Model tank kits are some of the most popular among model builders. Tanks are an excellent choice for those who love weathering techniques. Unlike aircraft, tanks are usually operating in the worst of conditions. Therefore, there’s a huge possibility of adding mud, dirt, dust, snow, rust, and many other weathering effects.
Tanks are also among the best kits for diorama lovers. Building the model kit is one thing, but building the kit and placing it in a realistic setting of a diorama is on another level completely.
In today’s guide, we will take a look at some of the plastic model tank kits, that could be considered the best. Keep in mind, that there’s a huge variety of tank kits on the market and new kits are being released pretty much every month. As such, there may be even better kits available than those mentioned here. And secondly, there are no clear definitions of what makes a kit the best kit, so it’s always dependent on personal preference.
In the end, you will have to choose a model based on your preferences. We will initially cover the 1/35 scale, which is likely the most popular scale for armor builders. Over time though, we will surely cover the 1/72 scale and possibly the others as well.
If you are in a hurry, check the following table to see some of the best-rated tank kits in the 1/35 scale.
Best Plastic Tank Kits In The 1/35 Scale
|Tamiya M4A3E8 Sherman "Easy Eight"||1/35||278||View on Amazon|
|Tamiya M41 Walker Bulldog||1/35||125||View on Amazon|
|Tamiya M551 Sheridan||1/35||336||View on Amazon|
|Meng Panther Ausf.D||1/35||1040||View on Amazon|
|Academy Merkava MK IV LIC||1/35||?||View on Amazon|
|Zvezda T-90||1/35||458||View on Amazon|
|Rye Field Model M1A1/A2 w/Full Interior||1/35||2108||View on Amazon|
Now let’s have a look at the kits in detail.
Tamiya M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” 1/35 – Best Model Tank Kit For Beginners
This is a recently released new tool kit from Tamiya depicting the famous Easy Eight version of the Sherman medium tank from WW2. The kit has excellent details and is very easy to assemble making it a great choice for beginners.
The tracks provided in the kit are of the vinyl type. While vinyl tracks generally don’t look as good as separate or link-and-length tracks, they are extremely easy to assemble. Moreover, if you are going to do some weathering on them, no one will really notice that they might lack some details.
The gun barrel is made of two-piece plastic. I would probably look at some aftermarket gun to make the assembly and cleaning easier, but it’s not a must.
There’s also a figure of the tank commander included in the kit which is, unfortunately, becoming a rarity in the last few years. The commander figure looks a bit like Brad Pitt in the Fury movie :-).
Tamiya 1/35 M41 Walker Bulldog – Best Model Tank Kit For Learning Weathering Techniques
Yes, another kit by Tamiya. This one is dirt cheap nowadays, often costing less than 20 bucks. That’s the reason I would recommend it for complete beginners who would like to take on tank scale modeling. Or perhaps for those looking for a piece to practice new techniques on.
Even though it’s cheap and ancient (released more than 40 years ago), it’s not actually bad at all. For a kit of this age, the details are nice, the pin marks are hidden where no one will see them, and there’s pretty much no flash.
It’s a kit that can be built quickly and will look very nice when properly painted and weathered. Speaking of painting, this is a classic US tank of the past, so it’s supposed to have an overall olive drab coat. Again, very easy to paint, be it with brushes or an airbrush.
The tracks are made of vinyl and the gun barrel is plastic. Not surprising given the price and age of the kit.
What’s great as well, is the fact that there are three figures included in the kit – one tank commander and two infantry soldiers. Although the quality figure is nowhere near today’s standards, they will provide an excellent opportunity to practice your figure painting skills. As you may know, painting figures and minis is quite a difficult skill to master.
Tamiya M551 Sheridan (35365) – Best Vietnam War Model Kit
The M551 Sheridan light tank was designed to be dropped from an airplane on a parachute. It entered service during the Vietnam war and served for almost 30 years before being retired in 1996.
Tamiya first released a kit of this tank back in the 70s and by today’s standards, the kit is a bit outdated. Fortunately for all Vietnam War modelers, new tooling has been developed and the new kit has been released in 2019. And it’s as good as one would expect from Tamiya.
The level of detail is excellent, yet the model is relatively easy to assemble. There’s no flash whatsoever and the ejector pin marks are usually well hidden.
