Building Finnish Sturmi Ps531-17 based on the Esci kit by Stephen 'StuG Whisperer' Brezinski
Edited by Rob Haelterman

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G Sd.Kfz. 142/1
A Compare & Contrast Building Review

Finnish Sturmi, 1944
1/72-scale Finnish Sturmgeschütz Ausf. G conversion using the ESCI/Italeri kit.
A Chapter in the “All Things Sturmgeschütz” series.


In 1943, during the beginning of the third year of World War 2 on the Eastern Front, the Germans sold to Finland 30 early Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G assault guns. These weapons were the most modern and formidable AFV’s in Finnish service at the time, though, according to my resources, did not actually see combat till the major Soviet offensive in July 1944. “Sturmi” was a Finnish nickname for these vehicles, which were organized into an Assault Gun Battalion with three companies and support units. In 1944 a second batch of 29 additional Sturmis arrived, unfortunately not in time to see service in the Soviet 1944-offensive that re-conquered large areas of Finnish territory from Finland.
This initial batch of thirty Sturmis had a variety of features depending on the particular German manufacturer that produced them. All had the welded box mantlet; the rubber tired return rollers, and loader's hatches opening fore and aft. One Sturmi (Ps531-17) had 30-mm supplemental bow armor welded to the 50-mm glacis, the others had 30-mm bolted-on additional glacis armor and some (for example Ps521-30) had one-piece 80-mm bow armor plate.

None of this early batch had Zimmerit coating or the cast Topfblende (a.k.a. "Saukopf") gun mantlet, or the loader’s hatches opening to the sides. I understand that none of the Finnish Sturmis used Schürzen plate in combat, though one 1943 photo of vehicle Ps531-17 I have seen in the book "Suomalaisten rynnäkkötykkien kohtalot" shows it in its Finnish marking and camouflage and with attached Schürzen! These vehicle features I have just described will effect which kit we choose to use for our Finnish conversion. For further details I refer you to a superb article ”The Sturmgeschütz in Finnish Service” at:
Upon arrival in Finland this first batch of 30 were repainted in a Finnish 3-tone camouflage of brush-painted Moss Green, Sand Brown and Light Grey. The Russian DT tank machine gun (mg) was substituted for the German supplied MG34 and the opening in the Sturmi’s machinegun shield was enlarged and the mount changed for the DT machine gun. On the bow, sides and on top of the gun mantlet the Finns painted the Finnish national marking, the Hakaristi (to some mistaken for a National Socialist’s (Nazi) swastika), used by the Finns since 1918. This ancient Hindu (Sanskrit) symbol was also used by Latvia (in red color) before the Soviet takeover of 1939, and the Finnish Hakaristi had nothing to do with German National Socialism. On the front right of the main gun and on the stern of the Finnish Sturmi was a vehicle number running from Ps531-1 to Ps531-30 for this first batch of Sturmis. The Ps stands for ‘Panssarivaunu’ or 'Tank'. The number ‘531’ designates the vehicle as a Sturmgeschütz.

In the above photo (commonly found on the internet) is a column of 1943 Sturmi’s on the Carelian Front near Enso on June 4th 1944. In front we see a MIAG produced Ps531-27 with bolted on bow armor, welded mantlet, DT machinegun, the three-tone camouflage, the spare roadwheels mounted on the side of the superstructure, and a large wooden storage box mounted on the engine deck. The second vehicle in line is the subject of this model article: Ps531-17 with welded bow armor, the box mantlet, no spare tracks on the bow, and spare roadwheels mounted on the side. (Unfortunately I did not know this vehicle was Ps531-17 until my model was complete.) Note there is no concrete armor, hood over the driver’s visor, or logs mounted on the sides that were particular to Sturmi’s in July 1944. Note also that, though similar, none of the hand-painted camouflage patterns on these Sturmis are the same.
The particular vehicle I will be attempting is Ps531-17, which was a relatively rare Sturmgeschütz built by M.A.N. on a Panzer III Ausf. M chassis. With this chassis comes a deep-wading snorkel exhaust in the rear and single front opening maintenance hatches on the bow. Ps531-17 was one of the initial batch of 30 vehicles arriving in 1943. The vehicle was disabled and then destroyed by its crew at Kuuterselka on June 15, 1944 during the Soviet summer offensive and Ps531-17 did not get the opportunity to fire its weapon in combat. At the time I built my model I had not yet found any photos of Ps531-17 so some vehicle details and the color scheme were conjecture on my part. Soon after completion of this model of Ps531-17 I received a very helpful e-mail from Mr. Andreas Lärka pointing out some minor and some big errors on my part. Along with Mr. Lärka’s e-mail came four wonderful photos of Ps531-17 from a Finnish book "Suomalaisten rynnäkkötykkien kohtalot". Murphy’s law would naturally have it that actual reference photos of my vehicle’s camouflage scheme would come AFTER the model was complete!

