Czeching the West: A 15mm Panzer 38(t) FireFight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Tuesday, 01 May 2007

All of the vehicles in this review. Note that we have not trimmed the QRF barrel.

For this FireFight, we take a step back to the early war and look at the four most popular Pz38(t) minis available. Bringing in Battlefront, Battle Honours, Command Decision and Quick Reaction Force models (Peter Pig does not currently make a Pz 38t), we take a look at their scaling, ease of painting and scalability.

Introduction:



All of the vehicles in this review from the front. Note the turret size differences.

The Panzer 38(t) was one of several Czechoslovakian tanks that the Germans inherited when they took over Czechoslovakia in 1938. At the beginning of World War II, Germany's army was rapidly expanding, and its armor-production industry was struggling to keep up. Because of this, many Pz 38(t)s were taken into German service. In one of his editorial notes to The Rommel Papers, military historian B.H. Liddel-Hart wrote that more than half the 7th Panzer Division's tanks were of Czechoslovakian origin at the time of the invasion of France in 1940. Because there were a significant number of these vehicles in service in the early years of the war, we decided to offer you a review of them (and balloon our ever-growing 7th Panzer Division in the process).

We took a bit of a different approach to this review, for the first time truly weathering the vehicles and placing decals on them. Early-war German vehicles assigned to Europe are rather dark affairs, and this arrangement brings some of the detail out for pictures. If this is an issue for you, we want to hear about it: Our goal is to make these reviews useful�we can always add decals and weathering after taking pictures�so if you find these details distracting, please let us know.

Another difference for this review is that we had a home for all of these vehicles before we embarked on the review process. Normally we review things we think will be of interest, but that we do not necessarily need a handful more of. In this case, Don is slowly building the entire 7th Panzer Division, and these vehicles, combined with those in our upcoming PzII and Opel Blitz reviews (and some kubelwagens we picked up at the same time but do not plan to review) will make up most of another Panzer Company. With that caveat, we are giving each vehicle a number rating in the manner of most reviews, instead of indicating which vendor we will use in the future. Again, if this is a problem for you, please feel free to let us know. Just remember that the items in the "Strengths and Weaknesses" section may have different weighting for you, changing your score in relation to ours. The format that offers the most information for you, short of holding each of these models in your hand, is the one we wish to utilize.

Sweeping Commentary:


One of each vehicle from the side. Note rivet and wheel differences.

These vehicles all suffer from a similar problem�the machine guns are very difficult to mount. These are very small pieces going into very tight spaces. Even with self-closing tweezers and rapid cure for our super-glue, it was a trying experience. Since all of these vehicles have their machine guns mounted, it's not an insurmountable issue, just an annoyance.

There are obviously several versions of the 38(t) included in this review. The Battlefront vehicle is Ausf B/C, and the QRF vehicle is an E/F; the other vendors do not mention which Ausf they're attempting to model. This is only really obvious when looking at the turrets or exhaust systems, and then only if you're doing what we are, comparing them very closely. But if you're a stickler for all vehicles in a unit looking the same, make certain to check out our pictures from the top of the vehicles to see the differences in the turrets.


Battlefront Panzer 38(t) B/C


The BF model from the front.


The Battlefront model is a normal Battlefront vehicle�resin body with barrel, machine guns, hatch and tracks done in metal. The vehicle was relatively simple to assemble, and the issues that sometimes occur with the seating of tracks were not evident with our model. This appears to be due to a difference in modeling. The treads and body both have much larger attachment pieces than most BF miniatures.

Our Battlefront miniature came with the add-ons you would expect, though this time we did not model it with all of the extras in place. A tank commander and dismounted crew member are included in the package, and the commander's hatch can be modeled open or closed. Our review sample is built with the hatch closed.

The best thing about this model is the rivet design. One earmark of the 38t is the heads of the rivets on the turrets, something only a few tanks had even at the start of the war. BF managed to walk that line between visible and insanely large, and the overall effect is nice to look at. Other vendors come close, but don't quite match Battlefront's rivet design.


The BF model from the side. Note the rivets and road wheels.


The worst thing about this vehicle is the machine-gun mountings. A slight depression in a resin base is not the best mounting for a tiny little piece of metal. With the hull machine gun, we actually had a chunk of resin slough off when the glue was applied! As we mention above, it was not easy to place the hull machine guns on any of these vehicles, but the resin body seemed to make this issue worse with the BF model � the resin seemed to slough off if there was too much glue on them.

The barrel is large for this tank�more than 1 mm wide at the end�but honestly, no matter what you do, 37mm guns don't hold up well if done at 1:100 exactly.


The BF model from the rear. Note the exhaust system.