The kit comes with a plastic gun barrel; however, Tamiya also has an upgrade sort of package available which includes photo-etch parts and the metal barrel.
If you don’t like vinyl tracks and hate assembling tracks from hundreds of individual pieces, you’ll be happy to know that the kit has link and length tracks. These can be assembled much quicker than individual tracks and they almost always look better than vinyl tracks.
Among the kit parts, there is also a copper wire for a tow cable and vinyl mesh for engine grilles.
All in all, an excellent kit for both beginner and expert kit builders.
Meng 1/35 Panther Ausf.D – Best Panther Kit
We’ve got another 1/35 model to look at. It’s a model kit of the German WW2 medium tank Panther Ausf.D by Meng.
Meng is a Chinese company, that has quickly gained a good reputation among the modelers by producing high-quality model kits. Their kits are well-engineered and fit together nicely. The details are often as good as the Dragon kits offerings and sometimes even better, yet the price tends to be lower.
Meng has also started to produce sort of modular kits where you can decide whether you’re going to buy just the basic kit or include other additions such as workable tracks or a full interior.
This kit is the basic type of kit. What I am recommending here is only the basic kit which is quite nicely priced at about 50 bucks. It is an excellent kit just by itself with nicely detailed parts. The kit also includes a turned aluminum gun barrel, wire for tow cables, and three PE frets for other fine details such as the engine grilles or the side skirts. All in all, that’s a lot of nice stuff included for such a low price.
Now if you really want to spice the model up, you can also purchase a separate kit of the Panther’s interior and workable plastic tracks. By the way, the tracks included in the basic kit are of the single-piece type. Therefore, you will have to assemble them from hundreds of individual links. It’s not as daunting as it may sound, and this type of track, in fact, looks the best in the end.
There are four markings you can build from the kit. One of those is a vehicle that had Zimmerit paste applied to its vertical surfaces. If you decide to build this specific vehicle, you will have to create the Zimmerit on your own from putty or purchase a separate set of Zimmerit decals because the decals are not included in the kit. Fortunately, the three other vehicles did not wear the Zimmerit paste.
UPDATE: Rye Field Model has released a series of Panther kits, that might be even better than the Meng kit.
Academy 1/35 Merkava MK IV LIC – Best Cheap Modern Tank Kit
The Merkava main battle tank was introduced into the Israeli Defense Forces in 1979 and has already been developed into four versions. The one we are looking at is the latest Mark IV which entered production in 2004.
Academy is a Korean company with a reputation for releasing good model kits at affordable prices. Their kits may not be as well-engineered as those of Tamiya, but they still tend to be very good in terms of details and fit. They have released other Merkava kits before releasing this one.
This version is among the best-rated Merkava kits out there. It’s molded in tan styrene and comes with a single fret of photo-etch parts. Most of the fret comprises parts used to depict the steel chains and balls typical for the Merkava tanks. These are used as protection from projectiles, forcing them to explode before they hit the tank itself.
The tracks are of the link and length type where the part of the track running around the sprocket and idler wheels are molded as individual pieces and the flat parts are molded as one long piece. There are ejector pin marks on the track pieces that either need to be filled and sanded or during the weathering stage. If you’d like to have slightly better-looking tracks, Friul makes great metal workable tracks for Merkava tanks. However, these are quite costly.
Zvezda 1/35 T-90 – Best Cheap Modern Russian Tank Kit
The T-90 is a Russian main battle tank that entered service in 1993. It has been developed from the T-72B and incorporates many features of the T-80U.
Fans of Russian AFV model kits had to wait a long time for a kit of the T-90. Zvezda, a Russian-based company, answered the call in 2012 by releasing this kit.
The kit is molded in gray styrene and surprisingly doesn’t feature a pre-molded turret or lower hull tub. Both must be constructed first.
The details of the kit are nicely done. However, it would not hurt if the manufacturer included some photo-etch parts. Some plastic mesh pieces are included, which are used to create grilles. A length of a silver string is provided as well.
There’s no turned metal barrel in the kit, so you will have to do with a barrel made of two plastic halves.
