Building Italeri's 105mm Howitzer M101
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


For all too many years, Italeri was the only source for a couple relatively decent styrene artillery kits with their 105mm and 155mm howitzers. Both have their problems, the ex-Peerless Max 155 more so than the 105. The latter gun has had continued life in the M7 Priest and the DUKW.

Labeled with the postwar designation M101, this kit represents the 1944 M2A1 gun on the M2A2 carriage, which was now fitted with a main shield and a smaller auxiliary shield in front of its larger counterpart. New M2A2 carriages mounted a screw-type traversing mechanism, but the retrofitted M2 and M2A1 carriages retained their worm and rack apparatus, as the Italeri kit demonstrates.

With the arrival of DML's earlier version of the 105—the M2A1 on the M2A1 carriage—I thought it was high time to build one of the several Italeri kits I've had in my stash for many years. As it happened, this has come in the middle of my marathon project of building three Priests, so I've already assembled two of the Italeri howitzers as well as Academy's take on the piece.

And since it's clear from the extra parts on the DML sprues that they have an M2A2 in the offing, getting at least one of these old Italeri sets into the "built" category gives me some small victory over stash.

Naturally, I have a lot of aftermarket stashed away too: the Eduard photoetch set, as well as two different Kendall Model Company update sets.

The biggest gripe about the Italeri kit(s) is the preponderance of ejector pin marks-both raised and subsurface-and sink marks. The latter are found on the breech block and top of the breech ring and are easy to deal with using a dab of putty (if you use the photoetch, you get a nice breech top plate to cover the offending valley).

The pin marks, however, are a different story. They appear on the outer sides of the elevating arcs, some in tight places difficult to access, others on the face places where they can be addressed with a chisel blade and putty. There is also a break seam that needs to be filled, used to help reduce the size of the arcs for the version mounted in the M7 Priest.

The cradle (parts 24 and 25) and shields have some pin marks as well, but they are more easily corrected. Since I used the photoetch shields, however, the kit's shields remained on the sprues.

The construction of the howitzer unit is very similar to my experience with the company's Priest. You need to deal with the seams down the barrel and recuperator. The photoetch dresses up the ends of the recuperator cylinder. There's no p/e for the seam in the cradle so I used thin plastic card in the trough and putty and the sanding stick on the bottom side (which can be visible if your howitzer is displayed in an elevated position).

This version of the 105 has a slightly different range quadrant on the right side of the barrel than the one on the Priest. While this and the M12A2 panoramic telescope (left side of the barrel) are more detailed than the Academy kit, they are eclipsed by the newer DML parts. Make sure you assemble the telescope and telescope mount perpendicular to the ground; it does not rotate with the howitzer as Italeri would have you do.

If you want to have the breech open, you need to make some adjustments, as I did with the Italeri howitzer used in a Academy Priest. Be sure to add the trigger shaft which is missing from the outer face of the block; the tip should rest to the rear of the retaining tab at the end of the firing mechanism.

I decided to model this howitzer in full recoil. Since the lanyard would be in the crew member's hand, I removed the part modeld onto the firing mechanism and donated it to the DML kit, which is without a lanyard.

The carriage is a simple assembly. The one-piece trail legs are molded with the underside hollow (DML has two L-shaped pieces you glue together). That's no big deal though unless you're competing in contests where judges might be armed with dental mirrors.

I added some holes on either side of the drawbar (the instructions show it raised for firing, but you would want to reverse it to the lower position if your cannon is in transit). I believe these holes were to connect safety chains between the howitzer and towing vehicle, commonly a 2.5 ton truck. Italeri managed to mold the traveling lock connection pin with the hole through the center, something that DML wasn't able to accomplish.

Oddly, Italeri provides a hand spike molded into its useful position at the end of the left trail, as well as in storage on the top of the leg. Use one or the other, but be sure to cut off and hollow out the triangular-shaped fitting that should be glued to the surface.

The aiming stakes represented by part 71 only have three poles, while in reality the stakes were two, two-part poles. An assembled set of the two M1 sections was around 8 feet, 8 inches, and the diameter of the posts was 1-1/8 inches. Each of the alternating red and white stripes were 4 inches long, with the top (blunt) end being red, the stripe closest to the point painted white. The Eduard set gives the correct stowage hardware, and you can either use some plastic rod to make the stakes or leave the fittings empty if the stakes would be in use (typically placed off the base of your vignette or diorama).

