Meng Models SPS-026 1/35 Russian Light AA Gun Set
First Look Review
Please see the Full Build Review on the AMPS website.
This is not a kit in the traditional sense of a model in a box -- in fact Meng labels it as part of their "Supplies Series" -- but rather four different modern Russian light AA guns for the "parts box". While each could be built as a simple standalone model, they might better be used as a component of a vignette or a diorama, or as detailing, enhancement, correction, adaptation, or conversion of a vehicle kit.
The four guns -- the ZU-23-2, ZPU-1, ZPU-2, and ZPU-4 should need little introduction, they've been in the news for years, certainly after they turned pick-up trucks around the world into "technicals".
The ZPU- guns are post WW2 developments of the KPV machine gun and the 14.5mm anti-tank rifle cartridge -- a pairing that produced a long-ranged, heavy-hitting weapon. The rather low rate of fire of a single gun, about 150 rpm, is enhanced by creating twin and quad mounts. Simple, low-cost, easy to move, flexible to mount and dismount to any type carriage or vehicle, flexible for anti-air and anti-ground use, they were ideal for Soviet/Russian forces and anywhere else they could provide them. The series was first used during the Korean War and while superseded by the ZU-23-2 in Russian forces, the series is still found in action around the world today.
The ZU-23-2 may be even more famous. While not as long-ranged as the ZPU-series, it has a higher rate of fire and explosive rounds. As with the ZPU-series, it can be easily mounted on vehicles, and has about the same advantages and is found all over the world. The carriage is an adaptation of the ZPU-2 carriage. The ZU-23-2 has two 50-round ammo boxes thus requiring frequent changes of box; additionally after about 100 rounds the barrels must be changed to cool down -- this cuts into the effective rate of fire. The gun is aimed and fired manually. It went into service in 1960 and is found around the world today.
Three of these guns were previously offered by Meng: the ZPU-1 with a Toyota Pickup as kit VS-001, the ZU-23-2 with a Toyota Hilux as VS-004, and the ZPU-2 with a Toyota Land Cruiser as VS-005. The ZU-23-2 and the ZPU-2 are unchanged from the originals, still containing those kit numbers on the sprues. The ZPU-1 has been re-done to correct the barrel length but I think is otherwise the same. That leaves the ZPU-4, on a 4-wheel carriage visually reminiscent of the Bofors Gun, as the new-tool offering but using barrels common to the ZPU-2.
Following this First Look, I'll do a Build Review of each gun -- either all-in-one or the new-tool ZPU-4 first, another covering the other three.
In the Box
I'll lead off with an overall look and then address each gun in detail separately.
Nice sturdy top-opening box with plenty of room inside for the sprues. These may be light AA guns but there is some heft to the box with about 500 total parts, just over 30 of which are photoetch. There are seven sprues (A, B, G, H, J, K, X) individually bagged covering the four guns and additional bags containing detail parts for the ZPU-2 and -4 (6 L in 3 bags and 3 M in one). There is also a fret (W) of photoetch, protectively wrapped, that is common to all. There were no damages, no loose parts -- and enough room to put them all back in the box after fondling. Also included is a 30-page instruction booklet.
Parts look great, even the originals. Very fine, very detailed, virtually flash and seam-free, no embarrassing ejector marks, etc. Some of the handles, seats, frames, etc, are so thin they make me nervous to think about cutting from the sprue - I am not a gentle person. Sprue attachments are reasonable.
Instructions, gun-by-gun, are in black and white with a little grey thrown in. The isometric views are rotated as needed to show clearly where parts go. They appear logical, certainly very clear and un-cluttered. Detail painting is clearly called out, to include shading of parts. Major parts are named and in various spots there are clear construction notes. There are several notation schemes that are not explained and I would urge anyone to study the instructions just to be clear as to which size/shape arrows, boxes, etc, mean what. Following are two pages from the ZPU-4 as illustration.
The ZPU-1/-2/-4 guns can be built either as Russian or Chinese (Type 80, 58, 56 respectively) with different barrels and a couple other details -- I'll not discuss this further. All but the ZPU-1 can be built in different "configurations", discussed later.
There is a single color profile of each gun in Russian Green, plus a second for the ZPU-4 in Iraqi Sand, and a small color reference chart using Meng Colors, which are AK Interactive colors with (different) MC-numbers. If you have the AK Modern Soviet colors/sets you have the right paints; I had none and purchased the Meng Colors for the review.
There's a rather complete half-page potted history, from which I cribbed a bit for the introduction above, and a one- page sprue layout to round out the useful stuff in the book.
The six L-sprues contain barrels, ammo belts and boxes, carriage wheels, and a number of small details for the ZPU-2 and -4 and the Chinese versions; they are the same as the ZPU-2/VS-005 sprues. The ZPU-4 uses different ammo boxes and wheels among other things, so there are a number of excess parts, the ammo boxes being useful with the ZPU-2 (and -1) and the ammo belts in any scene.
