Treads and Tires: A 15mm Sdkfz 251 Firefight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Friday, 20 August 2010


The finished review, moving to the front.

OUR APOLOGIES: These models were purchased in 2009 and finished in December 2009. The vagueries of life kept us from completing the review any sooner. Some of these models are one full year old, so if you are aware that a vendor has re-mastered their models since the ones pictured in this review, please drop us a line and we'll note it here.

From the very beginning of World War II, German soldiers rode Sdkfz 251s into battle. In the waning days of the war there were plenty of them still running around, transporting troops, being mobile gun platforms, and even rocket launching platforms. If there is a single vehicle that could be considered iconic of Nazi military power, the Sdkfz 251 would be it. Propoganda shots showed men jumping out of it, they were deployed on every front, and were inspiration for APC designers for a generation.


We have been mulling a review of these bad-boys for a good long while now, and there are just too many on the market, so we limited them to 251/1s, though the Command Decision models come three in a bag with support weapons for 1, 2, and 9 models, so we made three variants. Note though that we opted not to make a mortar version – we have too many of those already.  We did build them with CD figures and PP figures we talk about… Now.

One thing that we hate is having empty halftracks zooming about the table and dumping tons of minis out the back that weren’t there before. It’s a minor thing, but it is a bit unrealistic. So we ordered a set of Peter Pig Sdkfz crews when we ordered the Piggy Halftrack and used them on all models that did not come with crews. In general, they fit well with all of the models but the QRF, which we’ll talk about when we get to the QRF bit.

Overall, there is a good selection of vehicles, ranging from the Battle Honors stowage-laden version to the CD multiple types version. There were plenty of varieties of assemblies, model, little details, and figures. So the review turns out to be a fun one with something for everyone.

As always, please do not mistake any issues with our painting skills with quality of the product in question. We’ve included pictures of the unpainted models, please refer to them if we miss something you’re interested in and the painted pictures aren’t clear. And don't give us (Don in this case) too much grief for his wheel painting failures in this review... They're collectively the worst he's done. Ever.

Models are listed in alphabetical order by company, and the conclusions are saved for the end. If you just can’t wait, skip the now, we’ll still be here when you get back ;-).


BattleFront Miniatures Sdkfz 251/1D


This is typical BattleFront (BF) fare, with separate tracks, a gunner and two passengers, assembly instructions, two independently mounted wheels (wheels are one of the big differentiators in this review), two machine guns and some stowage.



The model assembles well, and historically I’ve enjoyed Battlefront’s slot and tab mechanism for making halftrack wheels touch the ground – put some glue on, attach them, and then set the model down to let them fall until they touch the work surface. A little bit of straightening, and you’ve got some great wheels. I believe that this system met its match in this review though. More on that later.


As often happens with BF resin, you have to trim some and clean up both resin and metal, but all of this is the standard amount of work, so this is not a huge deal. Once cleaned up, these models look pretty good. The main machinegun - an MG42 - has that nearly universal BF trait of being fat and stubby, but since a 1:100 MG42 would be horribly fragile, and this thing sits on the top awaiting your grabbing fingers, that's not bad at all. The AAMG for the back of the vehicle is not pictured here. We accidentally got two of them piled together and were uncertain which was which, so we removed them from both models - BF and BH.


The cast-on stowage is clean and paintable, not true for everyone in this review, but that is pretty standard for BF, crisp lines is something they generally have in both metal and resin, with very few exceptions.


Note that BF is the only vendor to provide the front machinegun and gunner in the box. For personal use reasons, some other models have guns with gunners on the front, all of them but this model are Peter Pig halftrack crew figures (see PP write-up).

If you like BF, you'll like these models. If you're new to the industry, BF is what you're most likely to see on the table, but are a bit pricey compared to most other vendors and are not the best on the market.

 

Sourcing

US: The War Store        $9.90 USD

UK: Empire Games        £6.75 GBP

 

Battle Honors/Quality Castings Sdkfz 251/1D


The Battle Honors line of miniatures is a very hit-and-miss line. In some cases the vehicles are absolutely stunning and offer a level of detail that one would expect on 1:87th or even 1:72nd model. Sometimes, they are not nearly so nice, the moulds get old, showing lines and blurring of that amazing detail. This model is one of those latter types.


In short, we cannot recommend purchasing these half-tracks unless/until they are remastered.

First off is the wheel arrangment. Sometimes, modeling techniques transfer very well to miniature wargames miniatures. Sometimes, they do not. The wheel system used by Battle Honors here is adaptable - it includes an axle and separate wheels - but it is also difficult to place and more fragile than most solutions shown here. Arranging this setup such that the wheels are flat on the ground is difficult, though bending the axle gives you a bit of room for play. The problem is that the wheels must be glued in before bending the axle, and bending the axle will inevitably pop off one or both wheels. Painful, not insurmountable.


