Red Surprise: A 15mm Early War T-34/76 FireFight! | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Saturday, 13 October 2007

When the German army first encountered the T-34, it sent a ripple through the ranks that veterans were still writing about in the late 1950s. In short, the Germans didn't know about this tank, and the big question was, Why? Our take: It wasn't such a surprise - the Germans knew about the BT series of tanks � but the fact that there were many available was a surprise.

Whatever the reason, they learned all about this threat soon enough. With armor able to withstand all but a direct short-range hit from most German tanks, equipped to shoot at long range and tracked to handle the rough Russian winters where snow could bog any vehicle as heavy as a tank, the T-34 played a major role in slowing the German advance into Russia.

We brought nine T-34s from six vendors into our painting area and prettied them up to give you pros, cons, tips and ideas for your fine Russian Tankovi army.

All of the tanks in this review from the front.

The first coat is applied

Interestingly, the early advances of the Wehrmacht had overrun many manufacturing facilities, and bombing was reaching more. Given the massive tank losses Russia suffered in the first months of the invasion, small ten- or 20-person shops were set to work turning out parts for the T-34. This created a situation where there was a lot of variation in T-34 models. There's pictorial evidence of a 1941 T-34, for example, with modifications normally attributed to 1943 models. We've also seen proof of a wide range of other oddities, including multiple periscopes on early turret models that were designed with only one, and road wheels from the early versions of the tank on vehicles made as late as 1943 (and, at least one author claims, all the way through 1944). The list goes on and on. While this makes modeling the T-34 a blast, it makes reviewing them a longer process because differences must be pointed out and, where possible, explained.

We were able to get our hands on the standard set of three Command Decision models, two different tanks from Gaming Models, a Peter Pig miniature, a Quick Reaction Force vehicle, a Battlefront model, and a tank from Quality Castings/Battle Honors. We also purchased a Stronghold model, but it did not arrive in time for this review, and we were no longer willing to hold the show for one product. We will post an update if/when we receive that large order from Stronghold.

All of the tanks in this review from the front.

Overall, this collection of tanks is pretty. We put quite a bit of work into them, but they're attractive enough for all of that. For this review only we applied the same techniques we use when painting 1:35 or 1:72 models for display: Each vehicle has six or more coats of variously watered paints and washes on it, with more applied to select areas. We do this for the occasional 15mm piece, but it slows us down enough that we don't make a habit of it. We stopped short of placing decals, but otherwise, these are painted to our "modeler standard." Total time invested was approximately 20 hours, or two hours per tank. Our efforts were spread out over many nights because most washes must be allowed to dry to get the correct filtering effect before applying another layer. Sadly, some of the pictures obscure the detail of rust limes and drainage lines, but since the pictures were otherwise pretty close to pristine, we decide to use this set.

The stowage used in this review came from four places: JR Miniatures 15mm Battle Bits (primarily the barrels), 1:72 stowage packs (primarily the bundles of cloth), leftover Battlefront stowage from various Army boxes, and the astounding stowage that came with the CD models. Of course, any stowage included with a model was used first for that vehicle.

All of the tanks in this review, from behind and above.

With all of that said, we'll take you to the review!

Battlefront Miniatures T-34 obr 1941

The package as delivered to us from Brookhurst Hobbies.

This tank is pretty standard for Battlefront, coming with a resin body, hot-glued resin turret, metal mantlet, gun barrel, tracks, turret hatch, machinegun, spare bit of track, crew member and bailed-out crew member. If our understanding is correct, the bailed-out crew member will not be included in the future.

This is definitely a nice model, as is usual for BF. The mantlet has rivets, as was true of nearly all 1941/1942 model T-34s; the hatch is one of the primary variants seen on these tanks; and the figure/stowage are both nice touches.

The BF T-34.

The thing we like best about this model is the attention to detail of the original casting. Our reference works mark this as very clearly a 1941-1942 version of the tank. We like the headlight; rivet heads; and detail on the rubber wheel covers, though our understanding is that once these wore out they weren't replaced�the tank ran without them. The turret is clearly not hexagonal, which would mark it as a late-1942 or later vehicle, and while others can be discerned as not hexagonal, some models in this review are questionable on this point.

The same tank from the side.

The thing we like least about the model is the engine-vent grilles, which are shallowly dug and not clearly discernable. On many tanks this would be a minor niggle, but on a T-34, where 3/4 of the back deck is vents, it stands out in a glaring manner.

