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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

PanzerSturm Halftracks (Review of GBX85 Sdkfz 251 Platoon with GSO180 IR Equipment)

By Jeff "SonBae" Flint

Oh man!  I just love that image of the IR Scoped MG42.

Sooooo S-I-C-K!!!!

When Battlefront's last army book for WWII Flames of War, Nachtjager, hit the shelves I knew I had to have these halftracks. They provide the inherent transport for the equally, nasty IR equipped Assault Rifle/Panzerfaust teams of the Panzersturm Platoon (GE848)...Drooooool...As soon as my LGS can get their distributor to fulfill my order for these Vampir equipped infantry, I will have a review of them as well. Until then, I just couldn't help but start the review process.

There is plenty to do too.  Here, I will talk about how to make these IR equipped halftracks, do a review of Battlefront's Sdkfz 251 Night vision set (GSO206), their new Plastic Sdkfz 251 Transport Platoon (GBX85)and compare the new plastic half tracks with the old Battlefront Resin ones as well as with Plastic Soldier Company Sdkfz 251 Auf C plastic set while I am at it.

Phew!  This will be a long one (that's what Luke said..couldn't resist, you knew he was going to say SOMETHING anyways), so sit down, grab a cool drink and let's get started!

First lets talk a little on the Panzersturm Platoon....

IR equipped half track MGs and IR equipped infantry were their trademark.  Battlefront did a very nice special order kit for the IR equipped hull MG and the driver's night sight.  In a single bag you get 4 sets of these beauties...just enough for the platoons halftracks...packaging at its finest (a huge thanks to BF as well)!  Applying these is pretty easy.  The MG is a straight swap for the usual hull MG and replaces both items.  The driver's night sight plops right down in front of the driver's vision slot.  What's cool here is that they modelled the vision slot door as open to allow the driver access to the night sight.  +1 to accuracy!  Now, the MGs come as unmanned, which is nice...but, you don't want every track having unmanned guns in the same-same, matchey-matchey poses.  There is a solution.  It takes just a modicum of modelling skills.  If you have the MG gunner that comes with either BFs resin or plastic crew options for their half track sets you can make it work.  Just cut the IR scoped MG down just in front of the trigger section...its a tight fit, but you can make a clean cut there; and then cut the MG of the gunner in the same place you can then glue the gunner portion (with the back end of the MG) to the front end of the IR scoped MG (that has the barrel and IR scope)...Viola!  you have the MG gunner shooting the IR scoped MG.  You might have to do a little filing of the end pieces to get a smooth fit, or fill in the gaps with green-stuff...or even glue since the cut is so small.

Apologize for the poor picture quality here

Now, for the beauty of these kits...they fit just as smoothly on the BF plastic kits as they do on  BFs resin kits and on PSCs Sdkfz 251 plastic kits!  A very nice option if you have the other models lying about.

Mix of Battlefront & PSC Sdkfz251 with IR Equipment (From left to right PSC/BF/PSC/BF)
OK to make a platoon of these all you need is 4 Sdkfz 251s and a single bag of the Sdkfz 251 Night vision set.  BF's Sdkfz 251 Transport Platoon (GBX85) conveniently comes in a pack of 4 and PSCs Sdkfz 251 Box comes in a pack of 5

Assembly:  Very straight forward and quite similar to the Plastic Soldier Company.  The hardest part is fitting that lower section onto the upper hull.  Pay close attention to the forward "point" and the fit there with the upper hull.  You can misalign the model VERY easily if you aren't careful.

Onto the review:

Accuracy: These look spot on.  First the halftracks...I couldn't find any faults without having to get down to rivet counting.  Biggest that some might notice is the exhaust on the driver's side front... that little rust colored blob.  Not much detail here.  The resin model actually has a little bit of piping going into the engine compartment. The IR scoped MG and drivers sight also look spot on, but do take a hit from the heroic scale.

See how the exhaust is just a cylinder blob on the BF model

PSC's exhaust has a little more realistic detail, but is still not ALL there

Good shot of the IR Sights...pretty close to actual. The left side scope of the driver's sight is a little shorter than the actual
Rating:  8/10 best I can give due to slightly off scale heroic and the lack of detail on the exhaust for the halftrack and 9/10 for the IR scoped MG and driver's sights.  The BF Plasitc Sdkfz is a big improvement over the Resin version (even though the resin has a better exhaust, lol)

Quality:  I am in love with these models.  The best halftracks I have put together yet.  Absolutely no flash/mold lines issues at all.  No cleanup on the plastic parts at all.  The metal bits for the IR scoped MG and drivers sights did have a little  flash whiskers; but were easily cleaned up.   

