M4A1 Sherman Early Version
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Dragon Models Limited

By Thierry Laurent


From February 1942 to January 1944, three manufacturers built 6,281 Shermans M4A1s (first Sherman variant to be produced). Accordingly, a lot of combinations are possible because of production batch variations, repairs in the field, refurbishing operations in rear echelon workshops as well as modifications (such as later M4A1 DD, or "duplex drive," changed into "standard" tanks).

Studying M4A1 Shermans shows that a lot of wartime component combinations were used. Even with the sole M4A1 (75w), various combinations of hulls, transmission covers, armor, bogies, roadwheels, tracks, turrets, guns, shields, cupolas, etc. may be found in pictures. Even in 1945, during the Germany campaign, Shermans such as the DML M4A1 were still used in some tank companies. Nevertheless, it is wiser to "stick" as much as possible to a specific tank in a chosen wartime picture as some combinations are more than improbable: such as a M4A1 (75w) with direct vision slots hull and VVSS bogies with upswept return rollers. During WW2, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines (PTO), British Army and some Commonwealth units (New Zealand & Canada) used M4A1 (75w).

These kit tweaks only take into account modifications to build a U.S. M4A1.

Hull modifications and improvements

  • Add the four bolt heads holding the upper roller support of each bogie
  • Drill four holes on the opposite side of each bogie
  • Remove the four bolts holding the upper skid, clean the moulding marks and replace the removed bolt heads
  • Add the 12 bolts linking each bogie mount plate to the hull (around the edge of parts D25)
  • Add the 8 bolts linking each side of the front transmission housing armour to the hull
  • Add bolts heads in the recessed holes simulating bolts on the idler supports
  • Add the front towing lugs on the transmission armour
  • Drill holes in the rear towing lugs
  • Add the front mudguards stays
  • Thin front mudguards (or replace them)
  • Fill the slot in the underside of each overhanging hull sponson
  • Possibly add a protection mesh under the upper hull rear overhang (at the level of the upper part of the rear hull filters)
  • Replace the oversize moulded attachment points of the hull bow MG canvas cover by stretched sprue sections glued in tiny-drilled holes
  • Add crude welding marks at the base of the lifting rings at the front and rear of the upper hull
  • Add the two guides & two clevises for the tow cable
  • Add a tow cable (the one of my kit is a line coming from a fishing store, just remove the plastic covering with a lighter flame) and use towing eyes from the spares box
  • Possibly drill front lights to replace them with MV lenses or use silver chrome paint covered with epoxy glue
  • Thin or replace lights guards
  • Add the "parking tube" for the headlight assembly aperture plug support on the front headlights guards (with the fixing chain)
  • Add a locking bar and its securing chain on each fuel filler cap
  • Add the electrical cable between the horn and the hull
  • Fill holes in the rear hull (intended to position tools)
  • Replace the tools (at least shovel/axe/mattock) with Verlinden/Academy/Collectors brass ones and Photo etch mounting hardware
  • Remove the two small moulded-on handles at the rear of the engine deck on the upper hull and replace them with new ones made of copper wire
  • Modify the driver and radio hood bulges slope, as it is too steep
  • Detail front hatches (periscope and its holder, spring, handle, lock, etc.) and possibly add the small fixtures for the driver's weather hood
  • Periscope holder on the external side of the hatches has two parts line and two screws. Early Shermans should only have one part line and eight screws rather than two lines and two bolts
  • Glue T-48 track links to obtain workable tracks (easier to put on the model afterwards)
  • Glue one connector on one link. Than add another link to the other hole of the same connector but do not glue it. Than connect the two links with the opposite connector but glue it only to the first link. Bingo! You have workable tracks! However, take care when you're making the section that will be around the sprocket and idler wheel!
  • Do not mix worn-out links and new ones (check the sprues!)
  • Replace the two grousers' covers at the corners of the upper rear hull. They depict a later mark. Replacing them with ones from a Tamiya M4 is an easy solution. Another option: do not put them and simply add their base