Normally, Command Decision wins the award for worst tracks and wheels. In this review, the Battlefront vehicle takes this distinction. The tracks have that Sherman-like look of large overhang and over-scaled thickness, while the wheels are more choppy and less well defined than the other vendors.

Balancing this is the fact that the mini had the largest number of options included. As always, Battlefront does better in this department than most, and if you play FoW, it's the only model reviewed that won't require you to supply your own bailed-out marker. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning.

Finally, the Battlefront miniature matches the overall dimensions of the original tank nearly exactly. This is the first time that has been true in any of our reviews � BF usually comes out on the too-tall and narrow side. While the turret looks a bit large to us, that could be perception only, and the overall dimensions are the key measurements used by most wargamers. Looks are subjective, after all.


The BF Model from the top



Strengths Weaknesses
Dimensions are excellent Tracks are not at all clean
Options the best in the review Hull Machine Guns lacking
Detail of bolt heads is clean Price
Final Rating: (4/5)




Vendor: Flames of War/Battlefront
Model Number: GE022
Price: $9.00 (USD)
Sourcing: http://www.flamesofwar.com/


Command Decision Panzer 38(t)


The Command Decision Tanks, on the move


Command Decision generally offers a weaker product with a compelling price. The products are generally usable, but they're often not quite the quality of the competition. Check out our Self-Propelled US Artillery Review for a good example of this. But when the price per tank is significantly lower than the nearest competitor, they're still an attractive option, even if you have to cover up or repair some unsightly blemishes.

This tank is an exception to that rule.

One CD vehicle from the side

As is usual for Command Decision, this tank comes three to a pack. This particular vehicle can be modeled with an open or a closed hatch, and we chose to assemble two closed and one open for your reference. Like most of the models in this review, these come in eight parts: two tracks, hull, turret, two machine-guns, barrel and hatch.

The thing we liked most about this vehicle was the detail on the top and back of the tank. The camouflage net underneath the jack is a nice touch (though difficult to paint, it has that "in the field" feel about it), and the exhaust system is one of the cleaner exhausts in the review�no globs or sprue present on any of the three models we assembled.


The front of the CD model

The thing that we liked least about this model was that it is uncharacteristically off-scale for CD, being 2 mm or nearly 10 percent too long.

The overall detail and quality of this model surpasses most other CD vehicles that we own (and we own a lot). For example, its tracks aren't filled with blobs like most CD tracked vehicles; there is a little over-run, but that's true of most of these products. The rivet heads are well done and slightly smaller than BF's, which you might prefer, and the overall look of the vehicle is pleasing.


The CD model from the top. Note the paint chipping is our error (drying wash took it off with the turret), not a CD problem.

We still don't like the shallow turret mounts, as they tend to let turrets go flying if they're so much as tapped, but we're working on a fix for that problem.

This was a great example of a bargain from Command Decision, and we're glad we included the company in this review.

The CD Model from behind

Strengths Weaknesses
Overall detail Off Scale for 1:100
Price Turret Mounting
Options Height of turret
Bolt detail excellent 
Final Score: (4.5/5)



Vendor: Command Decision/Old Glory/19th Century Miniatures
Model Number: CD-318 (3 Per Pack)
Price: � 13.50
US Sourcing:Warweb
http://www.warweb.com
Price: $22.00


Quick Reaction Force Panzer 38(t) Ausf E/F



The QRF Pz 38(t)

Finally, we have a remastered (though not new as we had previously stated) QRF product to review, and it stands up well to scrutiny. Note to U.S. customers, there are numerous numbering errors in the online stores that we frequent, and this model fell victim to one of them. Our advice at this time is to always check the model number on the main QRF site before ordering. Model numbers are correct, but in some cases, the product description is wrong, generally duplicating another, similar description. We hear this is an ongoing problem with QRF's U.S. importer/distributor, so caveat emptor. We did, and we got what we were after. Both QRF and WarWeb are working to clear this issue up so that customers are covered. Note that this problem does not appear to be the fault of either QRF or WarWeb.

Example
Taken from an online store we frequent:

QRF-GFV31 Pz 38 (t) Ausf E/F $7.95
QRF-GFV29 Pz 38(t) Ausf E/F $7.95

Taken from the LKM Direct/QRF Website

GFV31 Pz38(t) Ausf B/C 4.50 GBP
GFV29 Pz38(t) Ausf E/F 4.50 GBP

As you can see, if you had your heart set on one or the other, you could be sorely disappointed.

The QRF model is the nicest QRF vehicle we have (we still think its MG34 teams and U.S. Infantry are nicer than even this vehicle), and in general looks good on the table (though there are some other contestants coming, stay tuned...).

The QRF model from the front.

The best point about this product is, not surprisingly, the cleanliness of the cast. It looks like the molds have hardly been used � because they have hardly been used. If you like QRF armor, and need some Pz38ts, order now.

