the short version of the elevation pistons to keep the barrel down.

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The carriage and gun can easily be built as separate assemblies and joined near the end, which is very convenient in terms of letting the glue in one part set while working on the other. The two sections can be dry-fit together in order to set the position of the travel lock and a couple of small parts that fit in alongside it. As I mentioned earlier, the instructions are not always clear, showing some parts in place and not how to get them there. Take your time and test fit frequently and you should be fine.

Painting and Finishing

No decals, but a surprising three paint schemes. The first is labeled as Red Army, 1941 in the expected Soviet Green, and this is the one I chose. The other two are both marked as Winter 1942. One is a captured gun in Luftwaffe service, with a white wash over Panzer Grey. The other is in Soviet service, white wash over Soviet Green.

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It’s easy enough to do most of the painting after construction, though I recommend at least painting the inside of the gun tub (parts 26 and 43) before mounting the gun in it, as it’s awfully hard to do so afterwards (ask me how I know…). The instructions give no details, and the various online pictures are restored samples and somewhat contradictory, so it’s left to the builder to pick out typical details. I used Vallejo paints and Tamiya Weathering Master pastels to finish it off.

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Conclusions

Now I have something to display in my UM Soviet railcar. Certainly the 85mm was too big to be fired from such a car, but it could certainly have been transported this way. It’ll do until I can get my hands on some sort of 37mm gun in 1/72.

52K

These days, 72nd scale builders are livin’ the dream. We have a greater variety of kits, of both important and obscure subjects than ever before, and mostly at surprisingly affordable prices. ACE is one of the companies leading the way. The molding quality and kit design are definitely at the upper end of what we call “short-run”. Artillery, with the small parts and attachments, generally results in a more complicated kit than a vehicle. I would not recommend this kit to a beginner, but anyone with some experience with short-run planes or tanks should do just fine.

My thanks to HobbyTerra.com for this review sample.

References:

  • The Encyclopedia of Weapons of WWII (editor: C. Bishop)
  • Weapons of the Third Reich (Gander/Chamberlain)
  • Onlne 52-K Reference

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