RC Battle Tank M1A2 Abrams
Manufacturer: Hen Long
Source: eBay
Price: £28-35
Words By:

Now I’ve long been fascinated by tanks, since childhood I was regaled with tales of tank antics by my dear old Dad who was in R.E.M.E. (The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), and so got paid to play with the real thing daily. Trips to Bovington Tank Museum every summer just renewed my inbred love affair with these hulking, noisy beasts, and I still find that video games that have tanks in them are some of my absolute favourites, right from the Call of Duty series’ Shermans and Tigers right through to Halo’s Scorpion. Anyway, the shape of this M1A2 Abrams will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s seen any footage from the Gulf and Iraq wars, the real thing's huge size (32ft long and 76 tons) and power have become somewhat iconic of the way the coalition forces chased the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, and the Abrams was also used as the main spearhead when US forces entered Baghdad.

Right, so to the point; will you be able to chase invading cats out of your garden, or indeed invade a troublesome or oil-rich neighbour’s garden with this 1:24th scale toy Abrams? Well it's a definite 'yes' to the first question, as it has a powerful Airsoft gun that fires “safe” plastic 6mm BBs up to 25 metres. The turret rotates through 320° and the gun barrel elevates 20°, and all can be operated when the tank is on the move (a couple of extra thumbs would be handy to achieve this though). There's also a red warning light mounted alongside the barrel that comes on when you fire to let everyone know that they'd better duck. But as to the second question, well that's less likely, as its size and the whiny noise it makes are a bit less than intimidating, and although it’s a nippy little bugger at full ‘boost’ speed, its range is rather short.

But you probably won’t want to get too far from it anyway, as it’s a fairly good-looking tank; they all come with a nice forest camouflage paintjob, some stickers and a tank commander & machine gun to plonk in the top hatch, should you feel the need. It won’t be fooling any scale enthusiasts but its body is quite detailed and it looks quite close to the real thing, although the tracks are a bit narrow. The tracks are made out of a rubbery plastic and we’ve heard that as they age and stretch they come off all the time when you turn the tank, which could obviously be highly irritating. Mechanically it seems fairly sound, although a quick troll of forums would suggest that getting one from an eBay seller that works properly is a bit of a lottery, and even if it does it won’t for long - the gun, barrel movement, tracks and motors being the common problems (the first one we received had a cracked chassis meaning the drive wheels were misaligned and the tracks came off all the time, but the replacement was perfect).

The M1A2 Abrams takes a 9v battery in the controller, and a 9.6v Ni-Cad battery and charger for the tank itself. They’re both supplied in the box so after a charge of 4 hours or so you’ll be able to zoom off and annoy the wife/girlfriend/sister/cat for at least an hour or so before the battery needs charging. The controller allows you to rotate the turret left or right (although not through a full 360°), raise/lower the main gun, fire the gun (with a safety-conscious two buttons required to fire), go forward, backward, forward left, forward right, backward left or backward right. By combining two turn buttons diagonally you can do a ‘super spin’ fast 'neutral' turn. This tank also has a ‘switch’ mode button that allows you to programme the tank to do certain moves independently of any control inputs by you; a demo mode has six presets or you can programme in your own sequence. This is probably best done where there’s plenty of space, and it’s a good idea to keep your thumb on the ‘switch’ button in case the tank heads for trouble.

Even at its low price compared to many other 1:24th Abrams out there (although we have seen it for sale for as much as £59.95!), we find it hard to recommend this Hen Long model as its programmability has limited appeal and its performance is a bit patchy - the well documented quality control issues mean you could well end up with an M1A2 lemon. As a toy it actually plays reasonably well, but the high gearing means the steering is jerky, and the relatively small size (16”/405mm) means that it won’t take to the garden, or any rough or interesting terrain very happily. As the instruction booklet's warnings say in Hen Long's charming “Chinglish”: ‘The tank (or the remote controller) is wetted when running in a wet place, or the tank runs in a place with too much sand, mud, dirt or an even (sic) surface, or the tank runs on carpet, lawn or other places with excessive resistance, which leads to malfunctions or breaks.' Okay... and if that sounds like:
A) Hen Long should use something more sopisticated than Babel Fish to translate their text, and:
B) That if you don't want to destroy your tank you shouldn’t run it anywhere but on a spotlessly clean tiled floor, or over obstacles no more challenging or dirty than a DVD case...

...then you’re probably right on both counts – but where’s the fun in that?

Best Bits

- It's cheap
- It shoots BBs
- Programmeable
- Looks ok
- Climbs well
Worst Bits

- Common defects means you might get a 'duffer'
- No dust/dirt protection
- It shoots BBs
- Poor RC range
- It's just not big enough

by: Sloppy Sneak

Copyright © Gamecell 2008