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.
11 Comments Add yours
The photo showing the canted front drive sprockets is how the kit actually built up ? I’m sure it wasn’t you, & now I’m worried because I’m going to be building [ or ,maybe noy ] this same kit for an actual B.O.B. vetenk veteran.I already have it.Ya think I should seek a differant one, Doogs ? Thanks, keith R.
Hey Keith – yep, that’s how it built up for me. To be fair (or damning, depending on your take!), there’s quite a bit of wiggle room. The thing is…it’s pretty much impossible to test-fit the sprocket mounts/transmission housing assembly, much less test fit it to the main hull. They have to be glued down.
I think I need to build a different Dragon Sherman before I give a definite point of view…and lucky for me I’ve got three more to choose from…
If you’re building for a BOB vet…are you sure they were in the M4A4? If so…I’m not really sure of your other options. I’d say Tasca, but they aren’t making the A4 yet. The closest thing is the Firefly Vc, but there are some hull modifications you’d have to overcome. I wonder if the Tank Workshop or someone makes an upper hull conversion…
Thanks ,Doogs.I know how busy you are.I think I’ll check out Tasca’s offerrings. I do like Dragons ” DS” tracks, though.Maybe I can use them as well. Good luck, again, on the transition. Keith R.
I did some looking and Tasca does make a Sherman V, which unless I’m mistaken is more or less an M4A4 (though you may have to swap the turret). And Tasca has rubber band tracks as well…as good or even better than the DS tracks. Only…the ones with the V are the Brit style. But AFV club makes M4A4 long chassis tracks, and they’re pretty decent (got a set myself).
Thnaks again, Doogs.After voting on your tank poll,you gave me another idea/option.The Tasca M4A3E2 Jumbo.From what you wrote about it’s placement at BOB,I think that’ll be the way to go.The Vet I’m doing this for is,as I said,85 & His memory might be a little rusty as to which variant he crewed.He’ll be happy with any Sherman,I’m sure.But it is optimal to be historically accurate. I am continuing to enjoy your blog,hope you can keep it going through the upcoming craziness of the move & the seemingly never-ending unpacking. Keith R.
Keith – just a thought for you. Seeing how well the Dragon Firefly Ic is doing in my tank poll, I pulled it out to look at it this morning and see what common frustration points it might share with the M4A4. It has the same stupid sprocket design, BUT something else jumped out at me immediately.
The Firefly Ic, like the Tasca M4A3 I did recently, has a cast transmission cover. The M4A4 has the welded cover. I think that’ll make a world of difference. With the welded, you have the transmission cover, the side plates, and don’t know the technical term, but the sprocket “cups” that attach on the front. Five different parts to bring together. With the cast cover, those cups and the cover are all of a piece, so you’re only looking at three parts are far easier alignment. So for a Bulge Sherman, I think an M4A1 or M4A3 would probably work…
Thanks so much for your help,Doogs.I’m gonna check my two L.H.S.’s out 1st,but if I have no luck there,I only found two candidates that are at sane prices on the Bay.A Tamiya M4A3E2 [ the box art being nothing the likes I’ve ever seen before from them,almost “Ron Volstad”ish !!! ].Makes worry about it’s age.Then a Tasca M4A1 at a good price ,for Tasca kits.So,by hook or by crook,I’ll have either of the two you mentioned ,shortly.I do try my best to buy local for kits,1st. Again,thanks & good luck. Keith R.
Sprue Brothers has this kit on sale for $17.99. At that price with the figure set and DS tracks, I just have to put up with the problems. I am thinking of doing a Chinese paint job with the colorful tiger faces they painted on them.
Yeah, for $17.99 it’s hard to pass up. And truthfully apart from the transmission cover/drive sprocket mount nightmare, it’s really not that bad of a kit. Also – pay extra special attention when you mount the rear idler mounts, since I believe the instructions have them reversed. Pretty much fubared my build on that step since I can’t get the things off now!