What Are Tank Models And How Hard It Is To Start Building Them? A Beginner’s Guide.

plastic tank model

What are the tank models?

In terms of real-life tanks and its purpose – a tank is an armored fighting vehicle that is designed for front-line combat. They have massive firepower, strong armor, and excellent battlefield maneuverability provided by tracks and a powerful engine. Because of its complexity and the amount of different smaller and larger components, aggregates, and other stuff, it is so exciting to scale these big machines down and build models tanks for yourself. They are called model military vehicles or simply tank models. Their range of various sizes starting from small-scale models used in wargaming to larger and more detailed copies of real-life vehicles.

The most popular size for model building military vehicles such as tanks is 1:35 and 1:72. There also loads of other formats to fit everyone’s needs and desires. You just need to take into account that sometimes available sizes depend on which manufacturer you choose. For example, the 1:42 scale is more prevalent in the military vehicle kits made by Tamiya.

Model building processes

Basically, there are three classes, or we can call them types of model building processes: 

  1. Out of the box -this is the process where the model construction is straight forward. You use only those materials and details which are provided in the kit and nothing additional. Following the instructions, the result is exact and the same as the real-life vehicle. Probably some of you may think that this is not highly rated in the community because you just do what is said in the manual, and you’re done. Actually, it is not exactly right, because nowadays some models are so detailed that it makes them very challenging to build and the result is well appreciated.
  2. Customized models.Those who have more experience and know a lot of specifications take model building to the next level by taking a standard kit and adding more components or design elements to their models. These components usually are either commercial conversions or built from scratch. In that way, the result often tends to be much more detailed than standard versions, but at the same time there is no that big difference anymore between the “out of the box” models, and customized models as the first ones also come with highly detailed kits. Sometimes searching for customized models, you can come across the term model bashing or kitbashing models. These are built using parts from another one or more kits or models to make a result more accurate, different, and more attractive. Such a model making style is quite popular among advanced level modelers so they could make even more close reality look.
  3. Building from scratch is way more advanced or master level modeling. There is no kit to rely on, but almost every detail is unique. Highly skilled modelers are able to design and make details from zero by themself and sometimes, in combination with few commercial components, they produce exciting and highly rated models. Materials used can vary from sheets of plastics to brass, aluminum, rubber, and other details.

Types of tanks

Almost any real-life military tanks or other vehicles can be found in model scale kits. For decades loads of tanks are built and used in wars, battles, and military conflicts. There are plenty of types of them, and each is designed for specific purposes, conditions with different armor and equipment. So to make it easier for you to choose which one could be your first or next model to search for the model building, we will provide you with some information and specifications about the top 10 tanks used in real-life battles and now can be found in scale model kits.

The top 10 battle tanks are mentioned below :

  • Leopard 2A7.
  • K2 black panther.
  • M1A2 Abrams.
  • Challenger-2.
  • Armata.
  • Merkava Mk14.
  • Type 90.
  • Leclerc.
  • Oplot- M.
  • T 90MS Tagil.

Specifications on top 10 tank models in the world

Here you can take a quick look at specifications of these top 10 tank models. Each of them has its pros and cons in real life, so get to know each of them and choose your favorite for the next project!

Leopard 2A7

It is a recent version of the proven and successful Leopard 2 design. It has additional armor and updated electronics. The Leopard 2A7 is well protected against conventional and urban warfare threats, such as RPG rounds and IEDs. It has better accuracy and a more extended range of fire with comparison to other tanks due to its powerful gun and advanced fire control system. German Army ordered the first batch of 20 Leopard 2A7 MBTs, upgraded from Leopard 2A6. Deliveries commenced in 2014. German Army plans to upgrade 50 to 150 tanks to the 2A7 standard. Qatar ordered 62 of these MBTs and Saudi Arabia more than 200.

K2 black panther

Currently, the Black Panther is one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world, outclassing anything North Korea or China have. This tank uses composite armor of undisclosed type and explosive reactive armor modules. It is claimed that front armor withstands direct hits from 120 mm tank rounds, fired from L55 guns. Its protection level is broadly similar to that of the M1A2 Abrams, considering that the K2 is much lighter. The Black Panther tank is also completed with an active protection system and countermeasures system, that further increases its surviving ability on the battlefield.

