Machine Gun Defense Unit (1984)

by KansasBrawler

Continuing the saga of “Joe Items Found in the Basement” I figured I’d look at another one of the battlefield accessories. This time, it’s the Joes’ Machine Gun Defense Unit. Once again, simplicity is the name of the game, but it’s pretty genius in its execution. I’m going to get this out of the way first, I don’t really understand why they needed to include a tall sign that says “Restricted Area.” While my older Joe fan thinks that it would be a pretty nice generic diorama piece, I’m also quite certain that my inner child Joe fan would just put that in the parts box, to be ignored for all eternity. It’s a nice piece, but I just don’t really know if it’s actually necessary, but there it is anyway.That being said, moving on to the rest of the set, you’ve got some nice pieces.

While I like the big machine gun, what drew me to this set was actually the pair of defensive barriers. I’m a sucker for old World War II style equipment and these “Czech hedgehogs”, as they’re called, couldn’t be any more World War II if they tried. If you’ve seen any of the movies about World War II, especially D-Day, these should look pretty familiar. Constructed from two pieces—a pair of crossed beams permanently held together and an additional third piece that attaches to a specific point on the other piece—they look very nice sitting on the ground to create a protected fire position. My only real complaint with them is that the single beam piece can be kind of finicky and would probably be another one of the pieces from these sets that didn’t last long with heavy duty play.
Of course, the main draw is the large machine gun, complete with ammo belt and ammo can. Considering that this set was made in 1984, the fact that they gave us a machine gun with a slot to insert an ammo belt is pretty impressive. I’m hard pressed to come up with a figure that had that option before the 25th Anniversary style figures. That being said, to achieve that, the machine gun has to be quite a bit bigger than compared to either of the early Roadblock machine guns. In fact, I’d almost say that the machine gun is just a little oversized.  When it’s sitting with the two hedgehogs it doesn’t look that oversized, but if you’ve just got a figure firing it from an open position, the proportions start looking a little off. Once again, this little battlefield accessory is a nice addition to a vintage Joe armory. The set lends itself quite well to dioramas and it’s a nice little way to add some additional heavy firepower to your Joe squad. Unlike the other Joe heavy machine guns (like Roadblock’s M2 from the original or the L7A21 heavy machine gun), this one is only going to be useful as a fixed position. None of the vintage Joes can really carry it around, which is a little bit of a drawback…but considering it’s designed as a defensive position, it really makes a lot of sense.


  • I remember some guy thinking that this set, the Mortar Defense Unit, the Missile Defense Unit, and the Bivouac could’ve come with ‘tan’ versions of Rock N’ Roll, Short-Fuze, Hawk, and Breaker to match the Grunt and Clutch that were already released.

  • Sweet review!

    I had the first three Defense Units as a kid and this one was my favorite due to the machine gun. It was a bit too oversized for a Joe to carry around but it’s still the coolest one made during the vintage era due to the separate ammo belt and can. Definitely best suited for use as a fixed weapon.

    Back then, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the defensive barriers: The single beams didn’t stay on very long and it would be decades until I viewed D-Day photos and understood the hedgehogs’ importance.

    As for the “Restricted Area” sign, it did look neat so I used it for a custom made Pit headquarters which I built out of a huge refrigerator box. I placed the sign atop the roof where the Dragonfly stood as a sort of hangar warning sign.

    Man, those were some good memories… Thanks for bringing ’em back!

  • The hedgehogs in that photo are assembled wrong, the flat side of the single beam should attach to the flat side of the cross-beams.

    The handle for the machine gun was impossibly big for any figure to grip. It was still a decent set for what it was.

  • Thanks for the tip, Senny. The image on the instructions wasn’t super clear, but flipping like you suggested them seemed to really tighten them up.

  • Great review! Thank You! A piece of G.I.JOE history!

  • I have to score one of these for that sign, It would look great with my headquarters!

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