HugoTroop

M4 Sherman: Variant Identification

This article will be a not-very brief discussion on the different variants of the M4 Sherman, and how to visually identify them. 

 

(I am currently in the process of adding photos, please be patient!)

 

Chances are, you've wondered what the actual differences between the different types of M4 Sherman. I will go through the technical details, and then any visual cues as to what variant it is. 

 

Before we start, we must go through a bit of Sherman Vocabulary. Most of you are probably already familiar with some of these terms.

 

Small Hatch - Small-hatch Shermans were mostly early production, but did exist in mid-production, and even late production M4A4s. Their upper glacis was sloped back at about 57 degrees, and 50.8 mm (2 in) thick. It had two bulges near the top to allow the Driver and Bow Gunner to sit with their heads upwards, and for their hatches to be directly overhead. This bulge was considered a weakspot, as the armor there was nearly flat. It is referred to as "small hatch" because of its comparably smaller hatch to the later, "Large Hatch" Shermans

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Notice how the driver's hoods protrude outwards above the armor plate

Large Hatch - Large-hatch Shermans were mostly mid- and late-production Shermans. They had their upper glacis sloped backwards at about 47 degrees, and were 63.5 mm (2.5 in) thick. This redesign removed the "bulge" in the hull that allowed for the Driver and Bow Gunner to sit comfortably, which was a "target", since it was mostly flat. It is referred to as "large hatch" due to its larger hatches.

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Notice how there are no more driver's hoods protruding from the hull.

VVSS - Vertical Volute Spring Suspension. Found on all early and mid production Shermans, and less and less on late production Shermans. Each bogey had two road wheels, each with their own vertical spring to suspend the tank.

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Notice the distinct, "standard-looking" VVSS system

HVSS - Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension. Found only on later production Shermans. Each bogey still had two road wheels, but the springs were mounted horizontally and there was only one "system" per bogey. Other redesigns came with this modification, such as new tracks, new return roller system, and more.

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The HVSS system.

Cast - Refers to the design of the hull, completely cast. It is noted by its all-around rounded shape.

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An M4A1 (76) W. Only M4A1s had fully cast hulls.

Welded - Refers to the design of the hull, completely welded. It is noted by its boxy, edged shape. It was the most common hull type.

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A welded M4 or M4A3. The welded design was most common for Shermans.

Composite - Refers to the design of the hull, a composition of a cast front section and welded rear.

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The Composite M4. Only the standard M4 had this hull type, as well as the rare M4A6. The front appears rounded and cast, while the rear is welded.

Dry Stowage - Refers to the ammunition storage. It was more or less just sticking the ammunition into boxes/racks. Dry stowage was more prone to catching fire and thereby detonating when hit.

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The arrangement for ammunition in a dry stowage configuration.

Wet Stowage - Refers to the ammunition storage. It used a special mix of various liquids (I believe antifreeze and water were part of it) to surround the ammunition boxes. Wet stowage dramatically reduced the rate at which the ammo caught fire, and was found on mid- and late-production Shermans.

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The arrangement for ammunition in a wet stowage configuration.

Light-Duty Return Roller - Refers to the suspension. This was a similar setup to that of the M3 Lee, where the return roller was placed directly above the center of the bogey.

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An M3 clearly showing the Light-Duty return roller

Heavy-Duty Return Roller - Refers to the suspension. This was a modified design, where the actual roller was positioned further backwards relative to the rest of the bogey, and a "slide" which was positioned further forwards. This allowed for the same load to be distributed across more space on the track return system.

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An M4A1 (76) W showing the heavy-duty return roller

3-Piece Transmission Housing - Mostly found on early and mid production Shermans/ It has a very rounded shape, and has two seams with bolts running along its outside. Since the bolts held the 3 pieces together, it was referred to as the 3-piece transmission housing.

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Two Shermans showing the large ribs and rounded 3-piece transmission housing.

1-Piece Transmission Housing - Mostly found on mid and late production Shermans. It has a far more angular look, appearing to continue with the slope that the upper glacis is at. It usually had two "variants", a more rounded one, and a more angular one. 

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37_M4.thumb.jpg.096a78a6fffc22faf1595be8

An M4 with the early rounded 1-piece housing

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A later M4 Commposite showing the later, more angular 1-piece transmission.

75mm - The 75mm M3 cannon. (Or Shermans armed with it) Known for its excellent HE shells, but lackluster anti-armor capabilities

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The 75mm M3 on an early-model M4A1

76mm - The 76mm M1 cannon (it technically was 3 inches, or 76.2mm). It had far superior anti-armor capabilities, but it was less liked due to its lesser HE shell.

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An M4A3 (76) W HVSS with the 76mm M1 gun. The different turret is also visible.

105mm - The 105mm M4 howitzer. Installed in very late war Shermans, and sacraficed all anti-armor capabilities for an even larger HE shell.

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An M4 or M4A3 (105). The original turret is visible, but the larger, stubbier 105mm howitzer is also very prevalent.

