Decals have really gone on steroids since I took a hiatus from modeling 30 years ago (no, I was NOT in prison, LOL). Today's decal sheets provided in most kits are excellent in quality and often well-researched.
But there are some significant gaps.
One of these gaps is marking stencils. German tanks, for example, had numerous stencils covering everything from the first aid kit to esoteric things like the "G" on many vehicles during cold weather (likely meaning "Glysantin geschützt" or "glysantin-protected," indicating a form of engine coolant that could not be mixed with other coolants).
Fortunately, Archer Fine Transfers has been releasing a series of waterslide decal sheets made by Cartograf, but sold under the AFT brand covering these sorts of stencils. Their latest is for Panther and Tiger Tanks.
what you get
In the usual Archer clear glassine envelope is a sheet of decals and a four page mini booklet with explanations & translations of the stencils.
One of the (unfair in my opinion) criticisms of Archer's products is they're expensive. Well, the kind of research that went into their sets is why the cost is perhaps higher than some modelers would like. Their AFT line is a way to keep costs more modest, yet give modelers a really good selection of interior and exterior stencils. This new set includes high-quality waterslide reproductions made by Cartograf, as well as detailed information about them and their meanings. Did you know, for example, that a Tiger tank's interior tool boxes were numbered (Werkzeugkasten 1 & 2)? Or that the machine pistol plug had a stencil identifying it (MP. Dichtstopfen)?
The Panther stencils are even more-extensive than those for the Tiger, since the usage of stenciling on Panthers is, as with many aspects of German armor, rather complicated. Many factory stencils were often over-painted by crews applying their own field camouflage (prior to August 1944 when factory camo paint schemes were adopted). So you will have to research whether your particular vehicle had Wischer und Stange ("cleaner & poles") on the side of its gun cleaning tube or not, or whether your particular Panther Ausf. A had a white "A" on its barrel clamp (only on MAN-manufactured vehicles did).
It might seem like a departure for Archer to offer waterslide decals, but these sets are less-expensive than the dry transfer sets the company is famous for. Plus they recognize that Cartograf's level of excellence rivals their own in the dry transfer category. These decals don't require Archer's Wet Medium Paper (for small dry transfers) or other tools besides something to soften the decal and keep it in place. The fonts are accurate and were researched from ten separate authoritative publications such as Panzer Tracts by Ron Owen Hayes.
The sheet isn't exhaustive. Tiger expert David Byrden pointed out that "the numbers in red rectangles that marked the steps for sealing the turret inside the Early Tigers" are missing. Choices have to be made, yet this set helps to bridge the gap between what kit makers do and what they should provide.
As the level of accuracy and detailing goes up, the need for specialized decal sets like this one is apparent. Those modelers who exhibit their works at model shows know that judges go over them with little short of microscopes, so having this kind of resource is invaluable.
Thanks to Archer Fine Transfers for providing this review sample. Please be sure to mention you saw it reviewed on Armorama when ordering.
Highs: Sharp details, easy-to-apply, a real necessity for even the premium model kits of Panthers & Tigers that often lack these details.Lows: None really.Verdict: Highly recommended. The model makers simply don't include all of these details on their decal sheets. Reasonably-priced, too.
Our Thanks to Archer Fine Transfers! This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.