Reviewed by Jim Gordon
|Shipmodelers have endured poor quality 1/700 scale antiaircraft guns since waterline
kits were first produced. Skywave improved the situation for IJN buffs somewhat with IJN
sets that included finely molded plastic guns. But with the advent of ever better
photoetched railing, catapults, radars, etc, even these guns started to appear overly
heavy and rather generic. When that is the best available, it is acceptable because
nothing better is expected. I've tried scratchbuilding these guns with some success, but
they still appeared overscale. So when I heard that PE AA guns were on the horizon,
I became excited because this could be The Next Big
I've been awaiting release of White Ensign's 1/700th IJN AA Weapons since I perused their booth at the '98 US IPMS Nats. Their Royal Navy PE gunset was most impressive, and although the IJN set was not available, I expected comparable quality.
On finally receiving their IJN set I eagerly examined it under magnification using my Laser Death Ray. The WEM IJN set includes triple,double, and single AA guns of various small calibre and make. It more than met my expectations- the thinness of the brass is remarkable, and certain parts such as the trunnion are relief etched as well! I can't say for sure, but it appears that certain of the brass parts vary in thickness, the gun barrels being the thinnest and the trunnions thicker. Also included are etched baseplate, gunner's seats, sighting rings, elevation wheels, training column, foot pedals, and ammo clips.
This sheet is a delight to look at, but how would it build? I've assembled two of the 25mm triple AA guns thus far, so I can't speak for the sheet's other gun configurations. The instructions are basic and easy to follow, but distinguishing the actual parts from brass sprue takes time- I could not find the gun barrels as I initially mistook them for brass sprue! These will require EXACT trimming from the sheet. The trunnion assembly is the main piece, and folds easily with needlenose tweezers. (It goes without saying that I use a magnifier/lamp for this work) Little attached parts such as seats and wheels are bent into place, then the trunnion is glued to the circular base.
The triple 25mm guns are designed in two parts, a single middle gun, and two attached outer guns. The outer guns have a center support that glues to the trunnion. Here is where I ran into trouble. The face of the trunnion angles downward, and when the guns are affixed, they are aiming at the deck! The instructions advise bending the guns upward to mitigate this problem. I found this advice unworkable- the end result is the barrels point up while the breech points down - this looks assbackwards. And bending these fragile pieces without warping them is problematic, so I straightened them and tried a different approach. I changed the trunnion angle on the base, and angled the gun support upward to compensate. This worked, but it still didn't look entirely proper.
I believe I solved the problem on the second assembly and achieved a very proper gun. The upper trunnion cross piece is the source of the trouble, and removing it allows the triple gun to fit correctly into the trunnion top. I used cuticle scissors to remove this cross piece after the trunnion was securely glued to the base. This is very easy and does not effect the strength of the part.. The gun now fits into, not on, the trunnion and looks proper. And there it is- now that's a VERY COOL triple AA gun! I just sat there marveling at it. It's that good.
I've been waiting years for someone to produce these parts, and its very satisfying to finally have a solution for the AA gun problem. It's hard to convey the quantum leap these parts represent. Accuracy is very good compared to drawings in Skulski's Anatomy of Yamato. It's worth the forty five minutes or so to make one (a straight one!) although with practice I should get it down to 30 minutes? WEM is not exaggerating when they say these parts are for experienced modelers only. My prediction is that henceforward no serious contest modeler will dare show an IJN model with plastic AA guns. WEM has raised the bar that high.