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Sunday, February 12, 2012

US Artillery

American artillery had not been given much attention by toy soldier manufacturers until recently. Most if what I had seen before was unpainted plastic and not really accurate representations of real artillery pieces. This post describes a few options that have been made available to us by Forces of Valor and 21st Century Toys in the past few years.

21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom

Also known as the 155 mm Gun M1 or M2, this field gun was designed and developed during the inter-war period and by 1938 it was officially adopted. It had a barrel length just shy of 7 m, and could fire a round up to 23km. Its size and weight (almost 14 tons) required a carriage with 8 tires in the back and two in the front. The barrel could be elevated from -2 degrees all the way up to 65 degrees, which means that if necessary the Long Tom was also able to engage targets such as tanks in direct fire mode. The Long Tom was operated by a crew of 14 and saw action in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. This gun comes to us from 21C Toys. Even though it is all plastic, it is still a really nice model with lots of moving parts. The carriage is detachable -and a bit hard to assemble-, and the gun can be deployed into firing position. The paint job shows a small amount of wear for added realism. 21C did a good job filling this previously ignored model niche.

21st Century Toys M59 155mm Long Tom
Here is the gun in its deployed position. Unfortunately, 21C did not provide any crew figures to go with it. Classic Toy Soldiers recently released some artillery crew figures which I have pressed to service the Long Tom, but with a crew of 14, it looks like I am still 11 men short...

21st Century Toys M115 8 Inch Howitzer

Also known as 8 inch Howitzer M1 or M115 203 mm howitzer, it was designed and developed prior to WW II as a replacement for the 8-inch British howitzer that the US Army had been using since WW I. Even though it was developed independently of the Long Tom, it was mounted on the same M1 Carriage. That's probably why it was an obvious choice for 21C Toys to produce this variant. It really looks like all they did was shorten the barrel of the Long Tom. Curiously, this gun was about 700 kg heavier than the Long Tom, even though the barrel was 2 meters shorter. The firing range was also 7km shorter, or about 17km in total. It was also operated by a crew of 14. 

21C Toys US Artillery Crew
This set is actually sold by Four Star Military. I have a feeling it was one of the last sets made by 21C before they went out of business, but you can clearly see that the style and sculpting is the same. This is a five man crew to operate a big gun, like the Long Tom in this picture. It comes with a few extras, such as shells and casings. The one odd pose is the guy who has his foot high up. I had a hard time finding a place to put him where he would look like he was doing something that made sense. Overall a pretty nice set, that will help man quite a few guns.

Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer

Also known as the 105 mm M2A1 (M101A1) howitzer, this gun was the standard light howitzer used by the US military during WWII. It weighed only 5000 lbs, yet it had a range of 7 miles (11 km), making it an effective infantry support weapon. It was widely used in all theaters. It's been so successful that it is still in service in some countries today. Forces of Valor has delivered this nice model to us. It is partly made of metal, and it comes with a crew of 3. The barrel can be elevated and the trails can be separated so that the spades can dig into the ground when firing. Another nice piece of equipment from FOV.

Forces of Valor M101 105mm Howitzer

Another view of the crew and the gun from behind. Note that the figures come without a base, which makes them a bit wobbly at times, but still remarkably stable for not having a base.

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part I
Here is another version of the 105mm howitzer, made by Dinky Toys. In this picture I have set it up with a crew from 21C toys. I believe it originally came with its own crew, but unfortunately, this one came without them. The howitzer has several moving parts, allowing the firing angle to be adjusted and the trails can also be spread apart when deployed.

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part II
So here it is with the original crew. I was happy to get the figures because they are not so easy to find, but I must say that they are not the greatest. The plastic feels hard and light. The kind that might break easily. And the detail is a bit rough in some parts, lke the face of the main pointing. Anyhow, all in all, I am still happy to have checked this set off the list. 

Dinky M101 105mm Howitzer - Part III
On this pic you can see that the trails can also be collapsed and hooked to the back of a Jeep, also made by Dinky. Interestingly enough, I bought a second Dinky howitzer and it turned out that it has a different set of rubber wheels, with finer thread design on them, similar to the tires on the jeep. 

21st Century Toys US M7 Priest

The Priest, also known as the 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M7 was a self-propelled gun carrying the 105 mm howitzer. This Priest was made by 21st Century Toys, and even though the box was branded as 'die cast', it is pretty much made out of plastic. Even so, it is a nice vehicle. I've actually seen it in a different paint scheme with slightly smaller stars that have a circle around them, and the name Annamae written on the side. This vehicle comes with two figures: a driver and a gunner.