The thing we like least about this vehicle is the turret riveting. QRF chose to depict the rivets as sunk into the vehicle, and while this might be okay, we have never seen a Pz38t that had countersunk rivets. The other problem with the riveting is the size of the holes: They are large, enough so to look odd. The turret also seems large�nearly twice the size of the Command Decision vehicle's turret�but this is not as distracting as the rivet holes.

The QRF model from above

With the exception of one wheel that did not line up exactly with the wheel next to it, the wheels and tracks are well done and sprue-free. The rear of the vehicle is likewise well made and close to accurate; the only possible problem is the height that the exhaust sticks up above the decking, but it is realistic enough looking, and it's possible that this is just an exhaust arrangement we have not encountered before.


The QRF model from behind.

The main gun and the machine guns on this model were not cut to length, leaving that to you. For those who do not know, German guns generally include the length of the barrel in the accepted name�in the case of the Pz 38(t), the main gun was a 3.7 cm KwK L/47.8. The L/47.8 is the length. So if yours comes uncut, never fear, cut it right about 11mm, and it will look acceptable next to any other 38(t)'s you have on your table.

This vehicle shows what remastered QRF models can look like, and it's an improvement over the older moulds we have seen. We're pleased with the product, and despite the items mentioned above, they meld in pretty well with the other vendors in this review. We are looking forward to getting our hands on a totally new sculpt though... Coming soon, we hope.

Strengths Weaknesses
Cleanliness of cast Turret rivets
Scaling Few options
Rear details US Ordering Woes
Final Rating: (3.0/5)



Vendor: LKM Direct/QRF
Model Number: GFV-31
UK Sourcing:
Direct from vendor:
http://www.quickreactionforce.co.uk/
Price: � 4.50

US Sourcing:
WarWeb
http://www.warweb.com
Price $7.95

Quality Casting Panzer 38(t) with 3.7cm gun


The BH model from the side.

Quality Casting vehicles always look good, the only problem with some of its models is the number of pieces and the difficulties involved in making them all fit well. These problems did not exist with the Panzer 38(t): This model is both pristine and simple, with the normal Quality Casting attention to detail.

The thing we like best about this model is the track and wheel setup, which is a near-perfect replica of the arrangement on the Pz38(t)s we've seen both in person and in photographs.

The thing we like least about this vehicle is its size. We've heard claims that the scale is 1:112, and this is the typical problem with using a measurement as a scale. While it may be possible to call these 15mm miniatures, there is a large difference between them and minis from other vendors, and interestingly, the vehicle is shorter in both height and length, but wider than the original, so no matter the scale, it is wrong. Lucky we're not terribly picky about exacting measurements, so even though the vehicle does look slightly small compared with the others in the review, it is a very pretty miniature.


The BH model from the front.

Like QRF, Quality Casting chose to make rivet depressions instead of protruding heads, but in this case they're small enough that it's difficult to tell. You can see there is something there at a distance, but only upon very close examination (such as that generated by our pictures) do you notice it. Take a look at the overview pictures at the beginning and end of the review to see what we mean.

The BH Model from above. Note the tools absent in other models.

This is the only vehicle to include tools other than a jack on the hull, and the effect is nice, if for no other reason than to add a little color. This is indicative of the quality of the model throughout.

The BH model from behind.

Strengths Weaknesses
Tools and Decking Scaling
Overall look Scaling (again)
Wheels and Treads 
Overall Score: (4/5)



Vendor: Quality Casting/Battle Honours /19th Century Miniatures
Model Number: 4041
US Sourcing:WarWeb
http://www.warweb.com
Price: $8.95

Measurements

All of the models in this review

Since AFVDB doesn't have either the LT-38 or the Pz 38t, the measurements for the original are according to The Illustrated Guide to Tanks of the World by George Forty. This is an excellent painting reference if you've never seen it. The vehicle used is the LT-38, which is the early version of the Pz38t. To our knowledge there was no significant change in dimensions over the course of the Pz38t's service lifetime, but it is possible that there was and we are unaware of it.

 


Length

Width

Height

Actual / 100

46mm

21.1mm

24mm

Battlefront

46mm

21mm

24mm

Command Decision

49mm

21mm

22mm

Quality Casting

44mm

23mm

23mm

Quick Reaction Force

47mm

23mm

28mm

 


Summary

These vehicles are all a little painful to assemble, but they all look great on the tabletop. We are happy to have them, and Rommel has a use for them in the Panzer Regiment of 7th Panzer. They're all reasonable representations of the Panzer 38(t), and you would be pleased with any of them in your forces. All things considered, when we decide to add to our forces again, the Command Decision vehicles are likely to be our choice due to the price/quality/value proposition.

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