The three M-sprues provide a total of 6 receivers for the ZPU-2 and -4 and the Chinese versions; they are the same as the ZPU-2/VS-005 sprues.
The W-fret is new, a consolidated photo-etch fret for all guns.
What's Not in the Box.
There are no decals. It is hard to find photos of the guns with any visible markings or stencils, including the ammo boxes mounted thereon.
There are no extra ammo boxes or spare barrels other than the excess ammo boxes for the ZPU-2 (and -1) from the L- sprues mentioned above. Given the notes above about the ZU-23-2, any scene ought to have lots of ammo and a couple spare barrels nearby. It does seem that ammo comes in belts, in wooden boxes, to be loaded into the ammo boxes on the guns and I would assume spare ammo boxes would be available to be kept loaded and maintain the rate of fire. Perhaps an 026-A Supplies kit is coming along.
There are no instructions or parts for mounting any of the guns in a vehicle and probably for a good reason as variations are quite extensive. While many mounts seem to be a simple portee of a towed carriage, others probably need welded beams and such, probably easy enough to create -- let your inner shade-tree mechanic be your guide.
The new kit on the block is the ZPU-4 with two sprues, A- and B- shown below, plus common parts on the L- and M-sprues, and the W-fret.
The instructions allow for two configurations -- traveling and firing. In the firing mode, the guns will traverse and elevate with the gun and sights moving together. Not shown in the bottom drawing or mentioned in the instructions but part B25 (left side sticking out) is a travel lock and maneuvering handle.
We'll get into this more later, but it is not at all clear to me at this time that the ground jacks will lift the wheels clear of the ground. It appears, from pictures, that the front and rear axles must be rotated to make that happen and that is not possible in the kit without major modification from steps 8 onward.
The ZPU-4 can be mounted on a vehicle, but this is not offered as an option.
The X-sprue is reworked from the original kit to correct the barrel length error noted by Terry Ashley. That's it for this gun, except a few parts from the W-fret. The gun is so small and simple, I first thought something might be missing.
The only option is Russian or Chinese in a ground mount. No two-wheel cart is provided. The gun appears to both traverse and elevate.
There are two main sprues, the J-sprue and K-sprue shown below, plus common parts on the L- and M-sprues, and the W- fret.
There are three construction options -- vehicle mounted, ground-firing, and towed -- and the mount will traverse and the gun/sight elevate.
There are two main sprues, the G-sprue and H-sprue shown below, plus common parts on the W-fret.
There are three configurations -- vehicle-mounted, ground-firing, and towed. It does appear that with a little care the kit can be built to change between towed and ground-firing.
While the gun traverses freely, it will only elevate into three fixed positions determined by which part (H17, H18, H19) is selected -- that appears to be easy to modify.
First Look Impressions
Pros: Beautiful little kits, useable in a wide variety of scenes and configurations -- great value for the creative modeler.
Cons: The ZPU-4 cannot be built in the proper firing configuration without major work; there is a minor issue with the traveling configuration.
Highly Recommended (pending Full Build).
I would like to thank Dragon Models USA for providing AMPS the review copy.
Reviewed by John Ratzenberger, AMPS/Eastern Carolina Plastic Modelers and AMPS/Central-Virginia.
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The Half Point
Following are photos, from reference #2, that illustrate some of the points mentioned above and which might be useful. I have labeled them as "Image-letter" for later reference.
I mentioned the ZPU-4 can be vehicle mounted:
Image-A: On a Lebanese M113.
Image-B: A lot of gun for a small truck.
Image-C: North Korean parade.
And here's the ZU-23-2:
Image-D: Driving through town on a Kamaz.
Image-E: Firing from a GAZ-66.
Image-F: And in another part of the world.
These illustrate the issues I have with the ZPU-4 in ground-firing and travel positions.
Image-G: Here it is in travel mode but with jacks/pads down -- note the travel lock (B25) and the position of the axles/wheels.
Image-H: Here we are in firing mode -- note the rotated axles/wheels which allow the jacks/pads to be on the ground.
Image-I: Travel mode again.
Image-J: This is what the kit calls firing mode -- note the jacks/pads off the ground and also that the travel lock (B25) appears to also be used as a handle for positioning the gun on the ground. I'm sure the wheels could be chocked, as shown, but that's still not stabilized.
1. Koll, Christian; Soviet Cannon - A Comprehensive Study of Soviet Arms and Ammunition in Calibres 12.7mm to 57mm; Austria: Koll, 2009; ISBN 978-3-200 -01445-9.
This book is purportedly The Bible -- but it is out-of-print, out-of-stock, and, if found, probably out-of- price-range.
2. The inter-webby thingie.
Start at Wikipedia and travel on -- there are a number of articles from a number of sources and plenty of images. I have not bothered to capture and format all the addresses, etc, as they could change any time. Has anyone else noted that all the models we build tend to overwhelm the real pictures ?