Miami Miniatures/CR Miniatures 15mm Product Line Overview | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Wednesday, 14 January 2009

NOTE: We have been advised that the models in this review may be the IP of a third party. We have put in a request for information to CR Miniatures, and will post it here when we hear back. Meanwhile, we are forced to recommend that you not purchase these miniatures while the ownership issue is resolved - if indeed they are counterfeit, we do not want to condone or support such activity. We delayed posting this message until we were certain that CR Miniatures has been advised of the claim, and are holding all future reviews of their products until such time as the issue is resolved.

With regrets,

The Wargames @ Nordalia staff


The Miami Miniatures Vehicles as delivered.

This summer, Don made a purchase through TMP Marketplace that included some M5A1 Stuarts by Miami Miniatures. When the purchase came, we went out searching for Miami Miniatures. We found them under CR Miniatures and were surprised to see the breadth of their coverage.

So of course, we did what you would expect of us, we ordered a bunch of their 15mm and 28mm World War II gear to compare to other vendors. We tried to match up with items we have already reviewed, so that you could see these miniatures in relation to products we have already looked at. That is a lot of miniatures, but we thrive on this stuff, so we took it on.


The models as assembled.

This review focuses on CR Miniatures’ 15mm vehicles. They do not offer 15mm figures at this time, so essentially this article is an overview of their 15mm World War II product line. In the future we will run a comparable (but much shorter!) review of their 28mm World War II figures.

Some of the overview pictures of this review do not include the M5A1 Stuart. We considered not including this model (purchased from someone else and of unknown age) in the review, but since the quality was roughly the same as the others, we added it as we started painting the models.

Miami Miniatures delivers tanks that are two-piece, a hull with tracks attached and a turret with gun attached. We thought this would create quality problems because of the complexity of moulds with that many sides containing details. To our surprise, the only real ramification that we found from this method of modeling was that the road wheels tend to be more shallow than most vendors’ offerings. This effect is evident in some of the included side pictures of the review.

Otherwise, the quality we experienced was good overall, with the less popular vehicles like the Panzer II showing better retention of details than the popular models. This is true of every vendor we know because re-mastering is a chore and moulds wear with repeated use, though it is arguably worse on the Miami Miniatures Panther model than most models on the market.


From the side, showing details typical of Miami Miniatures tanks

Ability to use these vehicles with other vendors’ products varies wildly, with the Panzer II being the smallest in relation to other vendors (smaller by a good bit than the smallest of the vehicles from our Panzer II review), and others very similar in size to competitors. Of course you have to ask “larger 15mm or smaller 15mm competitors?”, but that’s why this review is overloaded with pictures, so you can see on a vehicle by vehicle basis.

If you’re considering a vendor for an entire army, Miami miniatures should be in the running. The price is right, the quality is acceptable, the sizing is relatively consistent within the line (the PzIII being the notable size problem when comparing within the line, the PzIII is the same size as the PzIV and that makes it huge next to the PzII), and they paint up pretty easily, even if you like a lot of detail.

British Vehicles


For the British we ordered a Universal Carrier (we have a few of those to compare to -  here ), a Cromwell to compare to our BF Cromwells and a Churchill – because we don’t own any. You read that correctly, between us we own not one Churchill. So we compare the Churchill to the BF Cromwell to give you a handle on sizing, and wanted to look at something different somewhere in this overview. Now we’ll have to find that Churchill a home though. One Churchill all alone…


The level of detail on these vehicles is acceptable, with the UC even showing its springs (some vendors don’t bother at 1:100), and tools, MGs, etc all paintable.


All of these tanks come only with closed hatches – because there are no parts, you purchase a turret and hull, no doodads to glue on.

What Miami sells as a Universal Carrier actually appears to be a pre-Universal Bren or Scout Carrier, but it is nice enough if you’re doing early war through the invasion of Italy. The details are there and even some stowage is modeled on. The vehicle is shorter than any other vendors on the market, so utilizing it with other vendors’ products is questionable.


 

Battle Honors was one of the smallest carriers in our Universal Carrier review, and as you can see, the Miami Miniatures figure is slightly smaller – but not too small to use with QC and even QRF, definitely out of the running with BF figures.

 


From above you can see that the Miami Miniatures figure is nice enough, but blending it in will be a little work. Of course the differences are less pronounced at tabletop distance, so it’s not that far off the mark.


