Stuart M3/M3A1/M3A3 Light Tank
Italeri recently began producing a line of 1/56 scale AFVs and figures. This might be an unusual scale for most model builders, but is a fairly common wargaming scale, equivalent to the 28mm scale. The M3 Stuart tank kit is one of their newest releases in that line of kits, and it is done in coordination with Warlord Games, who designed the 28mm WWII-themed wargame, Bolt Action©.
This kit comes packaged in a side-opening box displaying a Stuart tank of the British 8th Army on patrol in a desert of North Africa, which is where the M3 got its first taste of action. The M3 was the first American built tank to engage Axis tanks in WWII, as it was used by the British across North Africa via the Lend-Lease program. It was under-gunned and under-armored against the German panzer force, but its speed, maneuverability, and reliability made it a favorite choice for armored reconnaissance and infantry support. By the end of the war, the M3 Stuart was used by the British, Russian, Free French, and Americans across Africa, Europe, and in the Pacific.
Inside the box are two sprues of olive drab plastic, the instructions, and one fully-loaded decal sheet. The parts are molded crisply, and other than the gun barrels (4 .30 calibers and a 37mm), there is almost no flash. The tracks come in link and length pieces and are added to the sprockets, road, and idler wheels, which come molded to the side lower hull for ease of assembly. While a model builder might be disappointed in the lack of detail of the road wheels and suspension, they work well for a wargammer, and after assembly, look pretty nice.
The hull goes together very easily, and the kit has extremely minimal flash. The driver’s hatch can be molded open, and the kit comes with a Russian, an American, and a British tank commander half-figure depending on which version you choose to build. The early version of the M3 had a blocky, riveted turret, and later versions had a smoother welded turret. Both choices are available in this kit. I choose to go with the earlier version found on the M3 Stuarts in use with the British 8th Army in Tunisia. Fitting the 37mm gun and assembling the turret gave me a few problems, but I’m not sure if it was the kit’s fault, or mine. Either way, the issues were minimal and easily fixed with a little seam filler.
Overall, the kit assembles very quickly. I completed my assembly in less than 90 minutes at the work bench. The kit is well-detailed and includes optional equipment, such as extra storage boxes, additional fuel tanks, additional .30 caliber guns, or a flame-thrower for the versions used in the Pacific.
The decal sheet provides enough insignia to provide options of building one of six different tanks used by three different countries, including Russian tanks, British tanks, and American tanks (including one Marine unit in the Pacific). The decals are well-printed and go on very easily.
This was a fun little build. I like the 1/56 size, it is well detailed, and easier to assemble than a 1/72 scale kit. I can recommend this kit to all armor fans, but it will probably be better enjoyed by wargamers.
Thanks to Italeri, Hobbico, and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.