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10Mar/180

Bolt Action M3 Lee medium tank

This is a M3 review double feature, as I'll show you today the M3 Lee and the M3 Grant (with track guards). The M3 Lee kit is a regular shelf product, that comes in a boxed set. Warlord offers the Grant as a made-to-order / direct order product.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

The M3 medium tank (not to be confused with the M3 Stuart / M3A1), was an American medium tank, that was supplied to other allied forces, like the British, Australian or Soviets during World War II. The differentiation between Lee and Grant, was done by the turret. The American issued turret (like in this kit) was called Lee, after the Confederate General Lee, the British issued turret after the Union General Grant.

The M3 was designed in 1940 and shipped in late 1941, but due to the overall poor performance (a good armour for the time, but high silhouette and the sponson mounted main gun) it was withdrawn from combat as soon as the M4 Sherman was available in sufficient numbers. The main problem with the M3 was, that it was a compromise design, as the Allies needed a medium battle tank as soon as possible and therefore they used what they had / could come up with in the time frame. Never the less the M3 was extensively used in the North African campaign, and as soon as the British received M4 they started shipping their M3 Grant to the pacific for the Indian armies. A total number of 6,258 units were built of the M3 Lee, 2,855 of them were handed over to the British government. The offered kit shows the M3 Lee / Grant I of which more than 4,700 units were build. Later variants had different hulls and engine set ups.

After the war some of the M3s were used as engineering vehicles, like Bulldozers, recovery vehicles and such. Some were even converted into SPGs, making the Yeramba the only self propelled gun every fielded by the Australian Army. It looks a bit like an improvised M7 Priest, which is no wonder as the M3 Lee was the base for the SPG.

The M3 Lee is a resin and pewter kit in 28mm / 1:56 scale and available at 24 GBP. It comes with no decals, the resin parts are bagged in bubble wrap and the instruction are on the back of the box.

I was ready to do this review, but then noticed a minor packaging error. As the M3 Lee and Grant have the same base (they share the tracks and hull) and only the turret is different, I ended up with the wrong turret in the box. A brief e-Mail to the Warlord customer service and 5 days later I had the proper turret in the mail. Mistakes happen, but Warlord has a proper customer service and makes sure they fix them right away. Thanks to Lorenzo for taking care. The pewter parts are mostly same with the M3 Grant, you get the two guns, four towing hooks, the hatches and commanders for the three nations (American, British and Soviet). The later is not part of the M3 Grant set, as they called their M3s Grant, but were delivered M3 Lees.

As you can see in the content picture, Warlord has a small leaflet added to their resin kits, giving you instructions on the (pre-)handling of the resin kits.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

Casting was quite good, minor warpage on the tracks and only a bit of flash on some of the edges. As this is a resin kit, make sure to wash the resin parts of the kit with warm soap water and give it a good brush with an old tooth brush or similar. You can use hotter water and re-align any warped pieces, if you have the need for it.

Here is a side by side comparison of the Lee and Grant turret, so I can see why a mispack can happen.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

And to ease the assembly, I added the picture of the instruction to show you where this is going, as for some unknown reason I ended up not taking pictures of the hull and tracks of the M3 Lee. Sorry for that.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee

The hull is marked with M3 Lee / Grant, as mentioned above, the difference in these kits is mainly with the turrets. Assembly is easy, put a bit of super glue on the track, hold it firmly to the hull and let it set. You can add grip to the surface by scratching it.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee

The turret has a smaller command turret to it, and you can add a tank commander to the hatch if you want to. You can glue the gun to the mount directly or pin it. I went with pinning it. As this tank will be used with my chindit force and I have other command vehicles in that army, I went with the closed hatches without tank commander. If you want to field the M3 Lee with an british army in Burma, you can build it without the smaller turret, as many british M3 Lee didn't have that one in use / were refitted in that theater.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

Next up is the hull mounted main gun of the M3 Lee. Again, you can glue the gun barrel directly to the mount or pin it with a small piece of wire.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

A rather fiddly step was the assembly of the towing hooks to the hull. You are supposed to glue them within the positional bars, but as the surface of the front gear compartment is curved, that is rather annoying. For that reason I drilled a hole in between and filed down the slab on the backside of the pieces to a pin that would fit the hole. Makes this step much easier. The alert eye will notice that the shown hull in the third picture belongs to the M3 Grant with track guards of the associated review.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Grant with track guards Bolt Action - M3 Grant with track guards

A quick comparison of the M3 Lee to the M3 Grant with track guards. Along with a mentioned before M7 Priest SPG and a british Sherman Firefly.

Bolt Action - M3 Grant vs M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Grant vs M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Grant vs M3 Lee

Bolt Action - M7 Priest SPG

And last but not least, the view from different angles.

Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee Bolt Action - M3 Lee

Conclusion
The M3 Lee / M3 Grant is a decent kit and quick to assemble. This resin kit is your choice for the mid war army projects that can field them, as I do not see a plastic release in the near future. The M3 mostly saw action in North Africa and the Pacific. It was delivered to the Russians, but as they produced 1,500 units of T-34 per month, after 1943 their need for the Lend & Lease tanks went down, so the M3 in Russian forces was mostly for second front operations.

Pricing at 24 GBP may not be cheap, but is around average for a resin tank that size. Blitzkrieg Miniatures is a bit cheaper at 22 GBP, Die Waffenkammer sets theirs at 32 CAD (roughly 18 GBP). Decals would have been nice, but I guess those will be added along with the stat cards and wound tokens in an upcoming re-pack of the M3 Lee.

There are a couple of field modifications of the M3 as a command tank for the British, even some Sherman look a likes. Panzerserra did a great job covering several variants on them on his blog: M3 Grant British Command Tank and the M3 Lee with casted hull.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

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