Shown with a (poorly painted) QRF Bren Carrier, you can see that they’re close but the drivers’ compartment on the Miami miniature is of the Universal Carrier design.


We really like Cromwells, and use them with Fireflies for a couple of different armies. We haven’t seen the truly messed up Cromwell, and Miami miniatures didn’t break that trend. The vehicle is nice, has “good enough” detail, and only the elongated front plates on the turret show something that makes it look odd for a Cromwell.


When compared to the brand new (at the time of purchase) moulds for the BF model, there is obvious detail wear in the casting, but all models go through this cycle, and the way that the details look imply that remastering would resolve this problem.

The tanks are smaller than their BF equivalents in all three dimensions, and this combined with the detail issues means it will be difficult to mix and match.


The Churchill is also small, if the comparison with the BF Cromwell is any indication. The Churchill is a large tank, and these are only slightly larger than the BF Cromwell, which was a much smaller tank.


Just the same, the Churchill isn’t a bad vehicle if you build your army around Miami Miniatures tanks. They look good overall, the tools are clear and easy to paint, the details overall are pretty… The only negative we see is that the right-hand turret hatch is not deep enough, so the etching is hard to see.

US Vehicles


The US vehicles are nice enough, with the exceptions noted below. We purchased the M5A1 Stuart (this is the model that started us on this review, so it may not be new), the M4A1 Sherman, and the M4A1 Sherman 76mm. We have plenty of Sherman 75mm vehicles from our review and some Sherman 76/Stuart vehicles. Unfortunately the best M5A1 model we have is not publicly available and we’ve given our word not to publish pictures, so we skipped including it in the review.


These tanks suffer from a syndrome that is common amongst 1:100 miniature vendors, the turrets are shorter than one would expect. This is so common amongst 15mm vendors that we suspect it might be accurate for some set of plans out there. But looking at the models and looking at pictures of any M4 tank of the same model will show that it isn’t reasonable at all.


The Sherman 76 is one of a couple of tanks in this overview that has the model number etched into the side of the turret. Note the writing visible in this picture. An interesting anomaly with these vehicles is the appliqué armor on both models. Truth be told, the Sherman 76 didn’t require appliqué armor, and if this point makes you look closer, these are exactly the same hull, only the turret differs. Not an insane approach, but if you’ve studied the M4 series, you’ll find many incongruities due to this one issue. Between those two issues – the body on the 76 and the etched tank model number on the turret – you might not wish to use the Sherman 76, we don’t find either one to be a complete show stopper.


The finest Stuart model we own regardless of vendor or model of Stuart is the Command Decision M5. So of course we wanted to drop this Miami Miniatures M5A1 next to it and share some pictures with you. The Miami figure should be longer and wider, as the M5A1 was longer and wider than the M5.


Pluses for the M5A1 are the towing cable – which stands out from the tank just enough to be easy to paint well – and the stowage on the back of the tank. Negatives are the aforementioned size issues – CD Stuarts aren’t huge in comparison to others – they’re about average size – and the shallowness of the hatch and engine grill lines.

The side skirts on the Miami miniatures figure were only placed on late production vehicles, so that would make it a 44-45 model, if that type of detail intrigues you.


Here we see a Miami Sherman 75mm sandwiched between a Peter Pig and a Command Decision Sherman of the same model. Note that the size of the Sherman is close to the other two – close enough that at table-top distance you could use them in the same unit.

As mentioned above, the turret is shorter than scaling would indicate it should be. We suspect this is due to the mounting of miniature turret vs. real turret, but can’t be positive.


As you can see, the similarities between the models end when you look at them head-on. The Miami Sherman is much shorter than the other two models. The transmission cover plate (at the bottom of the front of the hull) is also more narrow than any extant example of the Sherman we have seen. This view shows the turret shortening issue well.

We do like the placement and volume of stowage, but like all cast-on stowage, if you want to build a force that is varied, you will have to do some serious modifications with saw and file.

As with the other Miami Miniatures models, we don’t see any reason why you couldn’t build your Sherman force completely out of these models and have the army look good on the table – assuming you are okay with the smashed turret look.


The Sherman 76 suffers the same issues of shortened turret as the Sherman 75. It also shares the body – as in the only difference between the two is the turret. Finally, this turret has “M-4 76mm” engraved on the side of the turret.