Low Bustle - (Unofficial) A type of 75mm Turret. The Turret Bustle (the part that sticks out the back) appears visually "low slung". It was found on initial production 75mm Shermans, but was phased out by the end of 75mm production.

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A low bustle turret.

High Bustle - (Unofficial) A type of 75mm (but likely not 105mm) Turret. The Turret Bustle appears to be higher up, as to allow more more clearance for the hatches Large-Hatch Shermans. It was found on most mid- and late-production 75mm Shermans

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A high bustle turret.

D50878 - This was the technical Part Number for the Low-Bustle turret

D78461 - This was the technical Part Number for the High-Bustle turret. However, some production lines still labeled these as D50878s, even after the High Bustle conversion was made

M34 Gun Mount - the Original M4's gun mount, with a gun shield covering the area around the gun barrel, and a Rotor sight (later altered to a periscope) for the gunner.

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An early M4 with the M34 gun mount

M34A1 Gun Mount - an upgraded gun mount, with the gun shield covering the entire gun mantle, protecting the coaxial machine gun, and adding a direct sight for the gunner, "coaxially" to the gun.

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A late M4 Composite with the M34A1 gun mount. The wider gun shield is clearly visible.

M52 Gun Mount - 105mm Gun Mount. It was fairly similar to the M34A1, but looked bulkier, had a larger Direct sight for the gunner, and other visual differences.

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A Sherman with the 105mm gun and M52 gun mount.

T23 Turret - (Unofficial) The turret adapted from the T23 prototype (between the T20 and T25/M26). Armed with a 76mm gun. Early production did not have a ventilator in the back (seen as weird bulge), as the T23 had a hull ventilation system. This was added soon after initial production began, and became the standard. They also had a split hatch cupola for the loader, which was soon removed because it interfered with the visibility of the Commander's vision cupola. 

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An early-model M4A1 (76) W with an early-production 76mm turret. The twin cupolas and lack of turret ventilator can be seen.

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A later, more standard 76mm turret

D82081 - This was the technical Part Number for the "T23 Turret"

M62 Gun Mount - technical name for T23 Turret's gun mount

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An M4A3 (76) W HVSS with the M62 gun mount

Split Hatch Cupola - This was the cupola found exclusively on 75mm/105mm Shermans, as well as on early 76mm turrets. There was 1 periscope for the commander built into one of the hatches, and it opened up into two separate pieces.

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An M4 Composite with the hatches open

Vision Cupola - This cupola was found on all 76mm and some 105mm Shermans, as well as very late production 75mm Shermans. There were 6 vision blocks to look through, and a single piece hatch.

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An M4A3E2 with the hatch to the vision cupola open

Pistol Port - On most 75mm Shermans, and all 76mm and 105mm Shermans, there was a square-ish pistol port on the rear left of the turret. About halfway through the 75mm Sherman's production, the pistol port was welded up or omitted, but added back later in production.

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The pistol port can be seen on the rear of the turret.

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This M4A1 has had the pistol port deleted

Direct Vision Port - Refers to the Driver and Bow Gunner's view system, which had metal flaps that could open up to allow for better vision. These were only found on small hatch Shermans, and almost exclusively on M4A1s. They still had a periscope, though. They were quickly omitted from production due to bullet splash.

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An early Sherman with the direct vision slits

Driver's Periscope - The periscope that the Bow Gunner and Driver used to see out of. 

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The periscopes for the driver and assistant driver can be seen on the roof hatches of the hull

Gunner's Rotor Sight - This optic for the gunner was found on extremely early production Shermans. It would later be replaced by a periscope.

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The T6 prototype with a rotor sight, found in the top left of the image

Gunner's Periscope Sight - This optic for the gunner was found on all non-rotor sight Shermans.

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The periscope can be seen just forward of the commander's hatch. This is a prototype 76mm turret on an M4A1 hull.

Gunner's Direct Sight - This optic for the gunner was found on 75mm Shermans with the M34A1, and all 76mm and 105mm Shermans. This sight was lined up more coaxially with the main gun, allowing for more precise shooting.

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The Gunner's coaxial sight can be seen on this M4A2 with the M34A1 gun mount.

Cut-Out Loader's Hatch - Early production 75mm turrets did not have a loader's hatch. So, an improvised, semi-official field modification was created allowing for a loader's hatch. This was a rectangular hole cut in the roof, with a somewhat rough hatch covering it.

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A Sherman "Firefly" with the loader's hatch cut into the roof.

Oval Loader's Hatch - After the issues o f not having a dedicated loader's hatch were discovered, they were rather slowly added into production. They were oval shaped and a bit smaller than the field-modified versions, but were overall much cleaner and arguably more reliable

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A late-production M4A2 with the loader's hatch built in from production

DD - Duplex Drive, a semi-amphibious conversion for the landings at Omaha beach

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A Sherman DD with its screens up

Canvas Cover - Most Shermans with the M52 and M62 gun mounts could have a canvas cover stretching from the gun shield to the front of the turret. Special mounting hooks were required but were also quite common.

