German sFH 18 Howitzer

Dragon 1:35 Kit #6392
Review by Terry Ashley

The 150mm sFH18 Howitzer was the mainstay of the German Army heavy artillery units of WWII and was used on all fronts and was designed with a small transport bogie unit attached to the trail arms.
Initially it was horse drawn but later versions used a towing vehicle, mostly the 8 ton Half-track with the SWS also used on occasion and there were some differences in detail between different production batches that show up in photos but the main features remained the same.

The sFH18 was also mounted in the Hummel Self-propelled Howitzer and was basically the same gun on a modified vehicle mounting therefore images of the Hummel gun can be used as reference for Howitzer, but watch as things like the elevation mechanism and some other smaller details are also different.

This new kit from Dragon is all new and doesn’t use any parts from other kits and extensive use of slide moulds sees a high level of detail on many parts most notably the trail arms and wheels but the instructions as we have seen in other kits will need an Enigma machine to work out things like parts numbered incorrectly, arrows showing parts in the wrong location, transposed assembly diagrams and parts not clearly showing how they fit or where they go, so I will try and decode much of this during the review.

Dimensionally the kit measures up very well to most available plans but it is interesting that the 1:35 plans in all the books listed below have the barrel dimensions incorrect with the only correct barrel plans I found being in the Panzer Tracts No.10 Atrillerie Selbstfahlafetten for the Hummel barrel. I am happy to say the kit metal barrel is also the correct dimensions both in length and contours but strangely there is no rifling in the muzzle which is quite noticeable in this larger calibre.

The Kit:

This contains 246 parts in the usual light grey plastic, 3 in clear plastic, 10 in Dragons DS vinyl, a turned metal barrel, 2 brass tubes and 4 etched parts plus of course the decal and instructions sheets.

The standard of moulding is excellent overall with clean crisp detail free of any sink or pins marks with those present either hidden after assembly or covered by smaller detail parts. The thousands of rivet heads around the kit are superbly done in most cases but there are a few areas where the small mould seam line is between rivets and cleaning this seam off without damaging the rivets will be quite a challenge.

Metal and clear parts

As usual with Dragon kits there are hundreds of small “nodes” on the parts to be carefully removed, especially from the smaller parts but these nodes help keep the parts clear of pin marks so the extra trimming is better than filling pin marks.

While the kit detail is very good there are things that need attention along the way and I take a different approach than normal and step through the instruction assembly sequences as this is probably the best way to show any work needed as well as the instruction bloopers.

Step 1 Barrel and Breech:

The breech is made up of 10 parts with a further 3 for the breech block with nice detail on the parts and easy assembly overall. Assembly is straightforward but the inner bracket (part A39) may need a little trimming to allow the 2 breech halves to fit snugly together and also watch as the instruction arrow points to the wrong position for part A39 although it should be clear where it goes.

The biggest issue here is with the lower gun slide (part A8) that does not have the lower lip that allows the slide to fit over the gun cradle but instead is just flat designed to glue onto the cradle in the firing or recoil position. This missing detail is quite a prominent feature of any gun/howitzer, not just this kit and its absence is quite puzzling. To fix this you need to glue a length a thin plastic strip along the bottom of the gun slide and when dry trim and sand to blend in with the slide (see image).

I could have actually used thicker card strip on my slide to better portray the detail but after adding this strip the slide fits to the cradle which has the upper slide guide as it should and you can easily show the barrel in the firing or recoil position but more importantly the detail is as it should be.

To fit the assembled breech block I needed to shave a small amount off the top and bottom of the block to fit into the breech opening and also not indicated is that the breech block opening handle (part A53) should be in a different position depending if the breech is open or closed. There is also another lever at the back of the breech (part A20) that also can be positioned differently depending of the state of the breech but his is also not indicated. Fitting the barrel in position is straightforward with the barrel drilled out to a depth of 35mm for good appearance but as mentioned the lack of rifling is quite noticeable also and will give scope for the aftermarket crowd to release a replacement with rifling.

