M4A3 (76)W VVSS Sherman
Battle of the Bulge

Dragon Kit No. 6255
1:35th Scale
First Look Review by Terry Ashley

This latest Sherman kit from Dragon follows the recent M4A2 76(W) and contains many parts from that kit as well as their earlier Sherman kits plus some new parts for the M4A3.

The new M4A3 kit has 340 parts in light grey plastic plus another 912 parts for the individual track links and an additional 158 for the figures with 18 in clear plastic, 20 in etched metal, a metal 76mm barrel with thread protector and metal tow cable plus the decal and instruction sheet for quite a box full of bits.

The standard of moulding is typical Dragon with good crisp details and a minimum of flash, pin marks or other blemishes with only the usual minor moulding seams to be cleaned off the parts as with any kit.

The sprues included in this kit have Sprue A, B,C, D and Z from the recent M4A2 76(W) with the suspension sprues D and Z having a lineage right back to the Italeri Sherman kits and still incorporate the gimmicky moving suspension arms.
They provide suspension bogies with a choice of straight roller arm with spaced return roller support or the later raised roller arm type which is more applicable to this kit. The track guides on the bogies are separate parts but could do with some thinning as they are quite thick and lack the four securing bolts while the bogies and arms are nicely detailed with the three bottom bolts and fine casting numbers on the bogies and arms although these were often in different places depending on the manufacturer but add a nice detail touch.

Also included are two sets of road wheels, the pressed solid spoked type which have basic grease nipple detail and back inserts although the idler is left with open backs and as this is the most easily seen of all the wheels it is quite strange. The other set has the open spoked wheels with the correct five holes and idlers but there are only enough suspension arms to make one set of bogies so you have to make a choice with the left over parts going the spares box.
Only one type of drive sprocket is supplied, the ‘Fancy Smooth’ sprocket and this is certainly applicable to this Sherman as was the solid simple plate sprocket and you should check references for the particular model you are building.

Dragon Dragon

The tracks Sprues F an G also first appeared back with the Firefly kits and were included in subsequent kits with track pads for the British style rubber chevron and steel chevron links and also included are additional duckbill extensions although there are only enough end connectors to assembly one set of tracks and again you have to make a choice as to the type used with the remaining pads being consigned to the spares box.

New sprues for this kit are sprue G and H with new turret parts for the later T23 turret with split loader’s hatch and engine deck and rear hull parts for the M4A3, all the original M4A2 turret, engine deck and rear hull parts are still included in the kit to again fill the spares box.

The revised upper hull features the correct angle of the rear plate (there are small marks on the side of the hull where it has been altered from the M4A2 hull and you may want to smooth these out a little) but still retains the small oval plates at each rear corner which should not be there on the M4A3 and features nice raised details around the front crew hatches with casting numbers. There is a separate M4A3 engine deck which in turn has separate compartment doors with interior louver detail but with moulded on grab handles which you may want to replace with thin wire? At the front are separate crew hatches with separate periscopes and rotating mountings with the periscopes themselves in clear plastic and a choice of plastic or etched bush guards.
A tip when painting these clear periscopes is to add a base coat of the periscope lens colour before the final colour because if you just paint them like solid plastic parts this is the colour the periscope faces will be and you’ll have to paint them the right colour defeating the purpose of being clear parts in the first place.

All details on the upper hull except for the ventilator between the crew hatches are separate parts including the fuel filler caps with filler detail included on the hull which offers the choice of showing these open or closed for a bit a variation although you will have to add the small wire pin yourself and at the front there are separate head lights and siren (in clear plastic) as well as lifting shackles, barrel travel lock and hull .30cal barrel all of which have well defined details. Added to this is a choice of plastic or etched head and tail light guards depending on your preference as well as separate front fenders.

All the pioneer tools are also separate items with moulded on tool tie downs and these could well benefit from etched parts for better detail definition or of course you could use the excellent tool sets from CMD or Formations.

