Dragon 1/350 USS Benson DD-421

Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The USS Benson DD-421 was the lead ship of a new class of destroyers built as an improvement to the preceding Sims class. They share the same hull and forward superstructure as the preceding class, but had two funnels and and a centerline twin quintuple torpedo setup and different mid and aft superstructure. The Benson Class destroyers were built in many different fits. The began life as 5 gunned ships, and soon standardized on a 4 gun arrangement. However the anti aircraft layout seemed to be in constant flux as new standards were applied to existing ships coming in for refit. The Benson was had many different arrangements over the war years. Benson was active in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during the war years, participating in Operation Torch the invasion of Sicily. Her final wartime refit in March 1945 saw her 10 x torpedo setup restored. She had already received the now standard 2 x twin 40 mm mount. A new gun director radar atop of her Mk-37 director along with a Dazzling camo paint job. She sailed for the Pacific in May 1945 and escorted the Lexington, USS Cowpens and Hancock for their strikes against Wake Island. Benson performed patrol and convoy escort duties for the remainder of the war and returned home for inactivation. In 1954 she was transferred to Taiwan and served in their navy until being struck from the Naval Vessel Register  on November, 1  1974 and eventually scrapped. 

Benson (DD-421) earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

This new Dragon kit might just be the ultimate version of the Benson/Gleave kit. It has many of the parts found in the early versions, but adds even more to allow a late war Benson class to be modeled. 

