has now released a kit of the M7 Priest, and as it is the second new kit of this
vehicle released in the last three years I return to my review of its competitor.
WWII there were four iconic open-topped self-propelled guns used by the major
powers: the German 15 cm Hummel, the Canadian-designed Sexton
with a 25-lb gun, the Soviet SU-76M, and the American M7 105mm HMC Priest.
The latter three were excellent designs and went on to live long after the war,
all three serving into the early 1960s with various second- and third-world armies.
Two of them, the Sexton and the M7, were based on the reliable US M3 medium tank
came about due to a perceived need for self-propelled armored artillery weapons
to keep up with armored divisions. After a number of prototypes were tested, the
M7 entered service and full-scale production in April 1942. While it was based
on the M3 chassis, it also absorbed many of the changes that came about due to
the introduction of the M4 series medium tanks and reflected those changes as
production proceeded along. A total of 2,814 were built as well as 826 of the
later M7B1, which used the M4A3 tanks Ford GAA engine in place of the originals
radial air-cooled engine. Roughly one-quarter of these vehicles served with the
Allied forces, going to the British and Canadians (and later replaced by the Sexton,
which carried the preferred 25-lb gun in place of the American M2 105mm howitzer)
and the Free French forces as well as postwar MAP deliveries to many other countries.
came out with a kit of a late production M7 that had been modified for Military
Assistance Program use in the early 1950s, and while a nice kit for its time,
suffered from being both a very late production vehicle and their quirky M4 suspension
and T51 tracks. When Academy promised a new kit, it was to be based on their new
M3 Lee kit, But when that was noted to have some serious problems, it was held
up for a number of revisions. What they eventually produced was a mid-production
M7 with a riveted hull, T51 tracks and some of the MWO changes that went with
it to include the increased ammunition stowage racks which appeared about the
time of the Operation Husky landings in Sicily, based on combat operations in
North Africa. It has the production three-section bolted transmission housing
with the full-size E4151 right side housing section vice the E1230 used on very
early production vehicles and taken straight from the M3 medium tank, top-opening
stowage bins on the rear deck vice the side-opening ones from the early production
series but not the mesh baskets which appeared on top of them or vents which are
seen on late production vehicles. It also has the early model shallow pulpit
for the .50 caliber machine gun.
that kit suffered from a number of detail problems and missing details such as
the engine deck venting, clumsily executed ammo storage, and some problems with
the gun itself.
to say, when DML began releasing new mold kits of both the early model M4 Sherman
tanks with the early (M3") type bogie units with integral return rollers
and then an excellent M2A1 105mm howitzer, it was only a matter of time before
they too issued a kit of this popular subject.
While they are focusing on the same modelthe mid-production version of the
M7 or Priestthe results are much cleaner and closer to the prototype.
In this case they have produced a mid-production vehicle with some of the MWO
upgrades applied such as the raised AA MG pulpit and the folding side
shields and increased ammunition stowage. The model has the early model bogies
with five spoked welded wheels and six-spoke idlers, machined drivers, and T48
rubber chevron tracks. The additional air vents are present on the engine deck
as are the covers that go over the top of those vents. Grouser bins with grousers
molded in place are provided as is an interior of all visible components. The
kit also comes with the current generation of DMLs take on the M2HB machine
gun. Top bows are provided but only in their stowed positions.
did skimp on some items. For example, the ammo racks come filled less four rounds
on the right and six on the left; while more to scale than the Academy ones and
with at least the dividers in place there are no separate ammo rounds or shell
casings provided. All of the engine deck vents are solid with the brass grille
work simply mounting over them, but as little can be seen through the original
even from a few feet away this may not be bad other than making their installation
more difficult to accomplish in a clean manner. The engine access doors are molded
closed and the auxiliary air vents are also solid. However, it does come with
the earlier round air cleaners.
T48 tracks are a good set and represent their prototype well, but photos show
them as more common to the later production vehicles and the M7B1 and M7B2 variants.
A better choice for all around use would have been the T51 irreversible
rubber shoe track (which DML also makes as a DS product).
lower hull is a new mold for this kit and includes the mounts and baffles found
in the Priest. The transmission cover replicates the same version as the Academy
kit but is cleaner and has a more realistic cast texture. The drivers instrument
panel is the long narrow type. The interior is fairly complete as the upper hull
is molded in flat components and as such has inner and outer details on the fighting
bins are the non-vented top-opening type and no stowage basket for mounting on
top of the bins are provided.
M2A1 howitzer is provided verbatim to include the turned aluminum forward section
and in this case is missing the shield Steve Zaloga noted was a later addition.
A complete new lower carriage and the original travel lock for the weapon (which
interfered with access to internal hull ammo stowage) is also provided. Three
grouser bins are provided but the grousers are molded in place.
support for this kit is listed as the H3 Design Office.
sets of markings are provided, all for solid olive drab vehicles: Battery A, 73rd
Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Armored Division, Germany 1945 (gun A10);
Battery A, 231st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division, Germany
1944 (All American/Crazy Helen, no bumper code); and Battery A, 399th
Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Armored Division, Bohemia 1945 (Minnesota,
gun A2). A set of Cartograf decals are provided and include yellow warning stripes
for the ammo shipping canisters.
this is a much better kit than the unfortunate Academy kit and offers a solid
base for conversions to either early production or late production kits to modelers
with a deep Sherman/Grant/Lee parts box. I do wish it had come with the markings
for either the 54th, 67th or 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalions (3rd US
A 12 M7
- upper hull, engine deck and interior sections
A 46 M2A1 Howitzer upper carriage
and gun section
B 63 M7 - hull details, interior, M2HB machine gun
M7 - Howitzer lower carriage and OVM
D 31x2 M4A1 DV suspension and road wheels
41 M7 - Ammo racks, bins, fittings, pulpit riser
E 10 Clear styrene
Twisted steel wire
V 4x2 Drive wheels
X 1 M7 Lower Hull
Z 2 DS Plastic
T48 type track runs
MA 4 Etched brass
MB 1 Turned aluminum barrel
to Freddie Leung for the review sample. --Cookie