Dragon has done a very nice job with their turrets.  All the current turrets benefit from updates and refinements.  The various Dragon kits provide enough different turrets to allow you to build any example that is necessary.

The new early low bustle 75mm turret, Fig. 1, is supplied in the M4A1 Direct Vision kit without the smoke mortar port and with the smoke mortar port in a number of other kits.  Appliqué armor and the early M34A1 mount are included in the Normandy kit, Fig. 2.

Dragon early 75mm turret
Dragon 75mm turret with applique armor

The PTO Composite M4 kit supplies both the low bustle, Figs. 3, 4, and the high bustle turrets, Figs. 5, 6.  Both turrets have cast cheek armor, oval loaders hatch, and pistol port.  Unfortunately, in the original issue of this kit, Dragon neglected to include the lower turret half for the high bustle turret so you will need to write to Dragon Care to obtain the piece.  The instructions for the turrets in the PTO kit are sorely lacking and it is necessary to have additional information if you want to assemble them correctly.  For the most part, the instructions indicate the assembly of the high bustle turret, but they call out to use the same lower turret half for both turrets.

I suspect that if Dragon had not cut the lower turret half off the second “B” sprue, the part would be numbered (B31) which would be similar to the same piece supplied with the 105 turret, Fig. 12, since the sprue layouts are identical.  I have modified some Normandy instructions which hopefully do a better job of showing how to assemble the low bustle turret, here.  Despite the fact that the instructions have “blued-out” most of the first “B” sprue, the “B” numbers in my revised instructions refer to the first “B” sprue.

Dragon Low Bustle turret with cast armor
Dragon M4 composite low bustle turret
Dragon High Bustle Turret
Dragon Composite High Bustle turret

The low bustle turret with cast cheek armor that is supplied with the Dragon PTO kit, Figs. 3, 4, was relatively rare.  The turret can be easily modified to a more common version without the loaders hatch and pistol port, Fig. 7.

Modified Low Bustle Turret

Each turret is supplied with the appropriate mount, Figs. 8 – 11.

Dragon M4 Bustles

Fig. 12 shows the mount for the 105mm howitzer.

There are some assembly steps that can be applied to all the turrets.  Generally, I like to: 1) assemble the upper and lower halves together; 2) fill the seams 3) make any modifications such as fill the smoke mortar port or the pistol port; 4) re-texture the smoothed out areas (using this technique) and add back the mold parting line; 5) attach the lift rings; 6) prime the cast areas with a lacquer primer for texture; 7) add the rest of the components and details.

My technique for creating a lip around the smoke mortar port is to use a piece of styrene sprue that I machine and cement into the opening.  I cut the piece leaving a slight raised lip that I finish off with a bevel, Fig. 13.

Dragon 105mm howitzer turret
Smoke mortar port

The fit between the upper and lower halves of the 75mm turrets is not that good, Fig. 14.  Dragon makes an attempt to incorporate the mold parting line in the lower half, but because of the poor fit between the two halves, the area needs to be filled and reshaped, Fig. 15.  I then re-texture the area using the technique described here.  I use a thin piece of masking tape to lay out the cast parting line, Fig 16.  Several coats of Mr. Surfacer 500 are brushed against the tape, Fig 17.

Fixing turret seam 1

After allowing the Mr. Surfacer to dry for about an hour, I use a paper towel moistened with 90% isopropyl alcohol to blend the Mr. Surfacer and level it with the tape, Fig 18.  Rub the towel perpendicular to the tape rather than parallel.  The result is shown in Fig. 19.  After the tape was removed, the portions of the turret that do not have cast texture are masked off and then the turret is sprayed with a lacquer primer, Fig. 23.  The final coat should go on relatively dry.  After the primer is dry, I knock down a bit of the texture with a scuff pad.  The finished line is shown in Fig. 20.  The texture of the lacquer primer can be seen in Fig. 21.

Fixing turret seam 2

It is best to look to your reference material for placement and angle of the lift rings. I use a variety of methods to locate the position of the lift rings so that they are vertical and equal in height, Fig. 22.

This is the lacquer primer that I like, Fig. 23.

Positioning lift rings
Lacquer Primer

I have my own sequence for assembling the 75mm mount.  When cementing piece B20 into the turret, check to insure that it is parallel to the turret face, Fig. 24.  Look at the space indicated in red.  This is critical because it provides the support and positioning of the mount.

Dragon produces two versions of the M34A1 mount.  Check your references and make sure your using the correct mount.  The two versions are shown in Fig. 25.  The later version (on the right) does not have the bolts on the side and uses a slightly wider mantlet.  Dragon depicts the wider mantlet with a heavier cast texture which can be easily distinguished when compared to the smaller version.  In any case, make sure you use the correct mount and mantlet combination.

Cementing part B20
M34A1 Mounts and mantlets

I like to cement the mount into place first, Fig. 26.  The barrel is nicely molded but needs to be sanded smooth to eliminate the seam.  Then the mounting piece is cemented to the end of the barrel, Fig 27.

I then cement the barrel to place using a simple paper guide and a block, Fig 28.  This gives me a pretty good idea that I am perpendicular to the backside of the turret bustle.

Mount and Barrel
Alighning Barrel in turret mount

I use a simple spacer arrangment to cement on the .50 caliber barrel stowage brackets, Fig 29.  These just happen to be lathe tool bits, but you can use what ever you have that works.  This insures that both brackets are the same height and are straight.

I cut my own periscope lids from .020” x .080” styrene strip, Fig. 30.  I find it is faster to cut them and bevel them than it is to clean up the molded ones included in the kit.  I think they come out squarer as well.

Cementing barrel stowage racks
Periscope Lids

Dragon also provides very nice renderings of the both 76mm turrets, Figs. 31, 32.

Dragon Split hatch 76mm turret
Dragon oval loader hatcn 76mm turret

Both 76mm turrets have an open space under the mount that needs to be filled, Fig. 33.  I cemented a piece of .015” sheet over the space, Fig. 34.

Space in 76mm turret
Gap filled in 76mm turret

The hinge pin of the hatch on the direct vision cupola is poorly represented, Fig. 35.  It should be removed and replaced with a piece of styrene rod, Fig. 36.

Stock hatch hinge pin
Styrene rod hinge pin

Keeping in mind that all kits have issues, and certainly the Dragon kits have their share, I think they look very nice when assembled, especially the Normandy and Composite PTO.  I feel that the details are very crisp and sharp.  With the exception of the final drive housing and transmission issues, I think Dragon does a good job rendering the shapes correctly.

I hope this article has been helpful.  I’ve enjoyed sharing some of what I’ve learned in building these kits.


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