Plastic Army Men

Due to small parts, most plastic soldiers aren't recommended for children under the age of 3.
Due to small parts, most plastic soldiers aren't recommended for children under the age of 3.

Plastic army men have been a popular choice for boys to play with since the 1950s. These inexpensive toys give kids the opportunity to use their creativity to put on pretend battles and spend many hours involved in this activity.

Description of Plastic Army Men

Army men made of plastic are toy soldiers that are approximately two inches high. They are usually made from green or tan-colored plastic. Army men are usually seen in modern battlefield garb and outfitted with weapons used by 20th century soldiers. Helmets are usually in a "pot" shape that is similar to the style worn by American forces during the mid-to-late 20th century.

Weapons

Plastic army figures are available with a wide selection of weapons, including:

  • Bayonets
  • Bazookas
  • Flame throwers
  • Grenades
  • Machine guns
  • Mortars
  • Pistols
  • Rifles
  • Sniper rifles
  • Submachine guns

Some plastic soldiers are outfitted to look like radio men or minesweepers.

Accessories

Along with the plastic figures themselves, children can also get accessories to use with this type of toy. Adding the following gives the child the chance to get creative and experiment with different scenarios as part of their play:

  • Armed hovercraft
  • Artillery
  • Half tracks
  • Helicopters
  • Fortifications
  • Jeeps
  • Jets
  • Tanks

History of Plastic Soldiers

Plastic army figures are still available to children in the United States. American toy manufacturer Louis Marx and Company was one manufacturer that offered this type of plaything to the public. The company was in business between 1919 and 1978.

Fortress Navarone Play Set

One of the largest play sets available featuring army men was the "Fortress Navarone" It featured multiple levels and was set up to resemble a mountain battle. It was offered to the public during the 1970s, and featured U.S. and German troops in World War II uniforms.

Popularity Declines

The popularity of plastic army men as a toy for children declined while the Vietnam War was going on. As demand went down, manufacturers didn't produce as many models and fewer of them were available to consumers. After the war ended, children once again turned to this type of toy for creative play.

Modern Play Sets

Plastic soldiers manufactured today are generally smaller than previous generations of this toy. They may measure only about one inch in height. Uniforms may not have as much detail, either.

The play sets offered by companies like Louis Mark had numerous accessories available to consumers. Modern companies offering toy soldiers in their product lines tend to go for a mass-produced product with fewer extras. The quality of the product will vary as well.

For example, if you find plastic soldiers being sold at a dollar store, you will be getting a very basic product. To find higher end products, you will need to go to a specialty store or shop online to get better examples of this type of toy.

Where to Buy Plastic Army Figures

Here are some places where you can buy plastic soldiers online:

  • Plastic-Army-Men.com offers several play sets, as well as various accessories. The site also includes knights and dragons, pirates, cowboys and Indians, and astronaut play sets.
  • CombatStorm.com offers a tabletop strategy game that uses the plastic soldiers as game pieces. The online store carries plastic army figures and tanks, along with paper buildings that can be downloaded for a fee.

You can also find this toy at department and discount stores, as well as online shopping sites.


Plastic army men continue to delight children, as they set up various battle scenarios to develop their creative and problem-solving skills.

Plastic Army Men