MiniArt 1/35 SU-76M Soviet Self-Propelled Gun w/Crew Kit First Look
|Date of Review||February 2008||Manufacturer||MiniArt|
|Subject||SU-76M Soviet Self-Propelled Gun w/Crew||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35036||Primary Media||604 parts (600 in grey styrene, 4 in clear styrene)|
|Pros||Nice, new molds of this popular little Soviet SP gun; good amount of detail for the fighting compartment and plenty of ammunition; crew figures nicely posed||Cons||Lots of very small and fragile parts; some ejection pin marks on the interior faces of the fighting compartment components|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$55.95|
In October 1942 a design team at Factory No. 38 in Kirov, led by M. N. Shchukin and S. A. Ginzberg, developed the SU-12 prospective light self-propelled gun mounting using the components of the T-70M light tank. The vehicle was completed in November, tested in December and adopted for service as the SU-12 but popularly called the SU-76, entering immediate production at that time. This weapon carried the famous dual purpose ZIS-3 field gun which also functioned as an effective antitank gun.
The SU-76 had a number of serious problems with its design, first and foremost being the fact it had a closed compartment at the rear which limited both visibility and the ability to service the gun. The gunner had a small cover elevated above the sights for use to observe the battlefield, but overall it was very dark, cramped and difficult to operate. Production ceased in July 1943 after only 560 were built.
The vehicle was redesigned by T-70 designer N. A. Astrov in April 1943 and in July 1943 the SU-15 (SU-76M) officially replaced the SU-76 in production (actual replacement on the lines appears to have taken place in May 1943). The cooling louvers on the left side of the roof was removed, the roof eliminated and the back of the sides and rear of the hull cut down for easier use of the gun and servicing by the crew. A much handier design, it proved quite popular in service, and during the war 11,494 guns were built by the Gor'kiy Automotive Plant, Factory No. 38 in Kirov, and Factory No. 40 in Mytishchi. A further 2,238 were built after the war, bringing total production to 13,732.
The SU-76s were used in four-gun batteries, three batteries per battalion, and in some cases three battalions to a regiment. Each battalion was issued with a T-70 or T-80 light tank as a command vehicle. During and after the war, these vehicles were freely distributed to allies of the Soviet Union as well as the forces of "struggling national movements" such as the PLA, the KPAF, and the PAVN.
There were two models of the SU-76M built, apparently referred to as either Model 1 or Model 2. The latter had an open casemate but higher sides and a bar across the back for attaching an antiaircraft mount for the vehicle's DT machine gun.
The SU-76 earned the unfortunate nickname "Suka" or "Suchka" in Russian, which translates as "little bitch." The name apparently transferred to the SU-76M, but this seems to have become more of an affectionate one than the pejorative used on its parent vehicle.
About 15 years ago Alan from Russia came out with a kit of the SU-76M that was later placed in wide release by DML. This kit was something of a dog, as it had probably the thickest and heaviest part ever placed in a small model in a floor plan approximately 6mm (1/4") thick. It was not popular and few modelers wanted to rebuild the kit to get good results.
MiniArt has now taken the work done on their T-70/T-70M and T-80 kits, as well as their ZIS-3 gun, to create a brand-new kit of the SU-76M Model 1. The kit is very nicely done and has beautifully delicate work on the parts and the components used in it, but it is not a "quickie" build. (The fact it has over 535 parts should be an indicator of that!)
The kit is laid out with what appear to be modified sprues from the T-70/T-80 kits for its suspension. The wheels are the same T-70 size wheels, which are a tad too thin (104mm in real life or about 2.97mm in scale, and they are dead on; the T-70M/T-80/SU-76 wheels are 130mm wide or 3.7mm. Track links, however, are dead on for the M series tracks with a scale size of 300mm x 111mm (8.57mm x 3.17mm). The reason seems to be a conscious decision to make the teeth sturdy enough to resist breaking and the wheels are sized to fit the track and vice versa. Overall, it does not look bad when assembled, so this is not as major a fault as kits like the Tamiya T-62 or ESCI T-55 having skinny wheels.
