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M103A1 Heavy Tank

DML 1/35 M103A1 Heavy Tank Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2014 Manufacturer DML
Subject M103A1 Heavy Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 3548 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Great details Cons See text
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $81.95

First Look

M103A1 Heavy Tank
M103A1 Heavy Tank
M103A1 Heavy Tank
M103A1 Heavy Tank
M103A1 Heavy Tank

I remember the first time I saw the M103 tank, I initially mistook it for an M60 and when I was quized by one of my colleagues, I noted the rounded front hull and settled on a late variant of the M48 Patton. Of course I was wrong on both counts, but you can see that the M103 was a super-sized M48. The M103 was designed as a heavy tank to counter Soviet heavy tanks in service like the IS-3 Stalin tank. The main gun was the M58 120mm rifled cannon which required a two-part round (projectile and charge), which in turn required two loaders in the turret to feed the gun.

Where the M48 and M60 used four-man crews (commander, gunner, loader, driver), the M103 was a five-man crew with a second loader. At first blush, the tank does resemble the M48, but where the M48 and M60 have six road wheels and five return rollers on each side, the M103 is recognized with seven road wheels and six return rollers. The M103 is only a few inches wider than the M48 and M60, so to accommodate the extra man in the turret, the commander's position was located to the rear of the longer turret. The M103 was around 15 tons heavier than the M48 and M60, but it used a a similar drive train rated at 750 horsepower. This left the M103 underpowered and the US Army transitioned to the M60 and retired its M103s in the 1960s. The US Marine Corps kept their M103s in service for another decade. Neither service took their M103s into combat.

The kit consists of more than 460 highly detailed parts molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees. Two runs of rubber tracks (molded in tan vinyl) are included along with one small fret of photo-etched parts.

Some key features of the kit are:

  • Modular engine deck design will support M103A2 release in the future
  • A number of extra parts including a second set of fenders also lead to a future version
  • Driver hatch is positionable though there is no interior detail
  • Commander's hatch is positionable but again, no detail inside
  • Very detailed suspension
  • Detailed hull exterior
  • M2 machine gun on commander's cupola
  • Markings are provided for two US Army and one USMC examples circa 1959

This is a interesting kit of the US cold war heavy armor that pre-dates the M1 Abrams and will definitely stand out parked next to your M48 and M60 tanks on the shelf. There are some good discussions online about how you might want to correct the length of the main gun barrel as well as shifting the turret ring aft and a few associated angles of the underside of the turret. Considering this kit was the flagship of their new 'Black Label' series at a higher price point, it is unfortunate that they had some of these design bugs.

My sincere thanks to DML for this review sample!