In-Box Review
M1A1 USMC Afghanistan
M1A1 USMC Afghanistan Resin Kit with PE-Parts 1/35 (Dragon/Tamiya)
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


The good news is that Dragon's M1A1 AIM kit is one of the best values in 1/35th. It practically falls together, is very detailed, has few accuracy issues, and is surprisingly cheap to buy if you shop around. The kit usually tops most lists of "if you're only going to buy one modern tank, it should be...." And it's probably the most-famous tank of the past two decades, having fought in both Gulf Wars and now in a limited role in Afghanistan.

The bad news, however, if you're interested in doing a USMC Abrams in styrene out-of-the-box, is that you're SOL. As is "**** out of luck."

No styrene manufacturer has a decent "Jarhead" Abrams (that irreverent nickname for Marines apparently comes from the short haircuts popular with base barbers). And conversions or upgrades have been rather hit-or-miss until now. When I built my Bad Mofo in Iraq (click here), I had to rely on the kindness of strangers for corrected smoke grenade launchers, the AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device (MCD) unit, etc.

What was true for Operation Iraqi Freedom USMC tanks and post OIF Abrams is now just as true for the 14 M1A1s deployed to Afghanistan by the Marines: no styrene kit will yield a USMC-ready Abrams OOB. Heavy tanks designed to defeat a Soviet invasion of Europe don't fare well against insurgents armed with IEDs, especially in the mountainous areas of A'stan. But as noted, there are 14 tanks from Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward) serving in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan where the land is flatter (and the bad guys more susceptible to tanks).

And as has been true of Marines for generations, the A'stan Abrams have been adapted to the conditions, in this case dropping most of the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) kit except for three items: belly armor, the thermal sight on the commander's .50 cal MG, and the Loader's gun shields. After Market manufacturers are starting to address the gap in the USMC Abrams void, but up until now with mixed results. Voyager's new USMC Abrams set, for example, has been criticized because the sets include items not appropriate to M1s in Afghanistan, especially the explosive reactive armor on the side skirts.

The good news is that Perfect Scale Modellbau has now come to our rescue with an upgrade/conversion that will take a Dragon or even Tamiya M1A1 OOB to USMC A'stan-ready.


The set comes in a standard cardboard box with a photo showing the completed tank on the top. Inside you will find:

A zip lock baggie containing 70 gray resin parts
A piece of clear plastic for the Loader's gun shields
A small fret of PE
3 pages of instructions in German & English on two standard sheets of paper

the review

I'm really impressed with the research that went into this box: PSM has provided only the right components for an A'stan USMC M1A1, along with a few items the manufacturer felt modelers will want, even though they're not in use in Afghanistan, including the air intakes for the Deep Water Fording Kit or DWFK, and the loader's hatch armor.

The set runs from big items to the small, essential things like the USMC 8-barrel smoke launchers:

1.) 1-piece belly armor
2.) smoke launchers & mounting racks
3.) CREW Duke antennas (Counter Radio-Controlled IED Electronic Warfare)
4.) bustle rack extension with PE "floor"
5.) thermal sight for commander's MG (the "ma deuce")
6.) BFT (blue force tracker) antenna
7.) AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device (MCD) note: not on A'stan-deployed USMC Abrams
8.) a beautifully-detailed MCD cooling unit
9.) the "manhole cover" the MCD is mounted on (including correct attachment bars)
10.) MCD cable receptacle
11.) T/I (tank/infantry) phone box so soldiers on the ground can communicate with the tank commander
12.) forward air controller antennas & cable duct
13.) rear right tail light & cover
14.) Loader's MG shield with clear plastic for panes (note: loader's hatch armor is included in the set, but not used on A'stan M1A1s)
15.) slave cable receptacle

The casting is very crisp, and there was no obvious warpage as often happens with resin. For example, the delicate bustle rack extension rails all seemed to have survived the trip over from Germany with no breaks or warpage. Likewise the photo etch fret showed no bending or distortion.

While M1A1s in A'stan are a small portion of the AFVs deployed there, those of us who love Marine Corps vehicles know we have to have one of these tanks. Unlike with the OIF USMC Abrams, these babies are pretty vanilla in decoration, with few of the colorful names or individualized markings (and which require the cooperation of decal manufacturers). That does lead me to my one quibble with the set: it lacks the basic USMC markings. Apparently a supplemental decal sheet is in the works, but there are so few, I would have preferred seeing them included, especially given the set's price.


The instructions are in German & English, and lay out the elements to be added to the Dragon kit in a clear fashion that's easy to follow. One of the advantages of this "conversion" is that very little surgery is required, so the set will delight even first-time resin users (I don't have to repeat the warnings about resin dust to you guys, do I?). My only knock on the instructions is I wish they would identify the various components. I confess I sometimes have trouble remembering all the various high-tech gadgets and add-ons with their alphabetic forest of names found on the modern Main Battle Tank.

Quick: can you identify the BFT and not confuse it with the MCD, T/I phone box or CREW Duke antennas? You'll be tested on this later.


Simply put, this set is the answer to anyone looking to build a USMC M1A1 Abrams in Afghanistan. And for those who want a vanilla USMC M1A1 suitable for OIF or other scenarios, Perfect Scale Modellbau has a slightly cheaper kit (35080). The bottom line, though, is that my days of search and acquire are over, and a correct USMC A'stan M1A1 is in my future.

