by: Felix Bustelo [ ]
Dragon Models have released three versions of their 1/350 scale Gearing class “Smart Kit”, one in her original World War II configuration, another in a DDR Radar Picket fit and lastly in a post-war/1950s fit with a DDR tripod mast. While there has been a fair amount of criticism of these and other Dragon ships kits in general (overly complex, too many parts, poor instructions) they are designed and molded using the latest technology and they build into beautiful detailed models out of the box. However no matter how debatably good a kit is, there is always room for super-detailing and therefore ripe opportunities for after-market products. Seeing this opportunity, Alliance Modelworks has tossed their proverbial hat into the ring with their first dedicated detailing set which is designed for the Dragon USS Gearing kit.
Alliance Modelworks has produced a variety of more general photoetch ship model fittings sets (railings, ladders, doors & hatches, radars, cranes and miscellaneous items) and some very detailed resin armament sets (IJN and USN anti-aircraft and USN 5” turrets) but now they are essentially combining these two types of products into one very good set.
The set comes in a fairly compact clear plastic box. The packaging label states that the set if for the Dragon Models kits #1045 and #1046, which are the post-war Knox and DDR Chevalier kits. However the set is actually designed for the WW2 USS Gearing kit which is #1029. The photo on the label and the images in the instructions of the original destroyer fit. This set can indeed be used to detail the other two versions but you should be aware that there are no specific parts for those configurations, such as additional radars and tripod mast parts.
This detail set is clearly more of a photoetch set since it has a total of 5 relief-etched brass frets (labeled A – E) crammed with parts. Each individual fret is sandwiched between two pieces of clear plastic that serves to protect the parts and will peel off without difficulty and or any residue. Once the plastic film is removed it will not go back on so I decided it was best to keep it on until I actually use this set. So my apologies if the plastic films obscures some of the detail of the photoetch in the pictures.
Photoetch Fret A contains all of the railings which are pre-sized to eliminate the need to measure and cut them into segments. The railings have a realistic slacked line appearance and the main deck rails have safety netting. Also included on Fret A are parts for the SC-2 air search radar, Mk. 12 and Mk. 22 radars, and detail parts for the Mk. 37 gun directors. Various mast platforms, yardarms, ECM and TBS antennas, portholes (opened and closed), floater net baskets and brackets, depth charge handling davits and some miscellaneous items round off this fret. Some parts, like the depth charge davits and the brackets for the floater net baskets, are to be folded together to add some dimension to the other flat parts.
Photoetch Fret B contains almost all of the anti-skid walkways and some pre-shaped ammunition racks for all 40mm gun tubs. There has been some debate on the various ship modeling message boards on whether decals are better for anti-skid walks since brass versions may be too thick and unrealistic. Anti-skid walks were essentially textured sections applied to steel decks. Relief-etched brass actually provides texture to these walkways and once painted should appear a bit more realistic than flat decals. However personal preference will prevail.
Photoetch Fret C contains parts for three types depth charge racks, Mk 6/7 depth charge end caps, more parts for the Mk 22 radar, propeller guards and 20mm ready ammo lockers. Watertight doors and hatches and structural parts such as the inclined and vertical ladders, funnel cap grills and supports for the Mk 51 director tubs are also included here.
Photoetch Fret D contains a variety of different parts – vents, platforms and handrails for the funnels, more sections of anti-skid walkways, 40mm tub ammo racks and lockers, life raft stowage racks, boat davits and stowage racks, foot rails for the 20mm guns and parts for the alternate Mk 9B depth charges.
Photoetch Fret E is the weapons fret with parts to build the twin 20mm Oerlikons and to finish and detail the resin twin and quad 40mm Bofors. Parts are provided to make ten twin 20mm guns and they will require folding parts together like the gun barrels and the ammo drums to give them some thickness. Frankly they look quite challenging to put together especially seeing that the tripod legs and the gun barrels are all one piece. The parts for the Bofors look easier to work with and will add a lot of detail to the resin mounts which are covered below. Although they are not referenced at all in the instructions, you will see in the bottom right section of Fret E detail parts for the kit’s Mk 51 directors. An alternate reference source like a photograph or drawing is needed to determine what goes where.
The resin parts provided in this set are replacements for the kit’s twin 5”/38 Mk 38 turrets (complete with brass barrels) and twin and quad 40mm Bofors as well as a set of alternate Mk 9B depth charges.
The turrets are amazing little gems, highly detailed and beautifully cast. Blast bags are integrated into the casting and will save the modeler the time and effort of making these. The brass barrels are the correct length taking into account the blast bags. A casting plug needs to be carefully removed using a razor saw.
The 40mm Bofors guns are also well done with great detail and nice casting. They are cast in pairs in a dark gray resin inside a U-shaped block with helps prevent the barrels from breaking. The one pair that appears to have broken off was actually removed by me to provide a side view. The mounts are also cast in a dark gray resin are also well done. They need to be removed from the casting sprue and cleaned up a bit at the removal point.
The last set of resin parts is quite interesting and a really nice touch: 36 late war teardrop Mk 9B depth charges. The teardrop shape allowed for a much greater sink rate and fins were used to create a stabilizing spin. The Mk 9B was the standard depth charge by the latter part of the war and designed to fit the Mk 6/7 racks and K-Guns. These parts are provided as an alternative to the kit’s standard drum depth charges and they give the modeler an option depending on the ship you wish to build and what timeframe. The depth charges are well cast and even have the fins (they are hard to see in the photos but trust me they are there). Add the photoetch parts on Fret D and you will have some pretty nice looking depth charges.
Three pages of instructions are provided with this set. The instructions, which have good illustrations, cover the assembly of certain parts (e.g. the 20mm and 40mm guns and the Mk22 and Mk 12 components on the gun director) and the placement of others items (e.g. railings, anti-skid coverings, funnel details, 40mm tub racks). That being said they do contain some errors in nomenclature (the 20mm ammo lockers are referred to as lifejacket storage), omit reference to some items (the 40mm lockers and Mk 51 director detail), and fail to show the placement of other items. To address the last point, the detail set instructions should be used in conjunction with kit’s instructions as a good number of the Alliance Modelworks parts replace kit parts. In addition the Alliance Modelworks website does have a number of photos of an unpainted and assembled Gearing kit gleaming with the brass and resin parts from this set. This is not referenced in the instructions but they will help you with utilizing this set.
Overall this detail/upgrade set is well done and will add a lot to the Dragon Gearing Class kits. The photoetch is first-rate although in some spots potentially a bit too complicated to fold and assemble. The resin parts are outstanding and the instructions, while adequate, perhaps could have been more thorough. I would recommend this set to experienced modelers wishing to super-detail the Dragon kit.