This kit was just as fun to build as the T-34/85 kit was. Wonderful stuff!
The initial T-34 version had a 76.2 mm gun, and is often called the T-34/76 (originally a World War II German designation). In 1944, a second major version began production, the T-34-85 (or T-34/85), with a larger turret mounting a larger 85 mm gun.
The T-34 had the coil-spring Christie suspension of the BT, using a "slack track" tread system with a rear-mounted drive sprocket and no system of return rollers for the upper run of track, but dispensed with the weighty and ineffective convertible drive. It had well-sloped armour, a relatively powerful engine and wide tracks.
Initial 1940 production tanks were installed with the 10-RT 26E radio set, but this was soon replaced by the 9-RS model (also installed on SU-100). From 1953, T-34-85s were installed with the R-113 Granat ("garnet") radio sets.
The initial T-34/76 suffered from the same two-man turret limitation as other contemporary Soviet tanks; namely, that the tank’s commander was also required to aim and fire the gun while potentially also being a platoon commander and having to coordinate with other tanks. Most contemporary German medium tanks had three man turret crews with work divided between commander, gunner and loader. This problem, which had been recognised before the war, would be corrected with the addition of upgraded turret on the T-34/85 in 1944.
Some tanks also had appliqué armour made of scrap steel of varying thickness welded on to the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified were called s ekranami (Russian: с экранами, "with screens").
The Soviets lost 6, 4, 4 and 1.2 tanks for every German tank lost for the years 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 respectively.
By 1942 the most common Soviet main battle tank was the T-34/76. In comparison, the most common German tanks at the time were Panzer III with the 5cm KwK 38 L/42, later the longer 5cm KwK 39 L/60 and Panzer IV most of which were still armed with the short, low muzzle velocity 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24. Some Panzer IV tanks and StuG III assault guns armed with the longer, higher velocity 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 (or the longer L/48 guns) had also begun appearing on the Eastern Front by late 1942. This later gun was capable of destroying a T-34 frontally at around 1,000 metres.
By mid-1942, the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armour protection was equal or superior to contemporary tanks such as the M4 Sherman or Panzer IV. During 1942, the Soviets lost 6,600 T-34/76 out of a total of 15,100 fully tracked AFVs lost. The overall Soviet tank loss ratio for 1942 was similar to that of 1941, but worse for the T-34/76 - 44% of the tanks lost were T-34/76s. A study based on Soviet field intelligence reports identified the weapon calibres responsible for T-34/76s destroyed between June 1941 and September 1942:
During the winter of 1941–42, the T-34 again dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down; German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow. Improvements to T-34 were made throughout production, with a new 5-speed gearbox in 1942, which increased cross-country top speed to 30.5 km/h as well as many individual minor updates.
By 1943, however the strategic initiative had generally swung in favour of the Soviets. Although in 1943 the Germans were generally on the defensive and in retreat, the Soviets still lost 23,500 fully tracked armoured fighting vehicles including around 14,700 T-34s. a similar (3 to 1) loss ratio to the preceding years.
By 1943, the 76 mm could not penetrate the Panther's hull front armour and was out-ranged by both the Panther's long 75 mm and the Tiger's 88 mm. Even with the introduction of the Soviet 85 mm gun in 1944, the upgraded T-34/85 was still not their equal in firepower, but at least could, in theory, penetrate the armour of both Panthers and Tigers at up to 500 m (550 yd); whereas, the German 88mm and 75mm could still destroy the T-34/85 at 1,500 m (1,600 yd) or more.
The Soviets realised that the 1943 loss/kill ratio was unsustainable. In order to restore the technological balance they reduced T-34/76 production and moved quickly to manufacture the improved and up-gunned the T-34/85 with a new turret and the 85mm M-1944 ZIS-S53 L/51.5 gun.