08th MST GM Sniper
One of the more horrifying scenes in the 08th MST story occurs in Episode 11. After the insane Zion scientist Ghinius Sakalin breaks a shaky truce, the Fed General orders a retaliatory move. A lone dark green GM, surrounded by cooling pipes and equipment, points a long, rifle-like weapon with a huge scope skyward. The GM fires; the air screeches as the beam slices through the sky and into the engine section of an escaping Zion hospital ship. The beam traces a path along the length of the roaring hospital ship engine, which promptly explodes in Space Shuttle Challenger fashion. The GM Sniper long beam rifle has reached out and touched someone.
Overview: Bandai's 1/144 HG GM Sniper is one of the true detail gems of the 1/144 lines, having very few issues. Nice touches include molded-in foot actuator pistons (which are reasonably visible in dynamic poses) and a real surprise in a 1/144 kit, an opening cockpit. On the down side, poseability out of the box is poor; leg mobility is practically nil. The torso from neck to crotch is essentially immobile due to a lack of joints and the clunky-chunky shape of the GM. The accessory list is a plus as it includes a pile of weapons and a bonus: a non-scale model of the mobile armor Apsaras III. The kit also has numerous hands for the wide variety of hardware it packs, including a special Sniper Rifle hand set. I primarily bought this kit for the weapons, which I wanted to scale up to 1/100, the Apsaras and because I was so impressed with the 1/144 Ez8. Since this kit is generally simpler than the Ez8 (except the “Ton O’ Guns”), I built this first.
Arms: The arms are simple and straightforward. Unlike 1/100 HG kits, there is only 1 PV joint for the elbow. Sprue scars are noticeable on the dark green plastic, so this kit pretty much needs paint. My kit has stiff arm joints, and can hold up its weapons no problem. A simple blocky shoulder guard tops off the assembly, mounting to the upper arm. These are well done; the parachute bars are molded in one piece, and have no mold lines to clean up. Arm/shoulder articulations is pretty good, owing to the open nature of the shoulder guards.
Legs: The legs are very well done. The knee PV joint is totally encapsulated in a plastic block. This block arrangement is in my opinion far superior to the knee joints seen on the 1/100 HG Gundam Wing kits. With the GW 1/100 kits, the PV part is the knee pivot—the knee blocks plug into these to connect upper and lower leg. This can lead to floppy knees no matter what you do, since your only friction point is the relatively small PV axle. With the GM Sniper, where the knee joint PVs are totally constrained by the knee block and the rotation axis is built into the upper and lower leg, stiffness seems built in. The upper leg and lower legs are otherwise standard fare for an HG. The "kneecap" is a separate piece due to the three bolt heads sticking out of it. The leg articulation is awesome; it can easily be folded beyond 90° in the bent position.
Torso: The torso is minimally detailed, in line with the Anime mecha. The cockpit is a simple shallow rectangular hole with a seat molded in the back. I scratch built a simple dashboard out of Milliput to help fill in the cockpit--at this scale, anything else is overkill. I am tempted to build a spare cockpit hatch so I can model how the Apsaras "repaid" a Sniper that heavily damaged the MA.
The torso is stiff, and cannot bend or twist. The blocky, thick shape of the midriff would prevent much mobility anyway. The torso is so blocky it actually interferes with another part: the waist armor. The hip armor skirt looks typical for a HG 1/144 kit, except one important detail: the front skirts don't rotate! The picture to the left to shows what I mean—that is maximum deflection for the out-of-box kit. The rear skirt is fixed to the groin, side skirts rotate independently and a hinge pin connects the front skirt plates. Without the front skirts, the Sniper can kneel just like the anime picture on the box (you know--right as it's about to arc-weld the ass of the Zion hospital ship?). The problem is the front skirts are mounted too high on the hips and at a slight angle. As the bottom starts to swing out, the top strikes the torso. Since next on my build list is the similar 1/144 Ez8, I wanted a good fix for the hips. The HGUC GM Cannon has a similar torso/waist skirt arrangement and can kneel. The GM Cannon solution is a slimmer torso so the top of the skirt misses the belly of the beast. I decided on a more radical solution. First, I cut the pin off connecting the two front skirt plates. I then cut two metal tubes to about 1.5 cm in length. The two tubes share an inner and outer diameter—in other words, the smaller one just fits inside the larger one. I then soldered a length of the smaller tube perpendicular to the ends of both the tubes. The idea is the small and large tubes rotate around each other, being co-axial. The perpendicular extensions hang down, and are where the skirt armors will be mounted. I then cut 2 small collars from the larger diameter tube. These collars are mounted to the plates, and will allow the skirts to slide away from the torso as the plates are raised. A little Milliput was used to hold the pivots in place and Teflon tape to firm up the metal-to-metal contacts. A spare PV cap was drilled out implanted into the “codpiece” for the metal cross hinge tube to rotate on and the job was done. The figure to the left gives a decent schematic. This didn’t change the articulation of the solid block torso, but does greatly enhance the overall kit mobility.
