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Dragon M65 Atomic Annie


The M65, heavy, motorized, 280mm long-range mobile gun entered service in 1951. The massive gun carriage was slung between two tractors that operated similarly to a hook-and-ladder firetruck. Only 20 were built before being retired in 1963. On May 25, 1953, at the Nevada Proving Ground, the M65 became the first artillery to fire an atomic shell.

Dragon's new Black Label 1/72 scale tooling of the M65 contains 268 parts molded in light gray plastic with clear styrene windows. Three marking choices are provided, including a test vehicle from the Aberdeen Proving Ground. You can build the gun stowed for travel or in its lowered position. Because the catwalks on the gun carriage are molded stowed, you're limited to building the gun either ready for travel or in the down position. When the gun is in its actual traveling position, the barrel is locked facing front; this option is not available.

Overall, the parts show crisp detail with slide molding being used for the main part of the gun barrel and some smaller parts. There is no flash, but I filled numerous ejector-pin marks on the underside of the two tractors with .005" styrene discs.  Many of the locator holes are oversized, so a little filler is needed to hide them.

The directions are divided into three sections: one section for each tractor, and one for the gun carriage. I followed the directions for the most part, fixing missing details along the way. I filled the winch spools with nylon thread to represent cable and covered the open backs on the boxes (Part F10) mounted on the tractor undercarriages. In Step 5, Part E32 should be F32. I also drilled out the mufflers (parts E13 and E28). The tractor interiors are basic, but well done for what they are.

With all of the undercuts present on the gun carriage, you need to plan how you want to paint the gun before you start construction. I left all the wheels and cranks and the ammo crane off the carriage sides until it was fully assembly. I also waited before attaching the ramming mechanism (Subassembly J from Step 19) and carriage feet until after painting.

I airbrushed the gun Tamiya black green (XF-27) after Step 24, and joined the gun carriage halves after the paint dried. At this point, I recommend gluing the outer housing of the gun elevation pistons (F20 and F21). But leave off the pistons and elevation arms until the model is done for easier painting and to prevent breakage. Parts B37 and C23 fit poorly, so I added a styrene-strip shim to fix the problem.

I finished shading the model with black green. While the instructions recommend Testors Model Master RLM light green 82 (No. 2091), I chose AK Interactive's U.S. Army olive drab (No. 4011) from its Vietnam paint set. Various Vallejo, AK, and Humbrol paints and washes helped detail the gun.

Dragon put all three marking options on one page, meaning small diagrams that require a magnifying glass to decipher which decals go where. While Cartograf provides reference numbers on the decal sheet, they do not appear in the directions. Also, the decals are tightly spaced on the sheet.  So, be careful when cutting them out. I accidentally sliced through the bottom of one group.

When fully assembled, the M65 with tractors measures nearly 14" long — that's huge for a 1/72 scale vehicle! Even with the low parts count and the absence of photoetched metal, this model took 34 hours to complete, much of it spent filling ejector-pin marks, painting, and weathering.

This model will make an impressive build for modelers of any skill level. To add more detail, such as air-brake hoses, consult U.S. Army Gun, Heavy, Motorized, 280mm M65 Atomic Annie, by Michael Franz and Jochen Vollert (Tankograd; no ISBN). Viewing footage of test firings on YouTube helped, too.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2015 FineScale Modeler.

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