6 reasons 1/16 scale is just the worst

For years, I’ve lamented that we’re pretty much stuck with 1/35 scale when it comes to armor. No, not because of cross-display issues with 1/32 or anything like that. Rather, because 1/35 is kinda small. Even modern MBTs like the Abrams lack a strong sense of presence. In many ways, 1/35 is kinda like 1/48 in the aircraft world (and 1/48 armor is like 1/72 aircraft and so on).

So with 1/16 scale being all over the place lately, thanks to Trumpeter’s new M1A1 and Tamiya’s incoming M1A2 Abrams, you’d think I’d be rather excited. Armor with presence, and all that.

But I’m not.

1/16 can go screw itself.

Let’s explore why.

1 – It’s Fucking Huge

This is Panda’s 1/16 Pz.Kpfw 38t. It’s a marginal kit, but hey, it’s big. About the size of a shoe box. Here it is next to a 1/35 Sherman.

If 1/16 meant a ready availability of tank kits about this size, I’d be excited.

Thing is, though, the 38t is a tiny tank. Like the Renault FT, it’s miniscule in 1/35. Blowing it up by 100+% makes it big, but not too big.

The same cannot be said for most other tanks. When you move into Tigers and T-72s and M1s, you quickly progress into the realm of the ludicrous. Just consider this.

That’s Trumpeter’s new 1/16 M1A1. That MiG-29 next to it? That’s not 1/48. That’s 1/32. Just to give you a sense of how massive the Abrams is in 1/16. If you run the numbers, it’s over 24″ long. That’s longer than a 1/32 F-15.

Here’s Tamiya’s. Jesus. The turret is bigger than the 1/35 kit.

If we want to make an aircraft analogy, 1/16 is like jumping from 1/48 straight to 1/24.

2 – It exceeds the 100% step

Look at the way aircraft scales work. 1/72 scale is exactly twice the size of 1/144, or 100% larger. But once you get past that, 1/48 is 50% larger than 1/72. And 1/32 is 50% larger than 1/48. And 1/24 is 33% larger than 1/32 (and 100% larger than 1/48).

That’s a nice progression of scales and sizes.

1/16 is 119% larger than 1/35. Again, it’s the equivalent of jumping from 1/48 to 1/24. It can work nicely with something like the 38t, just as it would work nicely with a Sopwith Camel. But with an F-14?

There should be an interim scale – say 1/24 – that would act like an armor equivalent of aircraft’s 1/32.

In 1/24, an M1A1 Abrams would be around 16″ long – about the same length as a 1/32 Skyraider.

3 – 1/16 kits are shitballs expensive

The cheapest price I’ve seen for Trumpy’s new Abrams is around $185, and most places are listing it well over $200. Their Jagdtiger is going for $300 on Sprue Brothers.

With prices like that, it’s going to be a challenge, I think, to build a viable, sustainable scale over time. I don’t see it becoming an alternative with a broad ecosystem of kits in the vein of 1/48 armor, or 1/32 aircraft.

Without that ecosystem, it’s going to be a challenge to gain adoption, and without adoption, it’s going to be a challenge to create that ecosystem.

4 – Aftermarket wasteland

Have you ever heard of the Tiger I? It’s a somewhat obscure tank from a lesser combatant in World War II.

A quick search on Sprue Brothers for “1/35 Tiger” pulls up 268 results, and about 260 of those are Tiger or King Tiger-related. Kits, dry transfers, tracks, grilles, barrels, decals, you name it.

It’s an aftermarket wonderland.

But when I searched for “1/16 Tiger”, I only got 39 results, and most of them were not 1/16 Tiger related. Of those that were, there were some Archer dry transfers, and some shitty Peddinghaus decals. No barrels, no grilles, no tracks, no figures.

If the fucking Tiger can’t pull any aftermarket tail, what do you think is going to befall every other tank that comes out in 1/16?

5 – Back to this interim scale thing

Seriously. The armor world doesn’t need 1/16 – it needs a scale between 1/16 and 1/35.

It’s been tried. I know that Tasca came out with a 1/24 Panzer II, and it bombed because no shit. I mean…a Panzer II? Fucking really? That’d be like Marvel trying to kick off their cinematic universe with Squirrel Girl. Except not, because Squirrel Girl is awesome. But just imagine where we might be if instead of a Panzeryawnwagen II, Tasca had dropped a 1/24 Sherman or four on us.

6 – It reeks of inertia

Kitmakers rarely seem to think outside the box. I mean, we live in a world where it’s possible to buy 3D printed workable tracks…that come that way, with no need to endure the tedium of building them up link by link. And just below that we have some really great workable tracksets, be they metal or resin or injection plastic. But how many kits still come with glue-together indy links or link-and-length or rubber bands? How many wheeled subjects still torture us with bullshit vinyl tires?