Since we’ve already written this up, we’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Russian Vehicles


Of all the vehicles in this review, the two Russian tanks we picked up are the nicest in our opinion. They’re clean, their scaling is close to the other vendors’ products we own, and they paint up pretty enough. We purchased the KV1 and T-34 models, and compared them to some of the T-34s from our review then compared the KV1 to our Gaming Models and CD KV1s that have never been reviewed, we bought them for armies.


Once again, the tow cables are beautiful, while the engine deck could use some deeper scoring of the access hatch lines and engine cooling grills. Still, these are mighty fine models, and we’re fans of them.


The stowage on these models is great, but it’s cast on, so you’ll have to do some modifications if you want varied storage. This is not as big a problem as it is with many of these models because the space available is larger than the amount of stowage provided, so you can add to these more readily than many of the Miami Miniatures models.


The T-34 is a very close match to the BattleFront T-34. You could drop these on the table side-by-side and with a bit of stowage added to both no one would know that they were different vendors. The Command Decision T-34 is slightly larger than both of these models, but would do well enough if they were separate units.


Even from straight ahead the Miami and BF miniatures are a close match. The Miami T-34 has larger curved front fenders, but other than this largely cosmetic difference, the two are a good match.


And from the side, the big difference between the two models is stowage. You just don’t get a much closer match without one of the vendors being in violation of the others’ IP. There is no reason to suspect that either of these models is a knock-off of the other, they have differences that indicate they are completely different mouldings – the barrel mount, the angle of the glacis plate, things that would be particularly tough to change on a knock-off.


The KV1 looks good next to Command Decision and Gaming Models KV1’s. Even though it is slightly shorter in both height and length, and the turret is smaller than either of the other vendors, it is a close enough match that you could run them together even in the same platoon – though some might disagree with that largely subjective statement, you have pictures to decide if you would be comfortable.


Like many of these miniatures, the turret is a bit short compared to the CD model, it still looks good on the table with CD products.

German Early War


The German Early War armor from Miami Miniatures is an interesting group. The lot of them is small in comparison to most vendors, but the quality is up there, so whether you utilize them or not is a question of how well they fit for you. We brought in a Panzer II to compare to those from our review and two Panzer IVs – a IVF2 (or IVG depending upon the month), and a IVD.


While you can stretch the length of the PzII as being reasonably relative to the length of the PzIVs, you just cannot reasonably stretch the height. The height is clearly way off base, with the PzIVG being 2.68 meters and the various PzII models being right around 2.0 meters. The Panzer 2 we received was pretty close to half the size of the PzIVs.


Aside from the sizing issues, the vehicles look pretty good from every angle. We liked the way the tracks were piled on everywhere that there was open space and where ever the armor plate was thinner.

 

The Miami Miniatures Panzer IVD next to the Quick Reaction Force Panzer IVE. Note that the Miami Miniatures product is smaller in every dimension except for the turret, which is a close match for the QRF product in every dimension. These vehicles were substantially unchanged in hull, and should be exactly the same size. This shows the Miami Miniatures product is a little small – which is important when we start talking about the Panzer III offering.

 

The Miami Miniatures Panzer IVD is a close match for the QRF Panzer IVE from the front. The junk appearance where the glacis plate meets the front of the hull is actually cables that look bad in this picture but are very well done in real life. The difference in fenders is interesting – both are a little bit wrong. There is a curve on the top piece before the hinge, then the front plate is angled down on both these vehicles. The QRF model uses just the angle and the Miami Miniatures vehicle uses just the curve to simulate this effect.


As you can see, this model is tiny. It is much smaller than every other vendors’ Panzer II. As you can also see, qualitatively it gives the best of them a run for their money. The only truly glaring issue is the place where the turret roof angles is tied to the different sheets on the sides of the turret. This appears to be Ausf F, though it is sold generically as a PzII.


From the front it is a pretty enough model, but the size thing is tough to get past if you want to include this model with other vendors’ PzIIs.


Gaming Models was the smallest model in our Panzer II review, and even next to that model, the Miami Miniatures figure looks small.


And next to Peter Pig, this thing looks tiny. As in a completely different tank. It’s not. As we mention above, the measurements of all PzIIs ever made vary only by a tiny bit – except for the Lynx, which was a bit taller than the previous vehicles. Of course, neither of these is the Lynx, so the size difference is one of scaling.


