by: Jason Bobrowich [ ]
As far as heavy tanks go the M103A2 was born out of the fears instilled during the early days of the Cold War and carried through until it was finally phased out. The M103A2 was solely used by the United States Marine Corps between 1958 and 1974 when it was finally replaced by the M60A1.
With its massive 120 mm M58 gun and a huge amount of armour protection on the hull front and turret the M103A2 posed a huge threat to enemy armour. The improvements made in the M103A2 over the M103A1 were cost and operationally effective for the USMC and provided Marines with the heavy armour support needed to conduct infantry support and anti-armour missions.
Within the Dragon Model Black Label series the M103A1 was released with much anticipation and then much disappointment due to a number of accuracy errors. Dragon Model followed up with the release of the M103A2 kit in November 2014 to depict the M103 in its final production state. The majority of the accuracy issues are still present in this kit and this in box review will concentrate on the moulding quality and contents rather than accuracy.
- 528 parts total
- 508 parts in grey styrene
- 17 parts in clear styrene
- 1 set of DS T97E2 tracks
- 1 metal braided cable (tow cable)
- Instruction booklet (18 steps indicated)
There are a notable number of parts included on the sprues that are not required for the build of the M103A2. These included parts from the M103A1 kit, parts from the Dragon Model M48A3 Mod B kit, and parts from the Dragon Model M2 halftrack kit. These unused parts are indicated in the instructions. Looking at the number of unused M103A1 parts you could likely change your mind and build an M103A1 instead of the M103A2. I am surprised given this approach that Dragon Model simply did not market the kit as a dual option M103A1/M103A2 kit and include the M103A1 PE and decals.
The main components of the hull and turret have a visible cast texture but it is still light compared to the chunky look of the casting on the real M103A2. There are also slight weld marks visible around the antenna and ventilator mounts.
The main gun is produced as a single piece, saving time on assembly and sanding seams on a two piece gun. The mantlet is void of the distinct canvas mantlet cover and accordion style gun cover that were added to the M103A2.
The suspension components are provided with multiple sprues taken directly from the Dragon Models M48A3 Mod B kit. The quality is very nice and visibly absent is any sink holes. The road wheels are comprised of the road wheel and rubber portions separate allowing for a multi-part assembly. The drive sprockets are suitable for the M103A1 but not for the M103A2 due to a change made by the USMC when the M103A2 was developed.
The tracks are the rubberized DS style. I was not familiar with this type of track and noted sets of small sink holes about every 10th track link. I am not sure how you would fill these in on the DS track. The assembly of the tracks appears toy-like with the hole and pin connection method. Some detail is lost at this portion of the track and with a completely open track on the M103A2 placement will be key in order to hide this section.
The engine deck and rear hull details are also provided from the M48A3 Mod B kit and give the M103A2 the very unique M60-like hybrid appearance.
There are multiple lifting handles, tie down, and hatch handles on the M103A2 and all of them are moulded on the parts. The engine deck looks alright with the moulded on details but the hull bins and turret top lack detail and definition with their moulded on parts.
On the turret the racks are provided as single pieces and I did note seams that will need to be removed. The Chrysler cupola that perches on the turret top gets a .50 Cal and cradle taken from the Dragon Model Models M2 halftrack kit. The details are overall good but the ammunition box and holder appear to be a WWII style.
The jerry cans are moulded into the racks and do detract from the detail currently available in other kits. The jerry cans appear to be the US style metal water cans rather than metal fuel cans.
The searchlight is also from the Dragon Model M48A3 Mod B kit and is assembled from multiple pieces creating unrealistic seams that will need to be dealt with. There is no searchlight cable provided in the kit.
The commanderís and driverís hatches can be posed open but the very unique forward positioned loaderís hatch is moulded shut. This would have been an excellent detail for Dragon Model to have included. There are no details on the inside of the commanderís hatch.
In the M103A1 kit one of the deficiencies was a lack of the peaked turret. Dragon Model did correct this in the M103A2 kit and the peak is noticeable on the turret roof.
The hull fenders/sponsons are built as left and right subassemblies by adding supports, bins, air cleaners, and the unique USMC tank telephone on the left rear fender.
A metal tow cable is provided, which is a good detail in comparison to a length of string commonly seen in many kits. The cable is fitted into the tow cable ends and mounted around the rear of the turret.
Markings are provided for two USMC M103A2s. The instructions indicate that they are unidentified tanks in Guantanamo, Cuba in 1970. The decals look well printed and the yellow colour looks appropriate for USMC tanks of that time period.
From my references I believe the tank decals depict the following:
Call sign D12: 1st Platoon, D Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, US Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 1970
Call sign D24: 2nd Platoon, D Company, 5th Tank Battalion, Camp Pendleton, California, 1967
Of note with call sign D24 is that 1st Tank Battalion logos are provided as decals for this tank. This is correct as the M103A2s from C Company, 1st Tank Battalion were transferred to D Company 5th Tank Battalion when C Company deployed to Vietnam on M48A3s. The logos were not removed during the temporary transfer.
