Zvezda produce a number of 1/100 model kits for Modern and Cold War vehicles. I’ve heard mixed things about their kits, and I think that’s because their kits are a mixed bag: some good, others not so good. With that in mind I picked up a handful of their M109A2 kits to use in my US Army Team Yankee force.
The M109 is the US Army’s self-propelled artillery gun. It was also used by a bunch of other countries, comes in a bunch of variants and has been operating for decades. The A2 variant Zvezda produce is perfect for the Team Yankee setting (I think the Battlefront Team Yankee M109 is the A2 as well).
The Zvezda kit would be pretty familiar territory to anyone who has ever built scale models: it’s a couple of injections molded plastic sprues in a little cardboard box with an instruction sheet and some decals. It’s pretty reasonably priced: I picked up 3 for $36 AUD shipped to my house. If you find it in a model shop then it looks like you’re paying about $15AUD/€7EUR/$10USD. The sprues are a fairly ugly tan colour, but the detail is quite nice. It’s not quite as good as the Battlefront M1 Abrams kits, but still they’re nicely detailed with minimal mold lines. I also didn’t find any bubbles or miscasting on the 3 I’ve assembled.
You can see both sides of the two sprues in the photos below. The last photo gives you a detailed look at the top of the hull. I’ve also added pictures of the decal sheet and instructions for the very curious.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this kit. They build to very nice little models. I mostly followed the instruction, and I found their use of a skeleton that holds the different components made assembly pretty easy. The skeleton also gives them a bit more strength and keeps everything nicely lined up. That said I did skip the skeleton on the turrets, because it’s only 3 small parts I found the skeleton made things a bit harder. However for the hull it was a life saver. I think it’s a bit better than the alternative (which is a tub onto which panels are glued) as you get more freedom to push things together and have the join lines disappear. The kit also has 2 build options: travel and firing position. The only differences are the plows at the back, a rest for the gun and whether the MG is present. While I built them all in the firing option, it’s a nice little option.
They also compare favourably with Battlefronts offering. The following pictures compare the two (the Battlefront kit isn’t quite complete, I borrowed a mate’s and they are in the process of building them.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is the different materials. BF’s miniature is a resin hull turret with metal attachments (guns, tracks, hatches, etc). I’m not a huge fan of this model format (part of the reason I sought out a plastic alternative). I find the metal parts never really stick well to the resin and if you drop it then pieces (particularly the tracks fly off). The next thing to note is the BF miniature is a little larger and chunky. Everything’s a bit heavier looking and bulkier on the BF miniature: it’s definitely carb loading. Personally I prefer the Zvezda styling, and the interesting thing is that I’ve not noticed this with the BF plastic kits. One thing I prefer with the BF kit is the tracks sag on the return, while the Zvezda kit’s are very neat and straight. However, in general details the Zvezda kit is better; they’re not as deep, but they’re straighter, crisper and less exaggerated. Because the two kits have such different styles I don’t think they’ll look very good in a unit together. The last thing I’ll note is the price. In Australia a box of 3* M109s is going to cost you about $60 plus shipping, compared to the $36 I paid. I don’t think it’s enough to make much of a difference, but you’re paying more for a lower quality model without any decals.
In conclusion I’d give the Zvezda kit 8/10 and definitely recommend it over the BF offering. Pros: plastic, better detail, cheaper. Cons: no stat card, harder to source.