AFV Club has released two versions of the M2A1 105mm howitzer at the same time, one with the early M2 carriage, the other with the later M2A2 carriage (the subject of this review). The major difference between them is the later version has a different gun-shield arrangement, and the carriage uses standard military tires. These guns were first produced in 1941, served throughout World War II, continued through the Vietnam War, and are still used by several countries.
Molded in olive green plastic, the kit features good detail. The trails and gun platform are movable if assembled carefully. The gun shields are molded remarkably thin (no photoetched metal needed here). The barrel is turned metal; unfortunately, the rifling in the barrel is incorrectly parallel to the barrel (instead of twisted). There is a small fret of photoetched metal and a decal sheet for five sets of markings, three listed as “unknown,” and two post-WWII guns. The two highway-tread combat tires are molded in hard vinyl.
Assembly starts with the delicate elevation spring. Take care removing the injection molded springs from the sprue. I glued the assembly together in stages, letting the glue dry between steps: first, the end plate (Part A42); then, the upper plate (after adding the middle plate, Part A40, and the springs); and, finally, I used a couple of toothpicks to compress the springs so I could carefully glue the center rod (Part A19) to the middle plate. Once everything was dry, it worked just like the real thing.
I left the ranging rods (Part C2) off the right trail arm until the gun was painted so I could paint their distinctive red and white stripes. I discovered later that the cradle clamps (Part A13) are actually too far back when installed as shown in the instructions. This is not a big issue if you display your gun in a firing position, but will be a problem if you want it configured for towing. I suggest you sand off the locating ridges on the trails and install the clamps after the gun-cradle assembly is in place, using the cradle to determine their location.
The main gun cradle is molded in one piece, eliminating the unsightly and difficult-to-remove central seam found on most gun kits. When installing the gun cradle assembly, be careful to allow it to elevate and pivot; glue the right pivot (Part B31) carefully or the gun won’t elevate. I left off the right shield support (F12) until the shield was added to position it correctly.
The crank wheel in Step 10 is incorrectly labeled B8 on the instruction sheet. It should be Part A48. While the tires are nicely molded, I did not like the way the wheels fit. The outside rim did not seem to seat as deeply as it should, resulting in the cutouts in the rims being too small compared with photos.
It only took me about 12 hours to finish my kit, but building it will require a skilled modeler comfortable with small, delicate parts. The finished model looks great and matches the dimensions I found on Wikipedia. Also helpful were photos of the real thing on Toadman’s Tank Pictures website
Comparing this model to the Dragon version issued a couple of years ago, I would say the AFV Club kit is slightly better detailed and engineered — but also more complicated to assemble.