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14Nov/170

Bolt Action Light Tank M3 Stuart ‘Honey’ / M3A1

You can't play a proper Duel in the Sun without the matching gear, and what would be a better match for this as the M3 Stuart? To show you all the different options of this kit in our review we went with the platoon box.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Platoon Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Platoon

The M3 Stuart was used by most of the allied forces and even as a captured vehicle by the axies. The M3 Stuart, or Light Tank M3 how it was officially called (and sometimes Honey by the British), was produced by the US Americans and supplied by lend and lease to the British and Commonwealth armies as well as the soviet Red Army. The British were the first to use the M3 in combat, back in 1941 in Operation Crusader. The light tank made up 170 of the total force of over 700 tanks. Due to the progress of armoured vehicle / tank development on both sides, the M3 was not used in tank vs tank combat but switch to more of a recce role. The tank was further upgraded but later replaced by the M5 Stuart. Post world war 2 mostly only the later M5 stuart was still in use, but with some exceptions. In some countries like Indonesia or South Africa the tanks were used until the late 1940 / early 1950, but Paraguay even kept them around until 2014 for training purposes.

The M3 Stuart is available as a individual kit for 18 GBP or as the here shown platoon box with a set of 3 for 50 GBP. It is a 28mm / 1:56 scaled hard plastic kit and covers 5 different variants (Soviet lend-lease M3, Honey, Stuart I/M3A1, US M3A1 and US M3A1 with hull flame-thrower).

Inside the box you'll find the sprues, along with 3 different decal sheets (British, US American and Soviet), damage tokens, stat cards and an assembly instruction. Beside the assembly leaflet each listed item is included 3 times.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Platoon

A closer look on the instruction shows, that the assembly is split into the two main versions of the tank, the M3 Stuart and the M3A1. The Soviet lend-lease M3 is an upgunned version of the Stuart, the Desert Rat variant is made desert fit. As with the M3A1 stuart, it is rather stock with the Tunisia variant carrying a drum and the Pacific variant using a hullmounted flame-thrower and not the .30 cal Browning. Both variants have their stat cards, covering the unit profile along with points. These and the new damage markers (black smoke, flames and white smoke) are now part of all new Bolt Action vehicle kits.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

The sprues were supplied by Italeri, as you can see the frame is rounded and covers quite a lot of small parts. It is more like a scale model kit, than a wargaming kit. But more on that later. The sprue is properly used and there are nearly no gaps.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

In this review I'll assemble three M3s, a British Stuart I 'Honey', a captured M3 740(a) and an US M3A1 (pacific) with hull flame-thrower. All of these share the same track sections. So assembly begins with left and right tracks as well as the lower hull. Casting is properly done, only a bit of flash and very little mold lines to take care of. Fit is quite good and causes no hassle. One of the few kits, were I didn't went with the added lead to the hull.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

After the first two steps, there is the first chance for alteration. If you want to field the Tunisia version, the upper hull needs holes to be drilled to add the external fuel tanks later. Other than that the upper hull and back plate is added and the .30 cal Browning is added for two of the three tanks, with the hull-mounted flame-thrower for the M3A1 (see third picture).

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

Chassis is mostly done, now the steps for M3 Stuart and M3A1 assembly are split.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

Further plating is added to the M3 Stuart, as well as the sand guards. The Soviet lend-lease would receive two further machine guns, which is not the case for the Honey. As for a vehicle of the 8th Army / Desert Rats, the Honey receives further detailling including tool boxes and cans. The M3A1 (third picture) receives altered plating, with different rivets and a what seems like stronger front plate. Other than that, the M3A1 with hull flamer was assembled without the track guards, as those would fill rather quickly with mud in the pacific.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

Here the almost finally assembled hull of the M3A1, and the side by side comparison of Stuart 'Honey' and M3A1. As you can see the differences are in the details.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

The next step would be the turret for the Stuart 'Honey'. The M3 had a more boxy, angular turret. The british version has optional smoke discharges, that need to be prepared by drilling holes into the side panels of the turret. The turret luke was build open, as I plan to add crew to this vehicle later on. Assembly was a bit tricky as some parts have very small connection point and need to be hold in position until the glue properly sets to prevent slipping / misalignment.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

The turret for the M3A1 is a bit rounder and has less parts. The hatch design was overhauled has now two lukes on both sides of the upper turret plate. Both variants have a turret mounted machine gun.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

Here is the side by side comparison of the Stuart 'Honey' and the M3A1 Stuart. Both basically the same tank, but with only minor differences on the front plate and turret.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

A brief size comparison with other tanks from World War Two. In the first picture between a Panzer II and Sherman, in the second in between the Universal Carrier and a M8 Scott (based upon the M5 Stuart). The M8 Scott is from the M5/M8 kombi kit by Rubicon Models. Look how large the Sherman is compared to the light tank M3.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

And last but not least, the different angle shots of the M3 Stuart 'Honey' (first row) and the M3A1 Pacific (second row). I'll hand in the M3 740(a) later, as the differences are mostly by camo / painted insignia.

Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart
Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart Bolt Action - M3 Stuart

Conclusion
This kit was long awaited, as there are no other Light Tank M3 kits made in plastic. Rubicon released the M5 Stuart, but that "only" covers the late variant and with a game like Bolt Action, were less is often more, this one fills in quite a lot of armies.

It is one of the kits, were Italeri supplies Warlord Games with the plastic, as such the kit is closer to a scale model kit than a wargamer kit. But they managed it to balance it out, as there are a few smaller parts and fiddly bits, but not in a way that wouldn't be handleable by a new comer to the hobby. The cast is well done and there a lot of rivets all over this kit. It even covers three different commanders, so you can field it as US American, British or Soviet. I'll use the metal tank crews by Warlord and Perry, as those are a closer match to the rest of the armies they are going to be field with. The third M3 was built as a Honey, but with less of the optional parts and some modifications, that I found online when I researched captured M3 Stuarts used by the Deutsche Afrikakorps under the title M3 740(a).

Pricing is fair, as you get a whole kit with two sprues and quite a few extras, but the final result is a bit difficult to put into perspective, as the M3 is a rather small tank, closer in size to the Bren Carrier, which is priced 4 GBP less. So if you want to get the most out of your bucks, get the platoon box and if you have no idea how to use 3 of them, share the set with your fellow players.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

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