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An M4 (105) with the canvas cover.

 

Note that, many small revisions to all the Turrets, Gun Mounts, Optics systems, and more occurred during their production and varied between factory.

 

Variants

 

There are 4 main variants and 2 lesser variants of the M4 Sherman

Main:

  • M4
  • M4A1
  • M4A2
  • M4A3

Lesser:

  • M4A4
  • M4A6

We will not go into the M4A6, as only about 100 were produced and (likely) never saw combat.

The designation "M4A5" was reserved for Canadian production. We commonly associate it with the Ram II, however, whether or not it was officially used with the Ram II is questionable.

 

All of the Main variants of the M4 Sherman had different front glacis, suspension types, main guns, etc. The only continuous difference between the variants was their engine, and in the case of the M4A1 and M4 Composite, the hull type.

 

  • M4 - Welded Hull, Continental R-975 Radial Gasoline Engine. (M4 Composite had a Composite hull) - Saw service with both the US and UK.
  • M4A1 - Cast Hull, Continental R-975 Radial Gasoline Engine. - Saw much service with both the US and UK.
  • M4A2 - Welded Hull, General Motors GM6046 Diesel Engine. - Saw service only with the Marines and via Lend-Lease.
  • M4A3 - Welded Hull, Ford GAA V8 Gasoline Engine. - Only saw service with the US.
  • M4A4 - Welded Hull, Chrysler A57 Multibank Gasoline Engine. It had an elongated hull to accompany the larger engine. - Used almost exclusively by the UK.

 

M4

The M4, through all of its own sub variants, had large and small hatches, 75mm and 105mm guns, VVSS and HVSS, dry and wet stowage, both the D50878 and D78461 turrets, both M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, 1 and 3 piece transmission housing, and light and heavy return rollers. (As well as a composite hull). The Rear plate could both be sloped inwards or vertical. The horseshoe shape was usually very prominent. Most Large-Hatch M4s had a completely flat, usually sloped plate, without any horseshoe shape. 

 

  • M4 (75) - usually 3-piece transmission, both types of return roller, small hatches, D50878 turret, probably only M34 gun mount, dry stowage.
  • M4 (75) W - both 1 and 3 piece transmission, heavy return roller, small and large hatches, both types of turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4 (75) W Composite - both 1 and 3 piece transmission, heavy return roller, small and large hatches, both types of turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, wet stowage. Composite hull.
  • M4 (105) W - 1 piece transmission, heavy return roller, large hatches, D78461 turret, M52 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4 (105) W HVSS - 1 piece transmission, HVSS return roller, large hatches, D78461 turret, M52 gun mount, wet stowage.

M4A1

The M4A1, through all of its own sub variants, had large and small hatches, 75mm and 76mm guns, VVSS and HVSS, dry and wet stowage, the D50878, D78461 and D82081 turrets, both M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, 1 and 3 piece transmission housing, and light and heavy return rollers. The Rear plate was always near vertical. The horseshoe shape was rather shallow compared to that of the M4. Large-Hatch M4A1s had a completely flat, vertical plate, without any horseshoe shaping. 

 

  • M4A1 (75) - usually 3-piece transmission, both types of return roller, small hatches, D50878 turret, probably only M34 gun mount, dry stowage.
  • M4A1 (75) W - both 1 and 3 piece transmission, heavy return roller, small and large hatches (probably), both types of turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A1 (76) W - 1 piece transmission, heavy return roller, large hatches, T23 turret and D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A1 (76) W HVSS - 1 piece transmission, HVSS return roller, large hatches, D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A1 "Quick Fix" - This was a special, experimental Sherman where a long-barrelled 76mm M1 cannon (same as found on 76mm Shermans) was shoved into the 75mm turret (with M34 gun mount). It was deemed too cramped to be serviceable.

M4A2

The M4A2, through all of its own sub variants, had large and small hatches, 75mm and 76mm guns, VVSS and HVSS, dry and wet stowage, the D50878, D78461 and D82081 turrets, both M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, 1 and 3 piece transmission housing, and light and heavy return rollers. The Rear plate was always sloped inwards. It had a stepped shape, with metal extending below the level of the rest of the upper hull. 

 

  • M4A2 (75) - usually 3-piece transmission, both types of return roller, small hatches, D50878 turret, likely both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, dry stowage.
  • M4A2 (75) W - both 1 and 3 piece transmission, heavy return roller, small and large hatches, both types of turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A2 (76) W - 1 piece transmission, heavy return roller, large hatches, D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A2 (76) W HVSS - 1 piece transmission, HVSS return roller, large hatches, D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.

M4A3

The M4A3, through all of its own sub variants, had large and small hatches, 75mm, 76mm, and 105mm guns, VVSS and HVSS, dry and wet stowage, the D50878, D78461 and D82081 turrets, both M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, 1 and 3 piece transmission housing, and probably only heavy return rollers. The Rear plate was always sloped inwards. It had a stepped shape, with metal extending below the level of the rest of the upper hull.

