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P-61B Black Widow Kit

Great Wall Hobbies 1/48 P-61B Black Widow Kit Build Review

By Larry Hornya

Date of Review August 2014 Manufacturer Great Wall Hobby
Subject P-61B Black Widow Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4810 Primary Media Styrene/Photo-Etch
Pros Beautifully done model of this distinctive aircraft Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $108.95

Build Review

For some background of this subject and a look at this kit out of the box, look here.

Great Wall models of China has recently released their long awaited and hopefully corrected 1/48 P-61B Black Widow kit.  Following on their flawed P-61A, Great Wall has taken steps to correct cowling and other general shape errors in hopes of releasing a better received kit.  The first overall impression of the kit shows that they have indeed done the majority of their homework and produced a far more accurate rendition of the United States' first designated production night fighter.

What is in the box:  The kit comes with many items that would have to be purchased as separate aftermarket features if one wanted to detail up the model.  Photo etched ignition wiring, weighted main gear and canopy masks are the main features of additional detail.  Separate instrument decals coupled with a finely molded instrument panel help the modeler create an instrument panel that rivals any photo etched aftermarket accessory.  The injection molded parts are finely cast in grey plastic.  Some of the smallest parts require extreme care to remove from the trees (and even with extra care and some precision sprue cutters I managed to break a few things!).  In fact, for some of the finest details, such as the forward crew access ladder and fuselage exterior antennas, I had to use a photo etched razor saw and very carefully cut the parts from the tree. 

The interior is ambitious and fairly busy.  I am not sure why they chose to mold a representation of the upper turret cylinder (it is not visible in any configuration of open panels that the kit provides) as that only complicates getting the fuselage halves together.  All I added in the end was a bit of extra wiring to the cockpit.

Construction:  Again, fairly straight forward.  The only little thing that just looked funny to me was the position and height of the pilot's control column.  It looks very high and way too close to the pilot's seat.  I simply shortened it and glued it in forward of the hole that it was designed to go it. The fuselage halves fit reasonably well.  The four under fuselage cannon made the alignment of the fuselage halves a bit tricky.  It would be much simpler to cut the cannon barrels off and put them in at the end.  Also, the kit instructions call for installation of the landing gear during the main airframe assembly.  I have never been a fan of this as it is a pain to mask the gear off and not damage them during the sanding and painting process.  You do not have to put the gear in as you assemble the airframe.  It was no problem to install the gear at the end. 

P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow

Overall fit of parts was good and very minimal putty was needed to fill any gaps.  All of the clear parts fit well and they are very cleanly molded.  I was a bit nervous about the wing roots because there really is not much support for them.   There are no spars or large tabs to guide the wings, only a small ridge round the fuselage wing root.  However, the fit not only proved to be good, the tail booms added plenty of support and the overall airframe ends up quite stout. 

Painting and decals:  Here is where a few problems crop up.  Firstly, the canopy masks.  Frankly, I would not recommend using them.  Many do not fit the panes in outline.  The compound curve areas do not stick well at all and in the end, the areas that did stick, stuck too well!  The masks left a gummy adhesive mess that was very difficult to remove.  All in all, it would have been easier to mask them myself given the time it took to clean the clear parts up after removing the masks.  Great Wall also completely forgot to make masks for the two farthest aft windows near the radio operator's compartment.  Given the problems with the mask, this ended up being merciful! 

P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow

Secondly, the decals were not the best quality.  The register is slightly off, leaving a very thin white outline on some parts, and they did not react to solvent.  I started with micro sol, which is what I use 99% of the time.  When nothing happened I broke out the old Solvaset, which also did nothing!  The decals did adhere well enough in the end, but they did not sink down into the panel lines much.   Also, these decals are very unforgiving of a rough surface texture.  I gloss coat pretty liberally but once in a while I end up with an area that is not perfectly smooth even though it has a nice glossy sheen.  If these decals end up on anything like that, they will silver.  I have found that really nice decals are bit forgiving of this, so long as the surface is shiny.  So to reiterate, mask the canopy yourself or get a better made aftermarket mask and use aftermarket decals!

P-61B Black Widow

Finish and detail:  The last bits of the kit went on without a hitch.  The gear are plenty stout.  You will need to make sure you add as much weight to the nose as you can.  I did not put the radar in the nose since this version had a solid painted nose, and I was still a bit tail heavy!  I ended up having to add some more weight to the engine nacelles to get her to sit on her nose.   Having said that, I used crumpled lead foil for weight, which is not space efficient.  Make sure you use something like lead shot, especially if you have the radar in the nose. 

P-61B Black Widow

The kit engines are beautifully detailed, but I will say they are a bit of a chore to assemble.  This was a commission build and my customer wanted one engine exposed.   All I added was one little oil drain line coming out of the gear reduction housing.  The rest of the engine is all from the kit.  Because the kit engine includes all of the exhaust pipes, great care in aligning the two cylinder rows in crucial to getting the pipes to fit correctly.  Take your time here and test fit a lot, and you should have no problems.

P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow

Conclusion:  This kit will certainly make a nice representation of the P-61B right out of the box (excluding the kit decals).  Because this was a commission build, time was of the essence in terms of efficiency in construction and detail.  Nothing "bogged" me down (except cleaning the gunk off of the canopy that was left by the masks) and overall, this kit was a pleasure to build.  It is certainly light years ahead of the old Monogram kit.  I would recommend the kit to anyone interested in a 1/48 model of this unique and fascinating airplane.

P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow P-61B Black Widow

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