Change the outcome of armed conflict. Heroic exploits against overwhelming odds. Valiant efforts versus dastardly deeds. Knights in shining armor battling dragons or saving a beautiful princess (yuck!). Cowboys and Indians in their never ending struggle for control of the west and the great battles in exacting detail of the Civil War. Marching bands, regiments passing in parade and soldiers of the two World Wars. These are but just some of the vast historical images of the toy soldier that provide hours of entertainment using just the imagination.
In simpler times, (before Political Correctness) these military figures could transform children into the true military masterminds that were really lurking in their little heads. It did not matter if the figures were two dimensional cheap cardboard or plastic soldiers that could barely stand up or heavy lead soldiers that were intricately painted and exceptionally detailed. It was the imagination that mattered: the glory and the horror of armed conflict and the ability to change historical outcome at ones whim. Over simplified? Yes! But a fertile field for any child whose only limits were the imagination. Sometimes very quiet and orderly, they would play for hours on the living room floor never thinking of turning on the TV and other times, outdoors, the child would be a willing participant in the ensuing conflagration using such effects as BB guns, firecrackers, matches, sticks and rocks to add to the realism or mayhem depending on their ever changing mood.
What modern battle would be complete without the firepower of the machine gun? Whether it was from the World War I era or a more modern day conflicts, the machine gun was an integral part of the play. As readers of this magazine are particularly interested in the real thing, it is noteworthy to look at automatic weapons as used and portrayed by the toy soldier and how it helped shape your interests of today. Sometimes depicted as a generic weapon but unmistakably automatic, to the highly detailed rendering of the actual gun, the toy soldier using an automatic weapon embodies the firepower and strength that their real counterparts possess.
Some of the examples shown here are quite old and some were made “yesterday”. But to the shooter, collector, hobbyist or historian of automatic arms they command a second look. For those that love automatic weapons, this is a side trip down memory lane that rekindles the child in all of us yet at the same time triggers an adult appreciation for the reproduction that it represents. All it takes is a little imagination!
This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N4 (January 1999) and was posted online on September 16, 2016