This kit was originally released by ESCI in the 1980’s and at the time was much loved for its accuracy; how far we have come. Presently, in 2008, this kit has been re-released by Italeri. ESCI released the kit with stiff polyethylene band tracks and later injection molded styrene link & length tracks. Italeri offers the kit with the styrene link & length tracks. Through this article I will refer to this kit by its original heritage: ESCI.

Of the several StuG Ausf. G kits available at this time in plastic the old detail challenged ESCI kit was used for this conversion along with parts from the ESCI Panzer III M/N kit. This box art is unusual in showing a rear view of the StuG. No frame around the engine deck is included in the kit despite the nice box art. I find it interesting that in the box art there are no tools or other fittings on neither fender nor engine deck.
Why the ESCI kit? Revell AG makes a fine StuG III kit that could mate with a Revell Pz III Ausf. M kit chassis, but Revell’s Sturmgeschütz it is a late 1944-1945 StuG with features not typical of those sent to Finland. Dragon makes a very fine early StuG that is near perfect for use as a 1943 Finnish vehicle, and might even be able to be used with Revell’s Pz. III Ausf. M kit parts. The deciding factor was that I wished to assemble the ESCI kit and to freshly compare it to the Dragon and Revell. There were also several ESCI StuG’s and Pz III kits in my collection to use up and available for ‘butchering’ and not that many Revell and Dragon kits.

The very nice box art for Italeri’s re-release of ESCI’s 1/72-scale Sturmgeschütz shows off the features shown in the kit. We see the towing points at the bow made from the extended hull side plates, the Schürzen, the spare track holder on the 80-mm thick bow plate, and the welded and bolted box gun mantlet.

This scan of the ESCI kit instructions show assembly of the wheels and tracks. The rear idler wheel (part 8) is unfortunately a single wheel and not two wheels as offered by the Revell, Dragon and Trumpeter StuG kits. Following these instructions I believe I faithfully installed ESCI’s link & length tracks, but unfortunately this is backward from what they are on the real StuG.

This scan of ESCI’s instructions show the final assembly of the gun mantlet and Schürzen (side shields). A little historical issue is that these 5-mm thick heavy armor plates were actually intended to defeat armor-piercing bullets, and not shaped (HEAT) charges like the US bazooka. The Finns generally did not use these Schürzen in combat so the issue is mute here (though I do now have a photo of an early Ps531-17 in Finnish camouflage and with Schürzen!). A choice of the 75-mm gun barrel or 105-mm howitzer is given by ESCI, but again, as the Finns got no howitzer armed StuH 42’s, this choice is also irrelevant in modeling a Finnish vehicle.

Above is a side by side comparison of five different Sturmgeschütz kits. Revell’s late (final) version StuG III Ausf. G is second from the left, with the mid-war ESCI [now re-boxed by Italeri] StuG III Ausf. G used for this construction review in the middle.