Next up is the scraggly, worn detail (note the head pads in the picture above), and mould lines that are difficult to clean up nicely and since they stretch over some of that slight detail, the act of cleaning further blurs things like hatch covers and stowage (see finished pictures below).

The effect is exaggerated here, as we chose to leave much of the flash on when painting because we wanted you to see what you were getting into. We promised not to do that any mroe, this is the last review that such lack of cleanup will be evident - we'll use pre-paint images to show such things.


The stowage is all cast on, which is good if you don't like placing stowage, bad if you like variety in your vehicles, since they'll all look much the same if they're BH.

The BH model came with a front MG with shield, so we used theirs. The figures shown in the picture are Peter Pig (again, see PP write-up), and they add a nice "completion" touch to the model. The BH model came with no figures.


If you're a BH fan and think you want to use these figures, then prepare to do a LOT of cleanup, and to decide which blurry details get paint and which don't. If you are new to the hobby, these particular models are going to be more work than you want to get into... But do not write off the entire BH line based upon this review, there are some lovely models in it.

 

Sourcing

US: OldGlory15s.com $10.00

UK: Direct order from 19th century, WarWeb, or OldGlory15s.

 

Command Decision Sdkfz 251/1, 2, 10


Command Decision (CD) makes some great packages for decking out an entire Panzergrenadiere platoon or offering halftrack support to an entire company, with three models per pack and three different versions of the Sdkfz possible from the pack. These are not declared as a particular ausf, but I would place them as A-C. My reasoning is the angle in the middle of the doors on the back and the lack of a gun shield on the provided MG, but the front plates are not split, so it could pass as either - more obviously it fits in my designation.

 

As is usual with CD, you get a lot in the pack, including flash, but they clean up pretty readily. No problems with plier removal or anything from this review (it only happened once - in our M3 GMC review, but since they're both halftracks, we looked when they came). They clean up easily enough, feeling the entire time like any other CD model. You can see that the attachment points for every part have some gunk on them, that's the biggest bit of the cleanup.


Three for the price is great, but we really like the fact that in this particular pack you receive all the bits to make the platoon command half track (the /10 model), the normal troop transport vehicle (the /1 model), or the mortar carrier (/2 model) out of the same pack. We of course went for one of each, but since our PoC review was all mortar carriers, we backed off and decked one out with the Peter Pig MG with a shield.


They paint up nice enough and suffer very little from the issues that some CD models have problems with - sprue and worn moulds. It is a little odd that the inside is correctly fitted for a /2 model, meaning you have mortar shell containers in the back no matter how you model it. We covered for this by putting some of the PP riders in right over the cannisters, and it came out well enough. You might want to fashion a seat out of Green Stuff or something more complex, but for us the passengers did the trick.


The front wheels are standard CD fare - an angled bit off the back of the wheels that is glued to the main halftrack hull. It's not pretty or elegant, but the tolerances are such that the wheels do touch the ground without lifting the tracks up.

If you want to bulk up a force of figures with halftracks and want a reasonable price, these are the models for you. They don't take a ton of extra work, and the oddities listed above are just that - oddities. The versatility of a three pack with three different possible models means that you'll likely be able to use them all.

Sourcing

US: WarWeb     $13.20 USD (pack of 3)

UK: Skytrex        £6.00 GBP

 

Peter Pig Sdkfz 251/1C


Peter Pig (PP) is often the cream of the crop, though sometimes the oversizing of barrels gets carried away. This is a case of the first version. The first thing that you notice with a Peter Pig - or that we did - is the wheel attachment arrangement. The back of the wheels are flat, and there is a large flat surface to glue them to. You get a solid fit that can be adjusted for the wheels to touch the ground very easily. If you worry about stability (we wouldn't, we've dropped this one and not lost a wheel), you can always drill and pin them from  the back, not messing up your wheel, after it is placed correctly.


As is often the case, the Peter Pig model needed the least cleanup of any of the halftracks in the review. You can see a tiny bit still on the edge of the front plate, but that's it. For this review, we wanted to fill the halftracks with Panzergrenadiers, so unless otherwise noted, all figures in this review came from the Peter Pig 251 Crew Seated With Gunner set. They of course fit well with the Peter Pig model.


In fact, the only true issue we have with the Peter Pig model is the thickness of the walls. Peter Pig purposely makes minor changes to strengthen their miniatures and protect them from us fat-fingers on the tabletop, but the wall thickness seems overkill. It does make them hefty, but looks a bit unwieldy. Considering how nice the rest of the model is, we're willing to overlook it.