M1A2 Abrams

The M1A2 SEP is a successor to the M1A2 Abrams. This tank has incredible technology and armor. Also, it has seen combat. It is one of the most feared MBTs. The M1A2 SEP offers significant protection against all well-known anti-tank weapons. This main battle tank uses advanced armor, reinforced with depleted uranium layers. Its firepower and accuracy are slightly inferior to that of the Leopard 2A7 or the South Korean K2 Black Panther due to a shorter 120 mm/L44 smoothbore gun. Yet it still packs a formidable punch. Its sophisticated gas turbine engine offers excellent performance but requires a tremendous amount of maintenance, logistical support and is thirsty on fuel.


It is a competent tank. The Challenger 2 has the latest Chobham armor and is one of the most protected MBTs in the world today. It offers a very high level of protection against direct fire weapons. This British tank is armed with a very accurate 120 mm rifled gun. Its gun is rifled as opposed to smoothbore guns used by all other modern MBTs. Its maximum aimed range is over 5 km. Currently, the Challenger holds the record for the longest tank-to-tank kill. The engine of the Challenger 2 is less potent than its Western rivals.


The Armata is a clean-sheet design with several advanced features. It shares some common points with the current T-90. Also, Armata is much bigger than its predecessor. Its specifications are classified. However, the Armata might be one of the most protected tanks in the world. It has newly-developed base armor, made of steel, ceramics, and composite materials. The Armata is also the world’s first production MBT with the complete unmanned turret. It is armed with a new 125 mm smoothbore gun that is more accurate than the previous Russian tank guns. This tank can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary projectiles. The gun is completed with an autoloader. This tank has a hunter-killer capability. It has been reported that this tank is fitted with a diesel engine, developing 1 200 hp

Merkava MK14

It is one of the most protected tanks in the world. This MBT has an unusual design with a front-mounted engine, which gives the crew additional protection and a chance to survive if the container is knocked out. Mobility of the Merkava Mk.4 is rather average due to excessive weight, even though it is fitted with a powerful engine. The Israeli tank is armed with an indigenous 120 mm smoothbore gun. The Merkava Mk.4 is equipped with the new fire control system, which includes some very advanced features. One of them is a high hit probability firing against low-flying helicopters using conventional munitions.

Type 90

The Japanese Type 90 tank was developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in cooperation with German Krauss-Maffei and MaK tank manufacturers. It has many external similarities with the German Leopard 2.This Japanese tank has a fire control system with an independent commander’s sight. Another unusual feature of this tank is that it has a hydropneumatic suspension. It allows this MBT to “kneel” or “lean”, giving several advantages. This MBT is armed with a German Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun, which was produced in Japan under license. It fires all standard NATO 120 mm tank rounds. An unusual feature of Type 90 is that this tank was fitted with a bustle-mounted automatic ammunition loading system. At the time, only Soviet and Chinese tanks had autoloaders, but these were not used on Western tanks. The autoloader allowed the crew to reduce to 3 men, as there was no need for the leader.


This tank is armed with a 120 mm/L52 gun. This MBT is operated by a crew of three and is fitted with a bustle-mounted automatic ammunition loading system. It has a high hit probability against both stationary and moving targets. Also, it has a hunter-killer engagement capability. It is claimed that the Leclerc can engage six targets, located 1.5 – 2 km away, within one minute with a hit probability of 95%. Then this French tank has advanced composite armor with add-on modular armor. The protection level can be tailored to the threat. Turret and hull roof was designed to withstand top-attack munitions. However, in terms of protection, the Leclerc can not match tanks such as the US M1A2 Abrams or the British Challenger 2.

Oplot M

This latest Ukrainian tank is not as accurate against long-range targets as its Western rivals. However, this tank can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary munitions. These have a maximum range of 5 km. The Oplot-M has an independent commander’s sight with thermal vision, which gives the tank a hunter-killer engagement capability. This Ukrainian tank is superior to the Russian T-90 as it has more advanced add-on armor, a more powerful engine, and an excellent fire control system.

T 90MS Tagil

The T-90 is currently the only tank produced in quantity in Russia. It is not as sophisticated as its Western rivals. However, it uses proven technology and is cost-effective. The T-90 is not as accurate as long-range targets. Yet, it can launch anti-tank guided missiles in the same manner as ordinary munitions. The fire control system of the T-90 was adequate in the 1990s when this tank was introduced. The T-90 lacks advanced sights with thermal vision. The T-90 has a small profile, which makes it a harder target to hit. A significant drawback of the T-90 is ammunition stored in the main compartment due to the carrousel type autoloader. Once the hull is penetrated onboard ammunition detonates by killing all the crew and destroying the tank. This drawback is common to all Soviet, Russian, Ukrainian, and recent Chinese MBTs. Western tanks have a separate compartment in the turret bustle with a blow out panels.

tank model

Let’s take a look at tank generations to help you decide which model tank to pick up next!