 

  • M4A3 (75) - 1-piece transmission, heavy return roller, small hatches, D50878 turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, dry stowage.
  • M4A3 (75) W - 1-piece transmission, heavy return roller, small and large hatches, both types of turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A3 (76) W - 1 piece transmission, heavy return roller, large hatches, D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A3 (76) W HVSS - 1 piece transmission, HVSS return roller, large hatches, D82081 turret, M62 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A3 (105) W - 1 piece transmission, heavy return roller, large hatches, D78461 turret, M52 gun mount, wet stowage.
  • M4A3 (105) W HVSS - 1 piece transmission, HVSS return roller, large hatches, D78461 turret, M52 gun mount, wet stowage.

M4A4

The M4A4, through all of its own sub variants, had small hatches, the 75mm gun VVSS, dry and (likely) wet stowage, the D50878 and D78461 turrets, both M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, 1 transmission housing, and probably only heavy return rollers. The Rear plate was always sloped inwards. It had a stepped shape, with metal extending below the level of the rest of the upper hull.

 

  • M4A4 (75)  - 3-piece transmission, both types of return roller, small hatches, D50878 turret, both M34 and M34A1 gun mount, dry stowage.

 

By the time 76mm (and 105mm) Sherman production, began, 3-piece differential housings, light-duty return rollers, and small hatches had been phased out of production. Therefore, no 76mm or 105mm Shermans had the aforementioned parts. The only exception to this rule is prototypes testing the 76mm and 105mm guns and turrets.

 

Other Variants

 

Sherman DD - British conversions of M4A1 (75)s, M4A2 (75)s and M4A4 (75)s to allow for deep wading. Used during the D-Day landings.

M4A3E2 (75) W and M4A3E2 (76) W - a small production run by Fisher of heavily uparmored M4A3 (75) Ws. The used the D82081 turret, rather than the normal D50878/D78461 turret, but still mounted the 75mm gun, but obviously uparmored. The tracks were fitted with grousers (duckbills protruding outwards) to better distribute the added weight of the tank. Some of these vehicles were rearmed with the 76mm gun. Note that there was never a WWII-era record of them being called "Jumbo". There are also field modifications of M4A3 (76) W and M4A3 (76) W HVSS to match the same frontal hull armor as the M4A3E2, but much more crude overall.

T34 Calliope and T40 Whizbang - The T34 was a modification that allowed for 60 M8 rockets to be strapped to a large rack above the turret. It was attached directly to the turret, and elevated by moving the main gun. Its main role was anti-infantry, and was less stealthy than the already quite tall Sherman. It appears to have been mounted on all 75mm Sherman variants, likely mid-late model Shermans with wet stowage. The T40 was another rocket launcher, which had larger but fewer rockets than the T34. It also appears to have been used on all 75mm Sherman variants, and also mid-late model Shermans with wet stowage.

E9 - The E9 was a suspension modification (like the E8 (HVSS) series), where it took the regular VVSS, and put extra metal spacers between the bolts of the bogies and the hull, pushing the tracks out further from the hull. This allowed for duckbill grousers to be installed on both sides of the track, thereby reducing ground pressure even more. It was fairly uncommon, and found only on late model (large hatch, wet stowage) 75mm Shermans, as well as some armored recovery vehicles and the M36B2 Gun Motor Carriage.

 

"Sherman Firefly" Variants

 

Sherman Mk. IC - M4 Sherman, with small hatches, D50878 turret, and M34A1 gun mount, rearmed to fit the British 17 pounder. It was known for being extremely cramped inside the turret. (Think back to the M4A1 with the 76mm crammed into its turret; the 17 pounder was even larger)

Sherman Mk. IC Hybrid - M4 Composite, with small hatches, D50878 turret, and M34A1 gun mount, rearmed to fit the British 17 pounder.

Sherman Mk. VC - M4A4 refitted with British 17 pounder.

 

Visual Identification

 

If you have a Sherman placed in front of you, there are 3 main steps to identify what specific variant it is.

 

1) The Easy stuff.

Very prominent features such as VVSS or HVSS, 75mm, 76mm, or 105mm guns, and large vs small hatches are easily identifiable just by looking at it (depending on the viewpoint). If you look at the variant list above, you can cross out a few tanks just based on this information. For example, the M4 and M4A4 never used the 76mm, and only the M4 and M4A3 used the 105mm. This already can narrow down the variants, and, items such as the transmission housing or suspension type can even tell you its approximate location in its production run.

 

2) Rare/Foreign Variants

This is more of an extension of the first step. The 17 pounder is easily identifiable by its different-looking gun. It also is only based on small-hatch, dry stowage M4 and M4A4 hulls. The T34 and T40 are fairly obvious and should not be missed. A Sherman DD can only be an M4A1, M4A2 or M4A4. The M4A3E2s have visibly thicker frontal armor (although it was up armored everywhere), and the gun mantle looks very bulky. The E9 suspension was a relatively rare modification, and its strange and excessively wide tracks will easily give it away.

