After tackling Tasca’s masterful M4A3(76)W, I’ve been eager to take on a Dragon Sherman, just for the sake of comparison. I have four in my stash – Dragon’s Firefly Mk.Ic Hybrid and M4 Composite Hull and the Cyber-Hobby Orange Box editions of the Firefly Vc and M4A4 75mm.
I’ve been planning a more fanciful build with the M4A4 – a bare metal finish, of all things – so I figured what the hey, bring it out first.
I think everyone has those kits that just, for whatever reason, fight back every step of the way.
That was exactly my experience with the M4A4. I don’t know if it was the kit itself, the poor instructions, my expectations or my rushing, or maybe all four, but man.
I’m not prepared to call this a bad kit. I need to tackle another Dragon Sherman first and see if the problems are isolated. But this kit makes several rather annoying decisions, and the smaller instructions that come with the Orange Boxes do absolutely no favors.
This kit does have several things going for it. The bogies and road wheels, while considerably simpler than the Tasca VVSS units, go together quite well and maintain some degree of movement.
Likewise, the turret is quite nice, as is the slide-molded 75mm main gun.
Detail all around is quite nice, from the M2 Browning to the details tucked up under the rear deck.
The DS tracks are also nice, and I think a sight better than AFV Club’s rubber bands.
The manual. It’s smaller than your usual Dragon manual, and as such the line drawings are smaller, making mistakes far easier to make. In my case, those included 1) the idler mounts being installed on the wrong sides, totally jacking the idler alignment and 2) the cupola hatches being installed inside-out.
The tool holes. Since I’m doing the bare metal thing, I wanted a clean look about the hull, which meant filling several extremely large holes meant to accomodate the pioneer tools. Which, I might add, have ejector marks ALL over them. Not impressed.
Most of the ugly is focused up front.
The sprocket design is head-smackingly retarded. Other Shermans use a two-part setup where a keyed cylinder joins the inner and outer gears. Dragon uses a four-part setup, where you glue the cylinder, THEN glue the outer gear faces to the cylinders. This strikes me as 1) needlessly fussy and 2) substantially weaker, not something desired when playing with rubber band tracks is called for. To top things off, the sprockets wouldn’t slide down over their mounting pins, which I finally had to cut back to achieve proper fit.
Closely related is the poor design of the transmission housing and sprocket mount assembly. These pieces fit together, but with nowhere near the precision called for, considering the entire thing will be slotting into a very prominent position at the nose of the tank. My attempt resulted in some rather poor alignment that I’ll have to watch out for on subsequent Dragon Shermans.
Which leads me to…the fit of the transmission housing to the tank. Vague and not-good. I definitely rushed this step, but still, Dragon doesn’t set one up for success here.
Comparison with Tasca
I went into this build curious how the Dragon VVSS kits compared with Tasca. The answer is, in my opinion, they don’t. The Tasca M4A3(76)W is hands down the better kit in almost every regard. Whether the other Dragon Shermans are better than this one remains an open question…but when I have the choice in the future…I’ll be choosing Tasca for my allied armor cravings.