Rating:  10/10 for the halftrack and 9/10 for the IR scoped MG and driver's sights

Versatility: The halftrack is pure external stowage except for a molded axe and shovel.  You do, however, get GiBs (Guys in Back).  With poses you can really flesh out the crew compartment.  Out of the box you can have a standard MG with or without a gunner shooting the MG.  You have the option for a MG34 or MG42 in the front and at the rear.  The IR scoped MG doesn't come with a firing option.  However, a little magic with the hobby knife can give you an IR scoped MG with a gunner as I mentioned above.  Also, there are no stowage items included to flesh out the rest of the hafltrack.  Battlefront does offer some half-track stowage with GSO180 and there is always the ole bit box that can be raided.

Rating:  9/10 for the halftrack, due to no stowage being included in the box.  The IR scoped MG and driver's sights is an 8/10.  The MG can easily be modified to accept the plastic gunner included in the haltrack box or even the older metal gunner. 

Paintability:  Perfect score here.  The model has great depth of detail and takes paint very well.

Rating: 10/10 for both the halftrack and the IR scoped MG and driver's sights

Overall: 9.25/10 for the halftrack and 9/10 for the IR scoped MG and driver's sights.  The lack of stowage options was the biggest hit.

If you compare these to the Plastic Soldier Company Sdkfz 251s it is very hard to tell the difference between the two of them.  The IR scoped MG and driver's sights go on just as smoothly on either the PSC halftracks as the do on Battlefront's.  The biggest visual difference is that BFs plastic Sdkfz 251s have a slightly bigger crew compartment and I could fit the GiBs inside with no problem.  The fit was a little tighter with the PSC halftracks.  I also found the BF Sdkfz 251s a little easier to build.

BF...more room and love the decking detail
PSC...a little cramped for the crew
BF Resin/PSC/BF Plastic

PSC/BF Plastic/BF Resin...The BF Plastic has a modified IR MG Gunner, the Resin is a stock MG gunner

I painted these exactly the same as the Uhus I did a review of earlier. 

The colors I used:
1.  Primed the track in Vallejo Surface Air Primer Brown Yellow. 

2.  Drybrush the entire vehicle and searchlight with Vallejo Middlestone 882

3.  Airbrushed on the camo pattern, first using Vallejo German Camo Dark Green 979 and then Vallejo Chocolate Brown 872.  I went with a later war camo scheme with thicker Green/Brown bands that touched each other.

4.  Painted the tracks and metal parts using a base of Vallejo Flat Black 950,

5.  Now I hit the tracks with Vallejo Cavalry Brown 982

6.  This was followed by a drybrush of a mix of Vallejo Gunmetal Grey 863/Vallejo Flat Black and a final hilight of straight Vallejo Gunmental Grey on the tracks and metal parts.

7.  Next, I moved on to the IR sensors.  This is the same for both sets of optics on the MG and drivers sight.  This is a simple Vallejo Flat Black base and then a few reflections on the edges with Vallejo French Mirage Blue 900.

8.  The next step was to hilight the camo sections.  Here, I used thinned Vallejo Reflective Green 890 in the green areas and thinned Vallejo Gemran Camo Medium Brown 826 for the brown areas. You want to work from the center out and leave the edges darker.  I also use this time to clean up any areas in the green or brown camo spots where I had little "mishaps" or overspray/splattering issues.

9.  The last paint step is to use thinned Vallejo Middlestone to cover up any areas in the Middlestone that need clean up.  The biggest purpose of this step is to clean up around the camo spots.  Thinned paint is a must and with a sideways stabbing stroke along the camo spot you can clean up any "overspray" and still keep the airbrush look.

10.  I then gloss varnished the entire model, applied decals and added CGR Painter's Black Magic Mudd to help bring out the panel lines.

11.  To kill the gloss varnish shine, I hit the model with a nice flat matte finish.

12.  The final touch was to make the glass surfaces of the night vision sights pop?  To help those look more like the glass surfaces they were, just put a little gloss varnish where the glass would be.
Picture time!

Mix of PSC/BF Plastic/PSC/BF Plastic...they blend nicely

PSC Sdkfz 251 and stock IR MG

BF Plastic...that's the modified gunner I talked about.  Cant tell it was modded.  VERY easy to do.

The darkness calls!!!  Will you answer?

SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a semi-active blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials. Follow him @wwpdSonBae on Twitter

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