Also of note, Battlefront was the only vendor other than CD to include free stowage that you can glue on as you desire. Some have boxes or bits of tread permanently affixed to the track guards, but nothing loose like extra tread that you can attach for variety.

The scaling of this vehicle is such that it matches well with all of the others in this review except for the QRF and QC models. There is an antenna attachment, and we hooked an antenna in, but honestly, T-34s in the early- to mid-stages of the war seldom actually had antennas.

The BF tank from the other side.

We would throw an army of these on the table and watch the fascist player cringe. They'd kill off all those silly little Panzer 38(t)s and look good doing it. A great choice if you like BF, or want some variety with your CD; you can set this tank next to a CD tank, and the differences�the CD has a slightly steeper angle on the front glacis plate, uses the newer perforated road wheels, and has a slightly lower turret height�can be ignored. We can recommend this tank for your armies.

The unassembled kit.

Manufacturer: Battlefront Miniatures
Model Name: T-34 obr 1941
Model Number: SU052

MSRP (U.S.): $9.00
MSRP (UK): �5.50
U.S. Sourcing:
The War Store
UK Sourcing:
Battle Honours

Command Decision T-34/76 1941

The CD package as delivered from Warweb.

The CD tanks in this review.

The Command Decision entry is pretty standard fare where CD is concerned, having three tanks in the bag. Each all-metal casting came with a turret, hull, two tracks, main gun and two different styles of hatch. This shows a quality of research that made us overlook the large amount of flash. The range of T-34 turret hatches was wide, with pictures of tanks made at nearly the same time having two or three different varieties. Then there was the stowage�enough boards and logs to deck out all nine tanks in this review, with two boards left over!

A closer view of one tank. The commander is a cut-up BF Cossack.

When you count the 40% off sales, Command Decision nearly always wins price-based battles, and we're pleased when quality is also on the higher end. When it comes to T-34s, this product was painful to assemble, but when finished � well, the pictures tell the story.

The things we like most about the Command Decision tank are the stowage and hatch variety. The rest of the tank is very nice, but those few extra bits of metal in the bag allowed us to complete assembly without digging out the bits boxes or making stowage out of Green Stuff. And the diverse parts are the touches often associated with the T-34.

From the side.

The thing we like least about the Command Decision T-34 should be no surprise if you are a CD customer: flash. The hull and tracks needed some trimming, and the turrets had enough flash to make another whole tank. Well, OK, maybe not, but while cutting, filing and sanding it off, it sure seemed that way.

The turret lines prior to cleaning.

Of note are the well-depicted rubberless perforated road wheels. Also a worthy detail are the rivet heads on the rear glacis plate. The machinegun is mounted correctly for this era of tank�a detail most vendors in this review got wrong�and seams are well done. By "well done," we mean the seams are noticeable, but not overemphasized, just as they should be for such a rough-built tank.

The other side.

We can heartily recommend these tanks for blowing up PzIIIEs, even PzIVs. We suspect that we could send them against the new Tigr� tank being brought in by the fascists. But even if not, send the hoards of Barbarossa on, these tanks will hold them at bay while the rest of the army falls back.

The unassembled kit.

Manufacturer: 19th Century Miniatures, LLC
Model Name: T-34/76 1941
Model Number: 400A
MSRP (U.S.): $22.00 (3/package)
MSRP (UK): �13.50 (3/package)
U.S. Sourcing:
UK Sourcing:
Old Glory UK

Gaming Models T-34 1942 Welded Turret and T-34 1942 Cast Turret

The tanks as delivered from Gaming Models.

If you're a regular reader of Wargames @ Nordalia, you're probably tired of this rant, but we don't want to do Gaming Models a disservice by comparing it without the following warning: Gaming Models makes no claims about producing high-end vehicles. It makes affordable resin vehicles for wargaming, nothing more.

With that said, there is still a valid comparison to be made with the other vendors in this review, so that you may decide if the price difference is worthwhile in this particular instance.

Both these tanks come preassembled and prepainted. While we like our tanks to have vaguely the same paint job across a unit, if you needed to receive the tank and drop it on the table the same day, you could with Gaming Models, though they're only two-tone�a basecoat and a drybrushing of camouflage.

