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T-34 Model 1940/41 Cast Turret

Chesapeake Model Designs 1/35 T-34 Model 1940/41 Cast Turret First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review October 2004 Manufacturer Chesapeake Model Designs
Subject T-34 Model 1940/41 Cast Turret Scale 1/35
Kit Number CMD41/CMD42 Media 12 parts (11 in light tan resin, 1 turned aluminum barrel
Pros Permits Model 1941s to use the "cool" markings preferred by many modelers; dead on the money, drop-in replacement for kit parts Cons May only appeal to purists or die-hard "34" fans
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $18.00

First Look

One of the attempted great myths of the Soviet tank industry during World War II – "Great Patriotic War" if you are a Russian – was the reason for the use of cast turrets from late 1941 onwards for T-34 tanks.

According to legend – and in a move to enhance the biography of Aleksander A. Morozov, co-designer of the T-34 and its chief designer from September 1941 onward – the T-34 only used a rolled homogenous steel armor turret, assembled by welding, until the great movement to the Urals in October 1941. At that point the specialized rolling press used for making the turrets was lost in shipment, reportedly shifted onto a siding by accident and forgotten.

Morozov supposedly rose to the occasion and with his team quickly developed an equally effective cast turret in a matter of a few minutes, permitting T-34 production to quickly resume and permit the stopping of the Germans before Moscow.

Well, it sounds good on paper, but now there is too much photographic and documental evidence to let that myth live on. When the T-34 was created, and production begin to gear up, a second source of turrets was needed as the rolled and welded turrets were taking too long to produce. As a result, the Kharkov factory created a second turret design made from a single casting that would meet the needs of the production lines.

This turret was identical in shape to the first one but slightly thicker in its major dimensions – 52 mm vice 45 mm. This was to compensate for the fact that the rolled plate gained thickness when slanted, whereas the cast armor had to be of the correct thickness when cast. Overall, ballistic resistance was slightly better, due to the fact there were no weld beams to crack when the turret was hit.

This turret entered service in 1940 on the T-34 Model 1940 and originally mounted the 76mm L-11 gun made in Leningrad. In 1941, that gun was taken out of production, and while Leningrad began to make the slightly superior 76mm F-32 gun for its tanks, this gun was not offered to Kharkov for use in the T-34. The solution was to adopt the 76mm F-34, a longer and much more powerful gun, which made the T-34 Model 1941 the best tank in the world until early 1942.

Eventually due to the "needs of the front" the cast turrets fully replaced the welded ones, as each cast turret cut a large number of hours out of the time required to produce a T-34 tank. The cast concept was used for the later Models 1942 and 1943, as well as the T-34-85 Models 1944 and 1945. A number of tanks were later produced with a pressed steel turret developed in Chelyabinsk, but that was not of the same concept as the welded turret.

CMD has now taken the two great T-34 kits from DML into consideration and produced a cast version of the turret for use on the DML kits, This is a "drop fit" replacement, as CMD wisely noted if the original was done right there is no need to fully replace parts in resin "because we can," something other after-market companies should keep in mind.

Both kits are nearly identical in composition, the only difference being that they provide a perfect replacement gun barrel tube in turned aluminum for this specific kit. (Since CMD sells the barrels separately for about $8 each, figure the turret really only costs you $10 which is a bargain.)

Each new turret kit provides the following replacement parts: turret shell, turret race, trunnions, side vision device covers, and both the internal and external periscope sections. The rest of the parts must come from the kit – internal parts (seats and gun breech), hatch, commander's viewer, lift rings, and mantelet. The directions are a bit confusing here, as they show either an early model of what CMD wanted to do or the parts to be taken from the kit. The resin turrets have their roofs and rear plates cast in place, so they are not part of the selection of parts that must come from the kit.

While some people may squawk about not getting a resin mantelet, you don't really need one if you put the DML ones together right! They are NOT smoothly finished items but ones welded and bolted together from small parts and look it. (There is even a massive seam under the recoil cradle external cover on the Model 1941 – what would IPMS judges think?)

The main reason to switch to the cast turret for the Model 1941 is that since this variant was produced well into 1942 it is also the one that is most likely to bear the fancier early war markings T-34s began to sport soon after the war began in earnest. Many of the Model 1940s were knocked out early in the war, and thus do not have the same chances.

These turrets may also be used to upgrade Zvezda Model 1942 and Mirage/Maquette/RPM Model 1940/1941 kits, but you will have a lot of work to do in order to get their parts to fit these turrets. I personally do not recommend them for use with any of the Tamiya kits due to their age and the amount of work it would require to backdate those kits.

But for those who do like the cast turret over the welded one, you now have an excellent alternative for your "34."

Thanks to Bill Miley of CMD for the review samples.