Atlantic US Artillery
This is a set that includes the gun and 3 figures. I don't know if it represents an actual artillery piece that existed in reality or not. It could be an anti-aircraft gun as there is something that looks like a sight for the operator to aim through, but the barrel does not offer much elevation. The gun comes in multiple parts and needs to be assembled together. Everything snaps into place but you need to be careful when putting the barrel into its mount. I pressed a little too hard and snapped the mount in two. In terms of the figures, the gunner who gets to sit at the gun could have been given a more realistic pose. He really looks like he is just sitting there doing nothing. All in all it's one of those sets from Atlantic that are appealing to have for sake of having a 'complete' collection, and not so much for its poses or realism.

New Ray Howitzer

This howitzer came with some New Ray set. I don't even remember which one. I don't know if it represents an actual gun or some fictional model. And if it represents a real model, whether it is from the WWII period. In any case, given the limited availability of artillery pieces I have chosen to keep it and even feature it here. If you are not picky, they might come in handy as extra fire power, plus they are cheaper than those from 21C or FOV. As you can see, it blends well with the FOV crew figures.

Click here to see a post about American Tanks


  1. Personally, I have 5 of each of the 21st CT models and 5 old Marx 105s. But if American heavy artillery is thin on the ground, German heavy artillery is non-existent, except, if memory serves, for a self-propelled version or two (and they might be 1/35!). The only option is to press into service an Italieri 1/35 nebelwerfer mortar & crew. It makes assembling a large and realistically balanced playset difficult.

    1. Definitely an under-tapped niche! Then again, since artillery was always several miles behind the front lines, you would need a huge gaming table to setup a realistic scene... so you could just assume that the artillery is somewhere 'out there'

  2. The New Ray is indeed a BOFORS Gun! Here is a brief ARTY ESSAY by MAJ Liska:
    . I'll try to make this a layman's guide to understanding artillery.

    Just because it's a big gun, doesn't mean it's artillery in the classic sense. Or, if a collector wishes to use the older terms, then there are different types, or sub-branches of artillery.

    a. Indirect fire - This is the stuff that is called in from an observer. It fires up and over long distances to hit targets. It's fired en masse, in batteries of 3 to 6 tubes (light guns get more tubes and the number of guns in a battery is dependent on that nations Table of Organization and Equipment). These indirect fire weapons are relatively low muzzle velocity and fire in a long, predictable arc so they may be plotted. When you see the term 'Howitzer' applied to a given gun, most likely you're dealing with an indirect fire weapon. Sometimes, howitzers are fitted on tank chassis to use as assault guns to bust up bunkers, like the first versions of the Pzkw IV and Stug. III. Sometimes it's fitted onto a tank chassis to make a battery of Self Propelled Artillery, which can move and be ready to fire faster than towed guns (like the Hummel, Wespe, Priest or Abbot).

    b. Direct fire - These are high velocity guns made to punch holes in armor. They don't work well for indirect fire, but can be used in dire straits. The range can't be controlled well because it will not arc until it's a spent round and it is not always predictable when it starts to drop. These are usually Anti-Tank Guns. Since they are direct fire, there is no forward observer. In some armies the crews belonged to the artillery branch, in other the infantry since it was that branch that they supported. Guns like the PaK 36, 38,40,43, etc, The 17 Pounder, the 25 Pounder, the M-5, The Zis-3, etc. If it's up there firing with or near the infantry and looking at its target, you have a direct fire gun.

    c. Anti-Aircraft / Air Defense / FlaK - These are high velocity guns, but that's to get it up high where the round bursts (by pressure sensing or timed fuze) in order to mess up aircraft. Why did the FlaK-36 / 37 work as an AT gun? Despite the stories, that gun was selected as a stop gap to deal with the larger French tanks and AT rounds just for it were designed. It obviously worked WAY better than anybody thought it would. The smaller guns are usually multi barreled to increase hit probability.Examples; Bofors 40mm , US 40mm 'Pom-Pom' Gun. Sometimes these weapons are also mounted on truck or tank chassis in order to provide quick support for moving mobile columns, like the Flak Vierling or Wirbelwind. If need be, they can be deadly in anti-personnel roles. Once again, there is no forward observer with these guns.

    1. Nice. Thanks a lot for the rich description!