Over time using Gaming Models vehicles on our tables, we've come to the conclusion that you should pin the turrets on these tanks. Otherwise, the slightest bump or brush of hand will send most Gaming Model turrets rolling across the table.

T-34 1942 Welded Turret

The welded-turret version.

We were not 100% certain upon receipt which of these was which, so we used our powers of deduction to decide that the turret with sharper angles was the welded turret. This vehicle is actually one of the better Gaming Models tanks we've seen, with most of the vehicle presenting a solid surface. The venting on the rear deck is clean, and the detail is well done.

The thing we like best about this model is the price. Though there are other things we like, and we'll discuss them, $4 a model is tough to beat, with only Command Decision coming close. All the other vehicles in this review are at least double this cost, and Command Decision requires membership in its club or purchasing through its ongoing sale at to dip below double the price.

Welded from the side.

The thing we like least is the turret. There are some seriously rough areas near the mantle. While not nearly as bad as the cast-turret version, it's still pretty rough. In hindsight, we probably should have filled these spaces, but did not for this review. We did fill a couple of holes on the body, but nothing serious.

The width of the tracks is also worth mentioning. While no vendor stood out as having glaringly small tracks, we like the extra-wide feel of the Gaming Models tracks. There are two offsetting issues with this fact: First, we cannot tell if the tracks are meant to be the early plate type or the later link type, because they are simplistically crafted. Not a big deal�how much track do you generally see on the table�but worth mentioning for those of you who look to this type of detail. The other negative in the track area are the road wheels. They're not very clearly detailed, though some parts of them rise to the level of other products in our review. This flaw is more obvious, but still generally hidden during gaming.

This tank had a second periscope that was broken off when we received it. Because the second periscope was seen on some tanks but not standard until after 1942, we decided to leave it off.

For scaling, this model is a little narrow and a little tall, but still blends well with the other tanks in the review. You would likely not want to use it with the QC or QRF models, but otherwise, it should blend in well enough.

We can recommend this tank for holding off the Panzer IIs of the fascist invaders, fighting bravely to the last shell and then ramming the enemy to stop them when the ammunition is gone. For the price, you may want to check the Gaming Models T-34s out, but bear in mind that they are not high-end castings.

T-34 1942 Cast Turret

The cast turret.

This model shares a body with the T-34 1942 welded turret. That means all of the above that does not talk about the body is true for this vehicle also.

The thing we like least about this model is the patina of the turret, which is pitted and rough. In this case, we made a decision to leave the rough part for those of you who enjoy a "well used" look to your tanks, but we hate it and will be reworking it.

The thing we like best is the same as above: price. An entire FoW Ostfront tank army with Gaming Models T-34s would cost you $80 to $84 plus shipping. That's tough to compete with, even shopping sales.

From the side.

The turret has no air vent, which is odd; the turret hatches are much bigger than anything we've seen, so there may not have been room left on top for the air vent. If this type of detail is important to you, see disclaimer at the top of the Gaming Models section.

Overall, we can recommend this tank for holding off the fascist infantry or the occasional PzI. At the price, though, you could send droves of them against the strongest armor that the invader has to offer. Your choice.

The other side.

Manufacturer: Gaming Models
Model Name: T-34 (1942) cast turret, T-34 (1942) welded turret
Model Number: N/A � No numbers for Gaming Models.
MSRP (U.S.): $4.00
MSRP (UK): �1.93 (at time of writing)
Sourcing (worldwide): e-mail

There is no website for Gaming Models, but we have an extensive set of pictures in our Gaming Models Overview and a thread with user-submitted pictures in our forums.

Peter Pig T-34/76mm Early Type

The Peter Pig model as delivered from Brookhurst Hobbies.

Peter Pig's range of WWII models and figures seems to constantly grow, with PzIVHs added while we were working on this review. At this point, you should be able to build an army for nearly any period of WWII purely with Peter Pig figures.

The Peter Pig T-34 comes in five metal pieces: turret, barrel, hull and two tracks. It's a strong contender from Peter Pig, which sometimes oversizes barrels so much as to make a model look odd. This is by design, as Peter Pig says it wants its barrels to stand up to wargamer wear and tear. This particular mini has a large barrel, but not so big that the tank looks out of place when it hits the table.

The Peter Pig tank.

