Mobile Tank Destroyers: A US M3 GMC 75mm Firefight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Sunday, 25 February 2007
Don takes a look at an array of M3 GMCs with the 75mm field gun mounted on them, and draws some conclusions about these vehicles.

15mm US M3 GMC 75mm and Crews.




The M3 GMC 75mm Tank Destroyer was a stop-gap weapon, originally built by placing WWI-vintage French cannons into an M3 halftrack. Production rapidly became more formalized as U.S. 75mm guns replaced the older cannons. The M3 GMC 75mm was first deployed in Tunisia in Tank Destroyer units, but the vehicle was plagued by a number of problems; ultimately, its high profile combined with thin armor made commanders deem it unfit for battle with German medium tanks.

After Tunisia, the U.S. Army made a concerted effort to get rid of its M3 GMCs and replace them with static anti-tank guns towed by halftracks. These had a much lower profile, but they required setup and teardown time. Meanwhile, the M3 GMC 75mms were shipped off to the Pacific theater to assist in island battles, where the number of enemy tanks was significantly lower, and the armor on those tanks generally thinner than Germany's medium tanks. In the Pacific the vehicles were used in both Tank Destroyer and Bunker Buster roles, primarily by the Marines.

From a wargamer's perspective, this makes the M3 GMC 75mm a near-perfect vehicle to own. You can use it for the Africa campaign (there are rumors of a few making it to Italy, but we can find no solid reference to back that up), and you can use it in the Pacific. Double duty is always nice. While these won't hold up as well as their successors did on the battlefield, and you'd be straining credibility to run the M3 GMC in Europe proper, you still have a large chunk of the war covered with these vehicles if you play both Africa and the Pacific.

Due to reader requests, pricing included with this review is MSRP. Use of UK/U.S. sourcing prices is simply to give a point of reference by locality. If there is no sourcing information provided about a given model for one of the two localities, it's because we couldn't find a current source. If you know of one, please let us know.

Battlefront US-101 GMC with 75mm




The Battlefront product came to us clean, with no mentionable flash and none of the unsightly blobs of resin that occasionally infest its models. Unfortunately, the mini also came with a large chunk broken out of the back wall of the vehicle. Judging by the thickness of that particular wall and the lack of support for it, we suspect this may be a common occurrence. As always, Sam at Battlefront was able to get us a replacement, but the holidays and an apparently busy time over at BF made it too late to make this review. Because the replacement body is clean, we aren't belaboring the point by showing you pictures of the damage.

The best thing about this model is the detail. There's lots of it, with none of the fuzziness that comes with mold over-use. We found it appealing to the eye, and the crew adds a good bit of realism. We've often heard complaints that Battlefront miniatures have grown helmets big enough to break the wearers' necks, and we did find one figure in the crew that certainly appears to be a child wearing a man's pot on his head. We'll chalk that up to variance in sculptures, since it was one of three helmeted figures and the other two look just fine.

The largest negative about this model is its size. It is large compared with all the other entrants in the review, and that makes it difficult to build a mixed force that includes these particular models. Of course, since it looks good, if all of your tank destroyers are built with this model you might be able to pull it off. And if they're your army's only AFVs, you can certainly pull it off.

The model came with the main body in resin, and separate gun, wheels and tracks in white metal. The parts assembled relatively well, and the tracks and suspension of this model are the best in the review. The driver is a separate piece from the main body�something important to note in this particular review.


Though we are not at all thrilled about the size, this is a truly excellent model, and we're happy to say that they will find a way onto our table with our U.S. Marine force (our review of the various 15mm Marines is coming soon).

Sourcing:
US: Brookhurst Hobbies
URL: http://www.brookhursthobbies.com
Price: $9.00
UK: Empire Games
URL: http://www.empiregamestore.co.uk/ Price: � 5.50

Skytrex CD223A M3 75mm GMC & Crew




Since we were placing an order with Skytrex for our Japanese Artillery Review, we added a few other items, including this vehicle. We figured, Why pay shipping from the UK and not fill the box?

For as much as the Skytrex Japanese artillery was no better than the Command Decision model, the Skytrex GMC was�but that's due to mishandling at the Command Decision plant more than anything. This model is nice enough, though it lacks the flair of the other models in this review (except the Command Decision, which is from the same masters).

The best thing about this model is its ease of assembly. Coming in just four pieces, it went together quickly and easily. We even left the gun unglued to allow it to turn a bit. The mini looks good, and with the included crew inserted, it looks nice enough on the table.

The worst thing about this model is the built-in driver. Whoever thought it was a good idea to cast the driver right in the vehicle, where mold wear would quickly tell, just wasn't thinking 1,000 casts down the road. While we did manage to get a paintbrush down in there, we never felt that it was "good enough" inside, and we ended up unhappy with these models because of it.


This is a "good enough" model, and you'll probably be happy with it if you're a Skytrex customer, but otherwise it's not the best choice.

