Dragon 1/700
USS Livermore DD-429
& USS Monssen DD-436

Reviewed by Timothy Dike

Dragon is back with another 1+1 Smart kit in 700 scale.  This one features two Gleaves class destroyers, the Livermore and Monssen in early war fit. Often referred to as Livermore class these ships are typical of early war fleet destroyers with the two sets of torpedo launchers and round funnels. While many ships in the class had their second set of torpedo tubes removed to save weight, both Livermore and Monssen retained theirs through 1942. The Livermore and Monssen were originally built with a five 5" gun layout but one was removed during her first major rebuild. The new #3 mount was partially enclosed with a canvas top. Six 20 mm guns were added behind the #2 gun, next to the aft funnel, and in front of the #3 gun mount. Monssen had a similar fit with a mix of 50 cal guns and 20 mm guns. The 50's proved to be ineffective against aircraft and were replaced with more 20mm guns after the battle of Midway. These were installed in a reconfigured aft gun tub, and in an extra tub placed where the starboard whaleboat and davits were. This is the fit that she was in at the time of her loss on Friday the 13th at Guadalcanal. You can read more about that here. There are many ships that can be built from this kit. If you would like to know more, check out the Calling all USS Benson/Gleaves class (DD) fans section on the ShipModels.info site.
This new 1/700 smart kit from Dragon is the perfect companion to the USS Benson and Laffey Benson class destroyers. It represents another major step forward for those of us who model in the divine scale! This one is the smaller cousin to the 1/350 USS Livermore, but with extra parts to also build the Monssen. 

Dragon is interested in making models that modelers want to build. This one includes many features that you have been asking for. See the preview for some of the CAD images. 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 and I will try to contain my enthusiasm here.

Built up test shots from Dragon
click to view preview of Monssen
SPRUE A (x2)
The forward and aft deck are both cambered like the real ships. Real ships rarely have flat decks, rather there is a little angle to them to allow water to run off the sides. Propellers are nicely done as are the propeller shafts. The struts should have more of a wing shape to them, but that is not really that noticeable here.  Click images
to enlarge
SPRUE C (x2)
Superstructure parts are included on this sprue with forward and aft decks included. Two types of aft decks are included, one like the one fitted to the Livermore in her early 42 fit. There is another deck that matches the Monssen as she appeared from August to November 1942. This is similar to the aft layout of the Grayson (DD-435). So you can use the parts to model that ship too. Monssen also received an extra 20 mm gun tub in place of her starboard whaleboat. The other parts on this sprue include the walls of the superstructure. They have plenty of surface detailing. The typical round funnels of the Gleaves class are well done. These parts are slide molded to give the tops an open appearance. Separate funnel piping is provided to give the kit a more detailed appearance. 
There are also some forming tools provided to form the life raft brackets and the propeller guards. 
SPRUE D (x2)
Depth charges and other fittings are included on this sprue. K-gun launchers are well molded and the extra charges are molded in groups of two. Many other parts not typically seen in this scale are included such as the 5" practice loading machine, sky lookouts, and torpedo director. The lone 1.1" gun assembly is done in 4 pieces. Some of the parts are so small that some modelers may be intimidated by them. But detail lovers will go crazy with them. I would add that if you don't need to add all the tiny parts to have a good looking representation of a Benson class destroyer. The 26' Whaleboats have separate tops to allow you a covered or undecked version.
SPRUE E (x2)
A new 5" 38 cal open top gun mount is included for both the Livermore and the Monssen. It is molded with it's top attached. The top has a canvas texture on the surface. It uses the same base and barrel as the other mounts. Even this tiny part is molded with no less than three slides to ensure that the detail on all sides is preserved. You can actually see the hinges and latches on the doors as well as an accurately shaped shell extraction chute. 
SPRUE F (x4)
This sprue has some highly detailed torpedo mounts. You will only need the quintuple version here. A 40 mm twin mount is included in three parts. Four 20 mm twin style mounts are included but you will use the 20 mm singles on the next sprue on these ships. The 5" blast bag equipped gun barrels are actually slide molded to allow for an opening in the barrel. You will need glasses to see them, but they are there. 
SPRUE H (x4)
The bottom of the 5" gun base and the movable gun barrel are nicely molded. I assembled the 5" turret and you can elevate the gun realistically. There are plenty of 20 mm single gun mounts provided. These are done in two parts so you can mount the barrel at any realistic angle. The stern depth charge racks are slide molded in a single piece so they are very detailed. These parts about as detailed as is possible in plastic. 
SPRUE I (x2)
Dragon has included two distinctly different 5" turrets. For those who are not aware, most destroyers with the 5" 38 cal gun house had lower mounts that had reinforced roofs. The blast effect from the upper mount tended to dent the lower roof and some stiffening was necessary. On most early DD's this was done by adding an extra knuckle. A stiffening plate was also riveted to the roof plate. 
Dragon has reproduced this by molding two version of the turret. This lower mount has the knuckle and extra rivets. 
SPRUE J (x4)
The upper mount was identical to the lower one, but had a smoother roof. The turrets also have the correct offset to the gun barrel. A triple slide is used on these parts to allow for a virtually seamless part. 
The parts fit together smartly with only a small hint of a seam. Note the hatch details and the shell extraction chute and the vent on the rear. I certainly hope Dragon makes these mounts available separately as they blow away anything else now on the market. 
Rather than mold a separate lower hull Dragon has done two versions of the hull. This one with the complete hull molded in one single piece. There is no seam to fill here.
A waterline style hull is also included identical to the other version from the waterline up. Both has the classic 40's aerodynamic styling to the bow. 
SPRUE S (x2)
There are four sprues labeled "S". These are the Square and Oval Life Rafts, The Mk-37 Directors and their Mk-12 Radar and mount, and several new searchlights. The directors use triple slide molding to capture the full detailing, and have separate bottoms. You can clearly make out the hatches, and ladder details on the sides. The Fire Control Radar Antenna and mount are three parts, and the stand is also molded using slides. The yoke for the radar screen is very detailed for such a small part. These parts are not exactly new, they first appeared in the Dragon USS Pennsylvania kit a couple of years ago. But they are detailed far beyond any other plastic parts in this scale.
Life rafts
Mk-37 Director
Mk-12 FCR
Antenna & mount
Search lights
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 have no seams to fill and sand. Hole locations are provided so all you have to do is open them up with a knife or drill. 
Two simple photo etch frets are included, one for each ship. Bridge wings, propeller guards, and funnel platforms and ladders are among the details. Many ships in the Benson Gleaves class has k-gun davits fabricated to mount to the gun tubs. These are provided and will give the ship a more detailed appearance. 
Walkway decals to represent the rubber no skid pads that were used on US Navy ships is done on these well registered decals printed by Cartograph. These are made to match the typical paths they were applied in. Hull numbers for both Laffey and Woodworth are included. Though they are hard to see, this sheet even includes draft markings.

A second sheet includes flags and ensigns printed on a pliable vinyl material.

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 illustrating the MS-12 mod camo scheme. 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. 
This has got to be the most detailed 1/700 kit yet available in plastic now on the market. The details are extremely fine and the molding is first class. Not only do you get state of the art molding, you get two complete kits for one very competitive price of only $19.95. At this price you can afford to buy extras and use the parts to upgrade other kits. One thing is certain, after building one of these kits, you will not be content to build just any 700 scale kit! 

These kits should now be on the shelves of your favorite hobby shop or get it direct from Dragon USA