This will be a first look into the box review, once I find the time I intend to build one in action and another ready to tow.
I’ve been building kits for two decades but seem to never get them to the gold standard I usually see displayed on Armorama. Being interested in modern arms and with the deployment of the M777 to the war in Ukraine, when I saw Vargas Scale Models offering a new kit in 1/35, I immediately ordered two to add to my collection (the stash that grows faster than the completed side). As this subject hasn’t yet been done in this scale, I also decided to let the Armorama community know what I found.
The M777 Howitzer is a towed 155mm artillery manufactured by BAE Systems. Entering service in 2005 the weapon is used by the United States Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Australia, Canada, India, Saudi Arabia and most recently and notably by Ukrainian forces. It replaces the earlier M198 Howitzer having a crew of only five men while the older gun needed nine and being some 3,000 kg lighter making transport and deployment much easier. In transport the main barrel is the tow bar simplifying emplacement and the gun uses a modern digital fire-control system. In 2012 USMC gunners in Afghanistan fired a GPS guided XM981 Excalibur round out to a Corps record thirty-six km.
My initial impression of the kit is very favorable. It comes well packed in a tough box and the 50 some-odd parts in zip-lock bags. The kit can be finished either emplaced or in transport mode and parts come for both set-ups. Mr. Vargas has put a lot of detail into this model and the outcome clearly shows what is possible with modern 3D printing.
The larger parts do show the layering resulting from the printing process where injection molded products would be smooth. And modelers with OCD may be frustrated trying to sand out these .25mm(?) ridges without disturbing surrounding details. (we shall see how much they show after painting).
A necessary result of 3D printing is the presence of various risers or supports for parts not directly on the printing table but these thin down to almost nothing as they touch the actual part, much easier and cleaner than injection molded kits and worlds away from the casting gates of resin molding. There is neither photo-etch nor decals included in the kit.
Here I am a bit disappointed but also impressed. The kit did not come with the instructions as I purchased one of first samples out the door but Mr. Vargas soon e-mailed me a PDF file of the instructions. He actually sent part two first; this shows the shape and placement of all the electrical and hydraulic lines on the gun. The builder will have to decide how much of this is desired as the lines are all around the model some more noticeable than others and it looks like it will need two or three different gauges of wire to properly represent the fittings.
The first part of the instructions finally arrived and it’s a bit daunting. There are no part numbers either on the parts nor in the direction, his instructions are a CAD representation of the model, so it is in color and parts are given varying colors to make it easier to differentiate but step-by-step guidance of the assembly process would be appreciated. I’ve seen several resin makers put out terrible drawings of the parts trees with numbers on there so the builder can follow the process. With the CAD I think Mr. Vargas could fairly quickly make a better assembly guide.
Painting and decals,
There are no directives to explain the colors to be used but there are at least a couple of walk-arounds available online with indicate the gun is all NATO green or Desert tan depending on the theater portrayed, the part of the barrel that recoils through the frame should be in chrome. There are no decals included in the kit and looking online I see some guns that have been “dressed up” with gloss black muzzle brakes and names of departed Marines. Also there should be a serial number plate on the side of the gun frame. If any diehard modelers know of a way to represent this I would appreciate hearing it.
A good looking kit of a newer weapon system not yet available in injection molding. Mr. Vargas is already taking preorders for his next kit the M118/L117 105mm Light howitzer projected in July 2022. I’ll be ordering one as soon as I finish posting this review.
Highs: very detailed kit, low parts count
Lows: instructions need more detail and explanation
Verdict: For modelers with some experience or looking to try 3D printed kits
Mfg ID: R3D-35-777