The T-34 series is rightly regarded as one of the most famous and successful families of tanks of all time. The second-most produced tank ever, the (rather less laudably) most-destroyed tank in history, and with a combat career stretching, albeit in rather limited forms, well past the 2010s, it earned a reputation in the bitter crucible of the Eastern Front for being rugged, simple, dependable, and very, very numerous! Naturally, that means no Soviet Bolt Action force should be without one! We’ve discussed the arguably better-known T-34/85 variant (introduced in 1944) at length previously, but today we’re looking at the earlier /76 model and its sub-variants. Given that our plastic kit is so versatile, there really is a T-34 suitable for all manner of Soviet players (unless you’re doing Khalkin Gol, sorry!). Let’s have a look!
Designed to be the first truly modern ‘medium’ tank in Soviet service, and replacing a host of thoroughly obsolete pre-war designs and light tanks which, while technically fine, were becoming rapidly outclassed by German armour developments, the T-34 was a vehicle designed for modern combat, and incorporated lessons learned in combat against Japanese and Finnish forces. It also took into consideration the harsh Russian weather in which it would have to operate. While not a feature developed specifically in the T-34, its heavily sloped armour (which increases the effective thickness of protection while saving weight) in particular posed significant issues for German forces, who found their early-war 37 and 50mm guns only minimally effective against the T-34, particularly from the front. This in part led to the introduction of larger and more powerful weapons being developed, both for tanks and towed anti-tank units. Armed with (from the second variant) the excellent F34 76mm gun, it could engage most enemy armour at combat ranges with a good expectation of success.
Despite this perception of invulnerability, the T-34/76 suffered from a number of issues, the vast majority of which stemmed from the haste with which it was being produced. This was further complicated by the necessity of having to move enormous swathes of Soviet industrial production over the Ural Mountains, out of the way of the German advance, and the relative crudeness of Soviet manufacturing technology. Armour plate quality was a constant concern, as were overall manufacturing standards. Many T-34s suffered from poorly welded seams which would allow water ingress in wet weather, while the cramped two-man turret (which lacked a crew ‘basket’ and suffered from an unreliable turret rotation system) hampered combat effectiveness. Mechanical reliability, particularly in the transmission and tracks, was also a serious concern when attempting to undertake long route marches, vital in the vast distances of Russia. Despite these issues (many of which would be addressed in the more powerful T-34/85, but we’re here to talk about the early stuff!), the T-34 was broadly an excellent design, and when produced in quantity it was a serious threat to German armour.
One of the areas of the T-34 that saw significant and frequent revision was the turret design. This would often vary based on which factory had produced a specific tank, but could be broadly categorised into a series of year models. Our plastic kit allows you to assemble your T-34/76 with either the 1941 STZ-production, 1942/43 ‘Uralmash’, or hexagonal 1943 ‘Mickey Mouse’ (so nicknamed because of its twin turret hatches looking like ‘ears’ when raised) turrets, meaning you’ve got plenty of options to fine-tune your force to a specific campaign or era of the war! On the Bolt Action tabletop, the T-34/76 is a pretty classic ‘Medium/Medium’ – that is, a 9+ Damage Value Medium Tank, with a Medium Anti-Tank Gun in the turret, backed up by a pair of MMGs – roughly analogous to later Panzer III models. For 195 points at Regular, you get an excellent early/mid-war vehicle that won’t break the bank, and can also engage most peer and near-peer enemy armour with confidence. For games of Tank War, a platoon of them will leave you with plenty of points left over for bigger toys (or supporting infantry!) without sacrificing too much firepower!
There are also a few cool sub-variants knocking around to consider – the OT-34 (which can be built using the T-34/85 plastic kit) swaps the hull MMG for a fearsome flamethrower, which can be a really nasty surprise for your opponent (while of course becoming somewhat more vulnerable to going boom!), while Campaign: Stalingrad offers some really thematic options for T-34s produced in the heart of that epic battle, rolling straight off the factory floor and into combat. Naturally, in such extremes, certain small parts may be omitted – but who needs a gunsight, anyway?!
For me, a T-34/76 is an absolutely iconic part of any Soviet Bolt Action army, and with the three turret variants, they can really help identify exactly what kind of force you’re fielding. Even a simple replacement of one turret for another can completely change the thematic dynamic of your collection!
Comrades, start your engines. Onward to Berlin!
Other articles in the Forces of Fame Series:
Bolt Action – The Tiger I; Princess Elizabeth (Jubilee Special); Japanese Special Naval Landing Force; M18 Hellcat; Centurion Mk III; British Airborne; M4A3E8 Sherman ‘Easy Eight’; German Fallshirmjäger; FlaK 88; Panzer IV (Early War); Matilda II;
Black Seas – HMS Victory;