Picturedwith a QRF Panzer IV E, the IVF is clearly the same series of tank. Size wise it is slightly smaller in every dimension, but it looks very good quality-wise. We think this is one of their better models, looking like the  prototypical tank of Nazi Germany. The detail is better than on some of their models, but the deck grilling is still very faint.

Again, the stowage is nice, even the cable on the back of the hull – a feature that most vendors make so difficult to paint that it’s wasted effort. But again, the stowage is moulded on, so if you want variety you’ll either have to find space to add some, or file some off before painting.


As mentioned, this model is slightly smaller than the QRF model in all directions, but this is most obvious in height when viewed from the side. Using the two together is wholly possible as this dimension is minimized from above, but we recommend not using them in too close a proximity.

 

German Africa Corps


We painted the early production Tiger I and the Panzer IIIJ up for the Africa Corps, but of course they were both used on other fronts. We chose Africa because the bulk of early production Tigers went there and our Panzer IIIJ review was done in Africa colors. The bulk of the models in our Tiger review were mid-production, but they are available here.


These figures are okay, with the Panzer IIIJ being the better of the two. The Tigers’ turret is somewhat foreshortened, causing it to look less realistic than the Panzer III.

 

The Panzer III has much more stowage cast on than the Tiger, with the Tiger having basically only the tow cables attached and a single bit of track. The details overall are nice, and the two vehicles look good together.

 

This close-up of the front of the vehicles makes them look amateurishly crafted, but the other pictures should show that this just isn’t the case. Whether it is our paint job or the lighting is up to debate, but the vehicles look better in-the-flesh than this picture lets on. Note that both have sections of track stowed on the front end.


We compared the Tiger to the QRF Tiger (the only Tiger in our Tiger review that was early production), and a Command Decision Tiger. This pictures shows a couple of interesting bits – the scaling is close enough to the CD Tiger that you could use both in the same unit, and the foldable front mud guards are not detailed in the Miami Miniatures model. The turret bin is poorly detailed, the exhausts are poorly detailed, and the turret is essentially flat on top – something that wasn’t the case for production Tiger Is.


The front is slightly more detailed than the QRF Tiger, and slightly less well detailed than the Command Decision. This vehicle seems to have the standard combat tracks in place, and the turret is shaped like that of the QRF model, but the front in this picture shows as about the same size as the CD vehicle.


From the side with the QRF model. Note that the Miami Miniatures model appears to be parallel to the ground where the mud-guards are modeled. This is not a trick of the camera, and is not in synch with the actual Tiger. While you won’t notice this issue from above, if such details matter to you, it’s distracting, and you won’t be happy with the Miami Miniatures Tiger.

 

For your average wargamer, the Miami Miniatures Panzer IIIJ will fit right in with other vendors and will work absolutely fine. For those who are concerned about details, just this shot from above shows that some details are missing from the Miami Miniatures model – the hatches and the turret bin are the most glaring, the dividers on the mud guards are another. While the stowage draws the eyes away from these issues for most, and the overall comparable size of the model makes it appealing, if you like every little detail on a model, this one will leave you disappointed. Yet we have to stress that you just don’t notice these issues most of the time – though you might now that we’ve pointed them out.


From the side these are a close match to both CD and PP, and you could intersperse these models with CD Panzer IIIJs without much comment. Since they come loaded with stowage, one of these in a CD platoon might even add some variety to your army.

Overall, we’re forced to say that there are much better Tiger tanks on the market, and you probably want to avoid the Miami Miniatures Tiger I (early production), but the Panzer IIIJ is comparable to other products on the market, with only some minor loss of detail making them less appealing in light of the other products we’ve reviewed.

German Late War


We painted up the Panzer IVH and the Panther for later in the war, giving them a coating of Vallejo Middlestone with appropriate highlights. These figures look like the tanks they portray, and indeed the Panther looks like any other Panther in our review. But that is in a vacuum, the question is how about detail and scaling?


As you can see, the Panther has a significant amount of stowage built on, and the Panzer IV has the schurzen built on. It is left to the reader to decide if that is a good or bad thing, but both points have ramifications for the quality of the vehicles.