Sourcing
UK: Skytrex Miniatures
URL: http://www.skytrex.com
Price: � 6.50

Peter Pig 8-301 M3 1/2track 105mm gun



Peter Pig does not currently sell an M3 GMC 75mm, but it did have the 105mm version. While this wasn't ideal, Peter Pig makes a good enough model (generally speaking) that we wanted to include it, so we picked one up. Besides, the 105mm will give our Marines that little extra punch they need to bust those tough bunkers in the Pacific.

The lack of a gun shield on this vehicle is one of the tell-tale characteristics of the 105mm version. Simply put, these poor halftracks weren't built for someone to be firing a cannon out the back of, and there just wasn't room for the gun shield in the 105 version.

The best thing about this model is cleanliness. Over time, we've become enamored with the fact that we never have to get out the Dremel and needle files to get a Peter Pig vehicle clean. Granted, they all come with little flash, but that's generally easy to clean up. This model was no exception. It went together like a breeze, and looked good when assembled.

Closely following cleanliness is level of detail. While the model isn't the best in this review, it does have its points�take note of the leveling mechanism on the side of the gun, for example, and the tread on the front tires.

The worst thing about this model is the over-sizing of the guns. Peter Pig does this on purpose to make the vehicle more sturdy for us fat-fingers that can't seem to leave them in their boxes, but honestly, the machine gun on the back is nearly as big as the main gun of the 75mm models in this review. And the 105mm�a gun that dwarfs the real thing�looks hideously huge tucked into the back of this puppy. Someone once said, "There is actual measurement and look-good factor in miniatures," and we tend to agree. This model doesn't make it on either end.



Will it destroy your gaming experience? Absolutely not. It looks OK standing alone on the table. Is it worth your quid to pick one up in light of the excellent competition in this review? No. If scale means nothing to you, you might be happy with this model, but if you have a desire to have everything look vaguely the same scale, this one's not for you.

Sourcing:
USA: Brookhurst Hobbies
URL: http://www.brookhursthobbies.com
Price: $12.50

UK: Peter Pig Miniatures
URL: http://www.peterpig.co.uk
Price: � 5.50

Command Decision CD223A M3 75mm GMC with Crew � three per pack




Let's face it: Command Decision competes on price, not quality. If your only purchasing consideration is price, then we're not certain why you're reading this review�CD wins every time on that point. Sometimes it even does okay in the quality department.

Not this time.

As usual, these models shipped three per bag and included AA machine guns, crew, and two variants of the front bumper�with and without winch�for each vehicle. They came in seven parts plus crew for each halftrack.

The best thing about this model is features. You can customize your force to include any given bit that you want with the parts included in the bag. We built one of each variant to try and show you how they would look. In all, this is the most feature-rich model in this review, and definitely deserves a solid mention.

The worst thing about these models is the same complaint we had with Skytrex: The little built-in driver is hideous to paint, and the problem was worse with CD than with Skytrex, probably due to mold-wear issues with CD. The worst thing with our particular version? All three of our half-tracks apparently had to be pried out of the mold with pliers. There were horrendously large marks in the left side of the body�large enough that they should not be ignored � though we did ignore one to bring you this picture.


Note the left side of the body. There were clear plier marks in this dent.

This is just poor quality control, and it bodes ill for anyone who purchases this model from CD: If it happened with all three of ours, it may well happen with yours. The dings can be bent out, but as we all know, that kind of stress on the metal is very difficult to completely mask. Bottom line, it doesn't look as good as the other competitors. You've been warned.

Of course, what product would deserve the name Command Decision if it didn't require that you shave off piles of flash? These models were no exception, taking two to three times as long to assemble and clean as the other minis in this review.


Again, if cost is your primary concern, then the Command Decision product will do just fine. But if quality plays into your decision-making process, you should definitely look elsewhere.

Sourcing:
US: Warweb/Grandiosity
URL: http://www.warweb.com
Price: $21.00 (3 per package)

UK: Command Decision U.K.
URL: http://www.oldgloryuk.com/disp_items.php?m=13&sh=2
Price: � 13.50 (three per package)

Quality Castings Q-6000 M3 GMC halftrack with 75mm Gun




Our last couple of reviews have convinced us that Battle Honors believes there is a relationship between the number of pieces in a model and the Quality of the Casting (pun intended). The company seems to build more bits into its models than any of its competitors, and often those bits are not molded to fit anywhere near perfectly.

True to form, this model came with a lot of parts. And like the artillery pieces, those parts didn't fit together well. Since we built only the one, it wasn't such a big deal for us, and likely won't be for you. The pieces are not tiny little things that you could lose or anything, so it's really just busy work.