The battle tanks are generally classified according to their different generations. For example, the Soviet and Russian military planners organize the tank with four generations of main battlefield tanks. In comparison, the Canadian strategies hold the same in the three generations, and the military republic of china also does the same by three generations.

All around in the first generation, the tanks included are:

  • Centurian
  • T-54
  • M47 Patton
  • M48 Patton
  • T-55
  • Type 59
  • Type 61


  • Centurian
  • T-54
  • M47 Patton
  • M48 Patton
  • T-55
  • Type 59
  • Type 61

While the tanks included in the second generation are mentioned below:

  • T-62
  • M-60 Patton
  • Leopard 1
  • Panzer 61
  • Mbt -70
  • T-64
  • AMX 30
  • FV 4201
  • Vickers MBT
  • Stridsvagn 103
  • Panzer 68
  • T-72
  • Type -74
  • Merkava mark
  • OF-40
  • T55AM
  • Lion of Babylon
  • Type-88
  • CM -11
  • CM -12
  • Type -96
  • Al-Zarrar

And the last one, the tanks of the third generation are mentioned below:

  • T-80
  • Leopard -2
  • MBT 80
  • MI Abrams
  • AMX -40
  • M-85
  • EE-T1
  • K1 – 88
  • Merkava mark |||
  • Type-90
  • Ch’onma-ho
  • AMX- Leclerc
  • Zulfiqar -|,||,|||
  • T-90
  • C1-Ariete
  • TR-85
  • M-95
  • T-84
  • K1A1
  • AI- Khalid
  • Tank EX
  • T-72 M4
  • Olifant MK2
  • Arjun MBT
  • Type -96 A/B
  • T-72 B3
  • PT -16

How to build tank models?

If you are planning to start your first model tank build, for some of you, the first question that may come to mind could be “Is the model building that hard as it looks?”.
We will keep it as simple as possible here, but generally speaking for those who choose to make first steps into this hobby, the answer is ”No”. 
There is a lot of detailed and deep-diving information out there about model building, including tank or armor modeling, but sometimes for very first insight about the topic, it could be too complicated and a bit frightening to start.

So stay motivated, focussed, and let’s do it – it’s easy!

Also, tanks are military machines meant to be out there in the field, so they are generally dirty and a bit rusty, so it is elementary to weather them to look like a real object. One of the pros about the tank building is that it contains more straight contours in various shapes ( for beginner models) compared, for example, to plane models with a lot of oval and wavy style shapes. Yet tanks, of course, could (and do) contain loads of tiny details and accessories, but there are also quite simple options to start with. For example, you could begin with
JS-3 Heavy Tank Odessa model or  M113A1

You could think that the first thing is to find and buy your first model, but that’s not exactly true. First, you should consider the available tools you have because, without the right tools, you will just have a bunch of little details in the box. At the very first steps, try to be creative and take a look into your garage toolbox before head to search for the more specific equipment in shops.

Some essential tools you will need to get things done are:

  • Sandpaper and emery boards
  • Side cutters
  • Deburring tool
  • Hobby knife
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Awl Scissors
  • Magnifying glass
  • Toothpicks
  • Masking tape
  • Tissues
  • Filler putty (such has Citadel Liquid Green Stuff)
  • Glue (for example Epoxy resin)
  • Model cement (there are a lot of options on the market. One of the common is from Tamiya CA Cement Kit)


Some more specific tools you might need:

  • Dental pick
  • Micro files
  • Rubber bands
  • Tweezers

Now you are ready to get your first kit – search for those which are marked as easy level models, and you will have fun as it is your first model. Model instructions that come attached with your kit are straightforward to understand; they simply show where the specific part comes and should be mounted together. Mostly parts included come in sprues, and before you start detaching them, wash details carefully in soapy water, so the glue and paintings stick perfectly with the surfaces. Then remove parts and sand down the excess plastic on the details. Start gluing objects together, and in cases, if there are gaps between them, just use filler to fill them and later excess of the filler sand nicely down. 
Finally, you’re coming close to the end; apply a primer to prepare your model for painting and weathering. Style it to make a more realistic view of the model and be proud of yourself!

Remember – try not to rush, be patient, do all the steps slow and calm, and the result will be worth it!

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