M4A3 Sherman
105mm HVSS

Academy Kit #13207, Dragon Kit#6354
1:35th Scale
Comparison review by Terry Ashley

With both Academy (kit #13207) and Dragon (kit #6354) releasing new kits of the M4A3 105mm Sherman HVSS, I will review both together in comparison format as well as looking at the individual kit details. As the major difference between this and other Shermans is the 105mm turret special attention will be given to these as well as including the 105mm Tamiya turret from their 2001 M4A3 Sherman 105mm VVSS (kit #35251) for additional comparison.

The Academy kit also includes the M1A1 Dozer blade for an added feature above the normal 105mm kit to offer a nice choice and of course the Academy and Dragon kits represent the later HVSS Sherman. But it should be noted that Academy kit is more post WWII configuration as seen during the Korean War while the Dragon kit is the later WWII configuration.

As with any review, I simply present the information and facts for your perusal and it's up to the individual to take or leave this as they see fit.

The Academy kit is quite conventional in having 437 parts in dark green plastic and just the set of full length vinyl T80 tracks plus the decal and instruction sheets.

Standard of moulding is good overall with clean crisp parts and a minimum of pin marks although there are a few about and the odd sink mark with some parts which coming from previous kit such as the suspension from the M-51 Super Sherman (kit #1373) as well as new parts including the M1A1 Dozer Blade.

While the kit names the Dozer Blade as the M1 this could only be fitted to the narrower VVSS suspension and the M1A1 Dozer Blade was designed to fit both the VVSS and HVSS suspension tanks, hence the kit Dozer Blade has to be the M1A1.

The new kit from Dragon follows the recent M4A3E8 ‘Thunderbolt VII’ (kit #6183)  and uses parts from that kit as well as the previous M4A2 (76) Red Army (kit #6188) and M4A3 (76)W VVSS Sherman (kit #6255).

The kit consists of 324 parts in light grey plastic which are cleanly moulded overall with the usual small nodes keeping pin marks to a minimum plus 18 clear plastic parts, a fret of etched parts, the metal barrel and metal parts and springs for the suspension and full length T80 tracks in ‘DS’ vinyl as well as the decal and instruction sheets.

Due to the sprues from the previous kits there are quite a few left over parts for the spares box and you should take care to use the correct parts for this kit where alternate parts are included such as the rear hull plate and engine decks plus other smaller parts.

Both the kits also include the split Commander's hatch on the sprues but are not designed to be used with this kit amd are marked not to be used, this also appiles to the T23 upper turret included in the Dragon kit as there is no lower turret ring to go with it.

DragonI should mention that Dragon have previously released a kit of the M4A3 105mm tank; #6807 "M4A3 HVSS POA-CWS-H5 Flamethrower" released back in 1995 in the "Korean War Series".

Just briefly this kit shows it age as it has the hull from the weld trench days and simplified HVSS suspension but the final drive housing cover is the correct size and it also misses important features such as the revised machine gun mount on the turret but has other details that are better represented than on the new kit.

The 105mm gun mantlet is the correct sized both in width and gun collar size although slightly too tall which makes the undersized parts in the new kit even more puzzling and the turret ventilators have the correct sized domes and the Loader hatch is more the correct size although the 105mm barrel is too long with many other details that have been improved in the new kit.

For easier reading I have broken the review into the following sections.

Part 1: Hull details

Part 2: Suspension details

Part 3: Turret details

The Academy kit has a simple decal sheet with markings for two Korean tanks;

  1. USMC Hamhung Korea, November 1950
  2. US Army Hamhung Korea, November 1950


With the Dragon kit the decal sheet is more elaborate with a good selection of stars, registration numbers and unit markings with four tanks included on the sheet;

  1. 713th Tank Battalion, Okinawa 1945
    Note: According to the Concord book #7004 "Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941-1945" by Steve Zaloga this particular tank was an M4 105mm amd not an M4A3 105mm.
  2. 76th Armored Infantry Battalion, 13th Armored Div., Austria 1945
  3. 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Div., Germany 1945
  4. 782nd Tank Battalion, Italy 1945


Quite simply I can’t recommend either the Academy or Dragon kit to anyone wanting an accurate kit of the 105mm Howitzer HVSS Sherman as both have quite substantial issues with the turret/mantlet in particular. If you just want to assembly the kits and not worry about accuracy then the Dragon kit would be the better choice unless you specifically want a dozer blade then it’s the Academy kit.

For a truly accurate kit it would take considerable work on either kit or a good old fashioned kit bash using the Dragon hull with AFV Club suspension, the Dragon turret shell with Tamiya mantlet and widened Dragon gun mounting and pick the best parts for the rest or just use a resin turret from ABM or Formations.

The Dragon kit does have some finer details done much better than on the Academy kit which is basically a collection of some old, some new and some borrowed parts but the Dragon kit is burdened with suspension and mantlet issues in particular and both still have problems with the hull weld seams.

But to give credit to Dragon, they are improving slowly with each kit but why the slow gestation when all the relevant information is readily available to do them right in the first place. An example of that is the hull weld seams, we now have kits (Tarawa M4A2 and Sherman III) where the welds are correct around the driver’s hoods but completely wrong around the rest of the hull despite what you may read in the propaganda.

So again the choice is up to the modeller and what you want from a kit for the final decision.

Dragon Metal and Clear parts

The Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
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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
M4 Sherman
Walk Around

Squadron Signal #5701
ISBN: 0-89747-410-4

Thanks to my credit card and the excellent service fromRainbow Tenfor the review kits.

Page created December 3, 2006

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