See the preview for some of the CAD images of the kit. 
The first sprue consists of most of the forward superstructure parts. The bridge is composed of separate wings with interior bracing and conduit detail molded on. The bridge win floor includes the underside bracing. The doorways are molded with the doors as separate parts, the modeler can mount them in the open or closed positions. The doorways are hollowed out and it will be easy to open them up by removing the boss on the inside walls.  Click images
to enlarge
The bridge windows are not open due to mold limitations. You can blacken these with a marker or drill them out yourself. Raised wooden platforms for the 24" searchlight and pelorus mounts are also separate parts to allow easy modification to other versions of the ship. The mushroom vents are also separate parts as are the main deck hatchways. The funnels are presented in two styles on this sprue and the B sprue. On this one the molded on ladders are left off to allow for the included photo etch ones to be used. The funnels are slide molded so you wont have to big seams to fill. The funnel cap and base parts are designed so that the seams are in easy to hide locations.
The second sprue includes most of the mid and aft superstructure parts. You might notice the decks are lightly etches with a very fine diamond plate pattern. The mast is finely detailed with position lights and other items. The yardarm is separate as as the lower fighting lights. The funnel caps feature hollow tops with molded on grills. Yes, these are a bit thick for some modelers, but they will be easy to remove thanks to the smart way this part is molded. The separate funnel piping will give them a more realistic appearance. The Mk-37 gun director base is molded using slides to eliminate the seams and allow for open slits.
This sprue features the deck propeller gear and lower hull. One of the first things you will notice is that the deck is not flat. This is because like real ships the deck is cambered to allow water to run off. This may be a first for plastic ship models. The anchor chain is not molded on so the modeler can easily add real chain or use the included brass photo etch chain. The edges of the deck include the waterway that also acts as a guide for those adding photo etch railing.
The propellers are as thin as is practical for plastic. The deck is also notched along the edge to allow the separate bits to be easily placed and give a realistic appearance. The  lower hull is slide molded to allow for some very thin bilge keels. Test fitting shows that the fit is very good. The area where the rudder mounts will need a little smoothing as the clearance for the rudder is a bit exaggerated. The rudder is separate and can be mounted at any angle. 
This sprue include many of the weapons including quad and quintuple torpedo mounts. Only the quintuple mounts are needed on this kit. The detailing is very good with a separate control stand. The tubes are all loaded ready to fire. The torpedo cranes are correct for Benson Gleaves class destroyers
The 20 mm guns are extremely detailed and push the envelope of injection molding capabilities. They are designed with separate shields, gun base and barrels, and even ammo cans. The latter can be left off for those who have problems with tiny parts. Additional photo etch details and alternate shields are also provided. The real beauty of these guns is that they can be elevated just like the real ones. A 5" practice loading machine is provided with a separate base, gun assembly, and motor. A 1.1" gun mount is also very detailed. The base, yoke, and gun barrel assemblies are separate as are the sights and seats. Separate sights and seats are also provided in photo etched brass. The gun barrels are as thin as possible for injection molding. 
Radar's and directors are presented on this sprue. The Mk-37 director is molded in two parts again with the use of slides to preserve the detailing. These are very detailed with crisp molding and sharp details. The torpedo director features nice gauge face detailing and the Mk-51 directors are awesome. The latter are molded with a separate base and yet another part to benefit from the slide molding. I am very pleased with the way the Mk-12 radar screen mounting arms came out. This is one part that you wont need to replace with photo etch. The plastic Mk-12 is not bad for plastic, but serious molders will want to get the upgrade set for this kit and replace them with the much more accurate versions provided in photo etch. The radar's are typical for plastic and too thick for my taste. But the SA radar mount is separate and will look great with a photo etch screens. Although not used on the Buchanan in 42, an SG radar set is included complete with separate base and antenna. 
The strange looking parts on this sprue are actually forming tools. Another smart feature of this kit. They are used to form the photo etch life raft supports and the propeller guards. The latter is a great idea as I'm sure I am not alone in having a hard time folding these to shape. Use this tool to form near perfect shaped prop guards for your ship. Note, the propeller guards are typical of those used on other USN destroyers, so hold onto this tool it make come in handy for other projects.
SPRUE G (x2)
The 5" 38 gun turrets are presented in the correct single and double knuckle style with all kinds of detail. The lower mounts feature extra rivets on the roof panel along the extra knuckle to reinforce them from the blast effects of the upper mount. I had thought the knuckle would be more pronounced, but it is barely noticeable. The gun have the correct offset for the gun. Such fine features as the louvers on the back are finely molded. The base of the gun includes underside bracing and they fit nicely with the upper mount reducing the amount of seams you will have to fill. 
You have a choice in gun barrels too. Canvas covered or bare ones that can be elevated throughout the whole range of a real gun. The ends are also hollowed. The amount of slide molding used on this sprue shows how serious Dragon is in getting it right. These are undoubtedly the best 5"38's ever done in plastic. They are even better than most resin versions. 
The number three mount is a special canvas covered mount used in the number three position. This part includes a nice canvas textured top and a similar base and shields. The molding is very good and my only complaint is that with the top down there is no breach. 
Hint: Since there are two of D sprues included in the kit, you can use the breach portion of the extra practice loading machine to graft onto the 5" gun used in the open shield in case you chose to portray the top down. 
This sprue contains two 36" searchlight lenses. Just the lenses so if you don't like the brittle nature of clear parts, you will appreciate that the main part of that searchlight is good old gray plastic as shown below on the K sprue. The surface of the lenses even has the cross lines of the real ones.
This is the fittings sprue with everything from the ships boats to the doors and davits. The ships boats are nicely done with separate inserts for the seats and engine. Another insert allows you to convert the boat to a covered version typical of those found on the Buchanan and other DD's. The boats are designed to use a photo etch rudder assembly.
 Another first for ship modeling is the inclusion of separate plastic doors. If you don't like working with photo etch, you will like these. They allow you to model the doors open and while a little thicker than PE, they look very nice. Optional bridge wing braces are included for the non PE crowd. There are two types of searchlight bases are include the tall ones found on the Buchanan and Aaron Ward, and a lower one typical of those found on ships such as the McCalla. Floater net basket are provide in two styles, empty and with molded floater nets. The K-guns parts are great, they include separate launchers, stands with charges, and davits. The davits are a little on the thick side as testing proved they broke too easily when molded to scale thickness. Another nice detail is the pair of smoke generators found on the stern. A three piece assembly with a very realistic shape. The stern depth charge racks are well done but unfortunately the seam falls in the middle of the cans where it is noticeable. Three types of searchlights are provide. Swivel mount versions of the 12" searchlight in a left and right hand version. Two 24" searchlights and a really nice 36" searchlight assembly that can be aimed realistically. Photo etched seats are provided too. This will result in one smart looking assembly when finished. The aft mast on this sprue even includes a hooded truck light. The anchors are two pieces with a separate shank that allows the fluke to pivot just like a real one. A two piece deck winch, Flag bags and life rafts are among the other items on this sprue.
The new flat sided rectangular funnels are on their own dedicated sprue. Two styles are provided, one with molded on ladder detail and one without. The modeler can chose which version they prefer. The funnels are made up of separate base, transitions, stacks, and caps. Slide molding is used to allow for a hollow stack. Separate piping is also included to add to the fine detail. 
The upper hull is nicely done with lines that follow the hull lines of the real ship. Even the characteristic rounded edge that tapers from 15" to zero at the bow is faithfully represented. I test fitting the decks with this part with no problems. FYI the hull is split at the low water mark to represent the ship in light or unloaded condition. 
This sprue is provided for the aft funnel trunking and base for the second torpedo launcher. A couple of inserts are provided to fill in the notches on the bridge wings. The rest of the parts are not needed. 
The bridge top is included to match the layout that was used on the Benson. The plastic portion of the side depth charge roller racks are included on this sprue. Bridge wings and floor are included but not used on this ship. These will come in handy if you wish to build some other ships of the class.
SPRUE P (New for this kit)
The aft superstructure deck has the two 40 mm twin gun tubs and a modified aft steering station. The deck features the same fine tread pattern found on the other parts. Stiffener ribs are also present on the tub which are molded very thin and without the excessive taper found on some other kits. At first glance these two parts look just like those used on the Special Edition Tokyo Bay Buchanan. They are not, they have subtle yet distinct differences that match the Benson as she was fitted in 1945. The mid deck includes the provisions for the extra torpedo crane. 
A base for this kit has been designed based on how most modelers like to display their ships in full hull mode. The stands which resemble lamp finales are even slide molded so they can be done without seams. Note there are additional mounting hole locations in the base. 
Two photo etch frets are included with the finer details that just can't be done in plastic. The first fret includes the photo etched details mention in the previous text as well as lots of others. Fore funnel platforms with relief etched decks, direction finder loop, inclined ladders, and aft mast details. The mast ladder not only helps add detail, it strengthens the joint of the upper and lower parts, smart. 40 mm gun detail items are also included. Boat rudders, bridge bracing, and other details are also included. 

