The 12.8 cm PaK (Panzerabwehrkanone) 44 was the largest caliber German anti-tank gun fielded by her armies during World War II. It was designed as a final response to the escalating armor/anti-armor spiral which continued right through the end of the war, and afterward. Experiences with Russian 122-mm guns and the heavy armor of the KV and IS tanks had shown that even the vaunted 88-mm gun had its limitations.
The choice of 128-mm was made due to existing tooling being available for this caliber as naval and anti- aircraft weapons.
Contracts for design and prototypes were awarded to both Krupp and Rheinmetall-Borsig, with testing commencing in late 1944. The Krupp design was chosen for series production, and although performance was impressive, a towed weapon weighing nearly 11-tons was simply not practical. Various carriages, both foreign and domestic were tried, with varying degrees of success.
The PaK 44 fired a projectile weighing 62 pounds in either high explosive or armor-piercing types. The capped armor piercing round was capable of penetrating over 200 millimeters of armor at 1000 meters, and almost 150-mm at 2,000 meters. Armor penetration was similar to that of the 88-mm Pak 43, but the 128-mm maintained its performance over much longer ranges due to its higher retained kinetic energy.
The Kit Unwrapped
This kit consists of 7 sprues of light grey styrene holding 217 parts, 2 metal springs, a coil of soft wire to be used to fabricate various brake and hydraulic lines, and a small photo-etched sheet with 42 pieces.
The instructions are black and white exploded view drawings, consisting of 8 numbered construction steps spread over 7 pages. My example had a correction sheet involving the suspension and the differences between travel and firing modes. The builder is making mirror image assemblies when constructing the suspension and the original instructions had several parts reversed. A full-color, single page, 5 view painting guide is also included, with color numbers provided for Tamiya, AV Vallejo, and GSI Creos Corp. Hobby Color (Gunze Sangyo). An upgrade set is available from Great Wall Hobby for this gun, with a turned aluminum barrel, photo-etched shields, etc.
Step 1 starts with the turntable and cruciform arms. A word of warning, the “B” sprue is loaded with long, slender linkage pieces, exercise care not to snap any while removing other parts. Building the towing limber in step 2 is where the correction sheet comes into play. I made hose and brake line connectors from bits of wire insulation and added them where necessary, but left the lines off until just before painting. The main axle build in step 3 also involves the correction sheet. Not difficult, just work slowly. It helped me to mark off parts as I added them.
Steps 4 and 5 cover the gun breech, cradle, recoil and sighting mechanisms, and the gun shields. The elevating cylinders can be made functional, but this requires drilling a 20-mm deep hole, perfectly parallel to the cylinder, and very nearly the diameter of the cylinder. A tricky proposition at best; I choose not to try. The side shields interlock with the front sections, be sure to test fit before gluing. The wheel assemblies engage the main cross bar with triangular pegs and holes. If left unglued they are tight enough to stay, but can be positioned in firing or travel modes.
Step 6 joins the turntable and shields to the cruciform base, and also assembly of the gun barrel. Good fit throughout. The barrel on my example fit very loosely into the breech, so I added shim strips parallel to the barrel at the breech end, and when dry, sanded them down till a snug fit was achieved. The barrel was left off until after painting, as it is quite long, and often in the way.
Steps 7 and 8 involve setting up travel or firing modes, tool storage, and the travel lock. The triangular ground stakes are included and can be stored in their brackets on the base arms, or cut off short and inserted into the three-lobed holes at the ends of the arms.
I decided to use the three-color scheme shown on the painting guide, consisting of overall German dark yellow, with “squiggly” lines of dark green and red-brown. I did a little post-shading of the dark yellow before spraying the camouflage pattern. All three colors are Tamiya acrylics. Very little weathering was done, mostly powdered pencil lead on edges, and silver Rub-n-Buff in the breech opening and selected areas. If it goes onto a base, perhaps more earth shades will be added to the wheels and lower base areas.
Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable kit to build. I had wanted to add this weapon to my collection since I first learned of its existence and use, and I was not disappointed. Aside from a couple of issues with the shields, which I learned was not due to bad fit but rather my own haste, there were no problems with fit. Do pay attention to the correction sheet as many parts are mirror images of each other.
The fit and appearance of the barrel and shields make the upgrade purely a matter of choice. Both can easily be finished to look as flawless as the metal alternatives. I highly recommend this kit to those interested in German World War II weaponry, and experienced in building rather complex models.
Thanks to Dragon Models USA and IPMS for the review copy.