Turret modifications and improvements

  • Fill the two holes in the turret bustle and sand the bustle a little bit (more or less 1,5mm too long)
  • Sand upper profile of the turret edge (profile of the edge between roof and sides must be a little bit more smoothly rounded)
  • Sand to round the profile of the turret race (at the junction of turret two main parts)
  • Area defining the commander's cupola contour is a bit soft and may be accentuated
  • Remove the remaining moulding marks of the Firefly loader hatch on the turret roof
  • Lower the pistol port on the left side (more or less 2 mm)
  • The opening of the gun mount rotor shield is a little bit too high (more or less 1,2mm)
  • Replace the lifting ring at the front of the turret roof. It should be thicker than the ones of the mantlet
  • Remove the British-shaped aerial base ("A" aerial for a N°19 radio set) and replace it with a Verlinden or Academy US one (SCR528 set)
  • Fill the other radio base hole ("B" aerial support square plate with 4 bolt heads)
  • Fill the British-shaped smoke grenade mortar hole (left side of the turret roof edge)
  • Link the .30 co-axial MG muzzle to the gun rotor
  • Add the blade sight in front of the tank commander cupola
  • Replace the improved aiming sight device (U profile) near the aforementioned blade
  • Detail the commander cupola (locking handle at the base of MG support, gun muzzle clamp support on the opposite side of the cupola, handle and lock on hatches, pad and handle on the internal edge, etc.)
  • Add foundry marks on the turret top, rear and left side. Add similar marks on the mantlet. In theory, similar marks should be present on all tank parts (e.g. cupola, hatches, bogies, etc.) Mix KMC, Accurate Armour, Show Modelling, Aber, Slater and Archer products to reproduce the size and thickness variations
  • Add six tie-downs on the turret rear
  • Possibly accentuate the turret moulding line all around of the turret bustle
  • Add a .50 or a .30 machine gun on the commander cupola

General remark: To save time, it is also possible to use other early low bustle turrets such as the one of the Tamiya M4 Sherman kit or the CMD resin one.


According to the specific tank type you may want to depict, other modifications may be done with unused parts, spare parts or aftermarket ones:

To build early ones:

  • Swap the M34A1 rotor shield with the one of the Tamiya M4 as this one depicts an earlier mark
  • Remove counterbalance springs on front hatches
  • Remove the moulded attachment points of the hull bow MG canvas cover
  • Remove the vane sight on the turret
  • Remove co-axial MG shield
  • Remove the projections on the centre of the turret roof (e.g. used for the spotlight)
    Swap bogies with earlier light duty VVS ones: plastic (Tamiya Lee/Grant) or resin (e.g. ABM or Historia)
  • Use the three parts transmission cover
  • Use a resin hull with direct vision slots or modify accordingly the Dragon one
  • Raise turret side lifting rings

Or later ones:

  • Possibly add add-on armour on the sides of the hull and on the turret right side (modify the left-over parts on the M4A4-based sprues)
  • Use the later gun M34A1 mantlet (also a left-over part)
  • Add the gun travel lock (another left-over…)
  • Add periscopes brush guards
  • Relocate the horn and its electrical conduit on the front hull and add a brush guard and iron support
  • Relocate some tools
  • Change air filters
  • Some M4A1 also had a L profile iron step on the front hull between the driver and MG gunner's head covers
  • According to the Sherman you build, remove curved rear mudguards and add side (and rear) sand shields/mudguards attaching strips (plastic or etched strips with drilled or etched holes)
  • Replace the road wheels and idlers with solid, pressed ones (again left-over…Thanks to DML)
  • Use a low bustle turret with a loader hatch (TTW) or use the hatch in the old Verlinden Sherman update kit (#204) resin set intended to detail the initial release of Tamiya M4A3
  • Remove the turret pistol port

To build British early M4A1s:

  • Apply aforementioned modifications intended to an early mark
  • Use T-51 smooth rubber tracks
  • Leave turret aerial bases as such
  • Leave the turret mortar hole in the turret
  • Add sand shields
  • Add side rails on hull sides above the sand shields (attachments for deception truck cab and cover)
  • Add British stowage bin to the turret bustle
  • Replace the two grousers' covers at the corners of the upper rear hull with field-made squared-off ones

