Sunday, 23 February 2014

MMS T-20 Komsomolet - white metal done right!

OK, I sorta felt bad after yesterday's tirade against white metal models. After all, white metal does play a very important role and has it's unique properties and is the ideal material for a particular type of model made for a particular purpose. To be absolutely honest with you I almost wish I had designed my Finnish Army project around 20mm white metal models instead of 1/72 plastic...Sometimes...Almost! (But then again no!) :)

Thing is, white metal is great for knocking out short run wargaming quality models. It allows a whole cottage industry of enthusiastic model makers to come out with rare and niche vehicles that the mainstream injection moulded kit manufacturers just don't think make good commercial sense. Such is the case with the WW2 Soviet T-20 Komsomolet...

Fat Finns need not apply to drive a T-20!

Let's face it, the T-20 is hardly the most sexy military vehicle and some might argue that it wasn't even all that important, BUT in the context of my Finnish WW2 project is is an important vehicle and I would find it hard to imagine a Finnish wargaming army without a squadron of T-20s!

The T-20 was sort of the Soviet Bren Gun Carrier. It was a very light artillery tractor which was designed to haul the Soviet 45mm anti-tank gun and the 120mm heavy mortar. Unlike teh British Bren Gun Carrier the T-20 had a fully enclosed armoured crew compartment - although the unfortunate gun crew had to ride on the exposed benches on the back.

Large numbers of these little vehicles were captured by the Finns during the disastrous Soviet invasion of Finland in the Winter War (1939-40). As usual with the Finns this obsolescent vehicle was not only put to very good use but was

Here the Finns are asking a lot of this poor little T-20! With a full gun crew
aboard and towing a German PAK-40 the 50hp engine must have been
a hairs breadth away from a nervous breakdown!

Anyway...To the models...

Long story short - nobody makes a plastic 1/72 T-20 (yet, North Star are working on one), so - ironically - I am having to make do with 20mm white metal versions!

My first two attempts at procuring a suitable T-20 model resulted in models bought from SHQ and Shellhole Scenics and I cover my thoughts on them my 'Shellhole Scenics T-20 review'. To cut to the chase, neither of these models impressed me - to say the least - and probably explains my rabid dislike for white metal!

The 1/76 MMS T-20 Komsomolyets Artillery Tractor
So, I am now in possession of all three white metal model of the T-20 that are available.* I've already moaned on at some length about the SHQ and SS versions, so what's the MSS model like?

*I've been reminded that there is also a version by Skytrek (which seems on a par with the Shellhole version).

Well, you know all those nasty things I said in yesterday's post about the merits of white metal? Here's the exception that proves the rule.

The MSS T-20 is a thing of beauty. It not actually the amount of detail that make it a stunning example of what can be done with white metal - although that is a factor - it's the quality of the metal itself. Unlike the SHQ and SS versions there is no noticeable distortions or pitting. And, amazingly - I can't actually believe I am saying this - there is practically no cleaning up required before assembly!

I say amazing, because I have just spent the better part of this morning filing away at my SHQ Citroen C45 truck and ended up with a pile of excess white metal which was enough to make - it seemed - a second model!

From left to right: Shellhole Scenics, SHQ and finally the MSS T-20. Be glad
that the Shellhole model is slightly out of focus...I'm doing you a favour!

I cannot complement MMS enough, their mastery of the medium and I can safely say that their T-20 is the best on the market. To be somewhat objective, the SHQ T-20 come close but is let down - drastically - by the disappointing quality of the white metal components (which are distorted).

The MMS T-20 (front) compared to the next best option, the SHQ T-20.

Of course, there is still the problem of the scale - the MSS model is still a 1/76 model and not 1/72 one. Here I am relying on the fact that the T-20 is quite a small vehicle anyway, so any differences in size between the scales is commensurately small. I think there is something like a millimeters difference in length and height between 1/76 and 1/72 for this model.

At the end of the day, yes - I would like a 1/72 plastic scale model of the T-20 for my project, but in the meantime I am quite pleased with the MSS T-20 and will add it to my inventory of Finnish vehicles.

The MSS model - Comsomolyets Artillery Tractor Ref: 022 - is £10.95 plus postage, which I think is fair enough for such a niche item. The cost includes a artillery limber for the Soviet 45mm AT gun and a set of additional spoked wheels to convert MSS's German 37mm AT gun into the Soviet 45. So, when you included the amount of component parts in the MSS kit as well as these extras then the cost seems very reasonable. (The SHQ T-20 is - by comparison - £8.)

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