Why do custom GI JOE weapons and accessories cost so much?

Why do custom action figure weapons and accessories cost so much?

If you have been in the game of collecting and customizing action figures, you may have been asking this very same question for quite some time. You may soon realize that “custom” accessories can cost money if you’re just starting out. Sometimes, they even cost more than the figure itself!

So why do custom action figure weapons and accessories cost so much? They are made from plastic which usually doesn’t cost much at all. And, you’re probably thinking with the technology available today, vendors can easily manufacture the pieces by the thousands at a time. Still, you often find it challenging to get high-quality custom accessories at affordable prices.

Although I agree most are over-priced, I don’t think vendors and suppliers are greedy. I don’t think they are purposely trying to charge high prices just to get the most profit. Although they are competitors, I genuinely believe that most run an honest business and would instead not charge such high fees for their products.

“But how come it seems like they charge so much then?” you may ask.

In my opinion, it really boils down to one thing… COST!

It may come to you as a shocker, but manufacturing custom 112 weapons and accessories costs a lot of money! And to be profitable, most vendors and private sellers are “forced” to charge higher prices for their products.

Take, for example, a supplier like us here in MAD. If we didn’t manufacture our own 112 weapons and accessories ourselves, we would have to outsource the manufacturing process for our accessories. This means we would have to hire a manufacturer and buy the accessories pre-made in bulk. Unfortunately, this requires a lump sum of money upfront.

I remember back when we were considering outsourcing options for MAD. I was shocked at how much it would cost to get “ONE” custom weapon manufactured for us (for our M4A1 Assault Rifle with Silencer, and you can see it here on eBay). When we received the quote, would you believe it was right around $10,000? That’s not a typo either…

So, why $10,000, you may ask? Let me break down what the charges would’ve been if we accepted.

1.) Machine Tooling ($4,500)

Machine Tooling is just a “FANCY” term for the aluminum or steel mold. The manufacturer would’ve charged us $4,200 for cutting out the cavity of the Suppressed M4A1 Assault Rifle from the aluminum stock. Then, there would be an extra $300 charge for polishing and post-processing the mold after it gets cut in the CNC machine. The polishing is required to give the 1:12 scale guns a semi-smooth surface finish.

2.) Injection Molding ($4,700 for the initial 2,000 PCS required)

Most manufacturing companies require a minimum number of pieces made of your product before the job is started. This is also known as the MINIMUM REQUIRED ORDER or MRO. I didn’t really understand the reason behind this at first. The way it was explained to me by the agent over the phone was that it is more cost-effective for the manufacturer to make 2,000 pieces at a time, rather than, say, 300.

When we were just getting started with injection molding and were looking for outsourcing options, we only needed about 350 pieces to start. But because of the manufacturer’s MRO, we would’ve been forced to take in 2,000 pieces of the 1/12 scale rifles and still pay the MRO price.

Let’s do the math behind this real quick.

So, at the MRO of 2,000 pieces for $4,700, that comes out to be around $2.35 per piece. YIKES!

I’ll be honest with you. If it costs us $2.35 each to make our custom 1:12 scale Suppressed M4A1 Assault Rifle, we will not be selling the 2 PC Set (as seen here) or the 4 PC Set (as seen here), as low as it is now. Frankly, we would NOT be selling any of our custom weapons as low as they are. We would be just like the other guys and won’t be so affordable anymore.

But wait, there’s more….

3.) Cost of materials, Quality Assurance, and other fees (approx. $800 total)

The last item included in the quote was the estimated cost of materials, quality assurance inspection, and other fees.

Initially, we chose to have the custom 1:12 Suppressed M4A1 made out of ABS plastic. However, we quickly realized that it would not be cost-effective due to its high cost. We decided to go with Polypropylene (PP) plastic instead, which was sufficient for what we needed. It is strong, sturdy, and will not snap when fitted into the figure’s hands.

Quality Assurance (QA) inspection is something that most manufacturers offer but may not be required. However, since it was our first time dealing with this particular manufacturer, we wanted to have “insurance” if something did not turn out the way we wanted.

The QA process consisted of injection molding a few pieces of the gun initially. Then, a certified inspector will inspect the parts closely to ensure that they are within the required specifications (size, scale, details, etc.). Once approved by the inspector, they would ship the pieces out to us for review. Then, once we agree and verify that all is good, the remaining parts will be injection molded to finish the job.