Selected detail sets

  • Aber #35032 Sherman M4, M4A1, M4A3: generic set for US versions. Best choice for any US Sherman aficionado!
  • Show modelling #078 M4 Sherman: generic set, less extensive than the Aber set. However, it is a top quality set and includes interesting elements such as photo etched numbers (to simulate foundry marks) and C-ration paper boxes. Moreover, it is less expensive
  • Verlinden Sherman Super Detail Set #263: a dated photo etched set but it offers the most useful parts (such as brush guards) and may be found in swap meets for a low price
  • Jordi Rubio #3517 U.S. 75mm. Lee/Grant, Sherman M4: not perfect but a reasonable reproduction of the 75mm gun. Take care as most aftermarket 75mm guns are misshaped (more particularly CMK ones!). According to Kurt Laughlin's measurements of the actual gun, the Dragon gun is the most accurate one…
  • AFV Club, Modelkasten, Friul, RHPS and Accurate Armour produce alternative rubber chevron T-48 and other tracks variants. For the modelers who dislike link-by-link tracks, T-48 tracks from the Tamiya M4 or recent M4A3 75w or 105w are possible alternatives (AFV Club also makes rubber band type tracks for Sherman/M-10 type vehicles)
  • There are not a lot of dedicated sets for this kit. However, do not forget Verlinden, Hobby Fan, Legend, Royal Model, etc. accessories for other Sherman marks such as Tamiya M4/M4A3 or M10s. A lot of elements from such sets may be used on the M4A1. A cheaper alternative is the Academy Tank Supplies sets (1382 & 1383). Happy owners of MG or tools made by the now defunct Collectors Brass Company will have to dig out their sets! AFV Club, Legend, Warriors and Verlinden make nice .50 cal MGs and Warriors and Verlinden make .30 cal MGs
  • Resin initial M4A1 hulls with direct vision slots conversions were/are made by Cromwell, ABM, K&K, Verlinden and TTW

Further reading

Most of the mentioned references are not specifically dedicated to the M4A1. However, the definite bible on the Sherman has still to be written.


Modeller's guide to the Sherman, Pete Harlem, 1999, Ampersand Publishing. (Highly recommended. Very nice scale plans. Compendium of articles published in Military Miniatures in Review. Unfortunately, they did not comply with common Sherman variants naming. This could have been the Sherman modeller bible if turrets were analysed as well as foreign variations. It's possible that a new, updated edition will be available late 2005)

M4A1 (75mm) Sherman - Exterior, Military Vehicle Workshop Series, MV-01, 1998. (Highly recommended, TM views, partial tweaks list and references list)

M4A1 (75mm) Sherman - Interior, Military Vehicle Workshop Series, MV-04, 1998. (Ditto for the interior)

M4 Sherman, Armor Walk Around n°1, Jim Mesko, Squadron Signal Publications, 2000. (Highly recommended, nice detail pictures but mix of Sherman variants and subtypes)

Inside the Great Tanks, Hans Halberstadt, Windrow & Greene Publishing, 1997. (Highly recommended, 15 pages of large colour pictures of exterior details and interior views of a restored M4A1)

Sherman in Action, Bruce Culver, 2016, Squadron Signal Publications, 1977. (Old but good synthetic reference with good plans and wartime pictures)

Sherman, a History of the American Medium Tank, Richard P. Hunnicut, Presidio press, 1978. (Always the most comprehensive reference, considered as "the Sherman bible", nevertheless, it is a bit dated now and lacks many data necessary for the modeller)

The M4 Sherman at War, The European theatre 1942-1945, Steven J. Zaloga, 7001, Concord Publications, 1994. (Recommended, nice wartime pictures)

The Sherman at War, (2) The US Army in the European theatre 1943-1945, Steven J. Zaloga, 7036, Concord Publications, 2000. (Recommended, nice wartime pictures)

M4 Sherman, Wojciech J. Gawrych, n°13, Wydawnictwo militaria, 1994. (Recommended, wartime pictures, scale plans, profiles and some detail views)

M4 Sherman vol. II, Wojciech J. Gawrych, n°99, Wydawnictwo militaria, 1999. (Some wartime pictures)

M4 Sherman, Osprey Modelling manuals, Rodrigo Hernandez Cabos & John Prigent, n°14, Osprey, 2001. (Recommended, Dragon kit transformed into a British Alamein M4A1)