The thing we like most about this model is the tracks�this is one of the few entries that uses the later chain-link tracks, and the company makes them very clean. Again, when you set the tanks on the table, the tracks are mostly covered, but these look very good. In addition, this is the only model in our review that includes dividers on the tread guards. While this was a later addition to the vehicle, there is ample evidence to show that crews or maintenance teams added these to vehicles in the field. It's a nice touch and makes the tank slightly different without straying too far from spec.

From the side.

The thing we like least about this vehicle is the hull-mounted machinegun. Peter Pig is the only vendor that cast the MG right into the hull, then left a large chunk of metal sticking underneath it. While trying to clean out the aforementioned flash, we ended up bending the MG far enough that we had to remove it and replace it with floral wire.

Of note is the fact that the road wheels lack detail. They're technically correct, but comparing them with the other metal-tracked vendors, they just don't look as good, mostly due to a lack of mounting-bolt heads.

The other side.

The engine grilles are better than those of most vendors in this review, but still difficult to adequately color. The grilles were a collection point for rust, dust and oil, and trying to depict that was difficult. Perhaps that's a side-effect of 1:100, since we weren't terribly happy with any vendor's venting. The turret, meanwhile, is very nice. There is one mold line that is difficult to clean adequately, but whether by design or accident, it matches a mold line on actual cast turrets, making it not so big a problem if you don't get it 100% flat to the turret.

We can recommend this tank for chasing the invader's medium tanks�PzIIIs�off the field but suspect that a head-to-head clash would end in defeat.

The unassembled model.

Manufacturer: Peter Pig
Model Name: T-34/76mm Early Type
Model Number: 8-187
MSRP (U.S.): $12.50
MSRP (UK): �5.50
Sourcing (U.S.):
Brookhurst Hobbies
Sourcing (UK):
Peter Pig

Quality Castings T-34/76 (1941)

The QC tank as delivered from Warweb.

We're seeing a lot of Quality Castings models getting the royal remodel treatment of late, and word on the street is that the new masters are 1:100. This T-34 has the usual Quality Castings detail, but is not a new model, meaning it is 1:108, according to one of our more knowledgeable readers. The all-metal package comes with a hull, a turret with gun molded on, two tracks, a machine gun, a commander and (in our pack) two hatches.

The model is consistently smaller than the original 1/100, ranging from more than 10% off on height to just a few percent on width. What this translates to on the table is that you can get away with them pretty well if the QC model has a commander on it because the height perception is then different. Though length is still off with every other model in the review, its not enough to notice if the tanks are not parked track-guard to track-guard.

The Quality Castings model.

The model itself is very nice, as Quality Castings miniatures generally are. Unlike most of the other metal entries, the barrel is molded on to the turret, and there's a good bit of stowage built on to the hull. These things can be a plus or a minus, depending on how you like your tanks.

The thing we like most about this model is the gun mount. It is clean, well proportioned, accurate for all models from late 1940 until well after 1942 and paints up well. Interestingly, it has depressions in place of rivet heads�something we normally don't like�but since they're so small this isn't obvious. In fact, it's not terribly obvious even in our extremely close-up pictures.

From the side.

The thing we like least about this model is the preattached storage. We've already said that this is a matter of taste, but a full Flames of War company of ten tanks would get boring pretty quickly with the storage all in the same place. You could add more over it, but there would still be stowage in the same place on each model. For cables and toolboxes, this is not unreasonable. For packs and bits of tread, it is highly unlikely.

The treads are the earlier plate type, and the road wheels are the earlier non-perforated wheels. They are well-crafted and look just fine when assembled.

The other side.

Note that this tank had an antenna mount, but the mount was covered as they sometimes were in real life. Since it was accurate enough, we left the cover and did not drill and mount an antenna, but if you chose to drill an antenna hole with a pin vise, this model would look just fine with one in place.

Overall, this tank could also hold off the fascist medium tanks, and it contains only Stavka-approved stowage, which may be a benefit to you. We would not send it after the Tigr� tanks that were beginning to show up, though.

The unassembled model.

Manufacturer: 19th Century Miniatures
Model Name: T-34/76 (1941)
Model Number: 3003
MSRP (U.S.): $8.95
Sourcing (worldwide):

Quality Castings currently have no stockists (suppliers) in the UK. Order direct from Old Glory 15s and they assure us they will help make shipping not break your back. While you're ordering, feel free to mention us. It won't get you or us anything, but it may help the vendor understand where their market comes from.

