by: Darius [ ]
Based on works of Karl Puff and Hermann Gerlich, Mauser-Werke AG developed a 28/20 mm anti-tank weapon initially designated Gerät 231 or MK.8202 in 1939–1940. In June–July 1940, an experimental batch of 94 pieces was given to the army for trials. They resulted in some modifications and in 1941 mass production of what became 2.8 cm schwere Panzerbüchse 41 started.
The design was based on a tapering barrel, with the calibre reducing from 28 mm at the chamber end to only 20 mm at the muzzle. The projectile carried two external flanges; as it proceeded toward the muzzle, the flanges were squeezed down, decreasing the diameter with the result that pressure did not drop off as quickly and the projectile was propelled to a higher velocity. The barrel construction resulted in a very high muzzle velocity - up to 1,400 m/s.
Although the sPzB-41 was classified as heavy anti-tank rifle, its construction was much more typical for anti-tank gun. Like the latter, it had a recoil mechanism, carriage and shield. The only significant feature the weapon had in common with anti-tank rifles was lack of elevation and traverse mechanisms - the light barrel could be easily manipulated manually.
Initially, gun was manufactured with heavy, split trail carriage, with removable wheels from If8 infantry cart. This carriage had leaf spring suspension, which allowed 30-40 km/h tow speed of the gun. For higher speeds, Sd Ah. 32/2 trailer was used. Gun weight without trailer was 229 kg. This gun version is covered by other Bronco kit number CB35141.
For paratrooper use a lighter carriage was developed. It had small wheels, which could be removed, or tilted for lower gun profile. Due to small wheels, this carriage is only good for relocating gun over short distances using manpower. For towing, special trailer Sd.Ah. 32/3 was developed. The weight of this lightened up gun was 139 kg, and 85 kg for the new trailer, resulting in 224 kg combined weight. The upper part of the gun (barrel, recoil mechanism etc) is largely the same on both lightweight and heavy carriage guns, the only minor difference being slightly different cut out shape on large shield. This lightweight gun version, along with Sd.Ah. 32/3 trailer included in CB35034 is subject of this review.
Scope of the Review
My main focus of this review is to show other modellers a building process of the model kit. As with all kits, you need to read instructions thoroughly, in order not to run into troubles later on. Very often, I skip small details until later assembly steps, in order not to break them while handling the kit during assembly. As well, I will overlook how extra parts can be used, and what can be built using them.
What's inside? The box states it's a 3 in 1 kit. Unfortunately, not really… The box contains enough parts to build 2 guns on light carriage, two Sd.Ah. 32/3 trailers (no ammunition boxes for second one although it includes extra PE fret for those), and 2 If8 infantry carts. There's additional option to mount gun on If8 cart, but it doesn't look very convincing. I could not find any “field” pictures of this setup (opposed to heavy and light carriage versions). The only picture of this setup, i came across is in Allied & Axis #15. If8 cart has no spades, or other means of bracing it during firing, other, than few blokes trying to hold it steady. The guy, holding the T handle of the cart is almost twice as big lever, than the guy who is aiming! This would make aiming hard, as you must manipulate the cart for this (needless to say that guys trying to hold the cart steady would not help with this much). There should always be some logic when building model kits. You should understand how equipment works, and how it is supposed to be used, unless you are into “funnies”. There will always be some mock-ups, and not so successful prototypes.
A few notes on If8 trailer. The Infanteriekarren – infantry cart – (If. 8) was introduced after the experience of the first campaigns in 1941. It was made mainly of sheet steel and could carry a payload of 350 kg. During the course of the war, the if8 became an indispensable mean of carriage of the infantry units. Parts included in the kit allows you to build a cart with tubular frame (manufactured between 1941 to 1943). Second cart has no frames, so you can build one with simplified frame, or one without frames (manufactured after 1943). However, there are no instructions for it, plus, you might want to scratch some additional features that aren't present on the kit.
Assembly of the Kit
Before we advance a few tips on the cleanup. The kit contains A LOT of very small and delicate parts. Cleaning them on the sprue is very helpful. Use a very sharp blade to remove parts from the sprues, this will save you a lot of cleanup of the removed parts. Most of the parts are too small to comfortably hold them in hands during cleanup.
