Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review: Tim Mee brand M16 / Vietnam Army Men

The most enduring set of Army men ever made.

The Tim Mee soldiers known as "M16" or "Vietnam" soldiers have been around since about 1968. They represent a group of troops in the middle of the Cold War era. The uniforms, equipment and early M16 / M16A1 rifles were standard from about 1965 to the early 1980s. By 1985, the steel pot helmet had been replaced by the Kevlar helmets and new field gear supplanted the old M1956 and ALICE gear.

The first of the Tim Mee M16 soldiers were cast in olive green. Soon after, some were molded in Day-glo colors, including shocking pink. Come the 1990s and they were molded in olive green and tan to represent friendly and enemy forces. Clones and copies of these soldiers came from Asia. They were molded in various colors. For instance, a relatively recent set of Zombies and soldiers had blue copies of the Tim Mee M16 guys and caricature-type lime green zombies. Another Asian knockoff swapped torsos and legs for new poses. However, the copies do not have the same proper shape and crispness.

Our own Army Men Homepage can trace its origin to these soldiers. A friend and I were trading Army stories. His nephew remarked that his Tim Mee "M16 guys" were old fashioned soldiers. And we laughed because they represented the same kind of soldiers we were in the 1970s. That made us "old fashioned"! And that joke started the Army Men Homepage, which was supposed to be a humorous look at old toy army men and old fashioned soldiers.

Old or not, the Tim Mee M16 soldiers have remained on the scene. Tim Mee is making them again in various new colors. Asian companies have copied and cloned them and even recombined them. For any number of reasons, they have not gone out of style. Meanwhile, the "Desert Storm" plastic figures made in the late 1990s by Imperial and Fischel’s modern troops are scarce.

A few things to note. Though the Tim Mee M16 guys are rather skinny, their poses are well-animated. Their prone firing pose is almost right out of the manual, and their kneeling shooter looks very good. The rest of the men carrying M16s also look good. The flamethrower, still in inventory in 1968, has long since been replaced. However, the type shown is accurate as the M2. The bazooka man looks like his counterpart in the World War II sets, as does the radioman. Nonetheless, that radioman figure is realistic enough. The bazooka had been superseded by a 90mm recoilless rifle. The small mortar is a nice attempt at a 60mm, but lacks detail. The 60mm mortar was on the way out in the mid-1960s. The minesweeper is one of the figures that kids never really appreciate.

The major anachronism in the Tim Mee M16 guys set is the light machine gun. Is it a Bren or some similar weapon? Actually ,the Army had been experimenting with a magazine-fed version of the M60 light machine gun in the mid-1960s. It looked promising and that is doubtlessly why Tim Mee went with it. In reality, the magazine-fed M60 was not accepted. There is nothing peculiar about anachronism in a set of toy soldiers. In the 1950s, the British Army experimented with a .280 caliber bullpup assault rifle. Some even entered inventory. However, it was discontinued. By that time, a few toy companies had designed and started producing "modern" British troops with the bullpup. Among them were Herald, Lone Star, Johillco and Crescent.

No single set of soldiers has had the widespread longevity of the Tim Mee M16 infantry figures. They are still made by Tim Mee as well as foreign makers offering copies and clones. They still turn up in dollar stores and cheap bagged playsets as well as "soldier buckets". Like the original bagged army men, the Tim Mee Vietnam guys are still sold by the bag in variety and dollar stores. Compere that with Marx, Ideal and MPC, which are sold mainly as recasts through hobby dealers. Lido, last owned by Tootsietoy, has not been made in years and has not enjoyed the same widespread appeal as the Tim Mee M16 guys. And plastic soldier gamers still prefer Tim Mee’s M16 / Vietnam guys for games.

The original bags usually came with a vehicle. These were either a 1/48 sized M48 tank. a jeep, a small cannon or an armored car. By 1968, the old Staghound type armored car had been phased out in favor of a more modern vehicle.

Soon, it will be half a century of this most favored set of army men still being sold as toys rather than recast hobby items. There looks to be no end in sight for the Tim Mee M16 / Vietnam army men. In my opinion, that makes them a winner!
You can buy these soldiers in various colors here: Victory Buy


  1. I was given (by a friend for whom they were surplus to requirements), a pack of about 20 of these 'Tim Mee' style figures. They we labelled 'Good Ol' U.S.A. vs Red Commies', and, boy, were the 'Commies' ever red! The Good Ol' chappies were the standard 'good guy' olive green.

    As it happened, the equipments were fairly complementary, one side getting the mortar, the other the mine clearing guy, and so forth. Here's a link to my posting about these fellows:

  2. Ordering all available colors of these guys soon for our trip to lake erie, I hope to get in some goI'd beach fighting on my vacation