by: Rick Taylor [ ]
Within months of the WW1 Armistice, the United States Army developed the requirements for a new domestically designed and produced 8-inch howitzer and 155mm gun that would share the same towed carriage. These would replace the British BL 8-inch howitzer and the French 155mm GPF gun that were used in WW1. Design, development, and testing proceeded through the 1920s and 1930s. By the time WW2 began in Europe, the US Army and Marines had a proven weapons system in hand and only needed to ramp up production to war-time levels. The 8-inch howitzer was used in North Africa, Italy, NW Europe, and the Pacific. It was the primary heavy artillery piece of US forces and earned a reputation for extreme accuracy and heavy punch. It was supplied to many allied nations. After the war, it was re-designated the M115 and continued in service with the US Army into the Vietnam conflict.
The kit builds upon the excellent, for its time, M115 kit released by AFV Club in 1997 and reissued in 2000. It back-dates the howitzer to WW2 with the M2 limber, highway tires and the pulley atop the upper carriage. These back-dated items were previously only available in hard to find resin aftermarket offerings. In addition, AFV Club has added more detail. The breech and breech block are far more detailed and add the stepped interrupted screw threads to both. Excellent brass and aluminium equilibrators replace the out of scale styrene ones in the M115 kit. The sights are more detailed, and they included a nice selection of artillery tools and implements. No decals are provided as most US WW2 artillery lacked markings. AFV Club opted not to include photo-etch with the kit. Given their fine moulding this is not a big issue; but some PE data plates, and brackets would have been nice. For box contents and sprue shots, see my in-box review on Armorama. The sprues include a 155mm rear barrel assembly and 155mm breech; so, one can assume that a WW2 version of the “Long-Tom” is coming in the future. All-in-all this is an excellent artillery model and a welcome addition to any Allied WW2 collection.
Barrel and Recoil Assembly
Assembly begins with the barrel and recoil system. The rear portion of the tube is styrene, and the muzzle half is metal. The breech ring and breech block are new and nicely detailed including the stepped, interrupted threads. This allows the breech to be depicted either open or closed. With this nicely detailed breech, I opted to model it open. Ensure that you assemble all the breech and breach block thread parts in the same orientation. In step two, the instructions showing the position of the breech block opening lever are in error. When open, the lever should be all the way down – parallel with the ground.
In step three, there are a couple of decisions to make. If you are going to depict the howitzer in travel mode, the travel lock should be attached to the recoil assembly. You also need to decide if you are modelling an early or late version. The early production versions included a pulley wheel that was used to manually return the barrel into battery. In later versions this was replaced with what looks like an oversized grab handle. If using the pulley for the early version, you will need to carve off and sand down the grab handle bracket on part C33.
The upper carriage assembly allows the tube to traverse and, if you don’t use glue on part C46, elevate. The kit includes new, much more detailed sights than were on the old M115 kit. You may want to hold off on attaching the easy to knock off traversing and elevating wheels until you are ready to paint.
At this point, I deviated from the instruction sequence and assembled the equilibrators in step 8. The equilibrators are excellent. They consist of telescopic brass and aluminium tubing with styrene connecting ends and are far superior to the entirely styrene equilibrators in the old M115 kit. Be sure to assemble the lower brass portion, part number N, with the connector on the non-knurled end. Don’t glue part N to part M. These should move freely. If you want the barrel to elevate, be careful not to get any glue on part C23 when gluing C24 in place.
Return to step seven to begin the straightforward assembly of the lower carriage. If you are depicting the weapon in firing mode, you may want to add a bit of weight to the ends of the trails. With the wheels off the ground for firing mode, the metal barrel makes the howitzer nose heavy and it tends to tip forward. A couple of fishing weights or thick brass plates glued into the ends of the trails should improve the balance. If you are depicting the weapon in travelling mode with the trails on the limber weights are unnecessary. Here the improved airbrakes on this kit make their appearance. The old moulded in airbrake ends and shields on the inside of the trails are carefully carved off and replaced with new, more detailed parts. When mating the completed trails, assembly 7-1 and 7-2, to the lower carriage in step nine, make sure that they move freely. Although not called out in the instructions, part E7 should have a 0.6mm hole drilled all the way through it to allow installation of the airbrake lines in step 14.
The bogey assembly begins in step ten. There are several small delicate parts that require care in removing from the sprue and cleaning the mould parting seams. In step 10, note that the two parts 34 are located on opposite corners of the assembly as are the two parts 35. In step eleven, the instructions call for drilling a 0.5mm hole in the airbrake. I found that 0.6mm worked better. There is some interference on parts B9 and B10 that must be filed to get a proper fit. In step thirteen, the bogey assembly is mated to the lower carriage. The instructions don’t address that the bogey assembly should be all the way down when in travel mode; but all the way up with the tires off the ground if in firing mode. So, in travel mode the threads on the jack screws, B41, should be showing above the bogey assembly, while in firing mode they should be only visible below the bogey. The excellent vinyl airbrake lines are attached in step 14. These are the first vinyl airbrake lines that I have seen on an artillery kit. This is something that I routinely must scratch build on other kits. The WW2 highway pattern vinyl tires were soaked in Windex window cleaner and then scrubbed with dish soap and toothbrush to remove any mold release agent. I then scuffed them thoroughly with a Scotch-Brite pad to remove mold parting seams and represent wear. I chose not to attach the wheels until after painting and weathering. There is a big interference when mating the upper carriage assembly to the lower carriage in step 16. It required significant scrapping to mate the parts.
