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Eastern Carolina Plastic Modelers
Build/Review Article
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Last Update: 1 Feb 2009

Dragon 1/6 M2 .50-cal Heavy Machine Gun
John Ratzenberger

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Dragon Models, Ltd
1/6 M2 .50 cal Heavy Machine Gun
Kit# 75012
MSRP: $17.95

I am a member of the IPMS/USA Reviewer Corps and built this as an IPMS Review; the following review may differ in format and content from that published on the IPMS/USA website. I would like to thank Dragon USA and IPMS/USA for providing the review kit and allowing me to review it.

The "M2", the "fifty-cal", the "Ma Deuce", the "M2HB" -- whatever you call it, it has to be one of the top ten automatic weapons of all times. Conceived shortly after WW1, it has been in service for over 80 years and is still out there, chunking away. It has served as a fixed or flexible ground and vehicle-mounted weapon, a flexible ground and ship-mounted anti-aircraft weapon, and as a fixed or flexible aircraft weapon. Air-cooled or water-cooled, all services, numerous countries, etc ...

Not only is it a great weapon, it also was the source of that great phrase "needs a headspace and timing adjustment" which can be applied equally to an ill-performing man or machine. When my First Sergeant said he was taking a Soldier into the arms room for that purpose, I knew that was my cue to check out the mess hall or maybe see how deep the Motor Pool was ...

What Dragon has given us is a1/6 scale kit of the Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .50, M2, Heavy Barrel, Flexible, Mounted on Machine Gun Tripod Mount, Cal. .50, M3. I have a 1944 TM and a 1940 FM on the weapon and it's use, but nothing modern -- no matter, not much has changed. However, this is a modern M2HB, evident by some details and the ammo can.

Despite the scale and the box art, this is a real model, not just a toy accessory. Yes, you can use it with your 1/6 figures, and your figures will definitely be far more spiffy than those sporting Walmart weaponry. By the way, our hero on the box art is not in the correct sitting position to man this weapon in the US Army -- that is, however, the sitting position we encourage our enemies to assume ...

Bottom Line Up Front

When done you will have a great model of a modern M2HB on an M3 tripod. Unfortunately getting there is not as easy a task as it should be.

A Look Inside the Kit

You get a box with, box art aside, lots of detail pictures of the assembled model along both sides -- save them, they make a handy reference. Inside the box are 3 sprues holding about 60 parts, a baggie holding 7 metal parts, a small decal sheet, and an instruction sheet. Not provided is the little T&E yoke/pin chain.

Inspection of the plastic shows nice, appropriately scaled detail with a minimum of flash. There are some ejector pin marks, very thick attachment points and, worst of all, a mismatch between mold halves which results not only in seams, but large round parts being slightly oblong. I spent numerous hours cleaning up this mess.

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The instruction sheet is a double-sided A4 sheet of paper in black and white. One side has the box art picture, a sprue layout, a color chart, and the usual warnings and construction symbol explanations.

The other side is shown here - a few pictures of the assembled model with part numbers pointed out. Other than "don't glue" symbols, there is nothing to tell you what to do, what order to follow, etc. This makes the box side pictures invaluable to understand the gun and tripod if you know nothing of the real thing -- but this still might not keep you out of trouble.

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It didn't take long to start a list of errors in the kit and the instructions:
  • the front lower leg (A6) is labeled A16.
  • the spades (part A15) on the two rear legs (parts A3 and A4) are facing the wrong way -- they should face the same way as the spade (A15) on the front leg (A6).
  • the 3 locking handles (A17) are twice labeled B17.
  • parts A29 and A30 are greyed-out as unused but obviously are the sleeve lock latch for the right rear leg upper section.
  • part A19 is greyed-out as unused but is the handle on the front leg clamp (A18).
  • the front leg clamp/handle (A18+A19) should be on the right side not the left.
  • the ammo box lid (A23) has openings under the attachments for the carrying handle (A25+MA4).
  • there is a large castellated nut (B23), not greyed out, but not shown on the instructions either -- it should go on the pintle bolt (B14). Strangely the nut is blanked over on the bottom end and I had to drill it out.
  • the ammunition markings are incorrect with regards to the decal on the ammo can and standard practice.
  • the ammunition links are neither the M2 or M9 that I remember.
The Tripod

I started my build here. Most of the things I found have been covered above. I wanted mine to "work" and built accordingly. I assembled each leg and cleaned each component. I did assemble the traverse bar slide (A12+A12) so I could clean it up -- this meant I could not attach the greyed out lock/latch (A29+A30) to the leg itself until later. Anyway, I spent an inordinate amount of time rounding parts and cleaning seams.