To quote one of my favorite books, “show some fucking adaptability”.

Just because Trumpeter made a 1/16 T-34 a long time ago is no reason to keep pushing this bullshit scale. The market for it is tiny.

Most of the opinions I’ve seen regarding the wave of giant Abrams kits amounts to “huh, neat, too big”. I’ve seen more interest in Tamiya’s announcement of a 1/48 M1A2.

I’m convinced there’s a 1/24 scale lane that’s wide open, if only a manufacturer or two would have the guts to take it.

And besides, it’d set up cross-display possibilities with the scale auto world, making dioramas like this possible:

18 thoughts on “6 reasons 1/16 scale is just the worst

  1. Well said. You took the words out of my mouth. I agree wholeheartedly. Have never understood why there is no 1/24 armour. I would buy it in a heartbeat to go alongside my 1/24 cars.

  2. Great blog post. I just started the Rye Models 1/35 M1A1 before I left for vacation… great looking kit, and larger than the usual WW2 stuff. Would still like something a little bigger, but not 1/16!

    I’d love to build some 1/24 armor. One of my LHS has a couple of the 1/24 Tamiya kits. When I get back from vacation I think I’ll pick ome up and build it …. just to see what it’s like.

  3. Tamiya did some 1/25th tanks which were close. Not brilliant but there was a choice with the Tiger, Jagpanther, Centurion and a few others. 1/24th would be a great scale, they’d go well with the 24th Airfix aircraft and 24th trucks and cars. Ooh, 1/24th Italeri Tank transporter with Tank to go on it. We can dream.

  4. Well… there must be some kind of following for 1/16 scale armor or the companies wouldn’t keep making them. I would think that the molds for these kit would cost a ton of money and if they weren’t selling they wouldn’t keep coming out with new ones. Maybe they’re popular with the RC crowd. I think that 1/16 started with them so they could get there motors, servos, radios etc inside. Also, the fact that there’s not much aftermarket also doesn’t surprise me. Most aftermarket companies are small operations and they most likely also don’t see much of a market in 1/16 armor. Let’s face it, after plopping down $200-300 for a kit, are you now going to spend another $100 or so on aftermarket upgrades?

    • I would argue the people dropping that kind of coin are more likely to be willing to spend on aftermarket. Just look at ships…

    • Yes, 1/16 is pretty much standard for RC tanks, in fact that’s the problem with the new Trumpeter static 1/16’s (the T-72B and Abrams) as well as why they’re so (relatively) cheap for their size, they’re actually based on RC versions (especially obvious with the turret ring size) so the only new mold is additional detail. You might even consider them a downgrade vs an RC one, since the styrene hull and other things like the non-working suspension preclude them being used as such.
      Also, there is some aftermarket for RC 1/16, rather than the tiny static model 1/16 tank market, although it’s mainly focused on the most popular tanks and detail parts are built more for durability (lots of diecast) than realism, since the tanks are supposed to be bashing around the terrain.

  5. I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. In summary, you’re right. 1/16 is okay for SOME armour – on the smaller side. Sorta like how I’d build some WW2 planes in 1/32, but most modern stuff is too big for my purposes at that scale. 1/24 would be nice.
    At 1/35, it’s a reasonable size but the kits don’t have much presence – you’re still asking people to really lean in to see those details, rather than taking it in at arm’s length.

  6. Us old blind dudes need a scale to see. I have the 1/16 king tiger. The box is fucking giant! That’s the only thing I don’t like about it…it won’t fit in my usual spots.

  7. On aftermarket, a German shop lists 54 pieces of stuff for an 1/16 scale Tiger I! It just depends how close you look.
    But I am with you that 1/16 scale is a niche market, having four kits myself. If people wouldn´t buy them, the manufacturers wouldn´t produce them. I for myself like to have a choice at least.

  8. Yea I have my 1/48 Sherman displayed with my WWII 1/48 aircraft and love the look of it. It was the only armor I have ever built. If more came out in matching scales I think it would be great, be it 1/48, 1/32, or 1/24. 1/35 doesn’t interest me because it doesn’t fit with any of the scales that are most built in.

  9. That’s a good analysis Doogs, I like the explanation of the scales too. 1/24 opens the way to better cross display as you say, as well as I think better detailing options. I would love to make a REFORGER diorama in 1/24. I’d be interested to hear what your opinion and observations are about automotive models in this scale.

  10. I totally agree, 1/24 would be a great scale for tanks. I think people should start contacting kit manufacturers to express the desire for this scale.

  11. Have not had time to read your article closely but while 72 is twice the length of 144 it is also twice as high as 72 and twice as wide — so a model in 72 of an object takes up 16 times the volume of space as the same object modelled in 144. The same goes for all steps — the increase in volume is HUMUNGOUS !!!!!

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