There have been four basic plastic kits of the 2cm FlaK 38 mit Sd.Ah.51 Trailer released over the years with the original Tamiya kit (#35102) some 25 odd years ago through the Italeri (#377) of about six years ago to the recent Tristar kit (#35010) from 2004 to the just released Dragon kit (#6288) with the standard of the kits showing the advances in moulding technologies along the way.
Please note; this comparison uses the original Tristar 2cm FlaK 38 mit Sd.Ah.51 (kit #35010) but they have since released an updated kit; German 20mm Flak 38 Late w/Sd.Ah.51 Trailer (kit #35029) which as well as being the later 2cm FlaK 38 version also addresses some of the issues with the first kit most notably the gun dimensions. This new 2cm FlaK 38 kit from Tristar is IMHO the best available in terms of accuracy available today in plastic kit form.
But the venerable old Tamiya kit which was the only game in town for so many years while overtaken in quality by the more recent kits will still build into a nice model with a bit of TLC so the main differences are as they say in the detail.
Firstly a brief rundown on the dimensions of the kits and interestingly all the dimensions are fairly close to one another with the largest discrepancy being 3mm in the length of the trailer frame between the Italeri (shortest) and Tristar (longest) with most other differences being around the 1.5-2mm mark which some may call trivial and shows all have basically got things right in the size department.
|The trailer frames: (not including the fenders
or tow hitch)
Dragon: Width 32mm Length 70mm
Italeri: Width 33mm Length 69mm
Tamiya: Width 34mm Length 70mm
Tristar: Width 34mm Length 72mm
Dragon: Width 46mm Length 54.5mm
Italeri: Width 46mm Length 55mm
Tamiya: Width 47mm Length 56mm
Tristar: Width 48.5mm Length 56.5mm
As can be seen from the above dimension samples the new Dragon kit is slightly smaller/finer than the Tristar kit and this follows through to most parts of the kits but again we are only talking small differences in many cases with some due to finer mouldings in the kits. But let’s have a closer look at the four kits broken down into sub-assemblies.
Abbreviations will be used below for Dragon (DR), Italeri (IT), Tamiya (TAM) and Tristar (TRI) to save a bit on typing.
The wheels in the kits are tackled slightly differently in design with the DR having the wheel rim and front half of the tyre in one part and the inner tyre section separately. This allows good detail on both sides of the rim with the contours being very good front and back and also the better inner detail which includes the tyre valve on the inner rim which fits into the hole in the front rim when the parts are fitted together for a nice appearance. The tread pattern is very basic but well defined with the two halves being a good snug fit leaving only a very minor join seam to deal with.
The IT wheels are designed with the same breakdown as the DR but lack any real detail on the inner rim as well as having a separate hub cap to attach the wheels to the trailer axle. The valve hole is also in the wrong place being too far towards the centre of the rim and the tread pattern is not well defined being the most basic of all the wheels.
The TAM wheels are moulded in one piece but there are three huge pin marks on the inside of the rim which will be difficult to remove. The hub bolt are little undersized but the tread pattern is very good and are the only tyres with the “continental” embossing on the sidewall.
Lastly the TRI wheels are also moulded as a single piece with a different tread pattern to the others which can be seen in some photos and offers a nice alternative. The rim contours and detail inside and out are well defined and there are no pin marks to be removed even given the one piece moulding.
It’s hard to give outright points for the wheels as they offer different details with the inner rim details on the DR wheels being the better with well defined outer hub details while the TAM wheels have excellent tread pattern and sidewall embossing. The TRI wheels offer an interesting alternative tread pattern with nice rim details while the IT wheels are at the bottom of the heap with poorly defined tread pattern and incorrect placement of the valve hole.
The design and part breakdown of the trailer is virtually identical in all four kits with the main trailer frame and wheel fenders included in one piece with separate parts for the axles/springs (the IT kit has these separate while they are moulded together in the other three), front hitch parts and other smaller fittings.
There is a mould seam to be removed from the frame on all trailers but apart from that cleanup is minimal although care is needed on some of the smaller parts.
All have the fender mounted tool box in one part except the DR kit where it is in three parts allowing the lid to be shown open if desired. The front “leg” can be assembled raised or lowered on all the trailers with the trailer/vehicle hitch is a separate part on all but the TAM frame but there is not a lot to pick between the four with the DR and TRI showing more refined detail due to their advanced moulding and the TAM does show its age with rather basic details in some areas.
Again the design of the platform is similar in all four kits as it is a simple
part on the real gun and the difference is only in the finer details. The TAM platform is clearly the least detailed and again shows its age compared
to the other three.
There are small profile differences in the outrigger legs with the DR and TRI being the most accurate as you would expect with all four having separate outrigger “feet”.
The four small “star” tightening hand wheels are included on the
main moulding with the IT and TRI parts but are included as small separate
parts on the DR platform and these are superb little pieces but of course will
need very careful handling both removing from the sprue and fitting but add
a really nice detail touch to the kit.
These handles are also included as alternative etched parts with the DR kit but these are best ignored as they are flat one dimensional and no where as nice as the plastic handles. The TAM kit doesn’t have these wheels included, just the stub where they go.
