Last April eager reporters from SteelNavy set about to prove that the claims made by Loren Perry about the Gold Medal Models 1:350 Missouri Fret were just so much smoke and mirrors. (Click for Review) However, they returned crushed and humiliated, as the quality of that set matched the words Loren used. Since that time revenge has been festering in their collective minds and their desire to have another go at GMM reached a fevered pitch with the arrival of the new Gold Medal Model photo-etched fret for 1:700 scale USN battleships of World War Two, GMM 700-3. Surely this time the band of talent unleashed upon the fret would find some defect, some error, some mistake to note and proclaim. SteelNavy is happy to announce that this mission was achieved, at least in part. The photographs in this article conclusively show that the 1:700 scale battleship fittings in GMM 700-3 are slightly edged out in fidelity of detail by the 1:1 scale versions of those same fittings by a company called USN.

Before we get to the great smackdown between 1:700 GMM fittings and 1:1 USN fittings, it is only right to mention all of the items that a modeler will receive if he acquires the new GMM fret. The fret is designed to provided detailed stainless steel fittings for at least four different classes of USN battleship of World War Two. There are items for the Arizona/Pennsylvania Class of 1941 as well as the Pennsylvania of 1945. Other items address fittings for the North Carolina Class, South Dakota Class and Iowa Class. This fret was designed to replace an earlier fret with the same number on the same topic. The redesign was prompted by the 1:700 scale Tamiya USS Missouri release. Loren wanted his fret to perfectly match the needs of the new kit.

Arizona & Pennsylvania
Any 1941 1:700 scale Arizona or Pennsylvania will benefit from the five fittings specifically designed for the Pearl Harbor battleship. The aircraft crane at the stern is of a different design than the fast battleship cranes. The stern catapult and aircraft shuttle/cradle are of significantly different designs than those found on the fast battleships. The fret includes a spectacular turret catapult for the top of X turret. This is one of the nicest items in the fret with a curved treadway at the base. The fret includes the unique narrow pyramid yardarms of lattice-work. Also you get the stack grate/grill for the class. The instructions also designate the different types of railing to use along the different decks and of course with Gold Medal Models, you get plenty of railing on the fret. Although these items are identified for the Arizona/Pennsylvania many if not most of them will probably be equally correct for other classes of 21-knot battleships of the 1941 USN. However, you would have to verify that through photographs. The 1945 Pennsylvania still retains the old style crane, catapult, yardarms and stack grate but adds a bevy of new radar fittings, of the same types found on the fast battleships and included on the fret.

Arizona and Pennsylvania
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BB0899AZ.JPG (75677 bytes) BB0901AZ.JPG (79583 bytes) BB0903AZ.JPG (133302 bytes)

Show Down at the Crane
To check the quality of this new fret from Gold Medal Models the parts of the 1:700 fret were compared against those same parts of 1:1 scale fittings produced by USN. This company has apparently been in the warship production business for awhile, although they do tend to gravitate to the large scale. The venue for the match will be the 27-knot battleship of the South Dakota Class, specifically USS Alabama BB-60. The first round will be the stern aircraft crane.

First of all the 1:1 scale USN crane has a ladder running up the face, placed on the left side of the face. Surely GMM didn’t duplicate that feature… oh, yes its there on the GMM crane. OK, what about that ladder? It looks like there are about three rungs between each horizontal support on the USN crane. Bet GMM only shows a couple … oh, there are about three rungs between each support on the GMM piece. There are six lattice panels on the USN piece, maybe GMM goofed on…but it appears that GMM got it right, six panels and the diagonal lateral supports on the GMM fret match the USN piece. Well at least it can be claimed that the USN crane is more authentic than its 1:700 scale GMM version because the 1:1 version uses tubular steel and the GMM version does not. Score a point for the USN. On to the next round!

Show-Down at the Crane
AL0082stern.JPG (73427 bytes) BB0912ALcrane.JPG (113339 bytes) AL9939fan.JPG (84709 bytes)
AL9943crane.JPG (58786 bytes) BB0904d.JPG (112217 bytes) AL9941crane.JPG (89236 bytes)

Battling Catapults
Since there are two catapults on the fast battleships, the winner of this round will receive two points. With the first two photos the side design can be examined. The 1:1 USN version has a clearly discernable rivet pattern, not so with the GMM 1:700 catapult. Next we’ll check the crew platform. Both feature clearly perforated platforms but the 1:1 versions has much more perforations. Next check out the catapult top skid. Both the USN and GMM versions feature the same steel grid pattern and double lines placed inboard but the outer line is slightly wider in the USN version. Wait… the USN version has no seaplane shuttle/cradle. There is no way a seaplane could operate of the USN 1:1 version catapults without those missing cradles. GMM lands a crushing one-two punch with two beautifully formed late war seaplane shuttles/cradles, as well as early war versions. GMM owners will have their seaplanes up and out scouting for big Bama while the 1:1 USN version will have to forgo aerial spotting. The round is tied. The USN took an early lead for accuracy but was decked by the GMM cradles. One point to GMM, one point to USN. Total after two rounds USN 2, GMM 1.