Our thanks to Perfect Scale Modellbau for providing this review sample. Please be sure to say you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.
Highs: A "one-stop shopping" solution to converting Dragon's excellent M1A1 AIM kit into an Afghanistan-ready USMC version. While it's resin, it doesn't require major surgery, so should be user-friendly to modelers with intermediate skills.
Lows: No USMC markings.
Verdict: Pricy, but worth it in my estimation. Highly recommended for you Marine Corps junkies, and you know who you are. Oorah!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 35085
  Suggested Retail: 39
  PUBLISHED: Oct 02, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Perfect Scale Modellbau!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright 2021 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. All rights reserved.


Gino, the Loaders' turret roof top armor blocks his vision when he is buttoned up. Outta here, Mike sends . . .
OCT 04, 2011 - 08:54 AM
I guess that would make more sense. Thanks for the correction.
OCT 04, 2011 - 09:03 AM
Heh Guys with this set you can build every typ of USMC M1A1 from any period of time .... of course one will have to do some research depending on Time, Place, Mission ..... but it's all there. What else would I want, compared to all the past years we have be waiting on a set that covers almost all possible options ? Cheers Christopher
OCT 04, 2011 - 09:07 PM
Max- Thanks for sharing those pictures. Yes I had soooooo much fun adding the fins. I also made the handle on the MCD from lead foil and wire.The SGL frames also looking good. Your stuff looks great. I will get myself a set for the next USMC Abrams on my list. Just for the other modelers out there this conversionkit comes with alot of extras.It allows you to make an USMC M1A1 HC for different deployments. I myself have been waitng for something like this for a few years. So don't be shy go and get one.I know it is a good excuse to use my surplus amount of Echelon's great sets of USMC markings. Thnaks Joe Bevans
OCT 05, 2011 - 10:34 AM
I just received my set, directly from Germany. It took almost exactly 2 weeks to get here, and it appears to be in fine shape, no issues with any parts that I can tell from a cursory look through the plastic bag. It came VERY well wrapped in bubble wrap inside the exterior package which was completely encased in paper and tape, and a nice receipt, too. Styrofoam popcorn cushioned the parts in the box, so you could not ask for better packaging! I have the first of 3 Dragon 3535 M1A1 AIM kits in hand (2 resales from Armorama acquaintances, and one new one purchased from a NJ hobby store by my new best buddy, Bill Cross, for me), and want to start the tank with this conversion ASAP, but gotta finish my Dragon Tiger I first. Darn!
APR 23, 2012 - 11:33 AM
If you get tamiyas M1A2 abrams there are extra parts in there to build a m1A1 in Marine markings
APR 27, 2012 - 03:39 AM
As a recently retired Marine Corps tanker of 23 years and Master Gunner that started on the dinosaur M60A1 RISE/Passive then NETT'd to the M1A1, with deployments in Desert Storm and Iraq, to include being an embarked tanker on amphibious ships (discontinued after Desert Storm but restarted several years ago), I can tell you all you ever wanted to know about Marine Corps tanks, and a little on the M88A1 and M88A2 HERCULES. I have a close friend in 'stan now working on repairing the Abrams and Hercules in country, a retired 2146 (tank mechanic) Gunny. I noticed some mention "old" APU (Army hull mounted) mounts but these were never present on any Marine Corps depleted uranium armored M1A1's. In the mid 1990's the Marine Corps did acquire some Army surplus non-Heavy Armor M1A1's but I don't recall seeing these with hull mounts for APU's. These "plain jane" M1A1's were only used in training as the original allotment of factory built USMC DU M1A1's were reserved for war stocks and on pre-positioned ships. Eventually the Marine Corps purchased additional Army surplus M1A1's due to Iraq but these were the depleted uranium armored (or Heavy Armor) versions then rebuilt by GD to Marine Corps specifications. All plain jane M1's have since been withdrawn from all units and a few completely remanufactured as the Marine Corps Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV). Also, the MCD was discontinued and removed from the Marine Corp's M1A1 SL-3 long before Afghanistan, though GD continued to put the MCD mounting rails on the turret ITV cover on complete rebuilds, but it appears they finally deleted them as they are no longer present on any USMC tanks in Afghanistan. Regarding Marine "markings" on USMC tanks, the only "factory" markings are the "USMC serial number" on the upper rear corners of the hull, and "LIFT HERE" next to various lifting eyes plus a couple of small instructional markings such as on the EAPU. All other markings are unit and crew added, such as company chevron and platoon hashes, which is at the discretion of the company. Since Marine combat deployments are typically 7 month rotations and tanks are very expensive to transport, the equipment is RIP'ed to the next unit which in turn may simply paint over previous unit markings. Due to the rigors of constant, long combat patrols, tanks get worn relatively quickly on deployment, so newly rebuilt tanks are rotated in typically every other RIP. BTW, there are several extra M1A1's on hand in country that serve as replacements in the event of combat losses. Anyways, I'm happy to provide technical and historical assistance to anyone if needed!
NOV 21, 2012 - 06:29 AM
I have the set as well. My only issue was the rear bustle rack extension was crushed. It was all packed fine, but those parts are really fragile. Luckily I have a spare one from one of the Dragon SEP kits.
NOV 21, 2012 - 06:50 AM
Jason, PSM will replace any broken parts. Ken, that's great, thanks for the offer.
NOV 22, 2012 - 07:41 AM

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