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U.S. Machine Gun Set

Academy 1/35 U.S. Machine Gun Set First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review August 2004 Manufacturer Academy
Subject U.S. Machine Gun Set Scale 1/35
Kit Number 1384 Primary Media 102 parts in dark silver grey styrene
Pros Absolutely gorgeous kit of its chosen subjects, providing enough parts in one box to upgrade one to four models; included accessories and positionable parts a plus Cons Air cooled M3 type .50 caliber weapons an odd choice
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $7.00

First Look

This has to be one of the best selling kits on the market, or Academy has not been bright enough to send a sufficient number to the US. It has taken me over a year to finally find and pick up a set of these weapons, and while the wait has been frustrating the kit is worth all of the word of mouth about it.

US weapons have fared poorly with model manufacturers over the years, as in the early days "play value" meant that the machine guns had to be (a) simple and (b) sturdy. When kits began to become more sophisticated with the release of the first Tamiya Military Miniatures series kits in 1968, however, nobody made much of a change in their machine guns except to make the barrels thinner. Most of the Browning M1921 series guns - the M2 or "Ma Deuce" being the most common with a heavy barrel - suddenly found themselves without controls such as handles and in possession of a conical heat shield around the barrel/breech junction. The M1917A4 - the lighter .30 caliber versions - fared as badly, with no handles on most iterations or a stumpy or too thick barrel. They also far too often came with their mounts molded in place.

Later, as modelers complained about poor or inaccurate details, the details began to improve. M2s came with twin grips, and some even came with cocking handles; the .30s came with separate mounts, but most of them were still inaccurate. Resin and white metal manufacturers soon took over the market for accurate auxiliary armaments.

This kit was the second of its type to come out - Skybow had released its .50 caliber gun and vehicle mount first - but was immediately cited for doing far more to get things right and also to provide more guns in one package than the resin kits.

What the kit provides are two complete M1917A4 .30 caliber Brownings, two of the M2 (M3) type aerial guns with perforated barrel jackets, and two M2HB .50 caliber guns with a variety of options.

The .30s come with both the ground mount, a fixed turret pylon mount, and the "rocker" mount options (one of each) as well as a folded tripod and seven ammo cans. Due to some confusion in the directions (these are steps 4 and 5a/b) you must pay attention to what you want and how you want the guns to look.

The M3 style .50s come with short, simple mounts and separate "butterfly" triggers, grips, and charging handles. These are covered in Step 3.

The M2HB types have several options for various periods - barrels with quick change/carrying handles, barrels without them, and barrels with the recent addition of the flash hider. There are two of each in this case, so you have lots of choices. They also come with two different style mount cradles (simple and complex), separate feed covers, charging handles, "butterflies" and grips, two kinds of ammunition trays, and a ground mount tripod or fixed vehicle mounts. Six ammunition cans are included.

Academy also includes a set of decals in both white and yellow for the ammo cans, so that it is as complete a kit as one could want, and at this price is a good deal. Ammo belts are included, and the box art does indicate which ones are WWII period and which ones are postwar.

Overall this is one of the best products going of this type, and had they had a category for it this year at AMPS 2004 would certainly have won a Gold Medal for "Injection Molded Accessory of the Year for 2003."