The skirt plates are un-detailed on the inside, but since the Sniper is dark green and the skirts are small there isn't much point to detailing. What all this surgery resulted in was a true kneeling pose for my Sniper—see the gallery for the pics.
Weapons: "Loaded for Bear". Typical of Bandai kits in a series, if you have the GM Sniper and EZ8 you will have practically every weapon used by Fed MS's in the series except the 180mm cannon and Gundam hammer. Yes, the Gundam hammer is seen in 08th MST. The Sniper is of course outfitted with a sniper beam rifle, which includes a red clear lens for the scope. Also included are 2 beam sabres molded in clear pink plastic, the 6-tube rocket launcher, a bazooka with removable clip and a 100 mm machine gun with removable clip. You can use the sabres with the EZ8, which comes with solid white sabres. The only downsides of the weapons suite are the clip for the machinegun and the shield. The clip has the bottom exposed edge unfinished, and the shield interior is mostly hollow. Putty or styrene fixes the clip easily. For the shield, I copied details from the MG RX-79 (G), using Milliput to fill in the gaps. One other mod I made was to replace the 100 mm machine gun folding stock with a piece of 20 gage wire, seen here—a lot stiffer, no seam line, and more to scale than the tree trunk of plastic you get with the kit. I did try to pose the kit with the bazooka and the 6-tube rocket launcher, both of which are held over the shoulder. The 6-tube launcher can be held fine, but the bazooka can’t. The problem is the wrist—the kit includes one bent wrist trigger hand for the sniper rifle. To hold the bazooka over the shoulder, you have to choose between the sniper holding the big rifle, or the bazooka. Somehow, the idea of a sniper with a freakin' bazooka doesn’t make much sense, so I went with the bent wrist on the sniper rifle. The obvious fix is to snap/cut the straight wrist peg on the bazooka hand and align it for an over-the-shoulder pose.
Apsaras: I bought this kit for several reasons (I am not usually a 1/144 guy), one of which was the Apsaras. This is a disappointment. The Apsaras is unfinished in large parts of the underside, and there are a lot of holes where you can see the unfinished interior. The fold-up legs/fins are molded way too thick and need thinning. Since the Apsaras is a bonus, the Sniper kit is still a great deal. Just don't expect much from the MA.
Painting: After priming, the whole kit was sprayed with Krylon Olive Drab. The panel lines were accentuated with watercolor black and a pencil. In pre-shading terms, the Olive Drab was the base coat. The highlight tone is Testor’s Forest Green, which was applied to panel midsections. Certain parts such as the midriff, the cockpit hatch, rocket backpack, etc. were left in OD, and washed with the watercolor black (Ailene’s brand) to provide a subtle color contrast.
Conclusions: This kit is pretty decent, and has somewhat changed my mind on 1/144 kits. Though it sells for 200 Yen more than a standard 800 Yen 08th MST HG kit (100Y ~ $1 U.S.), it includes an MA and a BOATLOAD of guns—well worth the ~$2.00. The parts fit, detail and articulation (except the forward leg mobility) are all good. There is no MG (most likely) or HG 1/100 GM’s from the 08th MST line, so if you want a Sniper, this is your only fix at the moment, short of scratchbuilding one from an MG RX-79(G). The biggest problem with this little guy is the inability to get into its coolest pose, kneeling with the sniper rifle, out of the box. Once the front waist armor skirt is fixed for kneeling poses and you can take advantage of the otherwise excellent articulation, the GM Sniper becomes a really neat piece.
Ratings (for unmodified kit):
Ease of build: 8
Execution of overall design: 9
Gimmick execution (Apsaras): 6
My “Snipe” Gallery:
Large (~100+ kb files)