Note that in these pictures, the missing bit of paint on the front wheel of the PP model is an unknown artifact - we have no explanation for why half of one front wheel should go unpainted except that we're not perfect. And since it wasn't reparied at the time of this writing, we can't even offer you new pictures with that little gaffe covered. Apologies to you, the reader, and Peter Pig for this oversight.


Overall, you'll like these models. They come with tow chain and tools cast on, no other stowage, but the purchase of the rider pack will give you a Panzergrenadier team to put in the back. They paint up well and look great on  the table. The MG that comes with the model is the same one that is cast onto the gunner in the crew pack, so if you do some crewed and some not, you'll still have a uniforrm look.

 

Sourcing

US: Brookhurst Hobbies    $9.45 USD

UK: Peter Pig            £6 GBP

 

Quick Reaction Force Sdkfz 251/1D


Quick Reaction Force is another vendor with a highly variable product line, with the best models ranking near the top of the market, and the worst falling toward the lower end of the mainstream vendors, sometimes bringing up the rear.


One of the things that QRF seems to struggle with is tracks. Sometimes they're so thin as to be flimsy, sometimes so thick as to be blockish. This model falls in-between, seeming to skirt the thickness problem and only appear blocky on the underside... Which of course wargamers don't care about. The bottom of the tracks should be on the table, unless you're having a really bad day.


The wheels come in a single-piece axle/wheel arrangement that glues on easily enough, but check fit first. When we checked fit it took a a little fiddling to make sure they fit on snugly and would touch the table-top. The alignment of the axle to the hull is a little non-intuitive. Like so many fiddly bits in these models, this really isn't a big deal, it just takes a little extra time and patience.There's not a ton of room for adusting the wheels, but they fit well, so that doesn't really make too much of a difference.


With the exception of the machineguns, these models are relatively crisp. They didn't appear to be, pre-priming, but they painted up well and the details stand out. The machineguns are a bit bulbous, but at normal viewing distance look good, so that is likely a nit-pick. There is no stowage installed, not even a towchain, but that leaves you open to put your own stowage on them. The seats are some of the best in this review, each board being visible and the four back seats clearly delineated also.

The one glaring issue we ran into is surmountable. When we put the Peter Pig passengers into the model, unlike all of the other vendors, they don't seat well. We checked and don't find crew figures on the QRF site, but you could snip the feet off the Peter Pig figures (much like BF does by default), and mount them in easily enough. Otherwise, our mounting looks okay at tabletop distance, only the closeness of the camera shows the unnatural straightness of the back of the figures.


If you have a large QRF collection, these will serve you well. If you're looking for a specific version, QRF is the company that offers each ausf, so you can build your force based upon year. In general though, these aren't at the top of the pile (nor bottom for that matter) for quality, so likely you'll want to look elsewhere.

 

Sourcing

US: Scale Creep Miniatures    $7.00 USD

UK: Quick Reaction Force    £5.00 GBP

 

Point of Contact Miniatures Sdkfz 251/2C


We reviewed Point of Contact Miniatures Sdkfz 251/2C a while back, so we'll just mention them here. We did not pick up new models for this review, and all pictures included come from our previous review of these models.


These models are well enough detailed, but they're on the larger side. They fit okay with BF and PP - though they are noticably bigger with both, but not with any of the other vendors.


The prepainting is minimal, but the detail is nice. Overall, they're not horrid models, and if you equip your entire force with PoC models, you'll be pleased enough.


If you want to get off the ground quickly and don't mind oversized half-tracks, you'll be okay with these. They're usable practically out of the box, and they have the detail to hold up on the tabletop. If you're going to paint them, likely you'll want to go with Peter Pig or CD, because time is worth a lot more than the couple extra bucks it will cost you.

Sourcing

US: The War Store        $19.99 USD (five models)

UK: None Known - if you are a UK reseller, please let us know, we've got a couple of articles that could use your info.

 

Sizing Chart

ModelHeightWidthLength
Actual2.02.15.8
BF1.92.15.9
BH1.752.05.6
CD1.651.95.5
PP1.82.15.8
QRF1.552.25.8
PoC2.02.56.2

'Actual' measurements were taken from Wikipedia, so do your research if this matters to you.


Summary

After all of that, bet you're asking what we think? Well, we think you should run with the Command Decision models. They're good enough, cheap enough, and accurate enough to fit the bill for a reasonable price. If you want something bigger, run with the BattleFront or Peter Pig models, and if you need crew figures, we recommend the PP ones, though Command Decision sells some that are nice enough too.

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