USMC M1A1 Abrams (Heavy Armour)
The M1 Abrams is the current US Main Battle Tank (MBT), and has seen action in many theatres under different guises. It is unusual in that it is powered by a gas turbine engine, and as such emits an extremely hot exhaust that after some singed eyebrows amongst accompanying troops, led to a deflector shield being installed. It has highly secret composite armour, a pair of blow-out doors on the roof of the turret to protect the crew in the event of the magazine being hit, and a 120mm smooth bore main gun, developed by Rhinemetall of Germany.
The box is a standard Cyberhobby orange type, and contains 10 sprues of mid grey styrene, the hull tub, a bag of Magic Track links, a small decal sheet, and a self-adhesive sheet of theatre markings. One of the 10 sprues is a set of four tank crew figures, in various poses to suit the Abrams.
The plastic is that of the original Dragon release of the M1A1 Abrams in US Marine guise, and as such has some simplified details when compared to the later Dragon M1A1 AIM and SEP editions. This is immediately evident from the hull tub, which includes moulded in suspension arms, rather than separate parts. There are also some differences in the construction of some of the grilles on the rear deck as well as the rear bulkhead on the hull.
Overall however, the detail is pretty good, and comparisons with the later kits is probably unfair, given the multi-media additions and increased price that those kits command. What does make this edition stand out however is the inclusion of a driver cab, and some detail parts for the interior of the turret, which are absent from the later kits. You also get a set of snorkel gear for fording in deep water, which comprises a set of ducts for the exhausts on the top deck, and the blistering heat of the gas turbine, which exits from the rear bulkhead. These parts will make your model stand out from the crowd, but as the turret must be locked in the forward position to avoid fouling the deck mounted tubes, it does limit your options for posing the model in a battle.
The big Rhinemetall gun is provided as a two piece assembly, split vertically, so some sanding will be needed, taking care not to create a flat-spot on the barrel or compensator hump. There are plenty of aftermarket barrels available for the Dragon kit though, so if you feel the need to spend some money here, you can do so.
If you've not encountered Magic Tracks before, you're in for a treat. The bag contains 165 identical track links (I didn't count them, the instructions give that figure), which are glued together with liquid cement and wrapped around the roadwheels, idlers and drive sprockets to create a rather nice rendition of the tracks. Each part has two shallow raised ejector pin marks, so a little sanding will be required here, but nothing too taxing.
Some modellers don't like Magic Tracks, but as long as you glue a good length together on the flat of your desk, let them set up a bit, then drape them around the wheels and sprockets, then position them correctly - for example, the Abrams has a taut track system (I forget the correct terminology) with no sag on the top run, so ensure you replicate this. If you are fitting the full run of side-skirts, you don't even need to make up the full run, and if you leave the wheels unglued at the construction stage, you can slip them off for painting separately too.
The crew compartment detail is a good basis for super-detailing, although the detail only goes as far as the bottom edge of the turret itself, but in fairness, very little would be seen beyond this. Color call-outs ease the painting decisions, and a good facsimile of the bustle mounted magazine is given, showing an open door and the ends of some of the shell holders. The original simple turret baskets are included, together with the auxiliary power-pack that slots into the rear compartment, and these have solid floors rather than the mesh floors of the later kits.
Auxiliary armament consists of a well moulded .50 cal mount for the commander, and an M240 7.62mm machine gun for the gunner's hatch. The coaxial machine gun is shrouded, and will need its barrel drilling out, as will the others for added realism. If you want to replace the commander's gun, there are turned barrels and detail sets out there if you're prepared to spend the money.
The sprue of crew figures gives you four bodies to decorate your Abrams with, consisting of the driver in a seated pose, a crew member sat on the edge of a turret access hatch, and two standing figures, one leaning on the side skirts of the tank, the other carrying what appears to be an ancient M3 "grease-gun" sub-machinegun, which was used by US tank crews until the mid-90s when they were phased out in favour of shortened M4 variants.
Each figure has a fully moulded hairless head, onto which the tanker's bone-dome is glued, and separate ear-defenders/headphones are added. A side-arm is provided for each figure, plus two go-bags for the standing figures and two pairs of goggles for the seated figures. Detail is crisp, although not as fine as the later Gen2 figures that Dragon have released.
The decal sheet is small, as modern AFVs have few stencils or national insignia. The decals are crisp and clear, as you'd expect from cartograf, and go down well with a dash of decal solution. The sticky green theatre markings that adorn the turret of the NATO schemed machine are a little grainy, and I would replace them with some sheet styrene cut to size, using the stickers as a template.
From the box, you can build one of three vehicles:
- Apache Troop, 1-1 CAV, Northern Bosnia, 1996
- USMC Desert Scheme "Crater Magnet" 532374
- USMC Desert Scheme 579782
Don't be put off by it being an older kit, it's still a good one, and the addition of the crew figures gives the model some life. Inclusion of interior detail and the wading gear is also a welcome addition, but if you simply have to upgrade, the main gun barrel is where I would start.
The instructions are clear and well presented on glossy gatefolded paper, and a full color painting guide is included for both the vehicle and the crew, with color call-outs given in GSI Aqueous Hobby Color and Model Master brands.
Review sample courtesy of UK distributors for