A6M5b represented a major overhaul of the basic Zero design in an
attempt to bridge the gap between it and the latest American designs.
Significant design changes included a one meter reduction in the wing
span, complete redesign of the engine cowling and the installation of
individual thrust type exhaust pipes. The wing cannon armament was
changed from drum fed with 100 rpg with a belt fed with 125 rpg. The
wing skin was made of a heavier gage to allow for an increased diving
speed. Armour glass was fitted behind the windshield and fuel tanks had
automatic fire extinguishers. One of the fuselage mounted 7.7mm machine
guns was replaced with a 13.2mm machine gun.
The Hasegawa kit comes in a two part top open box with attractive artwork on the front. Inside the box all of the parts except the clear parts are in a large bag, the clear parts are separately bagged. The parts are molded in gray and feature recessed panel lines and fastener detail. There are some raised details where appropriate. The panel lines are fine and not as over done as are seen on many Tamiya kits. The control surfaces are all fixed in the neutral position and the fabric detail features a texture as well as sagging fabric over rib detail that is a bit over done but fairly typical. The flaps are made to be displayed in the dropped position although the mounting tabs could be cut off if you want them up. The parts are virtually flash free with only a small parting line on some of the small parts.The main gear bays are molded integral with the wings and feature some very nice internal structural detail. The cockpit is nicely detailed with separate side walls and a total of 13 parts. The instrument panel has nice molded in detail that can be painted up or you can use the supplied decals over the panel. The engine features separate cylinder banks with a separate gear box with push rods. While some ignition wires would dress it up, little will be seen when it's mounted in the tight fitting cowling. I found no surface defects on the outside of the airframe but there are ejector pin marks on the inside of the flaps and main gear doors. The kit comes with a number of parts intended for other variants of the aircraft including guns, bombs and racks, different spinner and backing plate and drop tanks. The wheels have nice hub detail but the tires are not weighted. By my count there are 129 parts in gray. See below.
The entire line of Hasegawa Zeros have few in the way of intrinsic problems and most reports give them high marks for fit and ease of assembly. Highly recommended for modelers of all skill levels.
Links to kit build or reviews
Famous Fighters of the second World War by William Green
Japanese aircraft of the Pacific War by R.J. Francillon