The painting guide indicates the overall colour should be Olive Drab. A version of the USMC Green would likely be more applicable.
1. Incorrect drive sprocket- should be the M88/M51 style.
2. Incorrect rear hull engine grills- should not have the raised armoured strips and the hinge assemblies are incorrect for the M103 series. Only the test versions uses the M48/M60 sprocket.
3. Incorrect size of the tank/infantry phone- should be bigger and should have a cable running from the rear and through the sponson supports and into the hull.
4. Hull sponson supports are incorrectly shaped and in the case of one of the supports the incorrect number of holes.
5. Incorrect rear fender length- should be longer and outer and inner bolt details are missing.
6. Incorrect size of small sponson stowage box- should be slightly larger.
7. Incorrect size of gun travel lock- should be bigger.
8. No fording snorkel included- would have been an easy addition from the Dragon M48A3 parts.
9. Bolt detail on the front fender/sponson areas are present but should be larger and more defined.
10. Hull front is incorrectly shaped. The front curve should protrude less.
11. No spare track links provided for the sponson spare track mounts.
12. No specific pioneer tools provided for the front hull area. But, with the Dragon M2 Halftrack parts included in the kit this can be solved.
13. Handles on sponson stowage boxes are moulded on- should be separate parts.
14. Headlight guards and headlights require small details such as wiring.
15. Turret ring placement is too far forward.
16. Final drive shape and position is incorrect.
17. Rear lower hull bolt detail is present but undersized.
18. Engine grill handles are incorrectly placed.
19. Front hull lifting eyes are incorrectly shaped and lacking weld details.
20. Lifting handles on engine deck and air cleaners are moulded on.
21. Engine deck missing weld mark details.
22. Tie downs for front hull pioneer tools/tripod missing or moulded on.
23. Suspension bumpers missing bolt detail.
24. Tracks links have sink marks and technically incorrect- should be T107 tracks instead of T97E2 tracks.
1. Incorrect length of main gun barrel- should be longer.
2. Incorrect size of mantlet- should be wider.
3. Mantlet cover and accordion dust cover not included.
4. Lifting handles and tie downs on turret moulded on.
5. Turret ventilator is too small.
6. Gunner's sight protrusion is too small and missing weld details.
7. Weld beads on ventilator and antennas housings are present but should be much more pronounced.
8. Large rectangular turret top main gun access hatch needs raised weld details and bolt detail added.
9. Turret left side missing foundry casting mark.
10. Tow cable U shaped mounts on turret rear missing.
11. Tow cable mounts on turret sides lack details.
12. Commander's .50 Cal lacks details and the ammo box and mount are WWII style.
13. Antenna and ventilator housings require raised rims.
14. Raised protrusions on turret top on the left and right sides of the cupola need to be reduced in size.
15. The M103A1 style old gunner's seat protrusion under the turret rear incorrectly sized- needs to be reduced in size for the M103A2.
16. Turret range finder blisters slightly undersized and lacking sight details.
17. Range finder blisters missing small lifting loops.
18. Loader's hatch moulded closed, details also moulded on, and lacking rain gutter around hatch.
19. Commander's cupola lacking details and no details on the hatch or cupola interior.
20. Searchlight lacks detail and in undersized.
21. Searchlight cable is not included.
22. Weld seams missing on turret rack mounts and lifting eyes.
23. Casting numbers on turret top on left side and in front of the gunner's sight housing missing.
24. Turret racks ends should be hollow.
25. Turret side angles are off.
26. Jerry cans, straps, and racks all moulded as one piece.
27. Rain gutter on turret rear bottom missing.
28. Turret side rails should be straight and not curved.
29. Kit included antennas are too thick and too short.
30. Turret blade vane sight holes are solid and need to be drilled out.
So, there you go...54 identified accuracy issues in the kit.
Overall the quality of the parts included in the kit is good. The styrene parts are well moulded but the quality is diminished with moulded on details. The DS tracks do have visible sink holes and the simplistic assembly method may be undesirable. I am not speaking to accuracy or additional missing details or modifications that are required to bring this kit into the realm of a high quality kit. That is not the scope of this in box review. The score given is only given based on the lack of detailing provided in the kit and not the lack of accuracy.
Assembly of the kit out of box should not create any issues for you as a modeller. I have included assembled images of the kit from the Dragon Model website for you to view and ultimately decide if the completed kit looks like an M103A2 to you.
There are very limited specific aftermarket parts for this kit. Without going into details I suspect that given the identified issues in the M103A1 and M103A2 kits that aftermarket producers are not willing to invest time, energy, or money to create detailing and correction sets.
This massive heavy tank was a huge part of the USMC armoured legacy and truly spoke to the resolve of the USMC to create a powerful tank to support Marines during combat missions. While the only operational deployment was to Guantanamo Bay and no shots were ever fired in anger the M103A2 stood the test of time for the mission it was designed for and outperformed the M60 in many ways.