Step 2 Gun Cradle and Recuperator:
The gun cradle is very nicely designed with one side being moulded in an L shape and the other side with the lower edge join bevelled so there is not join to be filled and there is excellent rivet detail on both inner and outer surfaces. You will see some pin marks on the inside forward section but once assembled and the top plate (part A58) is attached these will be hidden.

This design also eliminates the perennial central seam line of most howitzer kit cradles which is all but impossible to remove due the rivet detail but there is one small issue as there should be a pinion shaft along the inner lower left side of the cradle and this is represented by a small raised ridge and not well defined. It is easy enough to trim this off and replace with thin rod before gluing the cradle halves together for better detail.

At the front the recoil brake cap (part A30) should have a small round bracket added underneath as this is missing and you could also add small weld seams to be real picky but watch as the inner part labelled A39 should actually be part A29.

The large recuperator supports are again nicely detailed on both sides but there are some pin marks on the inside although these are completely hidden when the barrel in on place so not a problem. Assembling the recuperator supports is very straightforward and there is a small part (A13) added inside the top section to nicely cover the join and finish off the detail but watch this as the instructions tell you to put this in the wrong position. But it should be fairly obvious where it should go as once the supports are glued in place you can’t put it where the instructions indicate in any case and I also trimmed of the locating lip on the rear recuperator part (A5) and just glued this in place as the lip made it very difficult to fit.

Step 3 Barrel/Cradle assembly:
This is simply the joining together of the assemblies from step 1 and 2 and after making the mods mentioned above there were no further problems, just ensure you fit the recuperator piston (part A45) into the hole at the back of the recuperator.

Step 4 Left Trunnion and Base:
Both the large trunnion parts have superbly clean detail on both sides completely free of pin marks but there are the usual mould seam lines along the edges to be removed and as there are some rivets also located here it is a bit tricky to remove the seam line without damaging the rivets. It may be easier to remove the lot and replace the rivets afterwards.

Adding the additional detail items to the sides of the trunnion is very straightforward without any problems and there is an etched firing chart that can be added to part A6 but there is a small issue with the lower traverse cog wheel which we will get to later when fitting the gun mount to the lower base. Watch as part labelled A47 should in fact be part A46 but this will become obvious as they are quite different.

Also assembled here are the two large Pneumatic Equilibrators on each side of the gun and these are made up of the lower plastic piston, the upper brass tube section that fits very snugly over the plastic piston and the top plastic cap/attachment bracket. These fit together very easily but the upper join between the plastic cap and the brass tube has to be completely eliminated which can be tricky between the two mediums.

Assembling the lower trunnion base is again very straightforward with the parts nicely detailed and go together without any problems.

Step 5 Right Trunnion and Final Assembly:
The right side trunnion has a separate end plate with rivet detail but the instructions give no indication which way around this should go as the rivets are not symmetrical, but you should fit this with the rivet detail towards the top.

I found it easier to glue the right trunnion to the base and let dry completely before attaching the barrel assembly and the left trunnion as you only have to worry about one loose part in the process. (see image).

The gun cradle fits very snugly into the trunnion support holes but you also have to position the lower elevation piston at the same time and to confuse matters this is mislabelled as part A28 when in fact it should be part A7 and also remember not to glue the piston as this moves when elevating the gun.

Attaching the two Equilibrators to the upper pivots can be a little tricky but I found it easiest to position the small U bracket over the trunnion bracket and squeeze together with a pair of tweezers until they clip in place as trying to do this freehand will become very frustrating. The lower Equilibrators simply glue to the brackets at the front of the trunnions allowing the Equilibrators to expand and contract when elevating the barrel, all quite nice.

Step 6 Main Wheels:
The wheels are the artillery type as there are different style wheels for the Infantry gun and are basically in one piece with excellent tread and rim detail included using slide moulds although there are a couple of mould seam lines across the tread pattern with is easy enough to sand off.