This scan is a comparison of a number of 1/72 scale Sturmgeschütz gun mantlets, holding the StuK 40 gun’s recuperator recoil system within an armored box. The top four are the initial welded box mantlet introduced with the StuG III Ausf. F. The box mantlet was made with welded plate with a 50-mm armored front piece with tubular sleeve attached with four bolts to the box. At the very top is the dark green ESCI mantlet with a gun barrel. Comparing the ESCI kit to Doyle’s plans and to the two gray mantlets from Dragon and Trumpeter below it, we see that ESCI’s mantlet is much too large, the rear plate is much too thick and has no inclination (slope). For an overhead view see the photo below at Step-1. The gun barrel is overly thick, has a nasty seam line down the length and needs to have a thin piece of styrene glued to the front to correct the shape of the muzzle brake.

The next mantlet and barrel down is the Dragon offering, much improved and about the best so far offered. The 3rd one down, is a partially scratchbuilt mantlet I will use with this ESCI conversion, using a spare mantlet front from Dragon’s StuH 42 kit. Dragon’s mantlet was used as a model for this copy. Some detail on the rear face is still needed. Below, 2nd from the bottom, is Trumpeter’s box mantlet which is almost comparable to Dragon’s in quality; it is missing the top weld seams though these can be scribed in with little effort. At the very bottom is Revell’s yellow plastic Topfblende cast steel mantlet with coaxial mg introduced in 1944 with a nicely rendered gun barrel.

Above are comparisons of the sprocket wheels and idler wheels from Dragon (in gray styrene), from Revell (in amber color). The ESCI parts are the dark gray sprocket from the Sturmgeschütz kit and the oversize amber idler wheel in the center is from the ESCI Pz III kit. Based on the inaccurate size and poor detail you can see why I wished to replace these ESCI parts. I am disappointed in Dragon and Trumpeter by giving little triangular points for sprocket teeth. ESCI gives us accurate looking sprocket teeth.

Here is a comparison of three StuG III Ausf. G chassis sides and suspensions, with Revell at top in the light amber plastic, ESCI in the center, and Dragon at the bottom in light gray plastic.
Revell’s link & length styrene tracks and Dragon’s soft band tracks are much, much better than ESCI’s in accuracy, and ease of assembly. ESCI’s StuG III rear idler wheel was molded as one wheel with no groove for the track teeth so I replaced it with a spare set of idler wheels from Trumpeter. The ESCI sprocket is from the ESCI Panzer III Ausf. M kit, which is much better than that from ESCI’s StuG, kit, but still not as accurate as that from Revell, Trumpeter or from Dragon. ESCI’s sprocket’s hub is too small. While the holes in ESCI’s sprocket are way too big and too triangular in shape, the holes in Revell’s sprocket are too small and too rectangular. Dragon has gotten the sprocket closer to the truth. Dragon’s sprocket teeth are a bit too small and Revell’s sprocket teeth are even smaller and annoyingly inaccurate. Amazing enough, ESCI’s sprocket teeth are closer to the real thing.
ESCI’s Panzer III return-rollers are also molded as one thick tire, not as two separate halves like Dragon and Trumpeter. I am surprised and puzzled that the ESCI Panzer III uses hull sides and idler and sprocket wheels that are different from ESCI’s StuG kit. I expected more consistency from the company. ESCI’s hard link & length tracks were for many years the best available and apparently have been copied by other manufacturers such as Attack and by TP Models. By today’s standards ESCI’s tracks do not compare favorable to Revell’s link & length or Dragon and Trumpeter’s band tracks. ESCI’s tracks have no inside link detail or track teeth. For my assembly I added track teeth (made from styrene strip) on the lower, more visible run of track.

The goal is to create a rare Sturmgeschütz built by M.A.N. on the Panzer III chassis, of which only one was shipped to the Finnish Army in 1943: vehicle Ps.531-17. Considering the challenging kit I work with here I will not be attempting to make a Gold-Medal winning model but a reasonable and representative Finnish Sturmi. The features of this vehicle is the deep wading exhaust system on the rear; on the bow are different sized brake access hatches with no external hinges. The major differences of this M.A.N. StuG from the typical StuG III Ausf. G of the period would be on the engine deck and chassis. The upper superstructure would be the same as other StuG’s manufactured at this time: a welded box mantlet & machinegun shield. One photo of Ps531-17 after being destroyed shows the upper bow supplemental armor plate blown away exposing two holes for the Panzer III’s brake ventilation fittings that had been covered by the 30-mm armor plate. Finnish StuG’s do not appear to have smoke dischargers but did have many modifications particular to Finnish service.