Step 1 shows assembly of “business” parts of the gun. I would suggest you the build cradle of the gun, then mount both shields. It is best to return to PE and other small parts on the shield after the cradle will be mounted on lafette. Else way, you might break them off, while trying to attach shields to the cradle. Cradle mounts Ba2 and Ba3 are little bit difficult to align, due to wobbly fit of pins in gun cradle. Personally I like more friction on this point, so that the gun stays where I left it. Maybe after painting it will feel better, but in my book paint is not used for filling gaps. There's a small fit issue of Ba2 and Ba3 parts as well (see picture). Align the bottom of both parts, then after glue cures, using a sharp blade cut the resulting step from part Ba….. Although this might not be an issue for small vignette, but if you will decide to use second gun on Sd.Kfz.251 or 250, this step of parts will be visible.
The gun breech is molded open. It is a good idea to drill it, to improve its appearance. However, shouldn't it be closed in transport ? There is a small ejector pin mark on the breech block that has to be filled.
The gun shield shape. There were two versions of the gun shield in production. The only difference I can spot, is slightly different shape of gun cut out. From my observations, one was used on guns with heavy carriage, and second type can be found only in photos of guns with light cradle. Bronco uses same gun shield in all of its spzb 41 kits (which is correct for heavy, not light version). Luckily for us, gun shield can be corrected by cutting of excess material, rather than scratching something that is missing.
Step 2 is assembly of lafette. Note the transport wheel position. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no information about wheel alignment in the kits instructions. It is adjusted by releasing now on other side of wheel arm mount. The gun can be lowered to sit on tubular frame for lower silhouette. As i intend to use 2nd gun to be mounted on halftrack, lafette can be hung on rear of the vehicle, as seen in some pictures of Sd.Kfz. 250/11. In such case, wheels are turned upward, so they don't stick out too much. When the Gun is on transport trailer, it is logical to lift small wheels up, to increase ground clearance. So, it is good idea not to glue wheel arms to tubular frame, until final steps, when you will be able to assemble it into final layout. Now talking about wheel arms themselves, there's two issues. First, the axles are too short. Wheel arms should be parallel to each other, however, with kits part it's just impossible. Second issue, is wheel arm length. According to period pictures when in up position, the top of the tire should be approximately level with top of tube frame. Therefore, supplied part is nearly 3mm short! 2 rods of styrene and 5 minutes later, I had new suspension arms. I used 1mm and 0.5mm styrene rods. I find it easier to glue longer axles first, and cut them to length after glue has fully cured.
The fit of the spade with tubular frame is very loose, resulting in wide gaps. It still can be aligned, and glued, however, you must wait for glue to cure before advancing further.
Once again, I left PE parts for final assembly, as some of them have to be aligned with trailer.
Step 3 is assembly of ammunition containers. The size of clasps is really causes me dread. The instructions show 2 small pins on part P5, but I can't even see them without a magnifying glass. Not to mention bending handle and aligning them. Instructions also show “left” and “right” clasps, but they are identical. Instead taking note on orientation of handle, they made instructions confusing. Next issue, is Ca3 parts. On sprue, they look like some part has broken of the sprue. It's hard to figure out how much of this cone you must cut off. There is no obvious location where to glue them, you must use photo reference for this. I can't figure out, why these parts were not slide molded on containers? Same question applies to clasps. It's nice extra for ones that want to super detail, but in that case metal gun shields bring TONS more visual value, than those clasps. The construction of ammo containers is overly complex, and their level of detail is intended to be even better than remaining kit, with complicated carry handle and clasps. And there's only two of them. Decals included in the kit should be applied on lids of ammo containers. Instructions are bit puzzling on this, as they don't show alignment clearly (it wasn't that difficult to include container lid drawing with stencils applied to painting guide). Next, lid is hinged to the container Instructions don't show on which side. I have used this site for reference:http://wehrmachts.kisten.free.fr/28mm_pzb41_2.htm . Overall, containers look very good when assembled, ammo fit is just great. In process, i lost one P5 part, and 3 pcs Ca3. All of them were launched to open space when i was trying to hold them with tips of my tweezers.