At the back is a rim insert for good detail on both sides with the outer tyre having very small “Continentau” embossing and separate hub cap and tie down bracket with the inner brake drum and attachment brackets that are nicely detailed and fit together well.

It should be noted there are several tread patterns seen on sFH18 wheels with those in this kit being one of them and as mentioned the Infantry gun (horse drawn) having different wheels again.

Step 7 and 8 Lower Carriage Base:
This is probably the worst single section for instruction bloopers with parts C29 and C13 transposed meaning part C29 should be C13 and part C13 should be C29 if that makes sense? Also part C13 (main spring unit) is shown positioned the wrong way around and as it will fit either way it easy to get wrong. But you should fit this the opposite way around from what is shown in the instructions otherwise it won’t mate with the lower part C5.

The main axle (part C29) and the spring unit (part C13) both have heavy mould seams down the middle but these should actually be there as the real parts have welds down the middle so leave these as they come.

Assembly from here is straightforward but there are some gaps between the upper and lower base parts around the end curve that may be tricky to remove and lastly the rear face (part C19) has asymmetrical detail but the instructions do not show you which the correct way to fit the part. It should go with the raised ducting at the top, (see image).

Fitting the wheels to the base along with the connecting rod is straightforward but there are some small brackets missing from the centre of the connecting rod for those sticklers for detail and I would leave the assembly to dry completely as the large wheels have a relatively small attachment point.

Step 9 Spade Assemblies:
These are straightforward but watch the position of the four ribs (parts D3 to D6) as they are different and should go as indicated in the diagram. There are also additional parts added in Step 13 depending on your choice of firing or travel modes.

Step 10 Left Trail Arm:
Both the trail arms are superb pieces of moulding with the top and both sides in one piece due to the use of slide moulds and this results in clean well defined rivet and other detail on all three sides as well as being pin mark free. There is a seam line along the top edges of the arms and what seems like a large round pin mark at the ends but both these features are actual details on the real trail arms so don’t be tempted to remove these.

Be careful as the large attachment bracket on the front of the arm is incorrectly labelled and should be part B27, not B26 which is the part for the right arm and also the underside plate has asymmetric detail and again the instructions don’t tell you which way around this should go. But as it’s on the underside and all but hidden this would be a big problem if you guess incorrectly, there are also two rows on rivets missing from the underside but again you won’t see this unless you are an ant crawling under the model.

Adding the remaining detail is quite straightforward with just the many nodes on the smaller parts needing care while removing and the tools have moulded on brackets that will probably be replaced in the inevitable etched detail sets to come?

Step 11 Right Trail Arm:
As with the left arm the detail is excellent but the forward bracket should be part B26 not B27 as labelled with all other comments being the same as for the left arm.

Step 12 Transport Limber:
This is made up of many small parts all numbered correctly thankfully and after careful cleanup there shouldn’t be any problems during assembly but take your time as there are a lot of smaller parts.
The wheels are like the main wheels produced with slide moulds and have the tread and rim in one piece with excellent details and an inner disk allow the rivet detail on the inside to be cleanly rendered.

Step 13 Final Assembly:
This step is actually in two parts, one for firing mode and one for transport mode as you have to make a choice because the arms have different parts fitted depending on the mode and you can’t change this after assembly.

The sighing equipment is also added at this stage with the main sights in clear plastic and etched parts used in the mountings but the alternate parts used for firing and transport are not clearly defined in the instructions with the same parts shown for both. For the transport mode the upper sight (part K2) would not be fitted and you should check references on this. This is not easy unfortunately as most preserved howitzers have the sights missing but the Nuts & Bolts book listed below has some excellent close-ups of the sighting parts.

The large rear spades are mounted half way along the arms for the transport mode and obviously at the ends of the arms for the firing mode along some additional parts as well as some other alternate parts so as mentioned determine what mode you want before commencing this step.

The arms are attached to the lower base with the upper brackets (parts B28/B30) with the fit very good and snug and the large pin on the bottom of the main gun and cradle assembly simply slips into the lower carriage base allowing the gun to traverse.

