In the novel Candide
, Voltaire has one of his characters exclaim “this is the best of all possible worlds!” Certainly for fans of German halftracks, this would seem to be so. All major weight classes except the 12 ton Sd.Kfz.8 are out in styrene kits, and the past year has seen an explosion of possibilities for the Sd.Kfz.7 and its two major variants. Dragon and Trumpeter have released no fewer than seven new kits ranging from the Prime Mover (in early and wooden-cargo bed late war versions) through Late War Sd.Kfz.7/1s and 7/2s with their characteristic armored cabs.
All this interest in the Sd.Kfz.7 isn’t surprising, since it was one of the most-important halftracks in the Wehrmacht’s arsenal. Developed in the 1930s by the Munich firm of Kraus-Maffei, over twelve thousand rolled off the production lines of several contractors right through to the end of the war as both an artillery transport and a gun platform for the 2 and 3.7 centimeter FlaK guns. The Sd.Kfz.7 served in one form or another in all theaters, including North Africa, and was part of Army, Luftwaffe and SS units.
Not surprisingly, the photo etch and accessory market for the Sd.Kfz.7 has been heating up, with after-market upgrades for these new kits coming online from various manufacturers, including an entire series for the Sd.Kfz.7/1 from Griffon Model. This review will look at the replacement barrel “value” set for the 2cm FlaK 38 Vierling
(“quad”) version carried on the Sd.Kfz.7/1 (both Early and Late War versions, with and without armored cabs).
the FlaK 38
The FlaK 38 2cm was Germany’s main light anti-aircraft gun during the Second World War, and complemented the heavier FlaK 18/36/37 8.8cm “Eighty-Eight,” especially in low-altitude assignments where volume of lead thrown at the target was more important than pinpoint accuracy (for example, glider assaults). The quad version was developed when the Army complained about the low mass of its projectile. Quadrupling the array resulted in a fire rate of 420-480 rounds per minute, and was especially deadly when used against ground forces, paratroops and lightly-armored vehicles or buildings.
Griffon Model always packages their delicate upgrade sets in “clamshell” clear plastic boxes that protect the pre-formed brass pieces. This kit’s small packages contains:
4 turned aluminum barrels
4 brass fluted flash suppressors
4 frets of PE
While the upgrade is intended for the Dragon Sd.Kfz.7/1, it will also improve the styrene barrels of the Trumpeter version (part of a dual build log here
). The Trumpeter 2cm quad has been justly criticized for inaccuracies in the gun sight, the number of ammunition bays at the base of the gun mount (7 instead of the correct 8), and also the barrel length. But frankly speaking, no styrene barrel can equal a metal turned one, especially given the delicate fluting and exhaust holes on the muzzle brake. Some AM barrel makers deliver the muzzle brakes flat and require you to form them yourself, a dicey and challenging prospect even with a specialized tool. Griffon delivers the flash guards fully-formed and ready to be attached to the barrels.
There are numerous replacement barrels on the market for the 2cm, but not all of them have the level of detailing in this Griffon set. One important feature for those who demand the greatest accuracy is the inclusion of “grips” for changing the barrels. While these are very subtle rough patches on the barrel, they are important to those who demand accuracy. With a rate of fire of over 100 rounds per minute per barrel, the heat and wear & tear on the barrels meant they had to be replaced periodically. Not all AM barrels have these grips included.
This upgrade is appropriate even for a beginning modeler or someone whose skills with PE are rudimentary. As stated above, the muzzle brakes come pre-formed and simply need to be glued to the barrel tips (which are hollowed-out). The PE ammo containers and breech covers should not prove too challenging, since the containers are just four pieces and the breech is one piece that must be folded in six places; it requires nothing more than patience and care. Additional PE includes the muzzle brake and barrel screw attachment cover plates. They are small but not complicated, though the instructions could be clearer about their placement. The Dragon Sd.Kfz.7/1 kit will build up nicely OOB (though its FlaK 38 gun sight is a less-common FlaKvisier 20 which can be remedied by the Griffon Flakvisier 40 resin and PE brass upgrade reviewed here). But it would be an unfair to compare the results from a styrene version with the crisp detailing you get on these barrels.
A build log of this accessory set can be found by clicking here