I chose to challenge myself with the Eduard shields. They're the focal point of an otherwise lackluster photoetch set. They're closer to scale thickness, once you get a coat or two of paint on them. And they do look good once assembled. But they are tricky, because you have to match the angles on the top-most plates, and there is a lot of metal-on-metal gluing that is always hazardous from a fragility standpoint. And there is always the chance of snapping something off while attaching something else (which happened a couple times). So caution is the watchword here. Even if you build this kit out of the box, you might want to give some time for the glue to set on the plastic parts before moving to subsequent steps.

As it was, I discovered after attaching the upper shield components, the hinges to connect to the lower shield at axle level didn't line up. I was a hair off to the outer sides. Rather than take everything apart and reassemble it, I just fixed the hinges onto the upper shield and left the bottom piece off, as though lost on the road.

I was tempted to use a few of the extra DML parts from the M2A2 carriage. The Italeri parts 35 and 41 have lightening holes that I bored with my pin vise, using the DML counterparts as templates. I did apply the spare DML brake handles, since they are much better than the original or Eduard parts

The kit includes a stowage tin for the gun manual to mount on telescope box, but I have not seen this in tech manual images or field photos, so I presume this to be a postwar addition. I filled in the backside of the box with a plug of plastic block.

The tires are the mud and snow type that were seen more regularly as the war progressed. But, as with the DML kit, the tires are undersized by several inches in diameter.

The diameter of the Italeri tires is about 38 inches. But according to measurements provided by Kurt Laughlin, the mud and snow tires should be 40.1 to 40.5, and the commercial highway tire was measured at 40.39 inches.

Unfortunately, the actual measurements fall in between the tires available, as seen below. The Italeri, DML, (both mud and snow) and theTraxz 105mm Howitzer M101 Wheel Set #2 (a highway tire)—as well as a tire produced by Masters Productions (another highway tire, 38.7 inches)—are short. The larger Trakz 105mm Howitzer M101 Wheel Set #1, a repop of the highway tires in Kendall Model Company update sets, scales to 42.3 inch tire on a large dished rim; alas, it is too large.

The Italeri, DML, and Trakz 2 tires are mounted on divided combat wheels, the Trakz 1/KMC wheels are commercial types.

The extras in the box includes three awful figures and a couple of stowage chests (which can be dressed up with p/e parts). There are five unimpressive ammo rounds, but there are several aftermarket alternatives to consider. Painting instructions are simple olive drab for the metal and grey-black for the tires. No decals are included.


In spite of ample personal evidence to the contrary on my storage shelves, I believe models are made to be built. So I'm glad that DML finally got me off my butt and into this kit. I'm also glad they've taken a keen interest in this particular version of the 105mm howitzer and will be releasing a new kit in the future. The spare parts on the DML M2A1 look promising.

And if you have already invested in one or two of these old Italeri kits, it will make a good basis for practicing your photoetch skills if you also have the Eduard p/e. Youngsters and casual modelers might enjoy building it out of the box because it has fewer parts and less fragile pieces than the DML. For them, some simple clean up will still make a relatively decent M2A2 howitzer.


See the 105mm M2A1 on the M2A2 carriage at the Victory Museum in Auburn, Indiana. Also on the page are tech manual images that will help with the details.

FM 6-74 105-mm Howitzer M2A1 on Motor Carriage M7B1 and M7B2, Department of the Army Field Manual, March 1954.

FM 6-75 105-mm Howitzer, M2, Truck-drawn, War Department Field Artillery Field Manual, December 12, 1941.

TM 9-1325 105-mm Howitzers and M2 and M2A1; Carriages M2A1 and M2A2; and Combat Vehicle Mounts M3 and M4, Ordnance Maintenance, War Department Technical Manual, 21 September 1944.

Standard Guide to U.S. World War II Tanks & Artillery, by Konrad F. Schreier, Jr., Krause Publications.

U.S. WWII 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriages M7 & M7B1 Priest, Michael Franz, editor, Tankograd Publishing.




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