A Guide to Choosing the Right Scale

Introduction to a guide to choosing the right scale

Embarking on the journey of building Cold War-era model kits is an exciting endeavour that allows you to recreate iconic historical moments and vehicles from a pivotal period in history. As a beginner in the world of scale modeling, one of the most important decisions you’ll face is choosing the right scale for your project. In this “A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Scale”. I’ll walk you through the considerations to keep in mind when selecting the perfect scale for your Cold War-era model builds.

Understanding Scale

Scale in modeling refers to the proportional representation of the model in relation to the real-world subject. For example, a 1:72 scale means that one unit of measurement on the model represents 72 units in real life. Here’s a breakdown of common scales and their advantages.

1/72 Scale

Ideal for modelers with limited display space, this scale allows for the creation of detailed models without taking up too much room. Cold War aircraft, tanks, and small vehicles are well-suited for this scale, offering a balance between detail and size.

This is a scale that I have predominately built since coming back to model making. Price, room and confidence in my model making skills have kept me using 1/72, for now.

1/48 Scale

This scale offers increased detail compared to 1/72 scale models. It’s a popular choice for aircraft and larger vehicles like tanks, providing room for intricate painting and weathering techniques.

1/48 is a scale I keep toying with. I’ve even put together a blog post about starting a 1/48 FAA collection. I do have some 1/48 kits in the stash, which have been purchased as part of my Scalemates project idea. I really need to muster up the courage to start one!

With the cost of some newer 1/72 going up, 1/48 is starting to look like good value for the money. But I’m concerned about space for storage.

1/35 Scale

Preferred by many modelers for military vehicles and dioramas, the 1/35 scale offers ample space for intricate detailing and adding realistic accessories. It’s an excellent choice if you want to capture the essence of Cold War military equipment.

I’ve dabbled with 1/35 (see my February 2023 update, I really must do a blog post about that build). The Italeri 1/35 Land Rover was a fun build and now that Airfix have brought out the Ferret Scout Car (I’ve got a walk around for that), I’m very tempted to give that a go.

1/144 Scale

For those who love larger fleets of aircraft or wish to showcase various vehicles in a limited space, the 1/144 scale is a compact option that still allows for reasonable detailing.

This is a scale I’m in two minds about, as I reflected in my 1/144 Love it or hate it blog post.

1/700 Scale

Ideal for naval enthusiasts, this scale is perfect for recreating Cold War-era warships and maritime scenes. It’s also great for those who enjoy building model fleets.

I have yet to build any ships, is that bad?

1/32 Scale

The 1:32 scale presents modelers with a canvas of considerable size, allowing for intricate reproduction and attention to detail. This scale is particularly suited for aviation enthusiasts and those seeking to replicate aircraft with precision.

From iconic Cold War fighter jets to heavy-duty vehicles, the 1:32 scale provides ample room for incorporating realistic nuances and showcasing the mechanical intricacies of these machines.

Considerations for Choosing the Right Scale

Available Space

Consider where you intend to display your model. Smaller scales are great for limited space, while larger scales offer more room for intricate detailing.

Level of Detail

If you’re passionate about replicating every tiny feature and adding intricate weathering effects, a larger scale might be more suitable.

Model Type

Consider the type of Cold War-era subject you’re interested in. Tanks, aircraft, and naval vessels have different levels of detail that may suit different scales.

Skill Level

Larger scales can be more forgiving for beginners, as they offer more space to work with. However, with dedication and practice, smaller scales can yield equally impressive results.


Larger scales often come with more parts and potential expenses. Consider your budget for both the model kit and any additional detailing accessories.

Conclusion to A Guide to Choosing the Right Scale

Selecting the right scale for your Cold War-era model builds is a critical decision that influences the level of detail, display options, and overall satisfaction of your project. By understanding the different scales available and considering factors like available space, desired level of detail, and personal preferences, you can confidently choose the scale that aligns perfectly with your modeling goals. With the right scale in hand, you’ll be well on your way to creating Cold War-era masterpieces that capture the essence of history and craftsmanship.

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