 

3) The "A" Type

This is probably the hardest part. The rear plate can often narrow the variant down. If it has a horseshoe shape, it is an M4 or M4A1 (depending on a cast or welded hull). If it has a stepped shape, it is an M4A2, M4A3, or M4A4. To isolate an M4A4, check the spacing between the bogies. If the space between the road wheels is about 2/3 the diameter of a road wheel, it is an M4A4 (or possibly and M4A6). If not, it is one of the others.

The M4 and M4A1 both had the same engine, and therefore similar engine bays. There is no grille on top of the hull where the engine should be. There is a split-door access hatch on the rear of the hull. The exhaust port is tucked behind the upper rear armor plate. There may have been a deflector that could be attached, with one small, central block of slits.

The M4A2 has a nearly square grille on top of the engine deck. It also has two circular exhaust pipes in the center. There are no access hatches on the rear. It could be equipped with a deflector, which gave an appearance of a grille, in two large "blocks" of slits on each side, with a smaller group of slits in the center.

The M4A3 has a rectangular grille, stretching across the entire width of the armor plate it is on. It has two flat exhaust pipes on either side of the center. there is a single access hatch in the center of the rear hull. They could also be equipped with a deflector, with the appearance of a grille, with 9 equally-sized slits in a 3x3 configuration. 

The M4A4 had a very small grille, that was rectangular and also stretched the width of its armor plate. Its exhaust was tucked behind its rear upper armor plate. It has two engine access doors, similar to that of the M4 and M4A1. It could also be equipped with a deflector, which was simply two large slits. 

 

Aside from the cast construction of M4A1s and M4 Composites, and the elongated hull of the M4A4, and other designs unique to a certain variant, there is no easy way to identify Shermans without looking at the engines area.

 

If you are looking at a historical photo, there are also a few other giveaways as to what type of Sherman it is (if only 1 angle is provided). 

1) The Crew

Are the American? British? Soviet? If it is American, you know that it is extremely likely to be an M4, M4A1, or M4A3 (unless you are looking at the Marines). If they are British (that is, no helmets), it it is not an M4A3 for sure. If Soviet, it is almost guaranteed to be an M4A2

1.5) The Markings

Like the crew, by telling which nation it was being operated by, you can limit off the type of Sherman that was being used.

2) Theater of combat

Although it's hard to determine just by looking, the location of the Sherman can easily be connected back to the possible crew, and therefore the possible crew members and therefore variant.

 

Even More Information!

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The Turret

 

Extra Armor

This was done because, in the initial production of D50878 turrets, there was a part of the Gunner's station that had its turret armor shaved thinner to accompany the horizontal traverse mechanism. The initial fix was to just put extra armor on the outside, and was issued fairly widely. Only later did they alter the manufacturing process and put the xtra bulge in as part of production. The D78461 turrets all came with this repair. 

 

Loader's Hatch

Initially, M4 Shermans did not have a loader's hatch! It wasn't until late 1943 with the introduction of large-hatch hulls and therefore D78461 turrets did the loader's hatch become a factory-produced item. Prior to that, there was an officially released manual on how to "create your own" loader's hatch. It had a square cutout, with a slightly more oval hatch inside it. It was extremely rough and poorly made compared to the factory produced ones.

 

Smoke Launcher

Also starting in late 1943 with the D78461 turret, smoke launchers became built-into the inside of the Sherman. 

 

Pistol Port

While they initially came with a pistol port (in rear left of turret), starting from Spring of 1943, factories began producing D50878 turrets with the port welded up (but still there). From Summer 1943 to the end of 1943, the pistol ports were simply omitted from production all together. Crews, for some reason or another, felt that it was necessary and protested the change, and by the end of 1943, the very-late production D50878 turrets (same standard as D78461 except for bustle height) came with the pistol port. It was kept as a part of the M4's turret for the rest of the war. 

 

Cupola

From its initial production up until late 1944, all 75mm turrets were fitted with a split-hatch for the commander. Starting at the end of 1944, 75mm Shermans were fitted with the vision cupola found on 76mm Shermans. 

The early versions of the split-hatch had no support; there was essentially just a hinge in the operating system of the door. After many complaints, there was a hatch locking system (for when opening it) that prevented the doors from smashing open. It was first issued as an official field modification kit. Later, it was added as a part of official production. In late 1943, an improved, internally spring-loaded system was created and installed on very late production D50878 turrets, as well as all D78461 turrets.

 

Spotlights

Sometime in Spring of 1943, a mount for a spotlight was added. Retrofits were also made for earlier modifications of the turret.

 

Gun Mount

The M34 gun mount, which only had a small portion of "extra" armor protecting the gun mantle, was used on all 75mm turrets up until about Spring of 1943. After that, the M34A1 gun mount was used, with a larger armor plate covering the entire mantle, with an extra optic for the gunner.

 

There were also three variants of the M34A1 gun mount; an "early" version, with bolts around the entire gun mantle securing it to the turret, and 2 lifting rings on top, a "mid" version with all-around bolts but no lifting rings, and a "late" version, with the bolts on the side omitted and no lifting rings.