The kit includes the early M2 limber. The older M115 kit included the later M5 limber. The new M2 limber is detailed and finely moulded. The very nice vinyl airbrake lines are a bit fiddly to get in place. They are springy enough that it is hard to get them glued down in the proper spots. I ended up tying them into place with waxed dental floss until the glue was set. I attached them prior to painting and had the unfortunate issue of the paint flaking off the long flexible lines. I recommend attaching them after painting and only painting the attachment brackets, strain reliefs, and fittings. The kit includes some very nice gun implements – loading tray, bore brush, forcing cone, and ramming head. These will enhance any vignette. The kit also includes a tail/brake light and bracket that was optionally attached to the muzzle for road convoy.
Painting and Weathering
My approach is to prime, and paint fully assembled if practical. In this case, the wheels were left off as they are easier to weather off the model. A cut-down chop stick wrapped with a bit of masking tape was inserted into the muzzle and used as a handle for the painting and weathering process. I masked off the lower portion of the aluminium tube equilibrator as the real thing was bright metal. Everything was primed with rattle can Krylon ColorMaster flat black primer purchased at the local hardware store. This inexpensive general-purpose paint provides a tough thin finish that adheres well to the metal barrel and equilibrators. The black acts as a pre-shade. After allowing it to dry for 24 hours, I touched up seams and blemishes.
Moving on to the finish, I applied Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab mixed with Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow in a ratio of 66/33 thinned 50% with Tamiya X-20A thinner. This was applied in thin coats from the top allowing more of the black primer to show through in the shaded areas and lower parts of the model. I followed this up with a 50/50 mix of Tamiya Olive Drab and Dark Yellow on the top surfaces to provide more modulation. I accentuated a couple of the more shadowed areas and the barrel band seams with straight Tamiya Olive Drab. The small details were highlighted by dry brushing with straight Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow with a drop of Tamiya acrylic retarder. The interior of the breech, breech block and the traversing and elevating gears were brush painted with Tamiya XF-56 Metallic Gray. I used a small piece of sponge held in cross action tweezers to apply dark rust coloured chipping on the spades. The lug nuts were chipped with a 5/0 brush.
After a 24-hour drying period, I moved on to a dot filter of Winsor and Newton oils. I used dots of yellow, green, white, blue, and two shades of brown blending them down with a wide brush dampened in Mona Lisa mineral spirits. I allowed the oils to dry for 24 hours before hand painting the details. The big ratchets used to raise and lower the bogey assembly were given a base coat of Model Master Steel. After drying, I gave them two coats of AK Interactive Heavy Chipping solution followed by Tamiya XF-58 Olive Green. I moistened the ratchets with water and proceeded to chip off small areas of the olive green to expose the steel below. After another 24-hour drying period, I sealed the model with Future.
With the now glossy surface in place, I applied dark brown and dark green enamel pin washes. A black pin wash was applied to the teeth of the breech, breech block, bogey jack screws, and T&E gears. The highpoints of the teeth were dry brushed with Model Master Steel. The edges of the hand wheels where highlighted with silver pencil. The tires were given a heavy wash of light mud coloured enamel. Excess was rubbed off the high points with a swab dampened with mineral spirits. Streaking was created with AK Interactive Streaking Grime and Rain marks for NATO Tanks applied with a 3/0 brush. Once dry to the touch, the streaks were softened with a wide brush dampened with mineral spirits. A coat of Model Master flat clear was used to seal everything and provide a dead flat finish. Finally, AK Dark Steel pigment was rubbed on the hand wheels and on the constantly cleaned areas of the breech and breech block.
The kit provides an accurate and detailed model of this important WW2 artillery piece. Prior to this release, it required hard-to-find aftermarket resin add-ons and scratch building to back date the AFV Club M115 kit to WW2. The kit builds into a fine replica out of the box. The only thing that I would like to see are some PE data plates and brackets to enhance the model. The nicely detailed artillery implements can be combined with AFV Club AF35017 155mm & 203mm Howitzer ammunition to create a nice vignette of a firing position. All-in-all, this is another great artillery kit. Thank you to AFV Club for providing the review kit.
TM 9-335 8-Inch Howitzer M1 Carriage M1, Mount M17 and Heavy Carriage Limber M2
TM 9-1350 Ordnance Maintenance 155mm Guns M1 and M1A1 and Carriage M1; 8-Inch Howitzer M1 and Carriage M1; Heavy Carriage Limber M2
Tankograd Technical Manual Series No. 6004
David Doyle, 155mm Long Tom Gun in Action