Note: As my project is a Battle of Kursk (July/August 1943) themed game, the Mod. 43 (Model 1943) T-34/76 (76mm gunned version) tank would make the most appropriate choice, so my purchases were based on this fact...
When reading about these various kits I noticed each seemed to have their own pros and cons and from my point of view, not one of them seemed to be the 'killer' T-34 kit that would make me plump for just that one manufacturer. So here's my overview of the three makes I decided to try out...
I noticed immediately that each manufacturer had it's own ideas about what was necessary to make an acceptable wargame tank model. Zvezda takes a minimalist approach based on a strict budget, while PSC and Battlefront take the view that 'extras' and optional parts are what the gamer is after.
Both Zvezda (£3.15) and Battlefront (£5.95) supply a single tank in their packs, while PSC is more specifically geared towards the troop level game and their models usually come in a multipack (5 tanks for £18.64). However, a single PSC T-34 model is available if you go onto their website and look for their 'reinforcement' pack, which is an individual sprue of their T-34 tank set for just £5.99.
And here is what you get...
PLASTIC SOLDIER COMPANY
As you can see the amount of parts tends to escalate relative to the cost, even so Battlefront's two sprue set seems to offer very good value for money. While Zvezda does win the cost battle hands down you do have to bear in mind that with both PSC and Battlefront you are really getting two tanks for the price of one as they included the extra parts to make a T-34/85 variant turret which you can swap out. A nice option.
If, like me, all you want is the T-34 76mm gunned version the Zvezda budget kit makes sense. But having the ability to 'upgrade' your model by swapping turrets means that with PSC and Battlefront you can play games which are set from 1943 to the end of WW2 in Europe. The Zvezda tank is generally more suited to games set in 1943 to early 1944, the Soviets having accelerated the upgrade process from T-34s to T-34/85s in earnest in 1944 (the final version of the 76mm gunned T-34 was designated the 'Mod 44' - or Model 1944' - and was called the T-34/76E by the Germans).
|A Model 1943 76mm gunned T-34 on display in Gdansk, Poland|
T-34 Turret Components
All three turrets for the T-34/76 models are the late production Hexagonal Turret of the 'hard edge' (flat panel) versions equipped with the 76.2mm F-34 gun. This was indicative of the penultimate 76mm gunned T-34 version which was built from May 1942 to 1944, but is generally known as the Model 1943 (or the 'T-34/76D' by the Germans).
For complete list of the evolution of the 76mm gunned T-34 see: T-34 variants on Wikipedia.
Aside from the 'hexagonal' shape, this turret was an improvement over the original (model 1940-1942) T-34 turret principally because of it's two crew hatches in the roof. Amusingly, when these hatches were open, their side-by-side arrangement prompted the Germans to give the Model 1943 the nickname 'Micky Mouse'!
|Top to bottom: Zvezda, PSC and Battlefront.|
|Left to right: Zvezda, PSC and Battlefront.|
T-34 Hull Components
Further dimensional problems are obvious in the difference in sizes between the three makes of hull. While the Zvezda and the Battlefront are similar in overall length, the PSC hull is shorter by a couple of millimetres...
|Left to right: Battlefront, Zvezda and PSC. Note how shorter in length the|
PSC T-34 model is.
As is becoming clear, the Zvezda model is the most historically accurate, while PSC and Battlefront have employed some 'artistic licence' in the way they have simplified certain detail...
|Left to right: Zvezda, PSC and Battlefront.|
|Short to long, PSC, Zvezda and the Battlefront (though the difference|
between the Zvezda and the BF isn't quite as noticeable).
The Battlefront kit, in particular, comes with a very good amount of 'extras', which allow you to vary the look of tank models - if you make a troop - or make slightly different versions of the basic tank. (Interestingly, it also looks like they include some extra parts not intended for the T-34 at all, but rather T-34 variants, such as the SU-100 tank destroyer. Presumably they utilise a common sprue?)
T-34 Tracks and Wheel Components
The Zvezda kit come swith a beautiful set of mixed ‘Half Spider Wheels’ and full steel perforated wheels. On the real tank, the Half Spider wheels were added at the front and rear to negate the vibration and wear and tear caused by the full steel wheels. These wheels are characteristic of late 1943 T-34s *only* (T-34/85s were not equipped with solid steel wheels).
Though I should mention - on a historical note - that 'Early Dished Wheels' (solid steel with rubber 'tyres') were also used on T-34 throughout their deployment, it just seems to have depended what was available in whichever factory that the T-34 was manufactured.
|T-34/76 model 1942 at Kharkov. Note the mixture of all steel perforated wheels|
and solid 'dish' style wheels with rubber tyres. The all steel wheels were originally
brought in when material shortages (particularly rubber) were at their height. As
the war progressed rubber became more widely available so all steel wheels were
withdrawn. By the advent of the T-34/85 all steel wheels were no longer used.
