In the novel Candide
, Voltaire has one of his characters exclaim “this is the best of all possible ages!” Certainly for fans of German halftracks, this would seem to be so.
All major variants except the 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 variants. A popular gun platform, the 8 ton Sd.Kfz. had both the 2cm and 3.7cm FlaK arrays mounted on it. The 7/1 variant used a “quad” array of four barrels, and served in all branches of the Wehrmacht (Army, Luftwaffe and SS) and in all theaters except perhaps North Africa, where I have not been able to find any confirmation of its presence or any photos showing it there.
The importance of the FlaK 38 2cm can’t be overstated: it was Germany’s main light anti-aircraft gun during the Second World War, and in its quad array, was especially effective in low-altitude assignments where volume of fire was more important than accuracy. The quad setup proved deadly against ground troops and buildings, too. This “fearsome foursome” is most recognized mounted on the rear of the Sd.Kfz.7/1 and the Wirbelwind
(a fully-tracked AA vehicle derived from the Panzer IV chassis).
It was also mounted on trains, Schnell-boats and even U-boats, especially on “FlaK traps” designed to ambush Allied anti-submarine aircraft flying over the Bay of Biscay where Germany’s submarines had to run a gauntlet on their way to and from bases in France. Seawater and the increasing technical sophistication of Allied technology turned out to be more than the Vierling
could handle, and the FlaK trap concept was abandoned.
Developed by the firm of Rheinmetall
in the 1930s, the single barrel version had never been popular with the German Army, which preferred the 3.7cm because of its far heavier (therefore deadlier) projectile and similar rate-of-fire. Rheinmetall responded with the quad that produced a withering practical rate of fire of 420-480 rounds per minute. The gun’s operator controlled the traverse and elevation with two hand wheels, and could fire automatically or semi-automatically from two foot pedals, all together or in pairs. What its 20 mm round lacked in punch was overcome by sheer volume.
With the launch of several Sd.Kfz.7/1s, the photo etch and accessory market has been heating up, too. Griffon Model has released an entire series of upgrades for the Sd.Kfz.7 and Sd.Kfz.7/1. This review will look at a complete upgrade of the quad gun that includes both the shields and the other details (especially the ammunition container bays at the base of the gun platform), though does not include the barrels or sight (click here
to read my review of the quad barrel-pack; click here
to read my review of the FlaKVisier 40 sight).
The upgrade comes flat in a plastic sleeve with
4 frets of PE
A Ziploc baggie containing strands of copper wire for making hinges and larger links of wire for fabricating attachment points
A small sheet of clear acetate for dials and screens
Griffon Model has also released a PE brass upgrade for the gun shields by themselves (reviewed by me here
), but this is the full gun upgrade intended to rebuild the Dragon Sd.Kfz.7/1 kit version almost totally. It’s as if you are using the styrene as a base for a totally brass-based gun. As with the shields upgrade, the detailing goes far beyond anything possible by today’s styrene technology, including eyelets on the gun shield, a shell-collecting bin with a sliding opening, metal grab handles, etc.
The problems encountered with the instructions in the shields upgrade are not present here, since the entire grouping of brass frets is present. The casting is superb, with different thicknesses of brass depending on the purpose of the part. The shields themselves are much heavier than the hinges, for example, and shape very well with a good brass folding tool (a must for handling this and other Sd.Kfz.7 upgrades).
I intend on using it on the Trumpeter version, since its 2cm quad has been justly criticized for inaccuracies in the gun sight and the number of ammunition bays at the base of the gun mount (7 instead of the correct 8). This upgrade set will work amazing changes on the Dragon version, too, replacing its styrene gun shield with a scale-correct brass version. Is the set sufficiently marvelous to justify the expense and headaches of working with this many parts? For those who demand accuracy, the only answer is "yes."
While the Dragon kit will build up nicely OOB with its FlaK 38 (other than a rare FlaK 20 sight, which can be remedied by the Griffon Flakvisier 40 resin and PE brass upgrade, this set really is essential for correcting the inaccuracies of the Trumpeter Sd.Kfz.7/1s (both the early and late versions).
to see a build log of this accessory set.