 

"Recycled D50878 Turrets"

Later in the war, there were some issues involving turret production at the Fisher factory, and therefore decided to receive old (and then outdated) D50878 turrets to retrofit with D78641 standard equipment. They had the applique armor on the turret cheek, a new loader's hatch, vision cupola, smoke launcher, pistol port (if it was removed), and the M34A1 gun mount. They also had to remove a bit of armor on the lower edge of the turret bustle, as to allow clearance for the large-hatch Shermans that it would be used on.

 

Early 76mm Turrets

Early production 76mm turrets were taken directly from the T23. They did not have a turret ventilation system, as in the T23, it was part of the hull. Therefore, not too long into production, a ventilator was added to the back of the turret, which is the strange bulge that you see there. Another major difference between the T23 turret and the main production D82081 turrets was a loader's cupola. It was simply just the split-hatch cupola found on early-mid 75mm turrets. There was a manufacturing defect with them, as the hatches did not open past vertical. Later production 76mm turrets removed the extra cupola and replaced it with a one similar to the late-production 75mm turret one. 

 

The 76mm Gun

There are 3 main types of the 76mm M1 gun used on 76mm Shermans; the M1A1 (longer recoil surface), and M1A1C (M1A1 that was threaded for a Muzzle Break), and M1A2 (M1A1C with change in rifling). 

Early production 76mm turrets (on all variants) had the M1A1, without any muzzle break. Not too long later, an order was issued to thread all barrel ends to fit a muzzle break, dubbed M1A1C. However, muzzle break production had to catch up, so a protective collar was placed there before the muzzle breaks arrived. Later, for one reason or another, they decided to change the rifling, called the M1A2, and fitted that onto some late 1944 and early 1945 76mm Shermans.

 

Canvas Covers

Found only on the M52 and M62 gun mounts, canvas dust covers were designed to keep unwanted debris etc out from behind the gun mantle. Using small hooks on the side of the turret and gun shield, the crew could attach a canvas cover. The hooks were initially installed by the factor (for 76mm) around fall of 1945, but the canvas itself was generally not factory installed until about January 1945. However, some factories never installed the hooks nor the covers.

Spoiler

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Mounting hooks can be seen on the sides of the gun mantle.

 

A 105mm Sherman with the cover installed.

 

Gunner's Optics

As you may have read from above sections, the optics available for the gunner changed over the course of Sherman production. The original T6 prototype and extremely early M4A1s had a rotor sight for the gunner. Soon, this was replaced with a single periscope that had some aiming capabilities. At this point, the M34 gun mount was in use, and the gunner did not have a sight in-line with the main gun. This was changed by spring of 1943, with the introduction of the M34A1 gun mounts, which gave the gunner a telescopic sight coaxially mounted to the main gun. This idea of a periscope and direct optic was also found on 76mm and 105mm turrets, when they went into production. 

Spoiler

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This very early M4A1 has a rotor sight for the gunner, and no telescopic sight.

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This M4 or M4A3 has the rotor sight replaced with a simple periscope, but still no telescopic sight.

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This M4A2 has the M34A1 gun mount, meaning it has a telescopic sight for the gunner in addition to the periscope.

 

 

The Hull

 

Extra Armor (Sides)

For the most part, this was done to cover up the dry stowage of Shermans before wet stowage. Even after the wet stowage came along, some Shermans were still produced with those armor patches. The M4A1, specifically large-hatch ones, sometimes had the extra armor as part of the casting.

Spoiler

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The extra armor is clearly visible.

 

Early M4A1 Hulls

On extremely early M4A1s (I'm talking like "Michael", in the Bovington), there were  fixed forwards-firing machine guns. These were inherited from the M3 Lee, and that from the M2 Medium. The sheer uselessness of these machine guns had them removed for serial production. 

Spoiler

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The T6 (M4 Sherman prototype). The fixed hull machine guns are easily visible next to the bow machine gun.

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An extremely early M4A1. THe fixed machine guns are still present.

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An early M4A1. THe fixed machine guns have been removed.

 

Direct Vision Ports

On early variants of all types of M4 (except maybe M4A3), the Driver and Bow Gunner had small metal flaps that they could open to get a better view of the outside while buttoned down. This was soon realized to be a not very good idea, as bullet splash (metal that sprays from a bullet impact) often could get inside these vision ports easily. They were removed well before the end of 1943. (These were on Small-hatch Shermans only)

Spoiler

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Direct vision ports on an early M4A1.

 

Extra Armor (Front)

Because of the "Direct Vision Port" issue, many tanks simply had an extra armor plate welded over them. Some tanks were equipped with the extra armor even if they did not have DV ports.

Spoiler

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Extra armor is covering this Sherman IC (M4)'s driver's hoods. 