Battling Catapults
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AL9937cat.JPG (71483 bytes) BB0893ALcat.JPG (127976 bytes) BB0919ALcrad.JPG (122279 bytes)

Array Angst
Sensor arrays made up a large percentage of the GMM fret. About any radar array that was used by a USN battleship in World War Two is found on the fret. Starting with the mast head SK-2 array, we’ll compare the efforts of the USN and GMM versions. The parabolic dish SK-2 is found on the foremast of the battleship. A quick check shows the USN and GMM in a dead tie on this item. Both the 1:1 scale and 1:700 scale radars feature three concentric banks with six diameter braces. Next we go to the Mk 8 main gun radar. The USN gains a slight edge because of their band design with 10 bands at the rear and 14 bands in the middle, versus the constant 12 band design of the GMM piece. The contest for the supports for the Mk 8 appears to another tie as the USN and the GMM designs appear substantially identical.

Now on to the secondary gun radars, the Mk 12 and Mk22 arrays mounted on the Mk 37 directors. For the curving C-shaped Mk 12 radar found on the top of the Mk 37 director, the contest is very close. Both version feature the same layout with the same thin and thick horizontal supports but the USN edges out GMM in the shape of the array openings. They are rectangular in the USN version and more square shaped in the GMM version. With the Mk 22 the USN has a slight advantage because of their large center bar and 14 horizontal support bars compared to the smaller GMM center bar and 12 horizontal support bars. For this third and final round, the 1:1 USN versions again edge the 1:700 GMM versions. Final score – USN 3, GMM – 1.

Array Angst
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AL0086mk38a.JPG (75660 bytes) BB0898mk8.JPG (91486 bytes) AL0089maintop.JPG (43247 bytes) BB0918ALrad.JPG (123543 bytes) AL0093Mk37.JPG (134231 bytes)
BB0915ALsecR.JPG (146051 bytes) AL0098sMk37.JPG (150800 bytes) BB0897ALrad.JPG (86260 bytes) AL9995secdir.JPG (57125 bytes) BB0896ALrad.JPG (95842 bytes)

North Carolinas & Iowas
The fast battleships were not just the South Dakota Class. The first two were the North Carolina and Washington and the last four were the peak of US battleship design, the four Iowas. Neither of these classes has been forgotten in GMM’s drive to present a complete, comprehensive WW2 USN battleship fittings set and indeed the new Tamiya Missouri is the cause of the fret redesign. Most of the items found on the Alabama were also found on the earlier North Carolinas, plus a few additional items included on this fret. The tear drop shaped stack caps and boat crane arm are examples. Actually the boat crane was found on both North Carolinas and three of the four South Dakotas. Only Alabama was never fitted with this piece of equipment. The GMM instructions indicate precisely when each ship was fitted with the boat crane and when and if it was ever landed. For the Iowas GMM includes stack grates, upper and lower bridge windows and stack railing. Additionally, there is a plentiful supply of railing for any of the battleships with specifically designed runs of curved railing for the long sheer found at the bow of the Iowas.

To be fair, GMM provides a lot more on their fret than just the items examined. Railing inclined ladders, vertical ladders, various stack caps, antennae, multiple crane hooks and pulleys, life buoys, two & four bladed propellers, boat rudders with propellers, yardarms, and other neat items, many of which were not observed aboard the 1:1 scale USS Alabama. With these added to the comparison, the final result could have been far different.

North Carolina & Iowa Classes
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BB0891g.JPG (85407 bytes) BB0900d.JPG (110693 bytes) BB0892d.JPG (107167 bytes)

Other Considerations
In a final effort to be fair and balanced, SteelNavy will point out some minor considerations that may make a difference to the modeler.

Availability – Although GMM operates out of the State of Washington, the company has a plentiful supply of their fret of battleship fittings currently available. It is a simple process to order a set and to have them delivered in a week or two. Oddly, although there are more outlets for the USN, they don’t seem to have any stock on hand of the catapults, cranes and radar examined in this article. So it will be hard to know when an order of fittings to the USN will be filled.

Price – the GMM fret is a mere $12.00 for everything. That’s right you get the whole package for that one low price. The USN items seemed to be a la carte, in that each item is individually priced. I have not seen a USN price list but it is believed that their versions are substantially more expensive than the comparable GMM versions.

Shipping – Associated with price is the shipping costs. For GMM it is a paltry $1.50, however, since a USN 1:1 scale catapult will not fit in a standard size shipping container, you’ll probably have to pay a significant over-size shipping premium to get their version.

Scale – Sure the USN 1:1 scale items look great but they will be significantly over scale on your 1:700 battleship. IPMS judges will probably notice the difference in scale and penalize your entry. The GMM items are specifically designed to fit on your model and you’ll get the perfect scale effect.

Attachment and hull reinforcement – Because the USN versions are larger and heavier than the GMM versions, super glue probably won’t hold them to your model. Additionally the hull of your 1:700 model will need substantial reinforcement before it can safely accommodate one of these 1:1 USN fittings. The GMM versions are easily attached to your model with no special provisions being needed. 

Instructions - GMM instructions are comprehensive as shown below. USN, none.

GMM Instructions
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As proven through the photographs of comparable fittings, the USN 1:1 scale fittings edge out the Gold Medal Models 1:700 scale versions in quantity and fidelity of detail. However, if you are building a USN World War Two battleship in 1:700 scale, the high quality of the GMM fittings found on GMM 700-03, coupled with the comprehensive nature of the fret and low price make an unbeatable combination.