There was a minor issue in that the gun assembly would initially not fit to the carriage due to the small traverse cog (part A44) which fowls the tooth gear on the carriage and I had to trim a small section from the cog for this to fit. (see image).

Finally there is a long transmission shaft (part C20 firing, C21 travel) fitted to the traverse mechanism (parts A35, A36) mounted on the right arm but the instructions don’t show where the end of the shaft should go?

In fact it should join to the bevel gear housing (part A43) added to the side of the Trunnion back in Step 4 and to make fitting this easier I drilled a small hole in the end of the shaft and part A43 adding a small wire pin which makes it easy to align this while also attaching the shaft to the traverse mechanism on the arm. (see image)

The limber also has a large pin that fits to the mounting bracket on the right arm allowing this to move if finishing the gun in transport mode.

One thing not mentioned in the instructions is that while in the travel mode the barrel is released and stowed in the full recoil position and to depict a gun correctly in travel mode you will need to reposition the barrel accordingly.


The small decal sheet has a selection of gun numbers and barrel “kill” rings as well as some smaller stencilling although the instructions don’t tell you where all this stencilling should go, some are indicated and I guess you can add the other as you wish?

There is no unit or other info given and the schemes are fairly generic being basically overall Grey or Dark Yellow depending on the period.

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Additional items included in the kit include two wicker mats in DS vinyl that are fitted under the main wheels while firing on soft ground so the gun doesn’t sink into the ground which is a nice touch as well as four wicker ammo canisters plus 5 change shells with end covers and 5 empty charge shells along with 10 rounds, 5 of one HE type an 5 of another to use in a diorama setting.

Blooper Summery:
I will summarise the instruction bloopers I identified so you can update your instructions sheets to hopefully head off any disasters.
  • Step 1:
    Location of part A39 shown incorrectly
  • Step 2:
    Location of part A13 shown incorrectly
    Part A29 incorrectly shown as A39
    Part A9 incorrectly shown as A59*
  • Step 3/4:
    Part A46 incorrectly shown as A47
  • Step 5:
    Part A7 incorrectly shown as B28
  • Step 6:
    Parts C24 & C25 transposed*
  • Step7:
    Part C29 incorrectly shown as C13
    Part C13 incorrectly shown as C29
    Part C13 shown the wrong way around
    Part C19 no indication of correct orientation
  • Step 10 & 11:
    Parts B26 and B27 numbering transposed, B26 should be B27 and B27 should be B26
    Orientation of part D1 not shown
  • Step 12:
    Parts E8 & E9 transposed*
    Part E2 incorrectly shown as E12*
  • Step 13:
    End location of parts C20, C21 not shown

    * Additional errors noted by Curtis Jurrens

Overall this is an excellent new kit from Dragon of the 150mm sFH18 Howitzer with the extensive use of slide moulds resulting in some clean well defined detail without blemishes and the level of detail on the parts is also very good as is the fit of most parts.

There are a few areas requiring attention, the gun slide bracket being the most obvious and there is room for additional smaller details for those wanting to add the final touches but note as mentioned there are different details on different production batches so seeing something in a photo and not on the kit doesn’t necessarily mean the kit is wrong.

A very detailed model of the sFH18 will result for this kit and it is difficult to see how the soon to be released sFH18 Howitzer kit from Trumpeter will better this kit, but time will tell that story.

Highly recommended 8/10

Also see the review of the Trumpeter kit #02304 German sFH 18 15cm Field Howitzer

The Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
Detail Images
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On the Net:


Model Detail Photo Monograph No.19
Published by ROSSAgraph
ISBN 83-919061-6-7


German Heavy Field Artillery

Schiffer Military History
ISBN 0-88740-759-5



Hummel Sd.Kfz.165
Nuts & Bolts Vol.10


Ground Power No.70
March 2000
GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd.

Thanks to my credit card and the excellent service fromRainbow Tenfor the review kit.

Page created November 18, 2007