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BOFORS

Italeri 1/35 Bofors AA Gun w/Servants Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review August 2007 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject Bofors AA Gun w/Servants Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6458 Primary Media 149 parts in olive drab styrene
Pros First kit of this famous weapon in styrene; made to order for detail parts, upgrades and conversions to other nations weapons Cons Very basic model limits options, some parts not included; crew rather static and simplistic; overpriced for the value received
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $45.00

It is always a surprise to me when totally obscure weapons get kitted whereas some of the most influential ones in history are ignored. Therefore it's no surprise I was amazed that it took nearly 40 years from the beginning of modern 1/35 scale armor kits for a full kit of a 40mm Bofors gun to be offered.

The Bofors 40mm automatic antiaircraft gun is one such weapon which ranks up there with the US M2 (nee M1921) 0.50" caliber machine gun – "Ma Deuce." Designed in 1928, the gun entered production and service with the Swedish military in 1930, but by the beginning of World War II was in service with 18 countries and in production in 11 more, with some unlicensed close copies also made in the USSR. Produced in both 37mm and 40mm calibers, the Bofors was probably the most widely fielded light antiaircraft gun of the war, and even today serves in further developed models. Using the longer 70 caliber barrel, radar guidance with laser rangefinding, and even "trick" ammunition the 40mm is still lethal to low-flying aircraft, cruise missiles and UAVs. They are still in production today in the PRC.

The US originally was not a user of the Bofors, but its own 37mm gun turned out to be a dud, so the US did adopt the more powerful and reliable Bofors 40mm as the M1 in April 1941. Nearly 35,000 were eventually built and they served on far after the war, as well as provided the basis for conversions of M15 AA halftracks to single 40mm mounts, and the tracked M19 and M42 series AA guns used paired 40mm Bofors guns. A much upgraded version of the twin mount was even fitted to the ill-fated Sergeant York in the early 1980s.

The Bofors is one of those simple yet enduring designs, and is capable of firing up to 120 rounds per minute with a vertical ceiling of 7200 meters in its WWII version. Feed is provided by four-round clips, but the crew size varies based on the user country. It takes a crew of two onboard the mount (pointer and gunner) to operate the weapon as one man controls traverse and the other elevation and firing. Both are equipped with simple fixed format "predictor" sights with rings to suggest lead against the target.

Needless to say, when Italeri released its stunning PT Boat kit many modelers were excited to see a 40mm Bofors gun on the rear mount of the boat and a few hardy souls were even tempted to buy that kit just for the gun assembly. Italeri then announced that it would be releasing a complete Bofors with crew later in 2007, and the kit has now been released.

As Aberdeen recently refurbished their M1 Bofors and returned it to the North Lawn for display, I shot a number of photos of it to compare with this kit. The photos show that Italeri did a pretty good job of getting the basics of the gun right, and apparently most of their research right. The kit and the APG gun mounts do not match, but this appears to be due to Italeri doing an M2 carriage with the early elevation equipment and the APG gun using an M2A1 which used modified elevation gear to get faster on-target performance in tracking. (Hint: if you want to do an M2A1 carriage, use the APG one as a prototype; all of the postwar ones seem to have been upgraded to this version and it is like the APG gun was the prototype.)

There are some nice touches in the kit, such as a case containing a spare barrel and flash hider; like most high volume weapons, these guns tended to get "shot out" very quickly and barrels were frequently changed.

Unlike many recent kits from other companies, Italeri also shows how to set the model in both firing position with jacks down and wheels rotated up (the bogies are fixed to the carriage) and to set up the model in travel mode.

Those are the good points. The model is a bit simplified – case in point being that the entire bottom of the carriage is open – but the good news is that while a lot of small details are missing or skimped on the ones provided appear to be accurate, so it is a case of adding to rather than cutting away and correcting. The model comes with the correct combat wheels and rims and not the early commercial type ones, using the traditional split halves which leave only a minor seam to sand off.

The crew unfortunately uses an old manufacturer's trick of duplication, so you get "twins" for the spotter and gunner and "twin" loaders. They are in basic fatigues which are pretty nondescript and with helmets and canteens; rifles are also provided as extras. Three four-round clips of ammo are provided with the gun; one key part missing is the weather cover for the feed at the rear of the weapon, which was used to keep water and debris out of the feed tracks for the ammunition when the gun was not in use or in travel (the APG gun's cover is welded in place.) This is a simple sheet metal cover with welded on strap handles on either side, but it should have been provided in the kit.

No decals are provided and the finishing instructions are pretty basic – flat olive drab with black tires.

Most of the research on this kit that I used came either from "shooting down" the APG Bofors as it sits today or the excellent 1986 book "The 40mm Bofors Gun" from Terry Gander.

Overall the kit is pretty decent and can be used as the basis for a really nicely done Bofors gun, or the key component into an "M15 Special" or other nations' weapons. But the price is very, very high for value received, and even from the most expensive of the Asian companies a gun and crew would only run about $34. Such a high cost, knowing you will have to get some etched metal or other bits to really make it shine, may defer many potential buyers from the kit.

Thanks to MRC for the review sample.

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