Quick Reaction Force T-34/76B 1941 Medium Tank

The QRF model as delivered from Warweb.

QRF has an extensive range of 15mm figures and vehicles, and we're getting them in more regularly these days, which is nice. One thing we've decided about Quick Reaction Force models: They're not all done by the same sculptor. In fact, we believe they come from different lines that were purchased by QRF and merged. While good for variety of the line, it can cause problems with uniform scaling of models. This vehicle comes in just four parts: turret with gun, hull with hull machinegun and two tracks.

This model is the odd one out in this review, being so off-size that it does not look good with any of the other vehicles. The scaling is off by a large amount, with significantly more variation in length than in width, resulting in a T-34 that looks as if someone made a Volkswagen Bug version of the tank! Still, all the parts of this figure go together just fine, and it looks OK standing alone, if a bit foreshortened. With another brand of T-34 on the table, however, it looks pretty bad.

From the side.

The thing we like most about this model is ease of assembly, particularly hull machinegun assembly. The other models fell into one of three categories: ones that shipped with no MG barrel at all, ones that shopped with a separate MG barrel (generally with the ball mount) that were difficult to assemble due to the angle and mounting mechanisms, and the Peter Pig MG that had a large hunk of flash attaching it to the hull. By comparison, this one is attached to the hull but has no flash. We're happy about that.

The thing we like least about this tank you can likely already guess. The scaling is off in the extreme, to the point that standing alone on the table, a single glance will reveal that something is wrong with the vehicle. Any study or the presence of other tanks will make this issue obvious.

The other side.

The treads are the plate type, and the road wheels are all the non-perforated type with rubber pads on. Because the hatch is molded onto the turret, you will not be able to model this tank with the commander out of it. The tendency for a large number of Russian commanders to stay "buttoned up" when close to enemy forces might make this OK for you, but we prefer to mark command vehicles with commanders standing in the hatch.

Details other than scale are accurate for the model years in question, so the scaling issue really is the only major negative to this model. But it's a big negative, as the review overview pictures will show you.

These tanks should be shunted off to lead the attack on the Romanians or Italians, where AT capability is weak and losses will be less harsh. Perhaps against pure infantry formations it will prevail. Moscow is currently looking for the designer to speak with him about "internal sabotage."

The unassembled model

Manufacturer: LKM Direct
Model Name: T-34/76B 1941 Medium Tank
Model Number: SFV22
MSRP (U.S.): $7.95
MSRP (UK): �5.00
Sourcing (U.S.):
Wargames, Inc
Sourcing (UK):
LKM Direct

All of the models from the front













T-34 obr 1941




Command Decision

T-34/76 1941




Gaming Models

1942 Cast Turret




Gaming Models

1942 Welded Turret




Peter Pig

T-34/76mm Early




Quality Castings

T-34/76 1941




Quick Reaction Force

T-34/76B M1941




  • There are conflicting measures (one as long as 6.6 meters), we are not clear on whether these are due to production, measurement or version differences.

Tools of the Trade

All models in this review were assembled and painted using the following tools

  • Floquill black Primer
  • Valejo paints
  • Brushes are primarily artists' sable-hair brushes with some Vallejo for specific tasks.
  • Armory Clear Matte Sealer for dull-coating
  • Trimming and file tools from Foundry
  • Gale Force 9 Hobby Glue for gluing

Machineguns for those vehicles that came without them�and the Peter Pig model, whose machinegun broke off�were fashioned of floral wire. It is just the right dimension for this type of use.

Antennas for those tanks that had predrilled antenna mounts were made from a stiff-bristled house-painting brush, painted Vallejo Gunmetal Grey.

Washes applied to these tanks include dust, rust, earth and sand. Dust and rust were applied repeatedly to give buildup in relevant areas. Oil and rust stains were created with a much less thinned mix of dark brown and black Vallejo paints (oil) and light brown and hull red (rust). Joints that the sculptor modeled with a gap (which is accurate) were painted with a single bristle brush and black mixed with gunmetal grey. Some modelers use a pencil to achieve a similar effect. As is normal for us when modeling (as opposed to building wargames figures), we soaked the tracks upright in a mix of brown and light grey paint for 8 hours to get the effect of mud and dirt to appear with the existing base color of paint. Since the tracks and roadwheels are attached to the tread guards, we soaked these standing up to keep the tread guards out of the soak.

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