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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Hobby Armor Depot T-34/85

Recently I came across of thread by SCF Retired on the WWPD forums in which he showed off some French AFVs he picked up from Hobby Armor Depot.  I had never heard of the company so I did a quick search of the internet to track them down.  Hobby Armor Depot makes 1/48 scale resin kits for WW2, Modern War, and Sci-Fi.  Hobby Armor Depot's range is very extensive and is probably close to 300 models in their WW2 range alone.  Impressed with the size of their range and by what I saw on SFC's post, I placed  a small order.

Hobby Armor Depot's website is archaic and reminds me of when I had to build a website in junior high using hyperlinks on a word document.   The catalog has pictures for about 3/5s of the products and those photos are amateur at best. There is no way to add items to a basket or pay through the website.  If you want to order something you will need to e-mail the vender directly.  There is an order form you can download, but don't waste your time filling it out.  Just shoot them an e-mail with the list of items you want.  You will need to provide an item number and a description. (example: Item 14 - T-34/85)

Unpainted T-34/85 after I primed it
Within an hour of e-mailing Hobby Armor Depot I received a response.  I opted to pay using Pay Pal.  I sent them my shipping address and they sent me an invoice.   I ordered six vehicles; a T-34/85, two GAZ Truck, a GAZ trucks with quad AA MGs, two Panzer IIIs, and a Sdkfz 232.  Since I was  first time buyer, they gave me a prime mover and a Russian M3 Scout Car for free.  Total cost was $130 with shipping.  The items were shipped a few days after I ordered them and I received them four days after that.

Side view of the unpainted T-34/85
The models came wrapped in bubble wrap inside a flat rate box that was stuffed with a combination of news print and packing peanuts.  None of the items arrived damaged and all the tanks were pre-assembled and primed with light grey spray paint.  I went ahead and repainted all the Russian vehicles green.

Another side view
The models are made of a lighter resin than you might see used by other companies.  One worry I have is that the gun barrels in particular will break easily.  It might be a good idea to replace them with something like brass tubing.  The models themselves have a good amount of detail, but are also fairly crude in some spaces.  There was some pitting, but it was minimal.  Hobby Armor Depot models quality reminded me a lot of Game Models 15mm resin models.
See the tip of the nail sticking out.  This was after I cut it.

One obvious issue with these models was they used nails for hull or co-axial machine guns.  My guess, based on the overall quality of the models, is its hard to cast a vehicle machine.  Instead there was a small tack nail inserted into the machine guns spot.  I know they were nails because it took one out.  The nail head looked funny so I nip it off and ended up with small rod for vehicle machine guns.  To be honest this really didn't bug me that much.  I am always losing or break these hull and co-axial machine guns and replacing them with tacks, which is pretty much the same as a nail. 
All painted up
Even though the cast was rough, I spent very little time cleaning up these models.  What clean up was required was fairly easy since the resin was light weight.  Most of the rough really spots were beyond clean up and would require more time that I cared to invest to properly fix, so I just minimized there presence as much as I could.  Each model also came with extra gas cans, ammo crates, tarps or blankets on them.
Rear/side shot
The models held primer and paint well and there were not issues with the paint running off.  The space around the track wheels was really rough from the cast, but after painting it blended in and just ended up looking like mud.
Full side
Close up of the tracks
Close up of the nail.. I mean machine gun
The models were a perfect match for my collection of 1/48 scale WW2 vehicles and they matched well with my infantry and gun teams.

With some infantry
Overhead shot next to a T-34/76 from Hobby Boss
You probably noticed that the match with the T-34/76 is really good.  I know, you rarely come across manufactures that match up this well.  This is where the mystery of Hobby Armor Depot thickens.  If you do a quick search of Google you will likely come up with many negative comments about Hobby Armor Depot.  Most revolving around poor customer service, which I did not in any way experience.  Many people from overseas had difficulty with shipping. I did not. However, there are some out there who believe Hobby Armor Depot uses a combination of their own molds and recasts from other companies.  Although I could not find any specific examples of the recasts on forums or blogs.

Most believe they recast plastic model kits or toys and then add things like stowage to make them their own.  Some forums have banned them from advertising, and list a warning for the company for making pirated recasts.  I have also heard HMGS has banned them from their events, however I could not find a reason.   Hobby Armor Depot does attend other conventions and events though and there are many people who are happy with their products.

When we contacted Hobby Armor Depot about the claims that they recast models, they indicated that they do not care what other people say about their products. They insisted that if you put their models next to similar model kits or other manufactures' products, they do not match. Their kits, they say, are slightly larger and have lots of stowage.  Hobby Armor Depot stated that they plan on continuing to supply vehicles at cheap prices so gamers can participate in the hobby at a reasonable price.  They also acknowledged that their vehicles were not the best sculpts, but are affordable and gamers who buy from them are generally happy with their models.

(It seems necessary at this point to remind everyone that all articles on BoltAction.Net include personal opinions, which we do not intend to present as fact. Other than surveying the web and following up with HAD, we've not done any real research in this matter and don't intend to, and therefore will not attest to the veracity of claims made by others throughout the wonderful, magical, rainbow and unicorn-filled internet. - Judson)

Side by side
My spider sense tells me some of their vehicles might be recasts.  This T-34/85 hull is spot on the same as the T-34/76.  Also if you look closely, there is a line across the hull where the top and bottom of a likely plastic kit came together.  It is visible on both models.  One is in resin, one is in plastic.  While some of their models might be recasts, others likely are not.  I almost exclusively collect 1/48 scale vehicles for my WW2 gaming and know just about every resource that is out there.  Some of Hobby Armor Depot's vehicles I have never seen or heard of other companies making.  Either way, I have not found a definitive answer on the recast issue with these guys, but I wanted to make sure you BARbarians were aware that is out there before you go and make a decision about ordering from them.  

I give these models a 6 out of 10 hyperlink websites

Price  9 out of 10 - no where else can you get vehicles this cheap that require little to no assembly

Quality  5 out of 10 - the resin is light weight, the casts are crude, and they will likely break if dropped from more than 2 feet.  Also, the machine guns were made out of nails.  

Customer Service Experience 7 out of 10 - they were nice over e-mail and very quick to respond; but the website is a nightmare, they don't have photos of all their products, and there is no way to place an order online other than e-mail. 

Hobby Armor Depot is not the best, or even second best, manufacturer of WW2 vehicle kits for Bolt Action; but they do have reasonable prices and a large selection.  They certainly can make buying things like trucks and field cars a bit easier to digest.  Clearly, the elephant in the room is the recast issue, which I'm sure will turn many of you off automatically, but those of us who want to believe people are good or grew up in the Napster generation will likely give them a try.

If you have had any experience with Hobby Armor Depot, good or bad, please share on our forum.

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