Black Tree Designs are a fairly popular miniature company, but not one I’ve ever bought from before. Their recent half price sale on the whole WWII range was too good to pass up though, and among other things I picked up a Pak40 anti tank gun for my late war Germans.

The Pak40

This gun needs little introduction, being the strong right arm of German anti-tank defences throughout most of the war on all fronts. The panzerjagers and tanks might get all the glory, but Allied armour was far more likely to bump into one of these high-velocity 75mm nasties than a StuG or Marder. They were everywhere, and no late war German force is complete without one I reckon.

Late war Germans do rely on the AT guns a bit less once they had the panzerfausts and panzerschrecks available in good numbers, but there is a lot of fighting where those might not be an option. Early panzerfausts (eg: Panzerfaust 30) were frankly a bit pants, having laughably short range and were the only version available for a lot of fighting, from Sicily and all the way up Italy through the epic battles on the Winter Line, right up to Bagration in the east, and all of Normandy. The panzerschreck is a much more deadly beast, having good range and a nasty punch, and very cheap as a List 2 support in Chain of Command. The Pak 40 sits on List 5, but the larger crew, longer range and gun shield make it much more survivable. The Panzerschreck is an excellent ambush weapon, but a bit of a one-shot while the Pak 40 can and will duke it out head-to-head with tanks supported by infantry, as Phil recently proved in an Operation Martlet game.

The Model

First impressions: my god, so much flash. Some misalignment of moulds showed on the wheel rims, and surface finish on things like the gun shield were not good. Loads of flash had to be snipped off, cut and filed back.

No instructions are included, despite being over a dozen parts. All you get is a plastic bag full of metal bits, and there’s nothing on the website to help out, even the photos of the assembled model only show it from the side in fairly low res. I actually emailed Black Tree about this and got a really nice response from John Olsen explaining that they lost all their assembly instructions in a move some time back. He says they’re aware of the issue and in the course of getting everything repainted and photographed they will be putting   something up on the site, in the meantime he was very apologetic about wasting anybody’s time assembling mystery kits.

I managed to figure out how to assemble it by starting with the obvious bits (wheels, chassis, trails, etc) and working back to the more obscure ones by a process of elimination. I had to cut and file several parts to get them to fit properly, especially the parts that make up the cradle of the gun. The gun barrel and mounts are  five parts, and actually allow you to traverse and raise the gun, but since you’ll be gluing it anyway I think it’s more complicated than it needs to be.  Even after assembly I wasn’t happy with some of it, from pictures online the whole gun and shield seemed to be set too far back from the front of the gun, so I moved it forward until it looked about right.

pak40crew

The real thing. If these guys stood up the gun would be a little over waist high.

Even after all that there are some small niggles that bug me, such as the fact that the hole on the gun shield for the sights doesn’t actually line up with the sights mounted on the gun. Bottom line is that the gun is fiddly, not very well cast and doesn’t assemble that well. It also lacks a lot of the small detail (rivets, etc) that you get on the gun from Warlord or Artizan, for example.

All those are small issues, but something about he gun kept bugging me throughout. It seems like it’s just way too big. All the pics you ever see of Pak 40s give the impression that this was a really low-slung ground hugging beastie. It had a low profile and that iconic slanted gun shield. If you look at this gun it’s about the same height as the crew, while the real thing seems to only come up to about waist height on a standing man. I think the main problem is the wheels are too big, you can see this in the gap at the bottom of the flip-down armour plate at the front of the gun. That plate is supposed to be at ground level to stop bullets from taking out the ankles of the gun crew, but on this model there’s a big fat gap.

It's hard to see in these pics, but both these guys are very flashy

It’s hard to see in these pics, but both these guys are very flashy

The crew figures (of which there are only the usual three) were also very flashy. Two of the three are well-posed, but I’m not quite sure what the guy standing up is supposed to be doing.  But given how tall the gun is I suppose he’s less likely to catch a bullet with his head, so I suppose it doesn’t look that unnatural.

The crew are in early war uniforms with jackboots, but I’ll be fielding mine with additional bodies from Artizan’s very nice gun crew in smocks  so they’ll look ok for late war. The choice of jackboots and temperate uniforms for a Pak 40 crew makes it quite niche. Essentially you’re looking at early Eastern Front if you’re going to be a stickler for accuracy. I did a couple of head swaps for Warlord plastics with covered helmets to get rid of some of that “early war” look and position the standing guy’s head a bit more interestingly.

Painting

Due to the surface finish on the gun shield being a bit ropey I decided to paint the gun in a disruptive scheme. That way the camo could hide any lumpiness. I toyed with the idea of an ambush scheme, but I couldn’t find any evidence they actually painted AT guns in it so just went for a generic green/brown scheme to match most of my German vehicles.

I don’t have an airbrush, so using a knackered old brush I stippled a pattern on in Vallejo Luftwaffe camo green and then Dark Rust. To get a soft-ish edge I stipple it on, then go back and paint the centre of the blob, after a wash it blends it all together well enough for me. For the rest of the gun I found pics of all sorts of different colours online and it’s hard to tell what is accurate for the original colours, but it seems like most guns were pretty much dunkelgelb all over, including things like the breech. I painted a couple of bits like the sights black and put some metallic wear on bits where the gun recoils.

I pin washed some of the detail and then washed the whole thing in Army Painter Strong Tone ink and highlighted in Vallejo Middlestone, which is my standard recipe for late war yellow German stuff.

The crew all seem to be wearing some kind of sash across their chest, which I assume is for hauling the gun. I wasn’t able to find any pics or examples of it online, so took a bit of a stab on the colour.

Conclusion

Overall the gun was more a of a pain to assemble than it should have been, but not to the point you’ll be slashing your wrists. It is after all a fairly simple and rugged wargaming model, not a diorama quality kit. I picked this one up in a half price sale, so it was only £7. That’s a great price, but I wouldn’t pay the full £14 for it. Other manufacturers like Artizan and Warlord have kits that look better quality for that price. I bought a pile of infantry from Black Tree in the same half price sale, and they look ok. I’ll follow up with a review when I’ve slapped some paint on them.

I know this comes across as quite a negative review, but I’d like to point out that my issues are specifically with this model. From my dealings with Black Tree they seem to have great customer service, do some amazing sales, and their range is extensive (including a lot of unique character figures).  They’re a manufacturer with a lot of ardent fans, but if I’ve heard any criticism of them it’s that they can be hit and miss. This kit is more miss than hit.