’s series of the M4A4, M4A1 and the M4A2, the logical step from a molding perspective would have been an M4 or maybe an early M4A3. In this sense Tasca’s announcement of the imminent M4A3(76)w release came as somewhat of a surprise to many of us, but it is of course a necessary step towards the full range of Sherman kits. Unlike the previous releases, this version needs a completely new upper and lower hull as well as a new turret. On the other hand, many of these molds can be used for other versions as well, such as M4A1(76) and M4A2(76) Shermans.
There is no need to recite the history of the Sherman tank at this point as most of you will already know it. This version was used mainly by the US Army in Europe, and later variants had the new HVS-suspension with wider tracks. This version has been served by other manufacturers before, most notably the aging but still useful Italeri kit (often re-boxed by other manufacturers) and two installments by Dragon (the older Battle of the Bulge kit No. 6255 and the newer premium edition No. 6325).
The box contains 18 sprues in olive drab plastic, two small clear sprues, 4 pieces of vinyl tracks, a PE fret, poly caps, a piece of foam rubber and the decal sheet, so we have a lot of ground to cover. Most of these sprues are packaged in one bag each, which is highly commendable. There are no sink marks, flash or knock-out nodes nor pin marks in places they can be seen later. The usual mold seams are easy to remove and in many cases barely noticeable. The instructions are easy to follow line drawings with options clearly pointed out.
Tasca has an interesting way of molding, as some areas of a sprue are exactly the same as we’ve seen in other kits and other parts are new. This is most notable on sprue C (x1) which contains some parts for earlier Shermans, which will go to the spares box, and also quite a few M4A3/47° hull specific parts. Sprue D/G (x2), on the other hand is one we’ve seen before in other kits. The G part however can be found separately in the kit in 3 different versions in clear and olive drab plastic. Other M4A3 specific parts are on sprues H (upper hull and sponson floors) and O (engine deck and exhaust parts). Sprue J has the transmission cover and the parts for the 76mm turret, while another Sprue H contains the turret shell.
Construction begins with the fully working suspension with each of the 6 bogies composed of 15 parts and foam rubber inserts to get the working effect. The suspension was released before as set 35-008. Sprue B (x3) contains all the parts for the bogies, while sprue A (x2) has the drive sprockets and the idlers. The bogies are the appropriate raised return roller type and have nice foundry markings and the three bottom bolts. There are two options of road wheels with either the pressed solid spoked type or the smooth dish type. All wheels (including the idler) have rear inserts and the road wheels can be fitted with the small rivets along the inside. The kit also includes all three possible variants of the drive sprockets. The kit comes with a T48 track with two parts per side that should be glue-able with normal plastic cement. The T48 track is adequate for this version. There are no duckbill end connectors.
The lower hull is constructed next, and as we’ve become used to with Tasca, it is constructed from separate parts for the floor, sides and back. These are all contained on sprue E. The idler mounts are a wonderful slide molding with delicate details. Tasca recommends not to glue these in place so the track tension can be adjusted later on. The exhaust deflector is made up of 6 parts and must be the most detailed exhaust deflector in plastic I’ve seen so far. On the front end, the one piece transmission cover has subtle cast texture, though some may wish to increase this even more as it is very subtle and regular. There are no foundry markings on this part.
The upper hull is finely molded with foundry marks where necessary. There is no weld seam on the side where the front armor plate is attached to the sides. Weld seams on top of the hull on the other hand are correct with raised details. There are detailed inserts for the sponson floors.
The hull machine gun is slide molded with muzzle depression and can be mounted movable. Lights are provided in plastic with the lenses separately in clear plastic. The modeler has a choice of either plastic or PE for the light brush guards. Fenders are provided separately and very finely molded. Driver and hull machine gunner’s hatches are detailed with either clear or normal plastic periscopes and protective guards from PE. The instructions give you details on how to improve the hatch with handles from wire, but no wire (or any handles in plastic) is included.