The first 10 steps of the directions cover assembly of the gun, which, while it appears to be based on the separate kit of the carriage-mounted ZIS-3, is a new sprue. There are 55 parts to the complete gun and armored shroud assembly, and while some modelers may complain they are all separate parts with two-section round objects (read seams) they are nicely done; make good use of a FlexiFile and it should not be a problem.
Assembly of the hull is pretty straightforward but the cooling air intake on top of the hull roof (part 99) is a solid molded grille, so it will be a bit more difficult to cut and replace with a mesh or etched component. The cooling air exhaust on the right side of the hull uses a clever "herringbone" center section (part 137) to produce the louvers, which is a smart idea.
The gun assembly is pinned to the hull from below in Step 19 by the use of a plastic pin (part 81) which looks to an awkward method and may cause problems, especially those who do not paint the model as they assemble it. Since this pin is then sealed behind the firewall (part 57) it is something to be taken into consideration.
The kit comes with a nearly complete "basic load" of ammunition, which MiniArt has wisely designed with the mounting clamps attached to the individual shells. However, the shells are designed for the different racks and have the clamps in different places – high around the projectile or low around the neck of the casing. Alas, while the kit includes eight "Arrow" shells (APC ammunition) as parts 71, the two different clamp types of HE-FRAG rounds are all called "Part 45" so you will have to pay close attention as to which is which.
This particular vehicle comes with two PPSh submachine guns in racks and ammo drums for them; it does not come with a DT machine gun, which is a bit unfortunate as it limits the modeler's options. Most of the brass add-on kits for the old Alan/DML kits have the disk racks for the DT guns, if you really want to have that option instead. (More of them were used with the SU-76M Model 2 variant anyway.)
The driver-mechanic's hatch and rear door are optional position parts. This helps when one examines the crew figures, which appear to provide a crew for a vehicle in firing position. The kit provides the complete #35037 set (available separately) which provides a five man crew: commander, gunner, and three "other numbers" loaders. Two of the figures (commander and loader standing behind the vehicle) are wearing greatcoats. The other three (gunner using the sights, loader behind the gun, and kneeling loader with the ammo supply) are wearing the quilted Soviet winter combat uniform; all five have the "Shelomofon" type padded helmets.
The figures are well sculpted and animated, and should be useful for other purposes as well by dioramists. As a bonus, the figure set also includes eight more HE-FRAG rounds but without the rack clamps as found in the vehicle part of the kit. Each one consists of eight basic parts (torso, legs, arms, hands and head) with a three-piece "Shlemofon" helmet; the greatcoat figures add a respectably thin two-piece skirt.
Finishing options are well covered with a color finishing direction set for painting (a nice touch in all of the MiniArt kits so far) and covers the following vehicles as well as the crew: SP battalion, 11th Guards Army, East Prussia 1944 (white A-514 2); Unknown regiment, East Prussia 1945 (white 2-314, with one tank kill); 1238th SP Artillery Regiment, Poland March 1945 (white 1659); 1448th SP Artillery Regiment, 9th Krasnodar Cossack Division, Poland 1944 (white 31); 1223rd SP Artillery Regiment, 5th Guards Tank Army, 3rd Belorussian Front, Vilnius July 1944 (white 14 2). Serial numbers are also included where known.
Overall this is a nice little kit and even with the large number of parts should be a relatively easy build compared to the Alan/DML one. While the price seems high, it must be remembered that in a day and age where standard provision of a figure set from 25 years ago is now an option the kit does include appropriate figures, so the price is competitive with other kits.
NOTE: Those wishing to do a postwar or Korean variant should recall that MiniArt has advertised a "late production" version of the SU-76M which should be the Model 2 variant.
- A 126 Upper hull and fighting compartment
- B 104 76mm gun and hull glacis/roof
- C 42x2 Wheels and suspension
- D 44x5 Track links
- E 4 Clear styrene
- F 1 Lower hull tub
- 35307 65 Russian Artillery crewmen