The Sturmgeschütz (popularly known as the StuG) self-propelled gun was a direct outgrowth of Germany's experiences in WW1 where static, trench warfare had proven to be a meat grinder chewing up men and materiel. In an effort to promote mobile warfare, the Sturmartillerie was created to provide support primarily for infantry units on the attack. The StuG III was developed on the Pz. III chassis (hence the designation "III").
Originally the Pz. III had been seen as Germany's main battle tank (MBT) with the Pz. IV in the infantry support role, but the III quickly proved to be inadequate in that role due to the size limits of the gun it could mount inside its small turret. The Pz. IV emerged as the workhorse for the Panzerwaffe
, mounting a series of ever-deadlier guns. Pz. III production was shifted to the Sturmgeschütz.
Ironically, this new role was ideally-suited to the vehicle's dimensions and abilities, and the Sturmgeschütz became one of Nazi Germany's most-produced vehicles (over 10,000 went into production). Mounted with deadlier and deadlier 75mm guns (similar to the ones on the PaK 40 anti-tank gun and Pz. IV), StuGs destroyed more destroyed enemy tanks than any other German AFV during the war.
Dragon has long dominated the later StuG III models, while its early StuGs are mostly from another era of modeling (when the company was known as Shanghai Dragon). Bronco Models
have now released a highly-detailed kit for the Ausfühtung E produced from September 1941-February 1942. The superstructure of the Ausf. E was extended to allow for compartments for the radios, as well as increasing the ammunition capacity six additional rounds to 50 total for the 7.5 cm KwK 37 gun. While its low muzzle velocity made it a poor anti-tank weapon, the StuG was originally intended to support infantry and only later became a tank killing machine.
An MG34 machine gun was also added for this variant, along with seven drums of ammunition. For the first time, type SF14Z "scissors" stereo periscopes were included for the vehicle commander's use (artillery spotter scissor periscopes may have been included in earlier models).
Inside the usual festively-colorful Bronco
pasteboard box are:
11 sprues of ocher-colored styrene
a track assembly jig
1 hull tub
1 sprue of frosted "clear" styrene for the headlights
17 sprues of tracks
4 sprues of track pins
a metal barrel
2 frets of PE
a length of copper wire for the tow cable
1 decal sheet
16-page color instruction book & painting guide
1 4-color "action" illustration
Given the age of the Dragon "early" StuG kits, I applaud Bronco
for releasing an up-to-date model that incorporates virtually everything modelers could wish for. StuGs were basically gun platforms built without turrets to save resources, so they are pretty simple. Thus I'm surprised it took this long to bring these popular vehicles into the 21st Century,
The molding is crisp with little or no flash and Bronco's
usual level of quality can be found in the tools and the detailing on the road wheels, drive sprockets and return rollers (the latter are improved by some photo etch). The PE extends into air intake screens, as well as "tie down" eyelets and brackets for the radio mast holders and rear engine deck. There is also a real metal (copper) tow cable and a turned metal barrel for the "cigar" 7.5 cm KwK 37 low muzzle-velocity howitzer. Once Germany ran into the T-34, the role of the StuG changed rapidly and it was up-gunned to a high muzzle-velocity 75mm.
The kit design is sort of a mixture of upgraded outer parts and a limited interior (for those who like their hatches open). The interior detail is mostly in the form of a complete gun mechanism that might show from the outside, and the vehicle's radios. Since there is no actual interior with seats, transmission, steering gear, etc., you will need to plop in a few figures if you intend to open the hatches. This is somewhat disappointing, given that no ready styrene or resin AM interior is available (the StuGs are not all the same dimensionally, so beware thinking you can just drop in an interior meant for older models like the Dragon StuG III Ausf. G).
The StuG III Ausf. E was uncomplicated: no turret, a short-barreled howitzer main gun, and some hatches in the fighting compartment. The Bronco
looks to be nearly as simple to build as the older Tamiya models, yet with the current level of detail (super-detailers will likely want to replace the molded-on tool latches, but otherwise the kit doesn't call out for a Big Ed-style PE set).
One aspect of the kit that sets it apart from other versions will also have fans and grumblers: its workable styrene tracks. They build off the work done for Bronco's
Pz. III Ausf. A (reviewed here
on Amorama): individual plastic tracks held together with track pins. Bronco
once again includes a jig that makes assembling the individual links pretty smooth: the track pins are spaced on their sprue tree exactly in line with the tracks in the jig. Simply glue the pins and move on to another set of links. Based on my experience with their Pz. III Ausf. A, the tracks go together pretty smoothly - with some care and patience. Short of metal tracks, they are an excellent means for creating the track "sag" particular to German AFVs in WW2.
decals & painting
StuGs didn't have a lot of markings for the most part, and Bronco
have chosen some singularly dull vehicles for modelers (though ample AM decals can be found for specific StuGs). All three are Panzer Gray and include:
StuG Abteilung 177 (Russia 1941)
StuG Abteilung 197 (Russia 1941)
"Early vision" (sic), German (sic) 1941
It's refreshing to see the early StuGs getting some makeovers from the various manufacturers (Dragon is releasing their own version of the Ausf. E shortly). This kit looks as though it will offer StuG enthusiasts a detailed build with outstanding features to cover the "early" and "middle" years.
Thanks to Bronco Models for this review sample. Be sure to mention that you saw the kit reviewed on Armorama when ordering one for your stash.