The other fees mentioned included sales tax, disposal fees, recycling fees, etc. These are the standard fees you will be charged at any manufacturing company.

So, as you can see, the cost is relatively high. And this is for just ONE custom 1:12 weapon! This is proof of why I believe most vendors or suppliers out there are NOT crooks. I say this because I’ve experienced the process of outsourcing manufactured parts. And, as mentioned above, they are just expensive!

I genuinely believe that to remain profitable and keep their businesses afloat, they have no other choice but to increase the prices.

When MAD was still in its “brain-storming” stage long before we opened for business, I’ve always known that for it to be successful, I would have to offer very competitive prices without sacrificing quality. We decided to completely eliminate the “middle-man” and manufacture everything in-house.

We do everything ourselves in the Mini Arms Depot (MAD) shop. We design the 3D models of each accessory. We CNC machine our own Aluminum molds. Then we injection mold each custom weapon by the hundreds at a time. Everything is done in the comfort of our own shop from start to finish.

We have no middle man. There is no need to outsource anything since everything is done in the shop. Since we get to save on costs, we get to pass on those savings to our customers! This is the primary reason we can offer low, and what other customers have said to us, “UNHEARD-OF” and “INCREDIBLE” prices.

Even the custom accessories that are 3D Printed and sold online in our eBay store are manufactured in the shop. They are designed, tested, fitted, and then 3D Printed by the dozens at a time. Again, there is no middle man involved, and we get to save on cost. And whenever that happens, we get to do what we do best here at MAD… SAVE our customers money!

Speaking of 3D Printing custom weapons and accessories, what about the private sellers that 3D Print their products? You may be thinking, “If manufacturing (injection molding) custom 1/12 weapons and accessories are expensive, how come the vendors that 3D Print their accessories seem like they still charge an arm a leg for them?”

I can’t speak for our competitors, and honestly, I am not entirely sure why that is. If I was to give it my best guess, I would say that the reason is because of the time it takes to 3D print and post-process the accessories.

3D Printing custom weapons and accessories take a LONG time to make. Some could take hours to print. Then after the print has finished, you would have to post-process the part. This includes cleaning it thoroughly, drying it, and then curing it under UV light for a certain amount of time. Then, vendors typically apply a coat of primer or paint to protect the surface of the printed weapon/accessory.

If my guess is correct (sellers who 3d print their products charge higher because of the time it takes to print and post-process the accessory), I can agree with why they charge higher prices. As a matter of fact, I would encourage them to set it higher and take nothing less!

They are charging for their time. And customers are paying for the time it took the artist/vendor to create a masterpiece! And I don’t care who you are, but EVERYONE’s time is VALUABLE in one form or another.

Although they are my competitors, I respect these vendors and artists. Most of them offer such highly-detailed pieces that I am blown away because they came out of a 3D printer. The details are excellent, and the craftsmanship shows nothing else but dedication and love for what they do.

3D Printing custom weapons and accessories are definitely possible. And we’ve done it many times in the past. I wrote an article about making your own custom 1:12 scale weapons and accessories with a 3D printer. You can find it here if you’re interested.


Manufacturing custom 112 weapons and accessories can cost a lot of money. It often requires having a mold made via a CNC machine. And then, the parts are injection molded using an injection molding machine.

Due to the high cost required upfront in traditional manufacturing (injection molding), most vendors and suppliers must charge higher prices for their products. I genuinely believe that this is intentional. Not because of greed or lack of knowledge in operating a business, but rather to make “some” returns on their high-cost investment. They have to make some money back somehow…

As for vendors and private sellers who 3D prints their custom weapons and accessories, I believe that they charge higher prices because of the time it takes to 3D print a custom accessory. They sell their time and craftsmanship. And each masterpiece clearly shows their dedication and love of the art. Although they are my competitors, I have a lot of respect for these vendors/artists. I would be the first to encourage them not to accept anything less and charge more for their products.

We are very fortunate to have the ability to manufacture our own custom weapons, accessories, and props here in the MAD shop. Since there is no middle man in our manufacturing process, we can save on cost. And whenever we get to save on costs, we get to pass on those savings to our customers!

If you would like to browse our store, visit us on eBay here.