The bolter, along with the flamer, lasgun, and chainsword, is one of the most famous weapons in the Imperium. It is sometimes called the "holy bolter" because Space Marines have been warrior monks since forever. (Meaning after First Edition.)
- 1 How It Works
- 2 Recoil
- 3 Modifications
- 4 Variants
- 4.1 Astartes Boltguns
- 4.2 Sororitas Boltguns
- 4.3 Imperial Boltguns
- 4.4 Bolt Pistol
- 4.5 Storm Bolter
- 4.6 Bolt Rifle
- 4.7 Heavy Bolter
- 4.8 Assault bolter
- 4.9 Psycannon
- 4.10 Kai Gun
- 4.11 Bolt Caster
- 4.12 Boltstorm Gauntlet
- 4.13 Mauler Bolt Cannon
- 4.14 Vehicle Weapons
- 5 Ammunition
- 6 Speaking of On the Tabletop
- 7 In action
How It Works
In all seriousness, a bolter, or "boltgun," is a powerful antipersonnel weapon that fires miniaturized armor-piercing rockets (called "bolts") that have a delayed impact fuse. The bolt undergoes multiple stages when firing; the first employs solid propellant in order to project the round from the weapon in a similar manner to a conventional weapon before the rocket propellant kicks in, thus giving it greater range, in the same fashion as modern rockets. The projectiles it fires are designed to punch through armor and then explode, causing considerable, if not immediately fatal, damage to whatever the thing hits, since whatever's hit is usually blown the hell apart.
The projectiles the gun fires are quite large (.75 Caliber, or 19.05mm to use another metric), making the weapon quite effective against most forms of infantry and capable of causing damage to most light vehicles as well; basic Marines firing on a vehicle from behind and disabling or even destroying it with glancing hits is not unheard of. They are capable of semi-automatic or automatic fire, and most can also fire in 2 or 4 round bursts.
Humorously, the technology behind bolters comes from a gun that actually exists, though a failed design and one that never actually saw much use in spite of considerable potential (that and due to the laws of physics making the gun have accuracy so bad from extended firing that the bullet would actually fire out sideways Xcom style). Some fa/tg/uys have suggested that this is an analogy for the entire franchise. Gyrojet technology is fundamentally based on extending the range of the weapon in question, giving the intrinsic flaw of having inferior penetration up close in exchange for superior penetration from afar, as you could always improve short-range penetration by converting all available propellant to kinetic energy up front, rather than delaying the conversion until later, regardless of technological level. Aside from differences in the propellant, the basic design is identical to [early APHE shells used in WW2]; the primary flaw with them was that explosive behind the core was found to be of minimal benefit compared to just using more core, which also provided additional momentum (due to the core being denser than the explosive), on top of problems with timing the fuse properly. While the latter could be fixed with technology - in particular, bolters could be programmed to intelligently change their fuse delay based on their target, something possible at WH40K's tech level but never described as being performed by bolt weapons - the former is only solvable when your explosives can be nearly as dense as your cores, something known to be false in bolts. Modern rounds designed to solve the same problem put the explosive in front of the core, rather than behind it, maximizing the benefit of a relatively low amount of explosive; against armor, this uses the shaped charge to prepare a "channel" for the core to penetrate, while against more poorly armored targets, this helps mitigate overpenetration by exaggerating the size of the wound, as in hollow point ammunition. This makes it worse than dedicated anti-tank or anti-personnel rounds at the jobs they were designed to do, but better than either when used for cross-purposes. The bolt round shown below would presumably have superior performance, at any tech level, if the explosive charge were placed in front of the core, rather than behind it.
- A solid-fuel rocket propellant base.
- An outer casing (likely plasteel) containing conventional charge.
- Gyrostabiliser (again, likely plasteel).
- Mass-reactive (gravitic sensor) fuse. Typically timed to delay detonation until shortly after impact.
- Hardened diamantine penetrating tip. This allows for the bolt to penetrate most armour before detonation.
- Main explosive charge.
- Dense, metallic core; some sources claim depleted uranium which is used in modern APFSDS anti tank rounds, although adamantium would make more sense for the Imperium.
It may be reasonable to assume that as the bolter exists in a much more technologically advanced setting than we live in, it would be much more powerful than a gyrojet gun we could build today, even if they were of the exact same size and caliber. The propellant would probably be much more powerful, making it go a lot faster; the shell casing and tip are indeed made out of much sterner and rarer stuff than what we can make or would be practical for us to make, and the warhead would probably be a lot more potent than a 0.75 caliber rocket we could make with today's technology (note that depleted deuterium makes no sense as deuterium is just a non-radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and later fluff seems to have replaced it with depleted uranium to make more sense). On top of that, unlike the gyrojet, people actually give a flying fuck about the bolter, so it seems reasonable to assume that the problems with the gyrojet design were smoothed out because they have more resources to do that than a tiny company that most weapons enthusiasts haven't heard of. For additional consideration, one of the gyrojet's main problems was that it relied on rocket power alone, which meant that its initial velocity exiting the barrel was laughable. A bolt is likely propelled by an initial charge of something analogous to gunpowder, though superior, giving it a velocity like a modern bullet, or better, and is then further accelerated by a rocket engine. If relying upon rocket power alone, they would be nigh useless in close combat.
Much like lasguns and autoguns, the exact power of a bolter is subject to debate by fans and differing depictions by authors. The following paragraphs assume that bolters are the superpowered death machines they're generally described as.
