By careful study of the weapons Action Man carries it is possible to estimate the period at which they were available and to which sets they are most applicable to. Many tiny 'tells' are visible that can place a weapon at a specific date, or with a specific set. Generally 1st issue weapons (1966) had elastic straps on rifles held by copper coloured rings. Around 1975 elastic was replaced by plastic straps (without metal fixing-rings), which necessitated having new moulds with a 'pip' on the body of the weapon allowing connection of the plastic strap slots. The SLR rifle is one such piece of equipment that underwent at least 4 key changes to its appearance. Knife, dagger and bayonet ends were also revised - being rounded off towards in the mid 1970s. Most weapons were available either on pocket money priced 'Equipment Cards' or as part of a larger uniform set.
Some, but not all Action Man weapons had ©HASBRO maker mark from the earlier (US lead) period. MADE IN HONG KONG featured on many of the bigger weapons thereafter. There are a lot of 'knock-off' pieces that are period copies of the official Action Man Equipment so care is needed in identifying fake for real. For instance the Action Man SLR was brown plastic with black painted details, whereas the Tommy Gunn version was black plastic with brown painted details. Other producers did not always make direct copies. For instance, Tommy Gunn also produced the Stirling Sub Machine Gun but in a green plastic, with a curved ammo clip. A lot of these 'knock off' weapons of the period were lower quality and many had bendy plastic and lack of detail. Please refer to these detailed images. Word of warning when moving plastic straps to and from the 'pips' when restoring weapons: The pip can break very easily. Make sure strap is warm and supple before attempting removal. 30th and 40th Anniversary versions of most of these weapons also exist which are generally hard to differentiate between.
Action Man Browning Machine Gun
Early silver type with folding three piece tripod. A 30th Anniversary of a similar design also exists.
Action Man Browning Machine Gun - Soldier green ammo box
Action Man Browning Machine Gun - Navy blue ammo box
Action Man Browning Machine Gun
Earlier black type with folding three piece tripod.
Action Man Browning Machine Gun
Later accessory card black type with non-folding two piece tripod.
Action Man blow-molded Browning Machine Gun used on early vehicles. Later Vehicles used the hard plastic version with separate mounting swivel from the tripod and silver tip (Shown in the foreground).
Action Man Heckler & Koch MP5A2. Supplied with Tom Stone.
Action Man Lewis Gun 34282 (image courtesy EagleEyeActionStation)
Action Man Vickers MkI Machine Gun and tri-pod.
Action Man German MP40 Sub Machine Gun:
1960s early issue elastic Strap (top), 1975 issue plastic strap (bottom). The angle of the shoulder stock is factory glued (by eye it seems) and is random. It does not pivot - do not attempt to. Came originally with the German Stormtrooper.
Action Man STEN MkII sub machine gun first issue (top) with elastic strap, later issue with plastic strap (bottom). Came with the WWII British Infantryman and the Action Soldier of 1970.
Action Man French .765 Sub Machine Gun (MAS-38): 1960s issue elastic Strap (top), 1975 issue plastic strap (bottom). Came originally with the French Resistance Fighter.
Action Man M60 with gold and black paint detail. Later version body was all silver(no paintwork - see Commando). The bi-pod is more often than not broken at the hinges. Included is a rigid ammunition belt strip that slots through body.
Action Man M60 equipment card
Action Man SIG-50 with night sight two colour versions - note bluer hue of bottom one. Bipod same as grey Bren. The night sight slid into telescopic sight channel
Action Man Degtyaryova DP28 Light Machine Gun. Gold bi-pod and plastic round magazine fitted on top lug. Originally included with the Russian Infantryman
Action Man M3 'Grease Gun'. 1st issue with elasticated strap, and mid 1970s issue with plastic strap. Part of Sabotage sets
Action Man M3 'Grease Gun'. later issue unpainted with with plastic strap.
Action Man vacuum packed 'Equipment Centre' accessory Cards. Note rather sporadic mixtures of weapons and accessories. For instance the Winchester Hunting Rifle has a French Foreign Legion Rifle bayonet.
Action Man M1 Garand - Soldier's version. Trigger guard often broken.
Action Man M1 Garand - White version with black elastic strap was supplied with Navy Dress Parade. Trigger guard often broken.
Action Man M1 Garand - 1st issue top with elastic strap (note blue hue to silver as per GI Joe), bottom mid 1970s with plastic strap. Trigger guard often broken. A 30th Anniversary version also exists.
Action Man Lebel Rifle as supplied with French Foreign Legion sets. 1st issue had elastic, later issues plastic straps. The Bayonet rod on the end is usually broken off as it's finely modeled. The bayonet for this is unique to this rifle.
Action Man Lee Enfield Rifle - (Royal Engineers) two variations in plastics colouration: blue tinted top, charcoal bottom.
Action Man SLRs:
c.1970 elastic strap straight barrel all way to stock (top) also with white strap for regimental outfits, early 1970s flared barrel where it meets stock (2nd), 1975 with plastic strap - either black or white (3rd), 1980s caramel colour plastic (4th). Tommy Gunn version was black plastic with brown paint applied (reverse of Action Man which was brown plastic with black paint). Check that bayonet hanger below barrel is not missing - many are. Came with Many British uniforms starting with the Grenadier Guard and Argyll & Sutherland Highlander (with white strap) and Parachute Regiment.
Action Man white SLRs:
c.1971 elastic strap straight barrel all way to stock (top) white or black elastic, later 1970s flared barrel where it meets stock with plastic strap (note bayonet hanger has snapped off). Originally supplied with Royal Marines Mountain and Arctic.
Action Man M1 Carbine:
1st issue elastic strap (1966), and 1975 plastic strap. Check that bayonet hanger below barrel is not missing - many are. The elastic strap version suffers from loss of the tiny pin that retains the elastic loop in the stock.
Action Man Winchester Hunting Rifle and M16 Assault Rifle: 1960s 1st issue (elastic strap) and 1975 issue redesign (and Plastic Strap). Bottom two: first issue M16 Rifle with elastic strap (from American Green Beret) and top barrel cooling vents, bottom later with plastic strap and side cooling slots.
Action Man Jungle Explorer early issue rifle with elastic strap. Later mid-1970s version had plastic strap.
Action Man .45 Colt Pistols: Top to bottom, l to r: 1960s first issue small hammer, Secret Mission Dragon Island (all silver), 1980s 'ball' hammer with loop (more commonly without), GI Joe Colt (fine chequering to grip), 'Knock off', Late SAS issue Colt (black). Came with few figures most popular of which were Commander, MP and Parachute Regiment
Action Man German Luger with stock and barrel extensions from Colditz Escape Officer attache case: Early issue (pointed foresight) and later issue (rounded foresight).
Action Man Sniub-Nose Magnum