With both Dragon and Trumpeter recently releasing kits of the 15-cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 (sFH 18), it was only a matter of time before the after-market companies followed suit and released a barrel that is suitable for both these new kits. The barrel can also be used on the motorized SPG version … the “Hummel." Aber, Griffon Models and LionMarc have all released their version of this barrel. The Aber release is the subject of this review.
In the box
The “box” is actually a re-sealable bag with a header. The bag contains one machined aluminum-barrel, one machined brass “breech securing ring”, one small fret of etched detail parts, a two-sided instruction sheet and the usual cardboard strengthener.
The barrel is cleanly machined with no visible construction blemishes. The muzzle has very fine rifling on the inside, but is unfortunately straight instead of having the slight spiral appearance. The visible barrel length is 105.5mm plus another 9mm to be inserted into the kit gun-breech.
The breech-securing ring is again, finely machined with no blemishes noticeable. It’s not necessary to use this part, as the plastic-kit breech is already moulded with this detail. If used however, it will give a better definition between the different parts.
The etch-set offers, both late and early configurations, for the attachment of the sFH 18 barrel to the gun cradle. Also included, is a ring to detail the step of the reinforcing jacket on the barrel. The details are well defined and crisp as would be normally expected from Aber. And also as expected from Aber, there are several very small washers and nuts to be added to the later configuration. There are also hexagonal bolts that have to be folded for the early configuration. Thankfully, there are some extras of these parts included, but I'd personally be slicing some hex rod, instead of folding bolts of this size.
The instructions are a two-sided affair, with the early configuration on one side and the late on the other. Images and text are clear, and very easy to follow.
Although the barrel is released in conjunction with the release of Dragon and Trumpeter’s sFH 18 kits, it can also be used for the Hummel.
Dragon’s Sd.Kfz.165 Hummel Initial version (kit No. 6150) was used in this case.
When comparing construction notes with Terry Ashley’s review on PMMS (http://www.perthmilitarymodelling.com/reviews/vehicles/aber/aber35l66.html
), it's clear that Dragon’s breech is a new moulding on the sFH 18. The Hummel breech suffers with the same problem as Trumpeter breech, where the brass breech-securing ring, is slightly larger in diameter and sits a little proud.
The width of the breech-securing ring appears also to be greater than the moulded version, as the location of the aluminium cradle bracket area, does not align properly with the plastic cradle mounting. The aluminium barrel is 105.5mm and the plastic barrel is 103.5mm long, but the distance from the butt of the barrel to the cradle attachment point, is equal.
The construction was not taken any further from this point, as the etch has already been shown assembled in the PMMS review, and some re-working of the part is necessary to take it further.
Although the aftermarket barrel will add to the finish and lift the detail level considerably, the main selling point of items like these is to ease construction. Sanding down the cradle bracket area, and adding the etched details will take a little extra time, but is not major surgery, by any means. But, its still an unnecessary step, considering this barrel is marketed for the Hummel also. It may be a great opportunity for the aftermarket companies to cash in, using the same item for several different kits, but that should come with a responsibility to make sure the kits are still suitable.