American Armour, 1939-45 Portfolio, Simon Forty, Ian Allan Limited, 1981. (Recommended, good wartime pictures)

The World War II GI, US Army Uniforms 1941-1945 in Colour Photographs, Richard Windrow & Tim Hawkins, The Crowood Press, 1993. (Not a "Sherman" or even a "tank" book, however it has some good large colour pictures of re-enactors on a Grizzly based M4A1.Interesting for diorama makers)

Canadian Armour in Detail, Militaria in Detail, Wojciech J. Gawrych, n°6, Wydawnictwo militaria, 2000. (Recommended, scale plans, interior views and exterior detail views of a Grizzly)

M3 Grant M4 Sherman, Militaria in Detail, Wojciech J. Gawrych, n°3, Wydawnictwo militaria, 2000. (Recommended, nice detail pictures but mix of Sherman variants and subtypes)


1. Books devoted to campaigns such, as the Tunisia and Normandy are a good source of US M4A1 Sherman pictures. Refer to Concord, Tanks Illustrated or the French Militaria special issues.

2. Other recent Sherman books are interesting for some detail pictures (e.g. early hatches) such as:

- Sherman VC M4A4 Firefly, Military Ordnance special 19, David Fletcher, Darlington productions, 1997
- Sherman Firefly, Mark Hayward, Barbarossa books, 2001
- Israeli Shermans, Thomas Gannon, Darlington Productions, 2001

3. There are other Sherman books about Sherman variants such as Osprey old Vanguard, Profiles or Ellis/Chamberlain books published by Almark or Arco publishing. However, such old books are now outdated and often give very partial information about Sherman variants.

4. There is no book especially dedicated to British early Shermans. However, many books have pictures of Alamein era M4A1 such as the Old Osprey Vanguard about British tanks, the Osprey Vanguard and Squadron in Action booklets about British tanks in North Africa as well as numerous North Africa campaign photo files books.

Model magazines:

Ground Power, M4, n°31, 1996/12, Delta Publishing. (Highly Recommended, good wartime pictures, variants sketches and numerous TM views)

Ground Power, M4, n°32, 1997/1, Delta Publishing. (Highly Recommended, good wartime pictures, variants sketches and numerous TM views)

Ground Power, M4-M4A1, n°96, 2002/05, Delta Publishing. (Highly Recommended, good wartime pictures, variants sketches and numerous TM views, focus on M4-M4A1)

Military Modelling, Dragon's M4A1, Phil Dyer, Vol.28 n°4, 1998, Nexus Publications. (Highly recommended, nice plans and very good kit assessment)

Military Modelling, Sherman Cast Hulls, Phil Dyer, Autumn special 1996, Nexus Publications. (Highly recommended, M4A1 hull variants sketches)

Military Modelling, Sherman Turret Changes, Phil Dyer, Vol.30 n°8, 2000, Nexus Publications. (Highly recommended, dedicated to 75w turrets, update of a prior article edited in AFV News and available on Mike Canaday's Sherman website)

Boresight, DML M4A1 Medium Tank, Steve Zaloga, Vol.4 n°5, September 1996. (Recommended, Dragon kit assessment)

AFV modeller, Winter Wonderland Part 3, Dinesh Ned, n°2, 2002. (Nice winter weathering of a later M4A1 (75w) Dozer based on Verlinden and kit-bashed parts)

Best magazines references about Alamein British Shermans are:

Military Modelling, Shermans at El Alamein, Vasko Barbic, Vol. 22 n°11, November 1992, Argus Publications. (Highly recommended to build a British M4A1 Sherman, very nice scale plans and British modifications sketches)

Military Modelling, Shermans at El Alamein addendum, Vasko Barbic, Vol. 23 n°1, January 1993, Argus Publications. (British Sherman units markings chart)

Military Modelling, Alamein Sherman - the model - the history, Steve Zaloga - Peter Brown, Vol.32 n°10, Aug.-Sep.2002, nexus Publications. (Highly recommended, British M4A1 based on resin and kit-bashed parts: ABM/CMD/etc., very nice wartime pictures and 8th Army Sherman units list)

Reviewers: Ron Smith, Janusz Smolinski
Version 1.0 December 10, 2002-12-12


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2009 Timothy S. Streeter