With the conversion process to a StuG III on a Panzer III chassis underway we see the dark gray superstructure from the ESCI/Italeri Sturmgeschütz kit at far left. In the center is the upper hull with engine deck from the ESCI Panzer III Ausf. M kit. At far right is a partially completed ESCI StuG upper hull built out of the box, for comparison. In this case the Panzer III chassis had to be used due to the Pz III’s different brake access hatches from the StuG III chassis. The center Pz III hull has had the superstructure cut away so as to accept the StuG superstructure. ESCI’s engine deck vents on top are a little small and molded to the deck so there is no undercut. After sanding the vents down about half way, three spare vent covers were taken from a Revell and a Trumpeter StuG kit to improve the accuracy and then were glued down over ESCI’s vents. The two rear-most vents were not replaced since the large storage box common to Finnish StuG’s will cover this area.
On the unmodified ESCI hull at far right note how unacceptably too-large gun the mantlet is. We also see grab handles on top of the loader’s hatch which is a pretty rare feature; there were grab handles on the inside though. The underside of the commander’s hatch is missing the padded cushion and we might perhaps want to install a periscope gunsight. The Pz III hull in the center has a towing cable molded into the engine deck; this cable will need to be scraped off as StuG III Ausf. G’s put their tow cables on the track guards. Note that on the Pz III’s rear a white plastic armor plate has been glued on to improve accuracy.


This is the left front of the ESCI model with the suspension and tracks assembled. Additional welded-on supplemental armor plate has been added to the bow in the form of white styrene sheet. According to Spielberger this was typical feature of the Sturmgeschütz built on the Panzer III chassis. The opening for the main gun has had an additional plate added to the deck and some other armor strips around the sides and top. Around the cupola pieces of plastic have been added to represent the periscopes. On the front of the panniers the poorly rendered smoke discharges have been scraped off. On the sides of the panniers the holes for the kit’s side track-holders (parts 15 & 16) have been filled in.


A photo of the left rear quarter shows a little more development with the large Finnish storage box and support frame added to the rear, the armor plate just below the box, and ESCI’s Panzer III Ausf. M deep-wading muffler improved with some styrene pieces. The crew compartment exhaust vent has been replaced with a brass part from Part company. This is a good view to see that the ESCI Pz III sprocket is too wide coming almost out to the edge of the tracks.


At this stage the spare track links have been added to the rear of the superstructure, and the spare roadwheel holders added to each side of the superstructure sides (as seen in the photo of the Finnish Sturmis at the beginning of this review). The spare roadwheel holders on the side were one of the first modifications the Finns did. The roadwheel holders have been made from brass strip glued with super glue and painted with a white primer. The ring over the cupola periscopes has been installed.

The unpainted logs have been added to test their fit. After final painting of the vehicle and the logs the latter will be glued on. Note how the spare roadwheel bracket is used as the front support to hold the logs on. These logs mean that many of the tools that were mounted on the track guards have to be removed (likely stored in the wood box on the stern?). Later variants had the logs mounted with metal straps. See Andreas Lärka’s website for more details on these logs. On the rear of the left track-guard a fire extinguisher and the kit taillight have been added.


At this stage we have the 3-tone camouflage pattern, prior to the dark wash, final detailing, decal markings and weathering. Mr. Lärka states that the Finnish camouflage pattern was hand painted and had a hard edge. Based on the photos I’ve have studied I have noted that none of the Sturmi’s were the same. The pattern for this Sturmi was a compromise based on photos and diagrams from Andreas Lärka’s website. I had contemplated using Silly Putty for demarcation of the colors though feared the putty would take off or damage tiny details. After painting on my interpretation of the Finnish light gray (a gray color similar to Poly-S concrete color acrylic paint) and allowing the gray several days to cure, painter’s tape was carefully cut to shape and applied over the gray; then the green was sprayed on. Allowing several days for the green paint to cure, more tape was applied to protect the green areas and the final color of brown was sprayed. The tape worked well and no paint was pealed up when the tape was removed. The Finnish green and brown appeared in contemporary museum photos to be close to Poly-Scale Panzer Olive Green and Panzer Brown so these are what I used. Mr. Lärka advised me that the brown should be more of a chocolate color.