The second fret includes the optional doors. These are nice and are relief etched on both sides. Three types are included 60" 66" and bridge doors. 

Another included part is the shields for the skylookouts. These are pre formed so you wont have to do it yourself.

Another smart feature is the walkway decals printed by Cartograf. These represent the anti-skid rubber pads that were often applied to US Navy ship. Since this was a detail that was usually added by the crew, the arrangement and path tended to be different on each ship. There are some extra sections so you can adapt the walkway to fit other ships too. Hull numbers are done in the typical USN style. Draft markings are black above the boot topping line, and white below.

A second decal sheet is provided for the flags printed on self adhesive vinyl. These include the straight and wavy flags, and a token amount of signal flags. 

The instructions are an eight page booklet showing the assembly in a step by step process that is easy to follow. A full size camo drawing is provided to help you paint the MS-12 modified camo scheme. Or you can also paint the ship in a plain Ms-21 scheme for her 43 appearance. If you plan on painting your ship, then I would change the order of assembly as it is much easier to attach the decks to the hull without all the fine parts added. 
 Six different crew are provided with realistic poses and features. Since they are plastic, you can easily modify the pose to suit your needs. These guys are head and shoulders above the flat lifeless forms available in other sets. Yes, these will eventually be available in a separate set, but for now the only way you are going to get these guys is to get your own USS Buchanan.
As with many of the new Dragon smart kits, I had a hand in getting this kit to market. So the reader may want to consider that when you read my impressions of this kit. With that said, I am very pleased with the level of detail in this kit. While the Benson/Gleaves kits may be over shadowed by the newer Gearing and Scharnhorst, they still represent an incredible value and include new features as yet unmatched by any other model companies. This one should prove to be a popular kit as there are so many extra parts in the kit that you can build virtually any ship of the class from it. You should even be able to upgrade a few of your older kits. 

 It is available now for only  $42.95 at  Dragon USA. A fantastic price when you consider all that you get.