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Montag, 15. Februar 2016

Review: 15mm Panzer IV by Plastic Soldier Company





Heyhey, today I would like to have a look at Plastic Soldier Company's 15mm  Panzer IV set. Five plastic tanks, four different marks to put together, pretty much an essential to anybody playing  WW2 Germans post-1942. Before we dive into this fine piece of cardboard though...




The historical bits


For most of the war the Panzerkampfwagen IV was the workhorse of the Wehrmacht's armoured vehicle arm. The funny thing is that originally it was not even planned for it to be a main battle tank. Originally the lighter Panzer III was meant to combat enemy armoured vehicles and the Panzer IV would be more of a traditional infantry support tank with a short-barrelled large calibre gun. The first production model of Panzer IV, Ausführung A which started production in 1936, sported a 7.5cm short barrelled cannon, eight roadwheels in pairs on leaf-spring suspensions and three supporting wheels on top.



The layout of the wheels didn't change much until 1945. As the war progressed, and with it armour and gun calibres increased quickly the Panzer III chassis proved to be too light to carry larger guns, so it was reduced to a more of a support role and Panzer IV was equipped with long (= higher range and muzzle velocity = more penetrating power), large-calibre anti-tank guns and additional armour. In May 1941 already there were plans to replace the short 7.5cm cannon on the Panzer IV with a 5cm anti-tank gun. These ideas were rendered insubstantial quickly as the 5cm gun proved too light to combat Soviet tanks in Russia.

Panzer IV Ausf. F2


In November 1941 the experiences made in Russia were used to reform the German tank strategy. The four general tank types seen required were a fast reconnaissance tank, a medium battle tank (to be based on Panzer IV), a heavy battle tank (based on the Tiger) and a 'heaviest battle tank'. With Panzer IV (then Ausf.F) repurposed as main battle tank plans were made to mount a long 7.5cm anti-tank gun in the turret. This made more than doubled the muzzle velocity of the projectile, increased range by more than two kilometers and made it an effective weapon against enemy tanks and artillery/infantry alike. To tell the short-barrelled version of Panzer IV F and the long-barrelled version apart the prior was renamed Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.F1, the latter became Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.F2.

Eversince the introduction of Panzer IV it had gotten heavier and heavier due to ever increased armour thickness and heavier turrets. From Ausf.A to Ausf.H net weight of Panzer IV had increased from 17.3 tons to 25 tons.

In March 1943 Ausf.H was introduced, with the final long 7.5cm gun, the whole series came with armour Schürzen on the sides of the hull and around the turret, anti-air MG on the commander cupola and Zimmerit applied to the hull to keep magnetic charges from sticking.

Panzer IV Ausf. H


Throughout the war about 9000 Panzer IV were produced (Panzer III produced: ca.5800, Panthers produced: 6334). Some were in use in other countries after the war, mostly Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary and notably Syria and Jordan in the six-days war during which most of them were captured by Israeli forces.

Until the end of the war Panzer IV remained the main battle tank of the German army and, along with veteran crews, proved to be more than a match for all but the heaviest enemy battle tanks. The chassis was used for a wide range of variants such as self-propelled guns such as the Hummel, tank hunters such as Jagdpanzer IV, assault tanks such as the Brummbär, anti air tanks such as Wirbelwind, ammunition carriers, and so on.





The Box


Interesting artwork on this one, isn't it? small arms fire zipping by, a tree trunk in the foreground, an infantryman photobombing the picture, and way back in the backghround there's the monolithic Panzer IV with the hatches open. Possibly abandoned? No, probably just open for ventilation. Driving around in a tank can be annoying enough as it is, enemy fire doesn't help, so cracking a hatch open can be at least a little help.

Anyway, solid artwork. Otherwise nothing new about it as far as PSC boxes go. the kit was released in 2010 already, because it is a kit which sells. Everybody who plays German armies from 1942 on will need this kit. As with the Panther it's a proper platoon in there: 5 vehicles.


In the back we not only get four bits of very nice artwork by Osprey to showcase different variants and colour schemes, but also some info on what we actually get. With these kits you can build four different variants of Panzer IV: Ausf.F1 (the short-barrelled one), Ausf.F2 (same thing, but with the long gun), Ausf.G (virtually the same as F2 as far as modelling goes) and the famous Ausf.H with the Schürzen armour and the final L48 gun, which should be a bit longer than the gun on the F2/G versions. (spoiler: it isn't on the model)


Contents



As usual with PSC, each model comes on a separate sprue. As the look of the Panzer IV didn't change much over the timespan covered by this kit there are not too many bits which are version-specific. The obvious difference is the short barrelled gun on the F1 version. Otherwise the only differences are the Schürzen on Ausf.H.

