Cobra Rifle Range Unit (1985)
The Cobra Rifle Range may not look like much, but it’s solidly designed and was a great way to rearm your Cobra forces and it really captures what I love about the old-school Joe items. While I actually didn’t crack into this set until a few months ago after it was discovered in my basement in an unopened Hasbro mail-away box, I have to say it’s still incredibly fun and holy cow, I doubt I would have been able to keep it intact had I played with it as a kid. As Mark Bellomo’s book so accurately points out, this set (and its “battlefield accessory” compatriots) is composed of nothing but easily lost pieces.
Starting off simply, the rifle rack contains three very nice, generic weapons—Grunt’s rifle, Airborne’s rifle and Snow Job’s rifle (most famously remembered as the rifle that every Joe in the cartoon carried). The rifle rack is designed quite well and holds them relatively well, though for some reason Grunt’s rifle is a little hard to balance properly. The rifle rack not only looks nice when placed with the rest of the set, but also looks perfectly natural sitting in a Cobra Terrordrome, weapons at the ready in case a Joe force should attack.
The firing position is remarkably well-detailed, especially considering this piece was originally released in 1985. Again, part of what I appreciate about the piece is its versatility. It looks perfectly natural as both part of a firing range but also as part of a small Cobra defense position.
Of course, what rifle range would be complete without targets to shoot at? The two flip down targets and the rifle range sign (which is referred to as a “secondary target” in the blue prints—I love it, when Cobra runs out of real targets to shoot, they’ll just shoot at anything) are easily some of the coolest old-school things I’ve run across in a long time. When the blue prints called them flip down, they weren’t lying. The sandbag base is hinged in a way that you can actually knock the target down. I can’t even begin to imagine how much fun I would have had with those as a kid. It’s almost enough to make me try and hunt down one of the old-school spring-loaded cannons just to see how the target behaves when hit with a projectile. Since the firing range sign is also designated as a target, it’s also made in such a way that a simple flick can knock it over as though it has just been shot.
All in all, this is one of those little gems from the early days of the line that is definitely worth tracking down if you’re so inclined. It’s very nice as a little diorama piece, giving the Cobras a small, covered position to try and repel a Joe force from. The flip down targets are shockingly fun, plus it’s hard to go wrong with three rifles. While I love the new line, I do miss little sets like this that add a lot of play value for not that much money. I really appreciated that Hasbro tried to recapture this a little with the Wal-Mart exclusive battle stations, but if you were like me and living in a place where Wal-Mart didn’t carry much Joe stuff after getting burned by over ordering the first few waves of Rise of Cobra figures, they were awfully hard to come by. Something as simple as a rifle range was designed just as well as their big ticket items and it’s nice to see that sort of attention to detail given to something that (according to YoJoe.com) originally cost a whopping $2.39 back when it was first released.