Rarely do I use the "intro" supplied by the kit's maker, but in this case, I will:
"The 203mm (8 inch) was the heaviest of the field-type weapons used by the Soviets between 1939 and 1945. The 203mm Howitzer Model 1931 was also known as the B-4. The B-4 was a very powerful weapon, but also very heavy. The B-4 is easy to identify as it is one of the few heavy weapons to run on caterpillar tracks. The howitzer was a powerful barrage weapon that was used extensively to pound heavily fortified positions. Developed in the early 1930's, the B-4 was used throughout the Great Patriotic War. It saw service during the Moscow counter-attack, the Stalingrad offensive, the Crimean liberation, and almost every severe street fighting (operation)."
This is also the first styrene version of the B-4. Trumpeter has announced a new styrene version and it appears that this kit may hit the market in May 2009. The only other version currently on the market is a resin kit produced by Pit Road (I've only seen these offered on eBay and they run around the $145.00 mark).
I purchased the kit through Scale-Model-Kits.com (SMK), an Armorama advertiser out of Eastern Europe. The kit was sent to me with the Alan box flat; in other words, it was not "assembled." The sprues and instructions were in their individual bags. This was done, according to SMK, to reduce the volume and postal charges. It was a simple matter to "assemble" the lift-top box (I used tape) and put the contents inside for storage.
The kit consists of four sprues of plastic parts (over 280 parts) and one set of instructions.
The instructions are reasonably easy to follow; they are the simplified exploded-view type. One will need to pay close attention to the parts placement as some of the locations can be rather ambiguous. There are no painting instructions, but my guess is a Russian Green will be adequate.
The first thing I noticed was the "weight" of the parts trees; the trees themselves are very thick, but the attachment points seem to fit to the part size wise. The larger the part, the thicker the attachment point. A sharp parts cutter will greatly help in the removal of the larger pieces and a regular "X-Acto" styled blade will work for the smaller parts.
The howitzer's frame/trail system show some nice detail especially with the multitude of rivets (I have not, nor will I for the purpose of this review, count them). Unfortunately, there are several areas that have "sunken" spots where the injection process didn't quite fill the molds. There is also quite a bit of flash on the majority of the parts. It appears that most of the ejector marks are on the inner surfaces and should not show themselves after assembly. Oddly enough, there is no limber included in the kit.
The howitzer itself has the same level of detail, but suffers the same issues; flash (in some cases it's excessive) and ejector marks. A sharp blade and putty will be needed.
The howitzer carriage too shows good detail and it too has the same flash and ejector problems. The carriage sides are going to cause the most grief for the builder as the spots that didn't fill during the injection process are surrounded by rivets. A lot of time will be needed to fill and then sand these sunken areas and I'm thinking that replacement rivets may be needed as I just can't see being able to fix those areas without inadvertently removing some of those rivets. Bar none, this will be the hardest area to work with.
The tracked portion of the kit looks good. There's still some flash there along with ejector marks that will need to be taken care of as they will show after assembly. The individual links (43 per side?) each have two ejector marks on the inner surface. The range from slightly elevated to prominent to slightly sunk; it varies greatly between placement within the sprue. The exterior surface has a sunken area in the center of each link. This should not present as much of a challenge to fix though. Each of the road wheels have ejector marks on the inner surface (that shouldn't show after assembly) and a sink mark in the center of each hub that will need to be corrected.
Alan brings us the first styrene version of the Russian B-4 Howitzer. For a kit produced in "modern times" though, the amount of flash, sink marks, and ejector marks is excessive. A lot of time will be spent correcting these issues, but for those on a modeling budget, this may well be the route to go. Being rather facetious, this will be a kit to "test those basic modeling skills we all have."
Highs: Unique kit, inexpensive, first B-4 in styrene.Lows: Excessive amounts of flash, ejector marks, and sink marks. BASIC instructions. No "limber" included.Verdict: An inexpensive styrene kit of an unusual subject. It will need quite a bit "basic modeling skills" work to create a good model.
About Mike High (TacFireGuru) FROM: COLORADO, UNITED STATES
Like most, I started out in my young years; building Monogram armor and aircraft. Joining the Army at 17 in 1981 put a stop to my building for many years, I retired in 2001 and ran across Armorama....I've been re-hooked since.
I'm a notoriously slow builder and seem to have more than one buil...