Dragon 1/350 USS Benson DD-421
1940 prewar appearance

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 USS Benson was designed to be fitted with five 5" 38 cal gun mounts and two quintuple torpedo launchers. The #1, #2, and #5 mounts were shielded, and the #3 and #4 mounts were open. Protection for the open mounts was located between the mounts. Above them was the 36" search light platform and the aft range finder platform.  The Benson originally carried 4 whale boats with the extra two being located amidships. Light Anti-air protection was provided with six 50 cal machine guns. As war loomed on the horizon, this class began to undergo changes and the Benson was that finished the war bore little resemblance to the way she entered it. 

The USS Benson sailed to Guantanamo Bay soon after commissioning in 1940 to do her shakedown cruise. After some minor fixes found during her first voyage, she began to take part in the neutrality patrols. One of her missions was to escort the Potomac carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Bahamas for a holiday of fishing. When the Bismarck slipped into the North Atlantic the Benson then escorting the Battleship Texas was ordered to help search for the Raider. After the Bismarck was sunk, Benson returned home to prepare for her next patrol. She escorted some Marines to Iceland to take over for the British troops that had been guarding the island. The following months would find Benson sailing to and fro in the North Atlantic on convoy duty guarding from German U-boats. On December 7th 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Adolph Hitler followed up with a declaration of war on the United States. The gloves officially came off and German subs officially became targets. But not before the Benson underwent her first major refit losing her towering aft superstructure and one bank of torpedo tubes, but curiously retaining the five 5" gun setup at least for a few more months. 

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.

Dragon has released their sixth Benson/Gleaves class destroyer with this pre war version. This is the original design fit of this class of destroyers and is an interesting contrast to the 1945 fit of the Benson

Before you read my review, you should know that I took an active part in the design of this kit and was compensated for my efforts, therefor my opinions may be a bit biased.

The first sprue consists of most of the forward superstructure parts. Many of these parts are not needed, but may come in handy if you decide to model a sistership or a later version of this ship. The bridge is composed of separate wings with interior bracing and conduit detail molded on. The bridge wing 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 with a raised lip around the openings 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. 
The mushroom vents are separate parts as are the main deck hatchways. The original Gleaves class funnels are included on this sprue and will allow you to do a prewar Gleaves class. 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. Most of these parts are not needed in the prewar version, but will help fill your spare parts bin! 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. There are holes in the deck for the K-guns that were fitted later in her career. These will have to be filled in for this version of the ship.
SPRUE D (2x in this kit)
There are two of these sprues included in this kit so you will have some extra parts that you can use to upgrade your other kits. The torpedo mounts are very detailed with a separate control stand. The tubes are all loaded ready to fire. Torpedo cranes are also included. You won't need the 20 mm guns on this sprue, but they will come in handy on other ship projects as they are far better than any others in plastic. 
A 5" practice loading machine is provided with a separate base, gun assembly, and motor.
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 in this kit)
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. 
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. 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. 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,  and Flag bags are among the other items on this sprue.
SPRUE K2 New for this kit
This new sprue is also named K, but in the instructions it is color coded in blue to distinguish it from the other one. The new superstructure parts and extra prewar fittings are included on this sprue. Prewar ship designs didn't include such things are splinter shield protection around the machine guns. So new the forward, midship, and aft upper decks have only a mounting pad for the 50 cal. machine guns. The prewar Benson/Gleaves also had extra 26' whaleboats so two more are provided here. 
Six 50 cal water-cooled gun mounts are provided in two parts. These are as fine as your going to get in this scale. The gun and pedestal are separate so you can pose the gun at any angle. The prewar DD's also were designed before radar became standard. So spotting was accomplished by a "crows nest" atop of main mast. This and a new main mast are provided with very fine detailing. The aft superstructure also had an elevated searchlight platform for the range finder and 36" searchlight. The girder work on this as thin as practical in plastic. 
SPRUE R new for this kit
The 5" 38 cal. open mounts made their first appearance in the Dragon Independence, but were actually designed with this kit in mind. They feature a separate base, yoke, and barrel assembly with separate fuse setter stand. These two mounts are the best yet kitted in plastic and will allow you to elevate the gun realistically. An additional quintuple torpedo mount is included with a separate blast shelter to protect the crew from the blast effect of the #3 gun. You will appreciate the fine lines of the reinforcing bands that run around the shelter. A slide in the mold allows for a one piece body.   
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. 
Perhaps the most impressive thing, is that this hull is not the same as those included in the other Benson/Gleaves kits. Instead Dragon added inserts in the mold to allow for all the extra port holes that were still open in the prewar days. 
A new 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. So this base can be used on future Dragon ships.
Two photo etch frets are included with the finer details that just can't be done in plastic. Bridge wing supports, anchor chain, ladders, funnel platform, and boat cradles are among the items on this fret. 

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 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. Prewar style hull numbers are done in the typical USN style. Draft markings are black above the boot topping line, and white below. Large prewar hull numbers and ship name for the stern are also included on the sheet. Modelers may want to cut the walkway decals into smaller more manageable lengths to make them easier to apply. 

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. Additional CAD images of this kit can be viewed in the preview here
Six different crew are provided with realistic poses and features. Three of them are served on the Buchanan and the other the Livermore. 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. I only wish there were more of them or that they were available separately. 

Finally a prewar version of these WW2 workhorses.  This one introduces a lot of new parts and opens the door for all kinds of conversions. This smart kit features smart molding, smart detailing, and smart options. Yet another state of the art kit from Dragon, again raising the bar and leading the way in the model ship world.

You can expect more great ships like this in the future. It is available now for only $42.95 at  Dragon USA. A fantastic price when you consider all that you get.