Note the schurzen being molded onto the Panzer IV makes things a little tight where the schurzen meets the hull and turret. This is not unique to Miami Miniatures by any stretch of the imagination, but it is annoying in every vendor that chooses to mold the shurzen on, so we thought we’d point it out.

The panther is clean, with plenty of stowage, but more on that later.


From the front, both turrets look short. This is elaborated on more below.


As you can see, the Miami Miniatures figure is shorter than the BattleFront miniature. An interesting difference is the relation of the top of the hull schurzen in relation to the turret. Contemporary photographs of the IVH would lean toward the Miami Miniatures version, but honestly, somewhere between the two is likely most accurate. Note that the BattleFront miniature has the ability to adjust the height of the shurzen when you mount them, and while ours is mounted near the top, they could be mounted lower if you wanted to.


Like most of these miniatures, the Panzer IVH is clearly smaller than the BF model. While it is pretty enough and well cast, the schurzen molded on bothered us as mentioned above, and perhaps because of the turret schurzen, the turret looks large. The lack of schurzen supports on the turret and the hull is a little glaring, but you can overlook it if money is a consideration. It is also a viable solution if you hate assembling some vendors’ schurzen or find that they fall off frequently.


While this is a different model than the BattleFront and Command Decision models that it is pictured with (as seen by the presence of the hull MG on the Miami Miniatures model and the lack on the other two), there was not significant size difference in the Panther over its lifetime. That means that this model, like most of the Miami offerings is on the smaller end of the 1:100 scale. We do like the overall look of this model, so if you build a unit of them, size comparisons to other vendors is irrelevant, but you should be aware of it if you’re mixing and matching models in a unit.


The height of the Miami Miniatures Panther is in line with the Command Decision product, but note that there is some build-up of gunk around the driving gear. This is relatively common in metal models that are of a popular model like the Panther, and we just recommend you paint it up as mud suitable to the front you intend to deploy it on. But for some customers this is a huge issue. The built-on stowage is nice, but if you like variety in your stowage arrangements, you’ll have some work to do to arrange things.

 

Conclusion

All in all, these are acceptable miniatures. They’re competitive from a qualitative perspective with the other vendors we cover, and we’ll be including them in future vehicle reviews. When it comes to price, they are one of the best bargains on the market, and if you consider that these are passable quality, low price makes them a prime candidate for many readers’ armies. The difficulties with ordering are a negative in the age of the Internet, but service is speedy and thorough, so if you aren’t tied to the instantaneous ordering mechanisms of most vendors, it’s not a huge negative.

 

Costs are low – the Panther and heavy tanks (Tiger, KV1) in this review were $6.00 USD, while the Universal Carrier was $4.00 USD and each of the other tanks were $5.00 USD. You just can’t beat that price for solid metal castings. The two-piece construction of all of the tanks has both strengths (ease of assembly, no fiddly bits to fall off) and weaknesses (you can feel the roadwheels and tracks are a bit thin in the casting), but which is more important to you is your choice. Most of these vehicles will fit in well size-wise with older Quality Castings models, but little else, but if you’re building entire units of them, then you’re getting them cheap and relative size is less important.

 

Measurements

Since you likely don’t have the exact models we took pictures of these models with, we are providing a sizing chart for your reference. All measurements were taken with micro-ruler, so there is a small (1/2 mm or less) tolerance for inaccuracy.

Model

Length

Width

Height

Notes

US M5A1

4.5 cm

2.0 cm

1.8 cm

British export M5A1

US Sherman 75mm

5.65

2.5

2.3

 

US Sherman 76mm

5.65

2.5

2.5

Without Commander’s Cupola

Russian T34

5.7

2.9

2.1

 

Russian KV1

6.4

3.4

2.5

To turret roof

British Universal Carrier

3.2

2.2

1.3

Actually a Bren Carrier

British Cromwell

5.8

2.8

2.0

 

British Churchill

7.1

3.1

2.8

Largest point, all dimensions

German Panzer II

4.0

2.1

1.6

 

German Panzer IIIJ

5.2

2.7

2.0

Without Commander’s Cupola

German Panzer IVD

5.5

2.4

2.3

Without Commander’s Cupola

German Panzer IVF2

5.5

2.4

2.1

Without Commander’s Cupola

German Panther

6.5

3.2

2.3

Without Commander’s Cupola

German Tiger (early prod)

5.5

3.5

2.25

Without Commander’s Cupola

 

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