Soviet B-4 M1931 203mm Howitzer
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
|Stock Number and Description||Trumpeter 1/35 scale Kit No. 02307; Soviet B-4 M1931 203mm Howitzer|
|Media and Contents:||328 parts (320 in grey styrene, 7 etched brass, 1 nylon string)|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||First wide-market kit of this weapon in styrene; nicely done layout and petite details for the weapon|
|Disadvantages:||Screwy assembly of the barrel will frustrate many modelers looking for a clean finish|
|Recommendation:||Highly Recommended for all “Redlegs” and Great Patriotic War fans|
In December 1926 the Soviet Artillery Committee tasked designer F. F. Lender with creating a new, more mobile 203mm howitizer for the Red Army. The design project was completed in January 1928 and offered in two versions: one with a muzzle brake, and one without. The latter was accepted for further development. After developing the working documentation, a prototype was built and prepared for testing in early 1931; the builder was the “Bol’shevik” factory. The new weapon, designated as the B-4, underwent testing in July and August of 1931 and demonstrated successful use of all planned propellant charges. It entered production in 1932.
Starting in 1933, the howitzer was also produced by the “Barrikady” factory in Stalingrad. Later, it was also considered producing the howitzer at a third factory in Novokramatorsk. Two models were then in production: the B-4 MM (low power) with a barrel 22.7 calibers long, and the B-4 BM (high power) with a barrel 25.7 calibers long. A total of 31 B-4 MM howitzers and 977 B-4 BM howitzers were produced between 1932 and 1941.
Also, the weapons produced by the two factories, like nearly all Soviet products, were not completely compatible with each other. Details differed between the production of the two factories but were not standardized, which was something which would only be encountered during the war. Also, as the carriage design was well liked, two other weapons were planned to go on this carriage: the Br-2 long-barreled 152mm gun with a 47 caliber barrel, and the Br-5 280mm mortar with a 17 caliber barrel. Both were slightly different, as the Br-2 needed an additional balancer to hold the barrel in position and the Br-5 needed a different recoil brake. A total of 27 Br-2 152mm guns and 47 Br-5 mortars were built. All were to be towed by the Voroshilovets heavy artillery prime mover.
The Soviets started the war with 792 B-4 howitzers, but in the first six months lost 75 in combat while getting 105 new weapons from industry. More were lost during the war, generally due to a lack of prime movers when needed, so the Germans did capture them and used them against the Soviets as the 20.3 cm H. 503(r). At least eight were in service in March 1944. At war’s end the Soviets still fielded 30 brigades and two independent regiments of B-4 howitzers with a total of 768 weapons. In 1955, the howitzers were upgraded to B-4M weapons with new high-speed wheeled carriages and a more modern limber.
After several resin kits and an initial injection molded effort from Alan, some of which were notoriously inaccurate or difficult to assemble, Trumpter provided us with a nice new styrene kit of this famous weapon a couple of years ago. I recently picked it up as well as the Voroshilovets tractor for it. Note that the same kit was also released as a joint project with Pit-Road with the latter coming with a crew; Trumpeter offers a separate crew for this gun but in pre-war Soviet uniforms.
I think based on measurements that the kit is of a B-4 MM and not the more common B-4 BM weapon. The one in the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg and the one at Aberdeen both appear to be MM models with the shorter barrel, and the barrel on the model comes out to right at 131mm long which is the 22.7 caliber one. The later BM barrel should be about 145mm long. This is odd, but most preserved early Soviet era weapons are prewar or prototypes which did not see service, and as the Aberdeen one was captured from the Germans it may have been one of the early war losses to the Wehrmacht.
The kit comes complete with the “big wheel” Br-10 limber and two 203mm projectiles; no propellant charges are provided with the kit.
Assembly is pretty straightforward but some of the seams may prove troublesome if care is not taken during assembly. This is a gun that Hollywood would love for all of its “bittiness” and items seemingly stuck on it at random (they’re not, but it looks more Victorian than a product of the 1930s). The “flip-out” spade is neatly done and if assembled carefully actually works.
As noted the gun barrel has the muzzle molded on one half and the second part is recessed, which most modelers report leaves a gap when assembled. You may wish to go straight for an after-market barrel (both for length and to avoid the seam). Note that while the breech block and obdurator (parts F13 and F16) may be presented in an open condition the directions show them as closed.
The directions are clear enough but you MUST follow the little grey arrows during assembly. The drawings are sort of laid out in order but then again they do meander.
The unique tracked suspension of this carriage is faithfully represented with each bogie taking up some 67 parts.
While no propellant charges are provided with the kit, it does come with two projectiles and two wheeled loading assist trays. Either they or what appears to be platforms may be attached to the box trail.
Finishing diretions are provided for one gun with the nickname “Boyevaya Podruga” (Combat Playmate). Overall 4BO green with black tracks before weathering and service, which is standard Soviet fare.
Overall this is a good kit – but why they picked an MM model vice a BM model is a puzzle to me. Note that Trumpeter makes the previously cited crew (No. 00427) as well as the Voroshilovets (No. 01573), but the weapon requires a complete crew of 15.
A 18 Lower Carriage
B 11 Limber, wheels
C 41 Track bogie frame, details
D 32 Upper Carriage, aiming equipment
E 67x2 Wheels, suspension parts
F 23 Barrel, barrel jacket, recoil components, two projectiles
G 28x3 Track links
– 7 Etched brass
– 2 Black vinyl tires
– 1 Nylon string