Currently, there are three kits offered in 1/48 scale of the P-39 Airacobra. Fortunately, all build up into a great looking model without too much fuss. However, depending on your tastes and what version you are trying to build, these notes should help you decide which one is for you.
You may also find my list of P-39 Notes helpful.
Eduard (also Accurate Miniatures)
This kit dates to 2000. When released, it immediately gained notice for its excellent detail, options for the different variants, and good fit. Since its original release, Eduard has re-released multiple boxings in Weekend Edition, ProfiPack, and Dual Combo sets. These notes apply in general to all of the boxings.
The cockpit detail of the plastic parts is excellent, and if your kit includes photoetch, you can really make it shine. The instrument panel as it is might be a bit anemic, not having as much cast in detail as the Monogram/Revell or Hasegawa kits. However, Eduard generally provides either decal or photoetch detail (or both) so that can make up for the simple detailing of the part itself.
The surface detail is recessed and quite good, and very fine. Both doors are provided as clear parts, which makes for an easier build. However, they do not work very well to be closed up, so you generally have to build it with both doors open.
No nose gun or engine bay detail is included. Wheel well detail is good.
Where Eduard’s kit really shines is the veritable cornucopia of details. Any version from the D through Q model can be built. The kit includes three types of exhausts- 12-stack, and both round and fishtail variants of the 6-stack. Nose gun vents are included, as well as various parts for the variations in the .50 cal nose gun openings. Both weighted and un-weighted tires are also included, though only the spoked wheels are represented. Two variations of nose wheel are included. Underwing gun pods for the Q version are included. Both 3 and 4 blade prop options are also in the box, allowing the four bladed P-39Q-21 and -25 variants to be modeled. Additionally, both styles of three bladed prop blades are in the box.
The assembly of the kit is fairly straightforward, and though the cockpit/nose gear area is a slight bit fiddly, it’s not difficult.
The fit of the kit is very good, though I have had to use a little filler on examples I’ve built at the wing roots. But only a little.
Hyperscale published a very helpful list of Eduard P-39 variations.
(Note: Any Accurate Miniatures kit of the P-39 is a re-boxed Eduard kit.)
Hasegawa released their P-39 kit in 2006, and in many ways, improved on the Eduard offering.
The cockpit detail, out of the box, is probably the best of the three offerings, but only by a bit. The detail is cast very nicely, and the instrument panel is very well done in its raised detail. Surface detail is excellent.
One area that I think the Hasegawa kit falls a bit short of the Eduard kit is how the wing guns are handled for the variants that used them. In the Eduard kit, clearly indicated recesses are drilled out to mount the gun barrels. In the Hasegawa kit, inserts are used. Theoretically, this should be the better solution. However, the fit is not perfect, which does require a bit of careful sanding to get them faired in smoothly. I don’t want to overstate the issue, as the fit is not bad at all out of the box. But it is a slight factor in making a decision of kit choice.
The variant details are good. The kit includes three types of exhausts- 12-stack, and both round and fishtail variants of the 6-stack. Nose gun vents are included, as well as parts for the variations in the .30 cal nose gun openings. Both weighted and un-weighted tires are included, and the wheels include spoked and covered options. Three different nose wheel variations are included.
Only the three bladed prop is included in the wartime kits, though they did release a racing version with the four bladed option. Underwing gun pods for the Q version are included.
The fit of the kit is excellent, the example I’ve built needing no filler whatsoever. Assembly of the cockpit/nosewheel section is also very simple.
This kit dates back to 1967, yet it is remarkably good, even by today’s standards. The panel line detail is raised, so if that is a non-starter for you, you probably will want to move on to the Eduard and Hasegawa descriptions.
The cockpit detail in the kit is very good, comparing favorably with the modern kits. The right door can be positioned open, while the left door is molded shut. Surface detail is very good, though a bit generic.
One standout feature of this kit is the inclusion of the nose gun armament, allowing the kit to be built showing the 20mm/37mm gun detail, depending on the variant.
The engine bay can also have the panels open, allowing a bit of the engine to show, though it is not super-detailed.
Wheel well detail is OK, but not up to the standard of the newer kits.
Parts are included to build almost any variant out of the box, with some caveats. No vents are provided for the nose guns, so for later models, those would have to be scratched if they were needed. Two sets of exhausts are provided. the twelve stack and six stack.
The fit of the kit is remarkably good, despite it’s age. It went together without any filler. (The example I built was an older boxing.)
So- which kit do you buy?
If you’re not into raised panel lines, you’ll want to go for the Eduard or Hasegawa kits. However, if you want to show the gun detail, the Monogram/Revell kit is the way to go. (I don’t know if it can be fitted into the other two kits, though it would be an interesting project to try.)
For ease of assembly, the Hasegawa kit is slightly ahead of the other two. The Monogram and Eduard kits are about equal in that area. Surface detail of the Eduard and Hasegawa kits are almost identical, though the wheel well detail on the Hasegawa kit is noticeably better.
With regard to the parts in the box for different variants, Eduard is the complete package. I’ve examined several kits- weekend edition, Profipack, and dual combos, and all have the parts to build every variant.
The overall finesse of the Eduard parts is a bit better than the Hasegawa parts in the small details. For example, the nose guns vents in the Eduard kit are very petite and look to scale, while the Hasegawa parts seem a bit oversize. However, the distinction overall in general is very, very slight.
I suppose the deciding factor really comes down to cost, decals, and additional extras. Hasegawa tends to cost a bit more, and generally their decal options are not as extensive, and not as high a quality as the Eduard decals. (Eduard decals, at least the modern ones, are printed by Cartograph.)
As I’m writing this, I’m building both an Eduard and a Hasegawa P-39 kit. The Hasegawa kit has two decal options, and the decals are not of the highest quality, and it was a $40+ kit. The Eduard kit has five decal options- all printed by Cartograph, and includes photoetch and canopy masks, all for less than $25. And if you buy their Weekend Edition kits, those can cost less than the Monogram/Revell kit.
Happily, I don’t think you can make a bad choice when you pick a 1/48 P-39 kit. All of the offerings build into a great looking model, and have the parts to generally build any variant.
I do think that overall, Eduard provides the best combination of detail, fit, variant parts, and quality decals at the best price. And they are so widely available in so many variations it’s hard not to stumble over them wherever you shop for your models!
I had published reviews for each of the above kits on another site I publish, AgapeModels.com. The first review was a series of articles, and conclusions, based on a head to head build of the Eduard and Monogram kits. I later published a review of the Hasegawa kit, and added that in to the comparison mix.
I’ve also posted several articles on this site dealing with various P-39 projects.