The best thing about this model is the built-on stowage. If you like to customize your vehicles with stowage you've assembled, then what we see as the "best" feature may not appeal to you at all. But to put a model together and have it pre-fit with stowage can be pretty cool. The stowage looks good at the locations QC placed it, and as far as it goes, is "historically correct." Of course, the location of some items�even their presence�wasn't prescribed by army or army group, but rather was improvised. For example, while the carrier rack on the left-hand side for spare road wheels was real, it's questionable as to whether the rack was actually used on the M3 75mm. But hey, early M3 GMCs were built out of what was available, so who knows what might have ended up there?

The worst thing about this model is the lack of a crew�every entry in this review except the Peter Pig 105 and this model included crew. Having a crew in the back of this half-track makes a huge difference in looks, and while you could buy crews separately, do you really want a pack of 24 of them when you only need the three in the back? Normal crew was five, but driver and assistant driver would have been in the front and thus are less evident if not there.



Overall, though, this is a nice model. It was kind of a pain to assemble, and the lack of a crew may send you scrambling to the bits box, but you can't deny results. It looks good, both at tabletop distance and close up. In the end, that's got to count for something.

Sourcing
US: Old Glory 15s
URL: http://oldglory15s.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=6_8_99_114&products_id=520
Price: $9.00

QRF AAT01 M3 GMC with Crew




We finally have the right QRF model for a review! Lucky try No. 4 put us in touch with the correct mini at the correct time. That's the good news. The bad news is that this is clearly an older casting, with some of the oddities that older castings have. While we're thrilled that we managed to get a model from QRF that actually matches our exact review criteria, we're going to have to jump to the early days of the war and see what its early panzers look like, since those have all been remolded of late.

The best thing about this model is that it's clean, and the crew looks rather good compared with the competition. We think that they mount up well and make the overall model look better.

The worst thing about this model is lack of detail. While this would have been a fine job 20 years ago, it's definitely a dated design today. The tracks have no links, the sides have no rivets, and the suspension/road wheels are rather simplistic compared with the real thing.

This is the only model in the review that has the gun shield sticking well down into the drivers' compartment. Some models of the M3 GMC 75mm actually did this, and it can add an interesting differentiator to your models if you wish to include a couple alongside the versions that leave the drivers' compartment undisturbed.

There are other signs of mold age about the casting; for example, note in the side picture the rough spots that appear over the wheel-well and track. While they (luckily) add a beaten up look to the vehicle, we believe they're actually places where the mold is filled with metal or is wearing down (one of each).

Overall, this isn't too bad a mini. We'd like to see what a new one looks like, and we know QRF is cranking out new castings of the more worn-down models as fast as it can. We just hope that it keeps the intruding gun shield when it re-masters�it's unique to QRF's model and not historically inaccurate.



If you want a model that looks a little more battle-worn than your average, this vehicle may just be right. If you like to start out with them clean and then add your own battle wear, you will likely be unhappy with this particular model.

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

UK: QRF
URL: http://www.quickreactionforce.co.uk
Price: � 5.00

Summary

It's all about what looks best on your table. For some, that means "looks good enough for the best price." For others, it means "technically accurate down to the rivet." We tend to fall somewhere in between, and our choice in this review represents that feeling. While the Battle Honors vehicle was nice, it was small, and obviously so. We don't mind built-on stowage, but there's a lot on those vehicles, meaning you can't customize your stowage much. The oversizing of the Peter Pig gun�even after accounting for it being 105mm�was just too much for us. The other vendors were just not the quality we were hoping for, except for Battlefront. So we opted for the Battlefront model. It's well crafted, looks good on the table and isn't so oversized as to make our tanks look small. It is a bit fragile, but we're not about tossing minis around the room, so that shouldn't be an issue for us.


Tools


All models in this review were assembled and painted utilizing the following tools:
- Floquil All-Purpose Spray, 330010 / Base Black Figure-Primer
We use Floquil for our 1/285th projects because it's very finely ground and makes a nice, thin layer of primer. We decided to use it for this review so that paint did not cause any obscuring of detail.
- Valejo (Flames of War Branded) paints
o Quartermaster's Set
o US Army Set
- One Reaper paint � flesh tone
- Future Floor Wax (magic sauce) blended with paint for highlighting
- Brushes are primarily Reaper, with a few Citadel and IMEX for specific tasks
- Citadel (GW) Clear Matte Sealer for dull-coating
- Zap-A-Gap for gluing


Update 19 March 2007

In general, we take a lot more pictures than we actually publish. A reader wrote to say that they had marked this review down because there were not good pictures from the rear of the vehicles. We did this because the quality of those pictures was less than the quality of the ones that did make the review, but understand that this does give the best view of each model.

So without further ado, we are adding these pictures here. Any appearance that a model does not sit flat is the fault of camera angle - and the reason we did not originally include these pictures.


The BF Model from above and behind. Note the chipped body.


The Battle Honors Model from the rear.


The Peter Pig Model from the rear


The QRF Model from the rear.


The Skytrex Model from the rear

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