Fourteen years ago Ampersand released a collection of articles from Military Miniatures in Review on the Sherman tank titled "The Modeler's Guide to the Sherman". It covered details of the hull and suspension variations along with an overview of what Sherman related model products were available. At the time, it was a very good reference and made a nice companion to Hunnicutt's Presidio Sherman book. Then back in 2006 or so we began to get teased with an expanded version when simply reprinting it became an issue. After a long wait, I can say that I am extremely grateful that they took their time to do it right, for they have indeed done it right.
Before I begin rhapsodizing, let me clarify what this book isn't. It is not a replacement for Hunnicutt's seminal work. While it covers some interesting development pieces it is not trying to cover the genesis and reasons for the development of the M4 through its lifespan. It is also not a combat or employment history. If that's what you want, get Steven Zaloga's excellent "Armored Thunderbolt". It does not cover modified M4's, so there is no coverage of Sherman funnies, rocket launchers, or "Ishermans". One minor omission that puzzles me is that there is scant coverage of the M4A6 beyond a half page of text.
My best description of what the book is? This is a visual reference of every external structural detail over the lifespan of the factory produced M4 tank. Exhaustively so. We get 2 pages of several dozen photos of the variations of lifting eyes described with the specific hulls they were welded to, never mind 8 photos of the various antenna brackets placed. Over 200 crisp and clear photos of existing tanks show the various external parts and areas to accompany the almost 80 excellent hull, turret, and running gear variations. These drawings are similar to the ones in the old MMiR's but appear to be higher resolution and better shaded. Combined with several charts that indicate exactly what configuration was coming out of which factory during which quarter of the production years you can make a tank accurate down to the casting number (which are of course detailed, along with the appropriate serial numbers to each variant). That right there would make this a tremendous value for the money.
So then they go and just show off by including over 350 period photos, some in color, of the various M4's. Most photos are half a page and crystal clear. They are used to illustrate the various external configurations but they also make this the best Sherman photo book I've found. In action shots, weathering, crew, maintenance, etc are all covered. I recognize many of the photos from other works but these photos are better reproduced than in several of those works and they are all in one place. All of this put together make for an amazing book and really one of a kind at the moment. Take that Panther!
In some ways this book is overkill for the average modeler, like, say, me. . . I'm not going to sand a casting number off a Tasca Sherman because it's not appropriate to the particular month of the year I'm portraying. If I wanted to though, this book would give me the tools. However, I do like to my models accurate and this certainly gives me everything I could want for that. The fact that things like measurements for the applique armor including exactly where to place them on the hull are included is the kind of thing that I will use. The background of the various production facilities was interesting and to a detail I'd not yet seen. The short chapter on shipping and unpacking the Sherman suggests some interesting diorama ideas. For this alone, this book is highly recommended. Add in the hundreds of period photos and this book becomes a must buy. Heck, even if you never model a Sherman the weathering reference as well as crew/figure reference would be of great interest.
We seem to be in a bit of a golden era for printed reference works for modelers. This book is one of the best.
Highs: Hundreds of outstanding photos
Clearly and logically laid out
Comprehensively covers the fielded Shermans
Excellent drawings of the various configurations and componentsLows: No m4A6 drawings (I'm grasping here. . .)Verdict: If you model Shermans, buy it. Just an outstanding reference