 

Driver's Hood Casting type

There were two main types of Driver (and Bow Gunner) hoods that could be found on Small-Hatch Shermans. There was a "wide" casting, where the front was a relatively flat piece, and the armor was very square. They were generally found on (Ford) M4A3s and (Chrysler) M4A4s.  The other type was the "narrow" casting, where the front face had a slight bit of shape to bring it to a point (granted not by much). The hood also got narrower as you moved forwards, giving the whole hood type a more streamlined look. They were more common on M4 and M4A2s. On the M4A1, the fact that the entire hull was cast allowed the hoods to be more integrated, but overall, by design, was technically of the narrow type. 

Spoiler

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The immediate differences between the two types.

 

Fabricated Driver's Hoods

Since the Fisher company had some issues with manufacturing the driver's hoods, they switched to highly angular, welded driver's hoods on their M4A2s. They were the only factory to do so. 

Spoiler

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The welded driver's hoods are clearly visible.

 

 

Differential Coverings

On the 1-piece differential cover, early-production had the more rounded types, where it was fairly "circular" all the way around the curving part. They were generally found on small hatch Shermans. Later production had a more angular appearance, but still had a cast curve. It also included protection for the bolts which attached it to the upper front plate, by creating a small "ledge" of armor in front. They were mostly found on large hatch Shermans.

In addition, some very late 3-piece transmission covers had the bolts recessed into the armor a bit compared to earlier, thereby giving them extra protection.

Spoiler

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3-piece differential housing.5_M4.thumb.jpg.d9fc50db31cd97a3f4865faaa

1-piece (rounded) differential housing. Notice the small lip in front of the top row of bolts.

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1-piece (angular) differential housing.

 

 

Front Tow Hooks (and Footsteps)

The Front tow hook mountings were found on the lower side of the transmission covering. The earlier type used a single ring, and could have a small footstep bolted inside to be used to step on. Later production had two rings, and often had a small metal frame welded to one end of the hook to be used as a step, sometimes in addition to the original hooked step.

Spoiler

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An early version of the hull towing hooks.

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The footstep, attached to the hook.

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A later model towing hook, with a built-in footstep and two eyelets.

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A rare, early version of the 2-eyelet hook with a cast footstep.

 

Lifting Rings

The lifting rings found all over the Hull (and turret) are arguably the most important part of the M4 Sherman. Without those hooks, it would be a logistical nightmare send the Sherman across the Atlantic or Pacific to fight a war. 

Spoiler

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One of the Sherman's most important functions being demonstrated.

 

Suspension System

The vast majority of Shermans produced use VVSS, or vertical volute spring suspension. It used a two-wheel bogey system, but the wheels moved independently on their own set of springs within each bogey. The concept was inherited directly from the M3 Lee, and the M2 Medium before it, and the M2 and M1 light tanks before them. This proved quite reliable, space efficient, and easy to maintain. However its ability to traverse obstacles was rather poor. The switch to HVSS, horizontal volute spring suspension, allowed for generally better mobility and off-road capabilities without drastically increasing maintenance. As its name suggests, in HVSS, the springs were mounted horizontally, opposed to the vertical orientation of the VVSS springs. 

Spoiler

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Comparing VVSS (top) and HVSS (bottom).

 

VVSS "Variants"

VVSS suspension had many variations, but they all got the job done equally well (for the most part). There were several different types of road wheels, such as solid, solid spoked, and open spoked. There were multiple types of drive sprockets, and idler wheels. Even the suspension bogies themselves had different patterns on the metal, and setups for the bogies (that evolved over their production run). 

Spoiler

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Two earlier types of road wheels.

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Two mid/late production road wheels. Note the difference in the size of the hubs.

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A very late type of road wheel. 

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An early return  roller system. Note how it is flat across. It was only found on Small hatch Shermans.

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A mid-production return roller. Note the "pillow" underneath the axle, elevating the roller higher. It was installed mostly on Small hatch Shermans, but was on some Large hatch Shermans as well.

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An "upswept" return roller. This was found exclusively on Large hatch Shermans, but not all of them.

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Early type of return slide.

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Later type of return slide.

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An early VVSS arm.

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A mid-production VVSS arm.

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A late-production VVSS arm.

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An American-made bogey.

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A Canadian-made bogey. Note some of the differences, such as the more prominent casting on the outside.

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Two common models of rear idler wheel.

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A rare type of idler wheel.

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Three common types of drive sprockets.

 

The M4 Composite

The M4 Composite came as a result of the front half of a Sherman being more difficult to weld than to cast, compared to the rear. So, a simple solution was to just take the front end of an M4A1 and mate it to the rear of an M4. While it worked and somewhat simplified production, this variant was relatively uncommon. 

Spoiler

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An M4 Composite.

 

Ammunition Stowage

Ammunition in Dry stowage Shermans was prone to catching fire when hit by a projectile (i.e. a tank shell), with losses due to such fires being around 65-70%. As stated in before, the short-term solution was to uparmor the areas with ammunition present with extra armor. The new solution was to have wet stowage; move the ammo into bins underneath the turret floor, surrounded by a mixture of liquids, among them water and glycerin, that could prevent fires. If the ammo box was hit, the liquid would spill around the ammo, reducing the possibility of a fire. It also coincided with the introduction of large-hatch hulls. As a result, the loss of Shermans to ammo fires was reduced to about 10-15%. 

