Nothing says “Halt!” to a panzer like a big lump of Russian steel hurling 76mm AP rounds. So I’ve upgraded my stalwart defenders of the motherland with some heavy metal: a Zis-3 gun.

The history bit

The Zis-3 was a 76mm gun that the Soviets used both as an artillery piece, and as a direct fire anti-tank gun. It’s often called the Divisional Gun, and in normal units it would be organised at that level, so rarely found in a Chain of Command game.

However, the Soviet unit I’m putting together is part of a Fortified Region. This was a strange unit based around only heavy weapons and machine guns. The battalions were called Machine Gun Artillery Battalions, and each one had its own Zis-3 guns. Earlier in the war the guns had actually been decentralised to a pretty insane level, with each company having a pair of guns! A company with its own organic artillery is an interesting unit indeed.

While occasionally used to support assaults, the main role of a Fortified region was to hold ground  taken by the manoeuvre units. Each regiment-sized Fortified Region would hold about the same frontage as an infantry division. What this boils down to in a Chain of Command game is that the attacking Germans could well find themselves bumping into a dug-in Zis-3 supported by multiple machine guns, and belts of wire and mines. The Fortified Region boys were not so good at sophisticated indirect fire, but were quite happy to dig their big 76mm guns into direct fire positions and give the Germans hell!

Incidentally, the Zis-3 is a mid-war updating of the old F22USV field gun on an AT gun chassis (for which it needed a muzzle brake). Loads of the old F22USVs were captured by the Germans and used as the guns on the early Marder tank destroyers, and the Soviets themselves used Zis-3s on the SU-76. So you could well play a game where both sides are blasting each other with the same gun!

The Warlord Zis-3 model

This is a decent-sized gun, but packs down into a single blister. Assembly was a bit more of a faff than it should have been. There’s an exploded diagram on the Warlord site, but even once I sorted out what bits went where I found the fit wasnt great. It was also flashy as hell, so maybe it’s a tired old mold. The exact location of the parts relative to each other isn’t obvious, you can glue the gun barrel and gun shield in a range of positions, so you’ll want to consult some reference pics online. Luckily there are tons of good pics of the Zis-3, as plenty of them seem to have been preserved as monuments.

When you look at pics of real Zis-3s your can see that the Warlord kit misses an important detail from the gun; namely the unusual tubes connecting to the front of the gun shield. The Warlord kit does have the little triangles moulded on where they should attach, so it’s a relatively simple job of cutting up a paperclip and you get something that looks distinctly more like a Zis-3.

Included are the wargames-standard three crewmen. These must be busy chappies bringing this 1-tonne gun into and out of action between the three of them. Luckily I made some spare crew to bulk it up to a sensible number when I built the 45mm AT gun. The crew are metal and in a mix of uniforms so will fit in with either winter or summer uniformed troops. One slight oddity is that the man actually firing the gun seems to be posed to fit on the right of the breech, but all the sights, etc are mounted on the left.

It’s a fairly long gun, but I’ve put it on a small base, as I want to be able to fit it into my trusty EWM gun emplacements.