Home > Reviews > USA > Vargas Scale Models 1/35 scale Kit No. R3D-35-074; US M2A1 Medium Tank

US M2A1 Medium Tank

Vargas Scale Models, 1/35 scale

Reviewed by Cookie Sewell


Stock Number and Description Vargas Scale Models 1/35 scale Kit No. R3D-35-074; US M2A1 Medium Tank
Scale: 1/35
Media and Contents: 44 3D printed parts in dark grey resin.
Price: Around US$75.00
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Clean, precise model of this seminal US tank; one-piece tracks and running gear greatly simplifies painting and alignment; very nice set of appropriate decals included.
Disadvantages: Apparently uses M2 suspension on an M2A1 vehicle (see text).
Recommendation: Highly Recommended for all pre-war US armor fans and linear fans of the M3 and M4 tanks


 As I wrote in my recent review of the David Doyle history of the M3 Medium Tank, “Everyone has to start someplace, and in the case of the United States Army and the medium tank family it finally got going with the advent of the M2 Medium Tank beginning in 1935. Using the acumen of the US automotive industry, they used those techniques combined with items such as repurposed aviation engines to create the first medium tank which entered production and service starting in 1938.

 “While the M2 was the first medium tank to get into production, it had to fight the triple threat approval of the Infantry Board, the Artillery Board, and the Cavalry Board, the three elements of the US Army that controlled the prewar Army Ground Forces weapons. The hardest thing as with the M2A4 and M3 Light Tanks was being able to arm the tank with a cannon, here being a 37mm gun. 72 M2 tanks were built, followed by 126 improved M2A1 with a larger turret for the 37mm gun.”

 The M2 was thus focused on infantry support, and in its original version carried no less than eight .30 caliber machine guns: two fixed in the bow, four moveable ones at the corners of the casemate, and two more clipped to the sides of the turret for probable air defense. It did not get a coaxial one with the 37mm turret gun until the advent of the M2A1 version as modeled here.

Protection was thin with only a maximum of 1 ½” of armor protection in most places. An air-cooled radial Wright R-975 engine of 400 HP. The tank had a crew of five, which means those designated as gunners were probably pretty busy!



There has been some earlier resin kits of the M2A1 offered, two of which came from Commander models. The first one was done about 1990 and suffered from being a “cheese block” with a lot of shrinkage and warpage problems. The second one, dating from 2011, now consisted of 164 parts in light tan resin and etched brass and had very little warpage. But it did suffer from some other problems such as incomplete casting, an open engine bay with no interior, and came without a set of tracks. It was designed to use standard M3/M4 tracks, which were only fitted to the M2 and M2A1 during rebuilding later in their careers when no longer frontline vehicles.    

This kit comes with 3D printed parts with five separate parts and 39 parts mounted on a casting frame. All of the parts need to have the printing threads cut away from them but as they are fairly innocuous it is easy to do. Unlike early printed kits, there is next to zero “layering” where the printed layers stick out and the surfaces need to be sanded or filed smooth.

The turret and hull come printed complete with hollow interiors, but all hatches are closed and there is no open grillwork in the hull to show the very visible engine and components as on the actual vehicle. (The Commander one did have etched grills, but then no interior to display!) The small parts include two “WWI” style helmets and FIVE headlight and guard assemblies – there are a lot of warnings about “fat thumb syndrome” when handling the model during assembly! The machine gun mountings come in two parts – tub and barrel – and the directions cover either with or without use of the small armored shield to protect the sights.

There have been a large number of comments and complaints online about the width of the tracks. The M2 series used four different track widths according to Hunnicutt and Doyle: 11 5/8”, 13 ½”. 14 ½” and 16”. In scale that translates as 8.4mm, 9.8mm, 10,5mm, and 11.6mm. The kit’s tracks are 8.8mm or just a bit larger than the initial track used on the T5 series and the early production M2. Therefore they are too narrow for the later M2A1.

The options are either to live with it or to scratchbuild an M2 turret to backfit the model. As I do have an M2A1 from the Commander kit (a wrestling match described in “Military Modelling” a number of years ago) I will opt for the latter. Both M2 and M2A1 tanks served together in the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in 1941.

The decals in the kit are first rate and cover four different vehicles; however the reversed stars (red background with blue dot) are missing the dot! No finishing directions are included which is unfortunate. The reversed insignia and white band on the turret appear to be for the 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, in 1941. The most complete set of markings is for W-30496, Vehicle 6, C Company, 68th Armor Regiment , 1st Armored Division, mid 1941. This is one of the vehicles seen in the Warner Brothers short film “Here Come the Tanks” which shows the unit in action during training and is in Technicolor. The others are apparently for test vehicles at APG.

It is hard to fault Vargas for erring on the tracks, as running them to earth is not an easy task. The one previously at APG, test vehicle W-30445 or the second production M2, has undergone a lot of changes such as getting an M2A1 turret and having the T41 tracks from the M3 series fitted to it along with a phony registration number.