The small storage compartment on the forward leg is moulded integrally on all kits except for the DR kit where the lid is separate allowing this to be shown open if desired. The mould seam around the platforms also doubles as the weld seam found there with the DR and TRI kits paying more attention to this but the sprue attachment pints are right on this line and will destroy the weld seam as you remove the sprue attachments and probably will need the seam to be reapplied for a more even look.
Again there is not a lot to pick between them apart from the TAM lacking details due to its age and the DR and TRI having more refined details but the small star hand wheels on the DR platform are a standout feature.
As with previous sections the breakdown of parts is again very similar on all four kits with the two large side panels being almost the exact same dimensions on all kits except on the DR where they are about 1mm taller than the other three.
All have the left side traverse gear box as separate parts except the IT where
it is included on the cradle and you get as large sink mark to deal with as
The older IT and TAM kits have the left side 20mm ammo clip rack moulded with the cradle but these are three separate parts on the DR and TRI kits with the X stamping on both sides on both for good definition.
The DR kit has the weld seams around the cradle but again the sprue attachment points scar the seams and you may want to do a minor repair job for an even appearance, the other kit cradles have mould seam lines that could be left to simulate the weld seams.
The other notable thing with the DR cradle is the top bearing sections are separate parts that allow better detail definition to be included than on the other kits and the top shield support while included with the cradle moulding has the space between the support and cradle completely open on the DR and TRI kits while partly filled in on the IT and TAM kits.
The DR and TRI kits also include the elaborate inner brackets on the right hand cradle side that while not easily seen after assembly is a prominent feature when looking into the insides of the cradle. While both brackets have the correct number of holes included and represent the brackets well when compared to photos the DR part has slightly better defined details. The older IT and TAM kits simply miss this detail altogether as well as having no other detail on the inside of the cradles.
The traverse and elevation quadrants again have similar parts breakdown on each kit but the DR and TRI assemblies are better detailed with additional parts than on the IT and TAM kits to include the better detail. There is not a lot of difference between the DR and TRI kits in these areas other than the DR traverse box has another of those excellent star hand wheels added.
The main gun sight is a single moulding on the IT and TAM kit while broken down into smaller parts with the DR and TRI kits for better detail definition as well as the DR and TRI kits having the gunner’s foot rests with the correct two half moon brackets which are just flat on the older IT and TAM kits.
The TRI kit has alternative parts to allow the gun to be positioned in neutral 0° or 40° elevation position while the DR kit has additional parts for four barrel positions of 0°, 20°, 40°, and 60° elevation allowing a bit more variety. Corresponding alternative sight braces are provided to fit the sight in the correct orientation appropriate to the barrel elevation. You could of course modify the part to allow any degree of elevation for given situations in a diorama if required on all four kits but the IT and TAM kits only include one elevation and sight linkage rod.
There is a slight profile discrepancy with the rear contours on the DR cradle when compared to actual photos with the contours on the TRI cradle matching the photos perfectly.
An extra detail included in the DR kit only is the mesh spent shell case with etched mesh and preformed lower mesh section with plastic frames as often seen on 2cm guns. The rigid etched mesh will benefit from annealing with a flame to make it more pliable to get as better “sag” and using your fingers to form the contours will also help. The pre-formed lower etched parts are a little think and look a bit over scale but should be okay after painting.
All kit guns except the TAM have the lower cradle as a separate part with the TAM lower cradle included with the gun moulding with all having the circular
bearings also as separate parts. The IT kit also includes the small gun shield
supports with the bearing mouldings while all others have the supports as
Detail on the IT and TAM bearings are basically non existent while the DR and TRI bearings have nicely defined details around the lower sections.
I originally posted pics on the sizes of the kit and aftermarket guns based on information I had available at the time but Thomas Anderson has kindly provided me with dimensions of the gun taken from the actual FlaK38 Technical Manual.
The measurements are; full length of the gun (housing and visible barrel including flash suppressor) is 2252.5mm which equals 64.357mm in 1:35 scale and the visible length of the barrel with flash suppressor is 995mm being 28.429mm in 1:35 scale.
Armed with the corrected data it is clear the information I had available to me previously is incorrect leading to incorrect conclusions. The Technical Manual dimensions show the DR barrel length to be indeed correct with just a small discrepancy in overall length and that all other kit and aftermarket barrels are incorrect to different degrees.
In the image below I have rounded the dimensions to overall length 64.4mm and 28.5mm as to show fractions of mm in 1:35 is an exercise in futility. The image shows the four FlaK38 kit barrels with the DR barrel section the correct length with the others being about 2mm too long with the separate top received cover of the DR gun also the correct length. The overall length on the TRI gun is closest to the stated length but all except the IT gun are within 1mm of the actual length and this is almost inconsequential.
The gun housing on the DR kit is less than
1mm shorter than the dimensions given with the TAM and TRI housings
being 2mm too short with the barrel 2mm longer as a consequence but the IT housing
is 4mm too short overall.