Picture source: Tank-Encyclopaedia.com
And Finally, the Battlefront kit comes with a full set of ‘Early Dished Wheels’, which were solid steel wheels but with perforated rubber ‘tyres’. Once again, these are common for both T-34s and T-34/85s from late 1943.
Summary: The PSC wheels, while adequate, are the least satisfying of the three makes (being a bit 'chunky'). The Battlefront wheels are nice and even show the correct perforations in the ‘tyres’. But the Zvezda wheels are magnificent (for the scale) and their only drawback is that they are specific to the T-34 *only*, while PSC and Battlefront have chosen wheel designs that are suitable for both the T-34 and the T-34/85. (Though Zvezda makes a separate T-34/85 kit with the appropriate wheels.)
1/100 T-34 models - Tracks
Without getting too technical, one of the most characteristic aspects of the T-34 series was it’s wide ‘waffle pattern’ tracks. Unfortunately, as is fairly common in 1/100 plastic wargaming kits this feature simplified to various degrees...
|The Zvezda tracks (right) look even worse than they actually are because I|
had to sand down an obvious moulding seam that runs down the middle!
|Top to bottom: Zvezda, PSC and Battlefront.|
The Battlefront has had a stab at creating a track link pattern (inside and outside of the track), but it's a lot less detailed as PSC's. However, perhaps in order to tick all these boxes, the tracks are excessively and unattractively thick (which the T-34's tracks were not).
|A nice shot of the real T-34's 'waffle' tracks. Source: Bill Maloney|
Summary: I'd love to have seen Zvezda compliment it's lovely wheels with lovely tracks, but it wasn't to be. Zvezda's 1/100 tanks have a poor track record (!) in providing an acceptable link pattern on their models. Battlefront has made a spirited attempt at good tracks in a one-piece format, but don't really pull it off. PSC, I have to admit, have taken the best approach to a satisfactory final product by making a three-part track system. OK, their wheels aren't the best, but out of the two - good wheels or good tracks - I prefer to have the acceptable tracks.
Overall Summary and Conclusions
Well, every manufacturers' set of components seems to have pros and cons, and my overall conclusion is that - perhaps - the 'perfect' 1/100 T-34/76 model doesn't quite exist. However, having said that - bearing in mind that these models are for gaming and are not display quality scale models - being too critical over details that will not effect the effectiveness of these models purpose as game markers would be a little unfair.
Still, even though much of the detail may not be fully appreciable at 1/100 scale at tabletop distance it's satisfying to have a model that's an accurate representation of a historically important tank. And so, which of the three models did justice to the legendary T-34?
It's actually easier to say which of the three that is least satisfying, and that is the Battlefront T-34. After building a couple of their rather nice M4 Sherman models I was a bit disappointed that their T-34s weren't of a similar standard. The main problem, from my point of view, is the level of simplification and how ham-fisted they have stylised some of the signature features of the T-34, like the engine deck and the tracks.
|Battlefront's detailing can be a little clumsy looking on occasion.|
|Battlefront sprue attachment points - lots to trim off!|
|In the end, just a little too untidy for me. Even all Battlefront's extras couldn't |
win me over!
Well, I'd love to say Zvezda. It has so much going for it, undoubtedly it is the most technically authentic looking. I love it...But those tracks! If I could have the Zvezda turret and hull, but the PSC's tracks incorporating Zvezda's Half Spider Wheels I really think you would have a fantastic 1/100 Mod. 43 T-34/76. But, that's not the case. 😭
What I think people really want to know is if I could only buy just one make, which one would it be?
I would have to plump for the PSC T-34 set as the best all-rounder, with the caveat that if cost is your primary concern then the Zvezda is the best alternative choice.
|Isn't she lovely! (Just don't look at the tracks, this is her best angle.)|
One cannot ignore the extras one gets with the PSC sprue, it may not be as much as Battlefront gives you but it is a nice little selection of parts and even comes with a commander figure. (One thing I do like about Battlefront's options is that it does come with the Mod. 44 raised commander's cupola allowing you to make the final version of the T-34/76.)
Battlefront and PSC both give you optional parts to make open turret hatches and both BF & PSC give you the option to build a T-34/85 turret with which you can alternatively equip your tank. Very handy. (Though, here is one area PSC falls down - with it's famously horrendous 85mm T-34/85 gun which is grossly over-sized, looking much more like a 120mm gun.)
The bottom line is that as a war gamer you will probably want to buy several models of the T-34 to play with - to make up a tank troop - and with PSC offering a five tank box set (with the cost working out at just £3.75 a tank) the extra variety made available with the optional parts is an attractive feature. Whereas the simple - although beautiful - Zvezda's lack of options means that you would have to make your own extras to provide a bit of variety.
|Not outstanding, but a competent all-rounder. Just like the real T-34 really!|
In Part 2: I see what these little beasts look like painted.