One feature of the hull which has been commented by just about every reviewer forever is the indented main hull weld seams where they should be raised. It seems incomprehensible that after all this time given the improvements made in other kits such as the PaK40 and various Sd.Kfz.251 kits and the detail included in the Tiger I and Flak 88 kits that this major oversight is still there. Even more so when the hull received a major reworking the M4A2 76(W) kit and now this one, maybe one day just one of the major manufacturers will actually get this feature right on a Sherman hull, it’s really not that hard.

The lower hull underside details are different from the M4A2 kit but unfortunately are not correct for the M4A3 being more for the M4/M4A1 and have separate mounting plates for the suspension bogies with the appropriate bolt head details.

The new T23 turret has nice subtle surface texture with the shape of the pistol port housing being better than on previous plastic T23 turrets and the port is a separate part to help with the definition.
The lower join line between the upper and lower turret parts will need eliminating and the surface texture reapplied by using liquid cement of applying Mr.Surfacer.

All the details are again separate such as the Commander’s cupola with separate clear periscopes and hatch as well as a separate Loader’s split hatch with separate doors that feature small casting numbers and separate periscope housings and clear periscopes. The two front turret periscopes and their mountings with the periscopes again from clear plastic with the loader’s scope having a choice of plastic or etched guard.

The mantlet also has nice subtle texturing as well as well defined co-ax machine gun opening although there is no barrel in the opening and the lifting eyes are not quite in right position and should be higher up at the corners. There is a choice of plastic barrel with separate single piece muzzle plastic brake hollowed out using slide moulds or metal 76mm gun which has a separate end tread protector with nice rear contours that fits perfectly over the barrel tip.

As mentioned the original T23 turret from the M4A2 kit with oval loader’s hatch is still included but there is only one lower turret ring part included so only the upper turret shell is left over depending on which turret you use.

The rear hull plate has all separate parts applicable for the M4A3 and multi part upper exhaust deflector which looks quite nice as well as the later style deflector not used with this kit. There are the idler mounts as well as side panels that nicely fill the underside of the upper hull overhang and the lower hull also has sponson bottom extensions included to fully fill any gaps remaining.

At the front is the late type single piece transmission cover which has nice subtle surface texturing but no casting numbers or underside drain plugs but these shouldn’t be difficult to add and the towing shackles have a separate outer fillet for better detail definition and a separate top bolt attachment strip and raised splash guard.

The .50cal machine gun is from the M4A2 kit and is quite passable being an improvement over earlier efforts with separate ammo feed box and late war pintle mount. The rear turret clips for storing the .50cal are quite finely moulded and again should look okay.

The metal tow cable supplied would need to be annealed by running through a candle flame to get a natural sit on the vehicle as it is very springy as it comes but again is a nice inclusion for additional detail definition.

Bonus figures:
This kit sees two sets of bonus figures, one the US Tank Crew (NW Europe 1944) (Kit#6054) and the other US 101st Airbourne Division (Bastogne 1944) (Kit#6163) with both having excellent uniform and other details with the tank crew figures moulded with separate jacket collars to allow for better detail definition and the infantry figures are very applicable to the vehicle markings provided.


The large decal sheet is well printed with good colour register and closely cropped carrier film and has turret and hull markings for six Shermans.


This is a good rendition of the standard M4A3 76(W) VVSS with some well defined details such as the new turret hatches with clear periscopes, separate fuel filler caps and engine deck doors, metal barrel and etched parts plus of course the two sets of bonus figures. The only negatives are the now aging suspension bogies and those recessed weld seams on the main hull.

Overall though it is a nice addition to the Sherman family and will be welcomed by all Sherman fans.

Highly recommended

The Sprues:

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SHERMAN A History of the
American Medium Tank

R.P.Hunnicutt. Presidio Books ISBN 0-89141-080-5
Modeler's Guide to the Sherman
MMIR Special. Ampersand Publishing Company, Inc

Thanks to my credit card and the usual prompt service from Rainbow Ten for the review kit.

Page created 9 June 2005

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