The exhaust muffler color is too close to the brown in the camouflage scheme so for more color contrast this color will have to be modified. The storage box on the stern and the commander’s hatch are opened. Based on another modeler’s Sturmi I modeled the box opening forward. Mr. Lärka later corrected me in stating the box opened to the rear. The spare track on the rear of the superstructure is painted gunmetal gray for nice contrast with the camouflage colors. In these photos we can see that with the holes in ESCI’s roadwheels not being all the way through, we’ll have to add a black wash into these holes to add some depth.
On the front side of the pannier is a metal bracket for storing spare roadwheels as seen in the black & white photo at the beginning of this article.


In Step 6 here we have the addition of the log-armor on the sides. As seen in WW2-period photos the spare wheel holder is used to help hold the logs, the rear of the logs appears to be held on with steel cable. Later Sturmis would have a different set-up for holding the logs. The logs would mean that the tools stowed on the track guards would have to be removed, likely going to the storage box. The above two photos show the metal frame holding the box onto the engine deck. The box would have to be removed to work on the engine, hence the handles on the side.

Here we have the completed weathering using light sprays of water-based dark wash, dark soil-color, paint pigment powders and pastel powder. The commander figure is from the Revell Afrika Korps set of soft polyurethane figures. The tracks and sprocket teeth have been touched with silver paint and graphite to represent wear of the steel. This photo was taken after correcting the storage box lid to open to the rear and adding handles to the sides of the box.

A close-up view of the left side of the Sturmi. The storage box still has one lid opened incorectly forward, showing items stored inside. The logs are made from wooden hibachi skewers scraped with the side of a saw to create bark-like texture, then painted gray (tree bark tends to be gray, not brown), given a dark brown wash, and then light-gray drybrushing. Using dappled white glue to hold it, light-green flocking was sprinkled on the logs to simulate moss, typical of forest hardwoods.

Overhead view of the completed Sturmi with the features of the Finnish Sturmi evident: the logs on the side, the storage box on the rear, the Hakaristi on the gun mantlet, and the Soviet DT machine gun (taken from a PST KV-1 tank kit). This photo was taken before I corrected the opening of the storage box. We can also make out the features of the Sturmgeschütz built upon the Panzer III chassis: the deep-wading muffler at the rear and the single maintenance hatches with internal hinges at the bow (the typical StuG has two-part maintenance hatches with prominent exterior hinges). The inside surface of the open commander’s hatch is painted in the German panzer yellow color to remind us where this vehicle originated.

A bow view of ESCI’s Sturmgeschütz kit ‘Sturmi’. Mud weathering has been applied to the bow and on the tracks to somewhat mask the mediocre track detail. On many models I have noted that the periscopes are often ignored and left in the green or tan base coat, or portrayed poorly with dark paint. I have had good fortune with simulating periscope lenses by cutting strips of exposed camera film and gluing the strips of film over the periscope lens using white (Elmer’s) glue. Add these shiny periscope-lenses last so that any flat paint or dullcoat does not cover them.
The Finnish markings are water-slide decals from Aleran Miniatures sheet AX-2 Axis Minors. The decals were applied over an acrylic clear gloss coat, then sealed with a coat of acrylic dullcoat tinted with dust-colored acrylic paint to mute the colors below. This set included markings for two Sturmi, one from the 1943 batch and one from the 1944 batch. Markings for this vehicle, P531-17 is not included so was improvised from two different vehicle numbers. The numbers were so small I did not notice that the number 7 was crooked until the decal was dry and sealed, alas! Note the welded on supplementary bow armor. The Notek light was not added to the bracket in the center of the bow.

