The M50A1 Ontos (Greek for ‘Thing’) was a light, mobile anti-tank vehicle intended for Airborne units. Armed with 6 M40 106 mm Recoilless Rifles it could fire at an target in rapid succession, thus ensuring a hit. When the Airborne units lost interest the US Marine Corps picked up the project and were quite happy with it in the Fire Support role, for obvious reasons.
It was used heavily by the USMC during the Vietnam War in this role, serving up until 1969 when stocks of M50A1s ran dry. This heavily armed but lightweight vehicle was further armed with two .50 M2 machine guns as spotting rifles for the M40s and a single .30 M1919A4 machine gun for protection from infantry. If you want to see a Ontos in action, a short clip of an M50A1 firing is available on YouTube
The kit comes in a nice box with artwork of a loader loading one of the six guns of the Ontos, as you can see this wasn’t the best job in the world when under fire. Even with six shots you want to make each shot count! Upon opening the box we find a surprising amount of sprues for such a small vehicle underneath the excellent looking instruction manual. A nicely printed manual it is, although it could be a bit clearer on some of the details. But I didn’t spot many problems with it, it just appears a bit busy at times.
Onto(s) the plastic itself: it’s great looking plastic. A nicely molded upper- and lower hull and the rest of the kit is equally good. The suspension is fairly complex and you’ll need to take care building it. The guns are as expected also complex, with six guns and two spotting rifles (the .30 calibre machine guns) and the .50 machine gun all look pretty good and have some really fine details. The machine guns however seem a bit off-scale to me. A bit too short and ‘fat’. But to the casual observer this won’t be obvious unless it’s pointed out to them. One other small mistake is the size of the included shells. They appear a bit too big, and I think it’s best not to display than anywhere near an opened breach.
Speaking about the loader: the kit includes both a commander and loader figure, and both are really nice. Especially for figures included in a kit. So time to break out the flesh colours and tiny brushes because in my opinion this kit will shine with a crew next to it.
This kit also includes a small fret of PE, mainly some heat shields for the exhaust that will need to be bent in rather challenging ways. One part is supposed to have a concave shape, and another part ‘just’ needs to be O shaped. If you’ve never worked with PE (like me) this will be a ‘learning experience’.
Decals and color schemes
The decal sheet is not big as you would expect, but what decals are available are nicely printed and in register. The color schemes available are also limited due to the low number of users (ie. only the USMC), this kit features two schemes, both in the regular Olive Drab color.
A great little kit of a interesting and quirky vehicle that saw limited service, but it was quite effective in it’s niche role. The build itself will need care and patience, as some parts can be a little tricky. Probably not the best ‘My-First-Model-Kit’
Vehicle: USMC M50A1 Ontos