American tanks in the 1940s were covered in casting marks. Any part that was cast had to have markings to identify the foundry, the drawing number from which the pattern was made, the “heat” batch of steel, and a serial number for the individual part. Those of us addicted to modelling Shermans will know these markings all too well.
A while ago Archer
revolutionized the field of casting marks with a sheet of resin numbers generic to most Sherman-based tanks. Now they have added this sheet to cover a specific model of Sherman – the M4A3 (76) HVSS, known to many as the “Easy Eight”. Kurt Laughlin has provided the markings from two examples to create this sheet, so it is about as realistic as can be. Mr Laughlin tells me the two tanks are in McKeesport (SN 60478, built 11/44) and Monessen (61180, built 12/44) PA. Both were built by Chrysler's Detroit Tank Arsenal as HVSS (not conversions). Mr Laughlin, who posts here on Armorama, has written about the complex array of foundry markings:
Foundry Symbols and Trademarks
Inside the plastic bag is a single decal sheet, a paper backing, and an instruction sheet. The markings are cast as raised lettering in black resin on a continuous sheet of decal film, so each marking must be trimmed out before use.
Ordinarily I’d trim close to a decal to reduce the risk of “silvering” but of course as these go under the paint “silvering” isn’t a problem. There are enough markings for one complete tank, but several of the markings have a second set that can be used on another kit. Each marking “group” is printed within its own rectangle for easy reference – a very useful feature!
While the set claims to be for the M4A3 (76) HVSS, several of the markings are useful for other versions of the Sherman. All of the welded “big hatch” family used the same cast plate for the driver’s hatches (including the M4A3 with VVSS, the M36B1, M4 105mm, and late M4A2s), and these same tanks mostly used the same late “sharpened beak” transmission with drawing number E8543. All of the T23 turrets (with the 76mm gun) used the same gun shield and armoured ventilator dome on the rear wall. Likewise, the later T23 turret with oval loader’s hatch was also used on some VVSS-fitted M4A3s and M4A2s.
However, note the early T23 turret with large round two-piece loader’s hatch was drawing number D82081, so the 7054366 markings are not appropriate to the Italeri turret.
Castings for each part were made by a bunch of different foundries using the same plans, so although they would share the same drawing number, the exact location of the different markings on the part can vary widely between examples – those of us with bad cases of AMS will probably work from photos to get a unique result.
Application is similar to any other decal. My own method is to paint the area with Microscale’s Micro-gloss and then use Micro-sol and Micro-set to settle the decals down before topping off with a sealing-coat of Micro-gloss. I’ve tried applying them to bare plastic, but even though they can be made to stick with enough Micro-set, I found the static of raw plastic made the application more difficult. And the top-coat of gloss may be overkill, but it makes sure I don’t lose any when I wash grease off the model before painting begins.
Once applied and painted, these markings really do look the part. For markings that stand out a bit more, you could always just add a second layer of decal. The only note of caution is that all decals cling to models by little more than wishful thinking, so try to avoid placing masking tape over them during painting! I’ve spoiled more than one finish when the decals come off with the tape…
My biggest gripe is that Archer could have added just a few more bits to allow two complete tanks to be covered from each sheet, rather than “one and a half.” In fairness to Archer, Mr Laughlin points out that the only markings without a second set are F and G, which aren’t always visible or complete on real examples. The other, smaller gripe is the recommended price of $6.95, which seems a tad high even for two tanks compared to the number that can be marked up with the generic set. But research and producing them is expensive.
This is a very welcome set from Archer. Despite being a bit pricey, it can be used to improve a range of models based on the later 47-degree Sherman hull, and the leftovers will be put to good use!