I rattle-canned most of this, trying to avoid hosing parts down too badly and getting any inside the upper legs. Once dry, I still found I had to wrap sandpaper around a bamboo stick and "ream out" the upper legs a bit to get the lower legs to go in smoothly -- be careful, if you try to jam the legs in you might open the seams on the upper legs.

After all that, I had a disassembled tripod so I attached the upper legs and a few tiny parts to the tripod base. Then I rigged the traverse bar (be sure the mil-marks are up), glued down the A18+A19 lock/latch and touched it all up. Last came the lower legs. The traverse bar slide (A12+A12) is subject to splitting if you treat it too roughly.

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The Gun

The gun could have been better designed -- the receiver is split in half and the seam is noticeable. The problem is that you have install the alternate feed, etc, inside before gluing the halves together. This means you're going to have to be careful with stray dust, filler, paint, etc, while cleaning up the seams.

It would have been OK to split the receiver if the top plate and the feed mechanism had been molded separately and used to cover whatever seams there were. I might mention this is exactly what they did with the back plate and it's really neat.

The retracting slide lever (B16) should not be glued to the slide (B13) but allowed to rotate -- you can do this if you ensure a tight fit and be very careful when operating. Also the slotted stud on the receiver is too big and the slide will not go full forward unless you trim the stud down a bit. If you are careful you can shove the slide full forward, riding the slide lever over the stud, then you can pull back on the handle with the stud forcing the lever to rotate, just like the real thing. But only a few times ... I broke it and had to rebuild it with a brass rod.

Nonetheless, I followed the same basic procedure as the tripod -- cleaned everything, made small assemblies, rattle-canned, then performed final assembly. Again, most the glitches have already been mentioned above. I made a chain for the T&E yoke/pin from a bracelet I found in Dollar Tree. And as with the tripod, I wanted the gun to "work".

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The Ammo Can

This is really disappointing. I already mentioned the openings in the top that I filled. Add to that, it is split right down the middle and takes some work to make a nice neat ammo can. Also note that hinge MA3 will not fit through lock MA6 without being straightened on one end then re-bent once in. You can close and lock, unlock and open the lid but be careful as it is tight without a lot of sanding of the hinges.

You get a linked belt of 20 rounds, and an insert for the ammo can purportedly showing the top level of ammo in the can. The insert fits inside the box quite snuggly -- I had to drill a few holes in the bottom of the box to push it back out after a test fit. There are 9 linked bullets, or rather half bullets, molded on the insert. The links are not the double/single-loop M2 or M9 link, and I don't know what they are and I can't fix it, not without cutting out every round and scratching up something else. All I did is be sure the belt links matched up to the insert links and moved on ... Because of the way the ammo lays in the insert you are pretty much forced to cover it over with the separate belt. I wish Dragon had simply provided several sections of belt, say one of 20 rounds and two of 10, and let us manage the ammo box loading.

Another issue, mentioned above, is the ammo markings -- the kit has all bullet noses fully painted red. The ammo can says it is 4-ball, 1-tracer, so the belt should have 4 unmarked rounds, then a 5th with a 7/16" red tip (about 1/16" in scale).

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And here it is...

Fully assembled, there are a couple issues. Because the T&E doesn't "E" you are pretty much stuck with leveling the gun by the legs. Because they did not mold the locking holes along each lower leg, it is hard to get them same length and hold them in position. Also, glue some weight into the ammo box, being careful to avoid where the insert goes -- without any weight the open lid will tilt the box, particularly because the ammo belt may push against it.

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Final Thoughts

As I said in the beginning, this is a model, not a toy -- and while it could be used with action figures, and certainly will look great, the working features won't stand up to much handling.

As I also said, I now have a nice model of the Ma Deuce, but it wasn't fun getting here. That's a long list of errors and problems for such a low part count.

Because of the instruction and construction difficulties, I recommend this to experienced modelers only.

Nonetheless, when complete, it is nice looking. An interesting project would be to backdate it to a WW2 configuration and/or scratchbuild the tools which come with the gun. Another good conversion/scratchbuild project would be a WW2 water-cooled 50-cal with anti-aircraft stand.

Despite my complaints about this kit, I bought their M1919 30-cal and am thinking about converting it to water-cooled. I like crew-served weapons and look forward to more (Allied) in this range -- say a Lewis and a Vickers. I also think these make good after-market candidates -- lots of room for little cotter-pins, some spiced up exterior detail, and certainly a fully detailed feed tray, cover, etc in the receiver.

I would again like to thank Dragon Models USA for the review sample and IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.

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