This difference in housing and barrel length can make looking at the barrels a little confusing as they sort of offset each other and correcting the IT, TAM and TRI housings would take a bit of effort but the housing is not as obvious on the final kits as the barrel which sticks right out there.
DR gun to be all but the correct length with the barrel section matching exactly.
But of more interest is the large variation in the sizes of the various aftermarket barrels with only the barrels from Adlers Nest and armorscale matching the sizes given in the Technical Manual with all others being between 2 and 5mm too long. You can of course cut the barrels, remove the offending mm’s and re-attach the barrel but this is much harder being metal than if the barrels were in plastic.
The DR gun has three separate top receiver covers allowing the standard, late or Schwebelafette versions to be modelled while the other three guns have the top cover included with the gun. Both the DR and TRI guns also have a separate shell ejection chute cover with the DR kit having additional small parts for the lower cradle.
A 20mm ammo clip is also provided to fit into each gun and these all have the correct rib details included and the muzzle is hollowed out on the DR and TRI kits but the flash suppressor holes are only indented representations on both barrels while the IT and TAM flash suppressors are plain without any details.
The IT, TAM and TRI shields are designed the same with the two large front shields in one piece including the inner shield fillet with bolt head details on both sides and the hinge and shield support details also included. The IT and TAM shields have quite large pin marks to be removed from the insides and are bevelled at the edges to simulate a thinner look while the TRI shields are quite uniformly thin for plastic shields and look quite the part without any pin marks to contend with.
The DR shields come in plastic and etched metal with the plastic main shields having the upper and lower sections separate as are the fillets and also include the details on both sides although they are quite thick with the bevelled edges to give the thinner look. Of the plastic shields the TRI are clearly the better being of uniform thickness, or thinness as the case may be and are some of the better plastic gun shields you will find.
As mentioned the DR kit has a full set of pre-bent etched shields which also include three choices for the outer small gun shield to depict different variations. While the etched shields are more to scale thickness there are a couple of issues in that the bolts are fairly flat in profile and not rounded as they are on the plastic shields and there is also an indentation at the outer bend line of the main shields which should not be there and you have to fill these with solder if using the etched shields.
Given these issues with the etched shields the TRI plastic shields are the better of those included in the kits.
The lower turntable is again similarly depicted in all kits but the tread pattern is better defined in the DR and TRI kits than the earlier IT and TAM kits. The small joining bracket at the lower front of the cradle in included with the IT turntable while it is a single basic separate part on the TAM kit but in three pieces for both the DR and TRI kits for better definition.
The gunner’s seat has the frame support separate on all kits with separate backrest while the lower seat and bracket are in one piece in all but the DR kit where the seat is also separate.
The DR and TRI kit are clearly better detailed in this area than the earlier IT and TAM kits and all kits have a securing piece under the turntable to trap the platform between the two allowing the gun to rotate.
Each kit gives you a few extras to go with the gun although a gun crew is not one of them. The TAM kit just gives you three extra 20mm clips while the IT kit gives you four ammo clips, a large storage box and two smaller ammo boxes as well as three Kar98 rifles, three gas mask containers and three steel helmets to use as decoration.
The TRI kit gives you a closed spare barrel box, three ammo clips and four two clip ammo boxes with separate top sections with one having a clip partially out of the box and designed to have the lip open. The ammo clips have basic rounds represented on the end section but they are not that well defined but careful painting may bring them out further.
The DR kit is similar in that you get a spare barrel box which can be shown open with an inner piece with two barrels included in the moulding as well three ammo clips and a couple of two clip boxes. The spare ammo clips have very well defined round detail on the end of the clip which will come up well with painting.
The IT kit has no decals included while the TAM kit has a small sheet with an Afrika Korps crest and shield and barrel kill markings included.
The TRI kit has a small sheet with two different shield kill marking groups
while the DR kit has a larger sheet (although still small) with two sets of
shield kill markings, two sets of barrel kill markings and some small data
for the gun.
As mentioned all four will build into a nice FlaK38 with the older TAM and IT kits requiring some TLC and clearly the DR and TRI kits are far better detailed in all areas except maybe for the tyre tread pattern of the TAM wheels.
Out of the DR and TRI kits both will build into superb little models with
the DR kit including some nice detail extras such as the small star hand wheels
around the platform and the spent shell case although the etched mesh will
need care to get a natural look.
The wheels on the DR kit just take the points but the gun shields on the TRI kit are the better even with the DR etched shields while the remaining detail is very close all around with the DR kit having a few finer parts in some places.
So at the end of the day the DR and TRI are the standout kits with the DR kit being slightly better detailed overall but only by a small margin so the choice may be that of personal preference only
Also see a full comparison of available 2cm FlaK38 barrel and accessory sets here.
Muzzle Reference images
20mm FlaK in WWII
By Werner Müller
Schiffer Military History
Leichter Zugkraftwagen 1t
Panzer Tracts No.22-1
Includes accurate 1:35 plans of the 2cm Flak 30
Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer
Panzer Tracts No.12
Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Photo Album 4
Tamiya Plastic Model Co.
FlaK 30/38 Sfl
Wydawnictwo Militaria 172