Do note that, not all large-hatch Shermans had wet stowage. 

Spoiler

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The arrangement for ammunition in a dry stowage configuration.

5ab19f6e4612d_ScreenShot2018-03-20at6_54

The arrangement for ammunition in a wet stowage configuration.

 

Return Rollers

Early models of all types of Sherman (except for maybe the M4A3) had light duty return rollers, inherited directly from the M3 Lee. While they served their purpose fine, a better track return system was devised, with the roller moved behind the bogie, and a slide placed over the front. This increased the amount of contact points of the track when returning. There were some variations to the heavy-duty return rollers, but they were very similar in the end. HVSS suspension removed the slides, placed rollers directly above the bogies, and placed two extra rollers between the three rollers. 

Spoiler

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Early "light duty" system.

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M3 Lee's suspension for comparison.

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The standard type of VVSS bogey.

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The HVSS system.

 

 

 

In-Game Variants

M4 - M4 (75), small hatches (therefore horseshoe rear plate), D50878 Turret (with cheek armor), M34A1 (early version) gun mount, narrow driver's hood, armor covering driver's hood (but no direct vision ports), heavy duty return roller, rounded 1-piece transmission cover. It is a transitional early to mid production M4 (75).

M4A1 - M4A1 (75), small hatches, and strangely, the rear plate isn't modeled as a horseshoe, even though it visually is. It has an early D50878 turret (no cheek armor), M34 gun mount, technically, narrow driver's hoods, direct vision ports, light duty return roller, 3-piece transmission cover. It is a very early production M4A1 (75). 

M4A2 - M4A2 (75), large hatches, and a strange turret; it appears to be a D78461, but without the turret cheek casting fix, which is quite confusing. It has the late model of M34A1 gun mount, heavy duty return rollers, and the angular 1-piece transmission cover. It is a mid to late production M4A2 (75). 

M4A3 (105) - M4A3 (105) W HVSS, large hatches, late 1944 D78461 turret (with vision cupola), but again with no cheek casting fix. It uses the M52 gun mount, HVSS suspension, and the angular 1-piece transmission cover. It is a  production M4A3 (105), as it had a very short production run.

M4A1 (76) - M4A1 (76) W, large hatches, D82081 turret with ventilator but still with two cupolas, M62 gun mount, heavy return rollers, angular 1-piece transmission cover. It is a transitional early to mid production M4A1 (76).

M4A2 (76) - M4A2 (76) W, large hatches, D82081 turret with up-to standard ventilator and 1 cupola, M62 gun mount, heavy return rollers, angular 1-piece transmission cover. It is a mid-production M4A2 (76).

M4A3 (76) - M4A3 (76) W HVSS, large hatches, D82081 turret with up-to standard ventilator and 1 cupola, M62 gun mount, HVSS suspension, angular 1-piece transmission cover. It is a late production M4A3 (76).

M4A3E2 - M4A3E2 (75) W, large hatches, uparmored D82081 turret with 75mm gun, heavy return rollers, tracks with grousers, rounded 1-piece transmission cover (also uparmored).

M4A3E2 (76) - M4A3E2 (76) W, large hatches, uparmored D82081 turret with 76mm gun, heavy return rollers, tracks with grousers, rounded 1-piece transmission cover (also uparmored).

Sherman IC - Sherman Mk. IC, M4 (75) with small hatches, horseshoe rear plate, D50878 turret (with cheek armor), M34A1 gun mount (late model) modified to fit the 17 pounder, narrow driver's hood, armor covering driver's hoods(but no direct vision ports), heavy return rollers, rounded 1-piece transmission cover. The bow gunner's position has been welded up for more internal space for ammunition stowage. It is a transitional early to mid production M4 (75), rearmed and modified by the British. There was also a loader's hatch cut into the turret, which was an issued field modification to all Shermans without them. 

Sherman VC - Sherman Mk. VC, M4A4 (75) with small hatches, stepped rear plate, D50878 turret, but without the casting fix. All Sherman turrets that had the fixed armor in some way had the M34A1 gun mount, whereas all non-fixed turrets had only the M34 gun mount. This tank has the late model of M34A1 gun mount, modified to fit the 17 pounder. It has a wide driver's hood, heavy return rollers, 3-piece transmission cover. The bow gunner' position has been welded up for more internal space for ammunition stowage. It is a mid-production M4A4, as the only real difference between their variants was the turret, and on early examples, the return rollers.

 

Any Corrections, comments, concerns etc. are highly appreciated. Preferably constructive criticism. 

 

 

P.S., I would like the cheek armor of 75mm Shermans to be fixed too...

 

All Color photos and much information credit to http://the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/index.html

 

 

Also, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to get rid of these pictures below. So you'll just have to deal with them i guess.

 

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Edited by HugoTroop
added pictures
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