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Atomic Cannon

Revell/Renwall 1/32 Atomic Cannon Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2011 Manufacturer Revell/Renwall
Subject Atomic Cannon Scale 1/32
Kit Number 7811 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Unique and classic kit back for a limited release Cons Decals: vehicle serial numbers are the original Renwall kit number, not one of the actual atomic cannons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $53.95

First Look

Atomic Cannon
Atomic Cannon
Atomic Cannon
Atomic Cannon
Atomic Cannon
Atomic Cannon

As the United States continued to improve as well as reduce the size of its atomic weapons in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Army sought an artillery piece that could deliver a nuclear weapon up to 20 miles away without the need for Air Force assistance. The job was given to Picatinny Arsenal and the obvious starting point for such a weapon was none other than Anzio Annie, the German K5 railroad gun captured and returned to the United States. The carriage was based upon the German gun, but the barrel was up-scaled to 280mm to be compatible with the smallest form factor nuclear device available at the time. To transport the weapon, a pair of tractors were built, each rated at 375 horsepower and the resulting combination was engineered such that a crew could dismount the gun in 15 minutes, fire the weapon as needed, then remount the gun onto the tractors and move out.

At least 20 of these 'Atomic Annie' cannons were produced and deployed to Korea and Europe, but the weapon has only fired one live atomic round in its history. On May 25, 1953, one of these guns fired a 15 kiloton round seven miles downrange onto an instrumented range at the Nevada Test Site. The weapon detonated as advertised and the weapon was deemed operational. Ironically, the instrumented range wasn't significantly damaged, so the Air Force used that same target shortly afterwards for a 10 kiloton test that obliterated the target. This would be the turning point in atomic weapons employment as the old adage "it isn't the size that matters, it is how it is used" applied here. The difference in detonation altitude had more effect on the target than the yield of the weapon.

The M65 (as the system was designated) would serve as a deterrent from its initial deployment in the mid-1950s through 1963, but realistically the M65 was obsolete not long after its initial deployment. Weapons technology had continued to evolve and atomic weapons continued to shrink so that compatible rounds were soon available for the existing batteries of 155mm and 203mm artillery.

Revell has been reissuing several of the classic Renwall kits that haven't seen the light of day outside of collectors' shelves in decades. Renwall was ahead of its time with super-detailed (for those days) models with many working (movable) features that captured the imaginations of a generator (or more) of modelers (including me). I still fondly remember the Walker Bulldog and the M55 self-propelled artillery piece kits. One such kit that did get reissued briefly many years ago is this Renwall Atomic Cannon.

This Atomic Cannon reissue is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees (duplicate trees not shown here). The kit is actually three in one box: the M249 and M250 tractors, and the T72 cannon. The cannon can be mounted to the two tractors or each can be displayed individually. The kit provides the following features/options:

  • Dismounted gun can be rotated in azimuth on the turntable
  • Working gun elevation wheel
  • Movable/stowable crew platforms
  • Cannon can be mounted/dismounted from the lifting forks
  • Tractors have nice detailing
  • Seven optional crew figures
  • Seperate weapons cart with one shell

Out of the box, this kit will be a fun build and with some careful attention to detail, will look awesome without need for any aftermarket parts. However, this is a very old kit (back when many armor kits were still in 1/32 scale) and the details are not up to contemporary standards. That being said, there are many aftermarket items that can be adapted to this project in 1/32 and 1/35 scale and with an AMS modeler's touch, you can also turn this kit into a masterpiece. Here is a site with a good photo walk around of the entire M65 system.

Markings are provided for one example. The vehicles are given a serial number of M553 which is a nod to the past. While this kit release is Revell 7811, the original Renwall kit number was none other than M553. You can examine the photo references online to obtain a real-world vehicle number set if you're interested.

It is really great to see this kit on the market again. Kudos to Revell for continuing to reissue these classic Renwall kits as I know many modelers (including myself) who've wanted to build these for old-times sake but didn't want to pay collectors' prices for the opportunity. Of all of the Renwall kits that I did build back in the day, this wasn't one of them and that will be corrected soon enough. While this sample kit is heading out to another military veteran for a build review.

For a look at this model built-up, click here.

My sincere thanks to Revell for this review sample!