In the novel Candide
, Voltaire has one of his characters exclaim “this is the best of all possible ages!” Certainly for fans of German halftracks, this would seem to be so. All major variants except the Sd.Kfz.8 are out in styrene kits, and the past year has seen an explosion of possibilities for the Sd.Kfz.7 and variants. Dragon and Trumpeter have released no fewer than seven new kits ranging from the Prime Mover through Late War Sd.Kfz.7/1s and 7/2s. The Sd.Kfz.7 was one of the most-important halftracks in the Wehrmacht’s arsenal, rivaled in sheer numbers only by the Sd.Kfz.251. It was developed in the 1930s by the Munich firm of Kraus-Maffei, and was used to pull both artillery and as a gun platform for the 2 and 3.7 centimeter FlaK guns. The vehicle served in one form or another in all theaters, including North Africa, and was part of Army, Luftwaffe and SS units.
Not surprisingly, the photo etch and accessory market for the Sd.Kfz.7 has been heating up, with after market upgrades for these new kits coming online from various manufacturers, including an entire series for the Sd.Kfz.7/1 from Griffon Model. This review will look at the FlaKvisier 40 gun sight intended for the 2cm FlaK 38.
The FlaK 38 was Germany’s main light anti-aircraft gun during the Second World War, and complemented the heavier FlaK 18/36/37 8.8cm “Eighty-Eight,” especially in low-altitude assignments where volume of lead thrown at the target was more important than pinpoint accuracy (for example, glider assaults). Developed by the firm of Rheinmetall in the 1930s, the single barrel version was never popular with the German Army, which preferred the 3.7cm because of its far heavier (therefore deadlier) projectile and similar rate-of-fire. Rheinmetall responded to the criticism by developing a quad version that had a withering practical rate of fire of 420-480 rounds per minute! The gun’s operator controlled the traverse and elevation with two hand wheels, and could fire the guns automatically or semi-automatically from two foot pedals, all together or in pairs. What its 20 mm round lacked in punch was overcome by sheer volume.
While the quad is most recognized mounted on the rear of the Sd.Kfz.7/1 and the Wirbelwind
(a fully-tracked version derived from the Panzer IV chassis), it also saw service on trains, S-boats and even U-boats, especially on “FlaK traps” designed to ambush Allied anti-submarine aircraft over the Bay of Biscay (seawater and the increasing technical sophistication of Allied radar technology were more than it could handle). In addition to its anti-aircraft role, the Flak 38 quad proved especially deadly when used against ground forces, paratroops and lightly-armored vehicles or buildings.
The Griffon Model sight is very important for an accurate build of the Vierling
(“quad”) variant carried on the Sd.Kfz.7/1. The Dragon kit uses the less-common FlaK 20, while the Trumpeter kit uses something that bears no resemblance to anything historical.
Griffon Model always packages their upgrades well in “clamshell” clear plastic boxes that protect the delicate brass pieces. The small packages contains a single zip-lock baggie with the optical site, its base (both in resin) and a small fret of PE brass to make the sight mount, as well as instructions.
Griffon hasn’t released a ton of resin previously, so I was pleased to see this important AM upgrade provider extending its capabilities. The casting is very crisp, and the detailing superior to styrene. The PE "fiddly bits" detailing puts the final result way ahead of anything in either the Dragon or the Trumpeter kits. The main sight box has lots of dials and raised moldings, and the resin sight tube is crisp and accurate. There’s not a lot to say about the finished product, as its “just a gun sight,” but given the alternative (an uncommon sight for the Dragon kit and a totally inaccurate one in the Trumpeter version), this should be on every kit owner’s “must have” list. The finished item integrates well into the gun build. The PE isn't particularly challenging to handle, though the sight's sunshade does not integrate easily to the resin base, and care should be taken when working with the components. The sight base has a notch/pin that integrates seamlessly with the Dragon kit's part A5, but will require a little fiddling when mounting to the Trumpeter sight elevation arm.
While the Dragon kit will build up nicely (if less commonly) OOB with the FlaK 20 sight included, it really comes alive with this add-on. And for the Trumpeter kit, there is simply no alternative but to replace the kit’s sight with this or something else. It’s a much cheaper alternative than “kit bashing” the Tristar or Dragon 2cm FlaK 38s.
A build log of this accessory set can be found by clicking here