It seems as if hardly a week goes by without an announcement of the release of either a new kit or even more After-Market sets for the M4 Sherman. The M4 (it seems) is rapidly outstripping the Tiger in coverage. However, even though we are being given more M4s than ever before, there are still variants (and modified vehicles) which are unlikely ever to see the light of day from the major (plastic) manufacturers. Although Tasca and DML in 1/35th and HobbyBoss (in 1/48th) are giving us great material to work with, there will still be room for conversion, updating or even improving the basic kits. Therefore, material like this continues to be a invaluable resource.
Modelling the US Army M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank is written by Steven J Zaloga and is # 40 in Osprey Publishing's Osprey Modelling series. The book follows the (by now standard) format of 80 pages with the bulk of the material concentrating on a series of 5 build projects. Three of the vehicles are in 1/35th scale, the other two being in 1/48th. For those who require it, for ordering purposes, the book is catalogued as ISBN: 9781846031205
About this review
As usual, with this kind of review, i'll be doing a run-thru of the contents and choose one of the build projects to look at in more detail.
Steve Zaloga's nine-page introduction begins by presenting a 'potted' history of the development of the 76mm M4 series. Not perhaps new for many, but it is done in a very coherent and concise manner. Apart from the main armament, Zaloga also discusses areas such as exhaust deflectors and the confusing matter of official designations. The second half of the introduction briefly looks at the what is available in kits in 1/35th scale again, an abbreviated history of some of the developments which have taken place within M4 production in plastic...
The next four chapters cover the 'meat' of the book - the build projects. Speaking generally about these and going into specifics later, the format is roughly similar in each. The project begins with a 'data-box' which lists the project, the kit(s) used, any AM (AfterMarket) items employed and any additional materials such as figures or commercially-produced vignette bases. Zaloga begins by doing a rapid appraisal of each kit and a thumbnail sketch of the historical period where the vehicle was at that time. A quick overview of the objectives of the build is then presented with some commments on the donor kit's quality and shortcomings. With the build proper beginning, each section is presented with a series of photos and a written explanation of what is being done in each section. Once the build is finished, then the painting begins. Zaloga uses a number of different techniques for finishing and these are explained in very precise detail. Areas such as compressor pressure, color mixes, washes and weathering are all covered concisely - of considerable utility to modelers of ALL levels of experience.
The book finishes with three pages about research and reference - including a mention of some of the more widely available books. The final page consists of a color chart of eight of the colors used in these models which include two versions of OD, the 'standard' WWII shade and a useful 'scale OD'.
Case study - 'Sandbagged in Alsace'
Basing this model on DML's M4A3E8 (DRA6183), the chapter begins with two excellent photos of the vehicle which will be the subject of the build. This is an M4A3E8 (HVSS suspension) which is modified by the addition of the often-seen sandbag additional armor which also involved the addition of racks along the hull sides and turret.
The build begins by making the necessary improvements to the donor kit. Replacement hatches, a new cupola and an AM barrel are used along with smaller items such as new tool-clamp holders. The real work in this project however concerns the building of the sandbag racks and the adding of the sandbags themselves. In the case of the latter, this chapter contains one of the most useful guides to building a simple, although difficult to execute convincingly - even more so when they are contained within a 'cage'. Once again, everything is clearly explained through the images and through the text. Once again, great emphasis is placed on the finishing of the model with some good pointers towads painting sandbags. There are some really great touches here - my favorite is undoubtedly the use of one of the Caliber 35 boot 'tools' to indent boot prints into some of the sandbags. Once again, in this build, Zaloga uses some figures and a simple diorama base to give a bit of 'life' to the vehicle.
I don't want to presume to know the inner-workings of the motivation behind this book but i'll hazard a guess that the intentions of the author are, through this series of builds, to present a number of techniques which could be applicable for many different models and subjects. I don't think the intention is for pople to buy this (and the other books in the series) and 'slavishly' copy each step and produce a cloned model. Rather, I feel that the first hypothesis is correct. Herein lies, in my opinion, the true value of this book. Even a novice will find find some technique or some different manner in approaching a difficult area and resolve the problem. Whether it be weathering or simply adding stowage, there is a lot which can be learned from this book.
Variety, as someone once said, is the spice of life. Zaloga's new book is full of a variety of interesting projects from the more 'conventional' to the extremely unusual - the U.S. Firefly in U.S. service is a welcome 1/48th scale project. Regarding the choice of 1/48th scale, it would be nice to see a touch of 'risk-taking' on the part of the publisher's commissioning editors by asking for a book specifically on the Sherman in 'Quarter-scale' or, at least, in braille-scale..
Both the 75 and 76mm-gunned M4s have now been given good coverage within the series. Is now perhaps the time for a bit more risk-taking to see a similar book on Post-War Shermans or even Commonwealth M4s get their own titles in Osprey's catalogue?
The Chapter headings
M4A1 (76mm) Sherman, Operation Cobra (1/35th scale)
'Sandbagged in Alsace': M4A3E8 (76mm) Sherman (1/35th scale)
The 'Rhine Rat Race': M4A3E2 assault tank (1/35th scale)
Big gun, small turret: M4A3 (76mm) and M4A3 (17 pdr) Firefly (1/48th scale)
Research and reference
The latest in Osprey Publishing's succesful (and useful) series, is effectively 'Part # 2' after the author's book on 75mm-equipped Shermans. A similar format to what we have become used to, with the usual mixture of build-projects and some invaluable advice on technique.
Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing! This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...