I was very surprised to see five additional small sprues added to the set with extra one-piece tracks and wheels. I believe these were added to the set just recently, making for faster assembly. That being said, I'm not a big fan of those because for painting I find separate tracks to be much, much more convenient.


The quality of the parts is perfectly fine, as usual. There are the obligatory tank commander figures included. No driver figure, because the driver and radio operator hatches are just cast onto the hull on this one, not separate parts. A tiny little gripe of mine with the PSC tanks is that the crew figures aren't very pretty. they are okay, but not pretty. They also come with big holes in their backs.

Speaking of holes, these are quite bad on the top of the gun mantlet for the long barrel versions on this kit.


We also get the usual paper leaflet with assembly instructions and explanations on which bits belong to which variant of the tank.





Assembly


As mentioned above, I find having the tank tracks as separate parts from the wheels much more convenient for painting. This is why I used the old-stylee, multi-part tracks on the models. As usual I assembled the bottom part of the hull first, then the top hull with the turret. I put them all together as the long-barrelled late versions as those will fit my collection. More on that later.

As usual with PSC tank kits, assembly is a breeze. There are no anti-air MGs included. Oh well, not too bad. At least this way we got enough space for commanders peeking out. I used both included once each, the rest of the tanks have their hatches closed. There are some items on the sprue which are not clearly shown in the assembly instructions: These are the spare wheels. Where these might go you can see in the finished picture of Panzer VI Ausf.F2/G on the page with the sprue and colour-coded bits. The jerry cans don't have a particular place to be put on. I suggest using the image search of your choice to see where they were placed historically (spoiler: Pretty much anywhere.).

Then there is a curious bit:



Unless you know where it's supposed to go it's almost impossible to discern what it is and where it goes. It's meant to go on the Ausf.H, but in the picture it's covered up by the Schürzen.

It's special air filters for the engine and it goes there:




I also left off the track segments used for extra armour and of course the Schürzen for ease of painting.

There's another thing you should be careful with - the extra wheels on the other side. I glued them on in such a way that one of the supports for the Schürzen didn't fit and I had to cut it off on every tank.


In this close-up you might see it. You can see that box thing in which the two extra wheels are stored on the side right underneath the turret. On every single tank I glued them on just a bit too far to the front. I had to cut off the second support from the front on each side skirt on that side to make it fit. So maybe dry-fit this one bit before gluing it on and how it goes together with the side Schürzen armour.

Otherwise no problems with assembly whatsoever. You may want to drill out the gun muzzles.


Painting


I did the painting in one go with the 15mm Panthers (and a bunch of other vehicles actually). Especially with WW2 vehicles it's advisable to do them all in one go, at least the basic colours. It's much faster that way.


I painted the basic colours first (painted the Schürzen armour separately), then glued on the tracks and then glued on the Schürzen last before weathering the vehicles.


When putting the top bits onto the bottom part of the hull it can be a bit tricky to make them match up  properly in the front. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, where would be a little gap. But do not fret, there's the additional track links for extra armour in the front to glue on to cover that up. Problem solved. 


Right before weathering I cut off a few plates from the Schürzen which got badly damaged or just fell off. It not only gives the tanks some individuality, it also helps you showing off the paintjob underneath (so you didn't put in all the effort without it showing in the end). Alternatively you could cut off single plates and glue them back in again at a slight angle, paint single panels in just dunkelgelb or even just red brown (which was used as an anti-oxidation primer underneath the paint) as replacement panels. Of course if you're really dedicated you could replace the Schürzen bits with custom-cut bits from thin metal sheets altogether for a more realistic thickness and some fun options for bending them slightly and such.



Verdict

Well, that's that. Five tanks for GBP 20.00, four different versions possible (most notably of course the short gun version as well as the long-barrelled one). By now Battlefront have come up with a Panzer IV platoon box of themselves, costing 10 quid more, but coming with decals and rare earth magnets, albeit just one version (Ausf. H). And that's all I know about the BF set, so I'll stick to the PSC one. 


And it indeed is a good one. Can't think of a thing wrong with the models. If anything the instructions lack a few details, but it's possible to work them out. The later addition of the one-piece wheels-and-tracks I'm sure is very, very welcome to people who prefer these. Me, I'm glad they kept the separate tracks as well. If you play games which feature lots of tanks such as Flames of War, Battegroup or even Blitzkrieg commander at 15mm, getting your Panzer IVs at this price is pretty much a steal. They require a little more asssembly than other models out there, but if you don't mind that (and it still really is  rather basic stuff) that isn't much of a factor.

Good stuff, recommended. If you need 15mm Panzer IVs, these would be my pick.




I hope that you enjoyed this review, found it interesting, enjoyed the painting and so on. If you have any questions, comments or indeed commission inquiries, feel free to let me know via the comments section, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail.

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