Rye Field Model 1/35 US Main Battle Tank M1A1 / A2 w/Full Interior – Best Abrams Model Kit
The M1 Abrams main battle tanks were designed in the 70s, entered service in 1980 and their variants are still in active production. The tank has seen numerous conflicts including the Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, and the Iraqi Civil War.
This model kit allows you to build the second or third mainline production variants of the tank – the M1A1 and MA1A2. The camouflage options are as follows – the M1A1 can be built in either the NATO three-toned camo or the modern desert tan camo; the M1A2 allows you to choose from two units in the desert tan scheme.
An awesome feature of this kit is the fact that it includes the full interior of the tank. Of course, having to build the interior makes the building process much more challenging than a standard model kit and I would definitely not recommend it to complete beginners. The parts count is staggering 2,108 pieces, most of which are the parts used to build the tracks. 112 photo-etched parts are included, enhancing the overall look of the model.
All in all, this is an excellent kit for advanced model makers.
Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Model Tank Kit?
Several factors should be considered when trying to decide which model tank kit is going to be the best one to purchase. Let’s have a look at them now.
Complexity – Some model kits can be very complex and difficult to build. Generally, again Dragon makes excellent detailed models, which are often quite difficult to build, especially for beginners. Tamiya makes models that are well detailed and very easy to build. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell beforehand whether a model kit is going to be simple or difficult to build. A good way to check the kit is to look for build logs from other modelers who had already built the model.
If you are a beginner, you should consider getting a kit that’s not too complicated to build. Otherwise, you are risking getting overwhelmed and discouraged if things stop going the way they are supposed to. Some manufacturers, such as for example Revell, give their models a difficulty rating. Also in general, a less complicated shape of the subject usually means the easier is the kit to build. However, it’s always best to do some research.
As your model-building skills improve, you can start tackling the more complicated and pricier kits.
Era – Do you prefer building modern subjects such as the American M1 Abrams main battle tank or perhaps the Israeli Merkava tank? Or would you rather like to build a tank from WW2 or even WW1? That’s something you must decide on your own. Great kits are available for pretty much any era. I personally prefer building the German tanks from WW2 such as for example the Panther or the King Tiger.
Scale – This is again something you must decide on your own. The most popular scale of tank model kits is probably the 1/35, followed by 1/72. However, there are of course other scales available as well such as the huge 1/16 or the tiny 1/100. Available storage space is likely the most important factor to consider when deciding upon the scale. The 1/48 scale tanks can be quite big – eg. the King Tiger with its huge gun is about 12 inches (30 cm) long. On the other hand, the 1/72 scale tanks are a bit fiddlier to assemble and paint and are often slightly less detailed. My personal recommendation would be to try the 1/35 scale first.
Price – The larger the scale, the pricier the kit. Larger models are always more expensive, there’s no way around this. Prices vary a lot between the manufacturers. For example, a model kit made by Dragon can cost twice as much as a model kit made by ICM or Academy. Are the kits twice as good? No. At least not always.
Again, if you are a complete beginner, it’s not a bad idea to buy one of the super cheap ancient Tamiya kits to get some experience. They are not always bad and your first kits will most likely not look too good anyway, so why waste potentially hundreds of dollars on your first kit?
Detailing Sets – Advanced modelers may wish to spice up their models with more details which are usually provided by aftermarket manufacturers. They usually come in the form of photo-etch or resin sets. If you would like to use these sets, make sure they are available for the kit you are planning to purchase. These sets may not be available yet if you are eyeing a model kit that has been released just recently.
Metal Gun Barrels – Some kits, especially the higher price tier ones, come with gun barrels made of aluminum or brass. These look great and are easy to use since you don’t have to assemble the barrel from two plastic halves, a task that usually requires filling and sanding. If the kit does not come with a metal gun barrel it is usually possible to purchase an aftermarket barrel.
It’s also possible to find whole metal guns with nice muzzle breaks but these cost quite a bit more.
Tip: Some of the kits, both old and new, come with tracks molded from a rubbery material that is impossible to glue with your standard plastic cement. Your best bet, in this case, is a CA glue (super glue).
So this is it. This is the end of our guide. Hopefully, you now have an idea about what is the best armor kit for you. The guide will be periodically updated, so it might be worthwhile to check it again in the future.
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