A stern view of the Sturmi after correcting the storage box lid and adding wire handles to the port and starboard sides of the box. The muffler on the stern has been weathered with some orange and maroon pastel powders to represent a heat-rusted muffler. The stern plate should also have a vehicle number Ps531-17 but unfortunately the Aleran decal sheet only comes with one vehicle number per vehicle.
Overall I think this model is best appreciated from a distance, it would not do well at an AMPS contest.

Overall I am happy with my Finnish Sturmgeschütz. It is certainly no award winner based on the poor old ESCI kit I used and its influence on me to not do my absolute best. A much better example of this version of the Sturmgeschütz could be made using parts the Revell Panzer III Ausf. M kit and either the Trumpeter or the Dragon StuG Ausf. G kits. My feelings these days are that the ESCI (Italeri) StuG model is best relegated to wargaming rather than being used as a display model.
As a Finnish Sturmi during mid-1944, the presence of the side logs and the camouflage pattern were speculation on my part; both were done before I acquired photos of the real Ps531-17. Most of the photos I’ve seen of the 1943 batch of Sturmis show them without the logs on the side. According to Mr. Lärka these logs were added after July 2, 1944; and this Sturmi number Ps531-17 was destroyed earlier, on June 15, 1944. It is not clear in my Finnish Sturmi resources if any of the modifications of the logs on the sides, or concrete supplemental armor, etc. were used prior to the official order of July 2. Based on photos of Ps531-17 that Mr. Lärka has sent me, both before and soon after it was destroyed, this Sturmi did not have the logs, and did not have concrete supplemental armor. It did have the side holders for the spare roadwheels. Considering my errors perhaps consider this article to be a guideline on how not to build this particular Sturmi?


A fantastic website devoted to the wartime and post war use of the Finnish Sturmi, with many photos, thanks to Mr. Andreas Lärka. (At the end of my painting of the assembled model I received a helpful message from Mr. Lärka noting some errors on my model of Ps531-17. Mr. Lärka’s comments are below:
[quote] “- Most of the 1943-batch Finnish StuGs had the bolted on extra armour. Only one had the welded on extra armour (Ps.531-17) the rest had the new all-welded 80mm substructure [i.e. lower glacis plate - Ed.] (not only Ps.531-30).
- Everything on the Karelian Isthmus is "near Tali-Ihantala". The Isthmus is quite narrow. The parade you are referring to took place in a place called "Enso" on June 4th 1944.
-The problem with your model is - as you also state in your text - you build it as it would have looked in July, when the real vehicle was destroyed in Kuuterselka on June 15th 1944. The real vehicle never had the logs...
- Another problem is that your brown paint is way, way too red. It should be more of a chocolate-brown.
- The rear deck equipment box opens up to the rear, not to the front.” [unquote]

A website with a wealth of information of the Sturmgeschütz and their deployment and unit organization.

[3] Sturmgeschütz & Its Variants, by Walter J. Spielberger, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., (1993). I consider this one of the finest references on the StuG III, also including information on the StuG IV and the StuIG III, StuG Battery organization and production and support vehicles. A hard cover book of 253 pages it includes many high quality black & white photos and vehicle plans by Hillary S. Doyle.

[4] PANZER TRACTS No. 8 Sturmgeschuetz, by Thomas Jentz and scale prints by Hillary S. Doyle.

A good inexpensive softcover book of sixty pages, good black & white photos and Doyle’s excellent scale drawings. This book covers all the StuG variants and the Sturmhaubitze 42 and the Sturmmörser as well.

Bjorn Backland’s website with his article on making a Sturmi from several 1/76 Airfix models.

[6] Aleran Miniatures decals, 18530 Mack Ave., #424, Detroit, MI 48236. Decal SheetAX-2 Axis Minors – Finnish, Bulgarian, Slovakian, Croatian. water slide decals. Decal markings are varied but there is little instruction on placement or use.

[7] "Suomalaisten rynnäkkötykkien kohtalot". A Finnish book referred to me by Andreas Lärka covering Finnish Sturmi.


Editor’s note.
As books on Finnish armor are quite rare, we also recommend Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut 1918-1997, published by Apali.

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Article Received: 20 February 2009
Article Last Updated: 07 May 2009
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