Moving along the sides to the rear: sand guard mounting strips are provided in plastic and seem a bit on the thick side (although very thin for plastic parts). PE would maybe have served this part better. The back armor of the hull is a separate part and the engine deck is provided separately from 4 parts indicating more versions of the 47° hull Sherman on the way. The engine bay doors could be modeled open for those wanting to mount an engine. There is an option for early or late type engine deck (with the back part of it either made up of one or two panels), and handles are provided in plastic here. Armored fuel caps are provided separately with detail underneath. The rear lights are in normal plastic with the guards again either in plastic or PE. The tools are nicely detailed items, but there are no straps and these will have to be sourced elsewhere. The tie downs where the straps go on the other hand, are molded with the upper hull.
The turret assembly starts with the gun barrel. The modeler has the choice of two different barrels, either the earlier smooth muzzle M1/M1A1 barrel or the later M1A1C /M1A2 with muzzle brake thread protector. No muzzle brake is provided. Unfortunately the barrels are made up of two halves and care will have to be taken to get a correct alignment and profile. The gun mantlet again has a very subtle cast texture and is also missing the foundry marks. There is no gun breech, and no other interior details are provided.
The turret itself is constructed in the usual fashion of upper and lower halves and again has subtle cast texture and foundry marks where appropriate. It is the earlier type turret with the two large hatches (the later commander’s cupola with periscopes and the ring mount with .50 cal. machine gun) which is correct for the gun barrels provided. The ring mount includes detailed hatches with periscope and handles inside and out. And of course the Tasca .50 cal. MG is still the best plastic representation of the “ma duce” I have seen to date, see the separate review here:
Tasca .50 cal. MG
The commander’s cupola can either be built from a clear plastic part or a normal part. The sprue and part are identical, just a different type of plastic. The lid unfortunately has hardly any interior detail and no periscope. Again there are instructions to make the handle from wire but no wire or plastic alternative provided.
The pistol port is correctly integrated into the turret (unlike the Italeri offering). There is a mold line around the pistol port, which I am unsure whether it represents an original mold line or is just a leftover from the slide molding process. I am assuming the latter as I have not seen anything like it in photos of the original. These should prove easy to sand off. Detailed instructions are given, as to how to mount the machine gun on the back of the turret in the stored position (and of course there is a full length separate MG barrel for this as well).
As a little bonus the kit also includes 4 of Tasca’s nicely detailed US jerry cans (2 water and 2 gas). These are also sold separately as kit 35-L14, see review here:
US Jerry Cans
Markings are provided for three different versions, all in olive drab with a full complement of stars (with those of the first example “scratched” off). The three different options are:
• C Company, 69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division 1944-45,
• C Company, 761st Tank Battalion, Nancy, France, November 1944,
• C Company, 774th Tank Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, Bovigny, Belgium, January 1945.
The decals are printed by Cartograf and the instructions point out - where possible - which alternative parts to use for which version.
This is certainly a beautifully engineered kit from which I expected a lot. I was somewhat disappointed by the barrels and some missing foundry marks as these would certainly have lifted this kit above the others available. Also the cast effect seems very smooth (although American casting was known to be smooth) and many may wish to increase the effect somewhat.
With the price of this kit about 50% higher than the comparable Dragon offering at a major Asian online store, I am inclined to say that the modeler will get more for his money elsewhere. This is especially true considering the Dragon offering has two types of turret, a metal barrel and muzzle brake. However, I will leave this decision to each modeler and again repeat that it is certainly a beautiful kit with a wealth of details and should prove well worth building.
Therefore, I have mixed feelings regarding the rating: The kit is well worth a 90% but due to the price and comparison to other offerings it only receives a “recommended” and not a “highly recommended”.
There is a wealth of literature on the M4. Some relatively easy and inexpensive to get are:
M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank 1943-65
, Steven Zaloga, Osprey New Vanguard
The M4 Sherman at War
, Steven Zaloga, Concord Publications
The Sherman at War (2)
, Steven Zaloga, Concord Publications
Walk Around M4 Sherman
, Jim Mesko, Squadron/Signal Publications
Sherman in Action
, Bruce Culver, Squadron/Signal Publications