Step 4 Trailer assembly. Probably this is the part of the build I have enjoyed the most. Minus nasty seam on trailer coupling (between parts A5 and A9). This seam is highly visible, and difficult to sand after filling. Don’t attach part A14 in this step, as this will make alignment of gun to trailer difficult in later steps. Leave it off until step 6. Next, is about how you show your kit. If it is in transport mode, ammo containers must be strapped in their holders (straps not provided). If in firing mode, containers (opened or closed) should be taken out of the trailer.
Step 5 finishes the trailer (almost). This is quite an enjoyable part of the build, fenders fit nicely, except for the fact, that front fender support is attached to imaginary place on fender. Plus, trailer axles are really way smaller than holes on the wheels, resulting in a very wobbly fit, that will require a lot of patience to align wheels. It is best to glue wheels after painting/weathering, as there will be very poor access to them after installed. Use fenders as reference point when aligning wheels. Trailer also should have tail light, but i can't find enough reference on what type to use. I had some doubts on trailer wheels as well.
Step 6 - trailer and gun comes together. Instructions tell you to glue parts A12 and A13 to the gun. Don’t. These are trailer parts, glue them to the trailer, not the gun. Once again, there is no information in instructions, on how those parts should be aligned. You need to use photo reference for this... If showing gun in transport mode, it is also best to glue it to the trailer. First, trailer part A14 is too thick, and will make the fit difficult without breaking the PE brackets off. It is also not the best idea to leave it removable, if you want your model and its finish to last.
Step 7 - last step, If8 trailer assembly. This sprue comes from Lion Roar Zundapp kit (L3508). Sprue includes parts for two trailers, and motorcycle coupling linkage, however, this coupling mechanism is not suitable for If8 cart. You can find Lion Roar instructions online, to build both trailers. Kit instructions show tail light attached. Don’t the If8 is strictly infantry cart, intended for manhandling, or horse tow only. It had no fenders and lights, plus its coupling eye is smaller than the one used “proper” trailers, making direct coupling to vehicle impossible. Yes, there are many wartime photos, showing those trailers being towed, however, it is “field ingenuity” rather than proper use of equipment. So it's unlikely, someone in the field would put effort to making such a cart “road legal” (opposite from some restorers, who actually tow it with their BMW bikes). The straight tow bar is wrong. It should have a T handle on its end, not coupling loop. As well, there should be bent wire rest just below the T handle. For coupling two trailers together, you need to use bent coupling arm, which is attached to the front of the cart when not in use. I have found a lot of excellent reference about If8 in this site:
For a comparison, I took pictures along with Dragon’s If8 from the Kettenkrad kit (it's being weathered). At first glance, Dragons kit looks smaller, but actually it's more accurate in both details and dimensionally. Both internal and external dimensions of Dragons offering are either spot on, or ~0,5 mm off. Now In Bronco’s (Lion Roar), internal width is about 1,5-2 mm wider, add almost 1 mm thick cart walls, and you get some 4mm wider box. Most of the rest dimensions are correct. External width with wheels on is close, however, tires are rubbing construction, and there is no gap there. Detail wise, Dragon’s cart is better detailed out of the box.
I have mixed feelings about this kit. First, I really wanted a model of this gun. The quality of molding is very good. Although there are some mold lines and sink marks to deal with, the amount is manageable. The minus are an overly complex assembly of some parts. The loose fit of some parts adds to the frustration, especially when you have to take a lot of breaks to ensure the glue fully cures before advancing further. Assembly of a relatively small kit will take similar amount of time as basic assembly of a tank… The kit only includes 2 boxes of ammo, so if you intend to use the second gun, you will need to source some more boxes, and I haven't found any aftermarket ones in major e-shops. As well, only Dragon offers their spzb 41 with figures in firing position (Dragon 6056). Additional ammo and figures would dramatically improve the kits value and diorama potential. Yes, it is nice to get the 2nd gun, but hey, why would you want to have 2 identical ones on the shelf? If8 trailers will always be a welcome addition to any diorama builder, as they can be used everywhere, and for everything.