The average Ork boy has a very good chance of just walking off direct hits from lasguns and autoguns and would probably (debatably) find the experience of being shot at by a modern day assault rifle to be about as threatening as venomless bee stings. The average Tyranid Gaunt is also very resilient, though a direct hit from an autogun or lasgun does indeed have a significantly better chance of killing one than it does an Ork boy. Let's also not forget that most of these enemies are very good at ignoring pain and are very, very difficult to frighten, and you don't have to worry about a single Ork or Tyranid, you have to worry about hundreds of them, rushing at you so they could chop your head off/OM NOM NOM you. This is where the bolter's extreme firepower comes in handy, as does its way of dealing damage.
If the bolter were to just penetrate through, the target would just have a hole in it, a big hole, but a whole lot of things in WH40K can fight with several organs missing, let alone with a good-sized hole. If it just exploded in an airburst before hitting the target, it would spray shrapnel and a good concussive field, but even a Guardsman's flak armor can block out shrapnel rather easily. That said, one of the specialist rounds is stated to be airbursting fragmentation ammo. If it exploded on impact it would do quite a lot of ripping and tearing, but you'd still be wasting energy as the explosion goes in all directions outward from the intended target. Penetrating the target and THEN exploding ensures the destruction of whatever is in inside the target and does as much damage to the target as possible; thus, rather than just putting a hole into enemies who would scoff at a .50 cal machine gun (heavy stubber), it blows them to tiny bits. 40k being 40k, quite frequently a bolter user will encounter an enemy who is very much capable of surviving a bolter round. Having armor that is too strong for bolter rounds to pierce helps quite a bit in the task of surviving a shot, as is simply having so much mass that the bolter cannot completely blast you apart. Having both (like a Carnifex or Plague Marine, for example) helps quite a lot. Occasionally, when you are facing simply massive creatures (especially Nurgle daemons), penetrating about an inch before exploding means it's only penetrating an inch into its skin before blasting it off, without getting into the body at all, really. This tells you just how stupidly powerful the fighters in 40k are.
Assumption of devastating killing power ends here.
The ammunition magazines used vary by a fair amount: the most commonly used is a curved 'sickle' magazine, one in a normal bolter, 2 in a storm bolter, which, judging by their relative size, would hold between 20 and 30 bolts each; occasionally used are straight magazines, which only hold between 12 and 20 bolts, but are easier to reload than the standard sickle design. Employed by more elite forces (Terminators, Sternguard, etc) are box magazines, which hold between 40 and 60 bolts. Some Chaos Space Marines, thanks to a shortage of magazines due to them having less in the way of support infrastructure, use belt feeds. Obviously the capacity of these varies depending on the personal preferences of the Chaos Marine in question. They also tend to get stuck or blown away, but apparently they can be reloaded rapidly.
Bolters have a spotty history in the games as far as portrayal goes. Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior got it right, with the weapons firing the miniaturized rockets they're supposed to, but Dawn of War made them into machine guns whilst Dawn of War 2 tried to fix that. Thankfully, the new game Space Marine seems to have gotten it right as well, with some truly bad-ass bolter effects and impacts. Although the bolter and storm bolter are a bit lacking in terms of damage capability, this is excusable, as it's needed to make the game moderately challenging. All in all, it looks and feels epic, giving a good impression for what a cool weapon should be like.
Also, regular bolters are used by other adepts of the Imperium, notable examples being the Sisters of Battle and Adeptus Arbites. Both the Sororitas and Arbites, however, use smaller versions compared to the ones issued to Space Marines; this has no in-game effect on them, however.
The stats for this thing on the tabletop are as follows, as stated by any of the countless free PDF system reference document sheets released by GW:
|8th||24||Rapid Fire 1||4||0||1||-|
The power of a boltgun has been exaggerated and hyped up for years, mostly under the Rule of Cool. This extends as well to the recoil. The fact that bolts are rockets and not traditional bullets sometimes gives rise to fan-arguments. Since one of the big advantages of gyrojets is a lack of recoil, some fans believe that a bolter shouldn't have any either. However, gyrojets suffer from a very low muzzle velocity, as the rocket needs to get up to speed. Bolters get around this with a more traditional initial propellant explosion, and that does cause the gun to kick like a normal firearm.
The recoil is said many times to be enough to tear a normal human's arms off, or send them flipping tit over toe. However, there's evidence to suggest that this is either simply in-universe propaganda, or depreciated older edition "Marines are so super cool" fluff.
Per the rules in the Fantasy Flight Games RPGs, mortals can actually use Astartes boltguns, but count them as heavy weapons (and Astartes bolt pistols as rifles). Even then, only those with a relatively high Strength score can fire them without heavy penalties to their accuracy, and there will be some penalties as the weapon is just too big for a regular human hands. Firing a nonexistent weapon would incur a penalty as well, as Astartes boltguns tend to explode in the hands of anyone without geneseed rammed through their skull.
The basic issue in question as to how accurately judge the actual of recoil since there is no solid information on the mass and velocity of the bolt, nor the mass of the bolter or any recoil-dampening systems it may have. That said, some basic assumptions can be made about bolters. First is that Astartes bolter fire a .75 or 19mm-ish projectile. This immediately puts the bolter out of tangible comparison to almost any modern firearm with the notable exception of a magnum 12 Gauge (.73 or 18mm-ish) slug or even less common a 10 Gauge (.76 or 19mm-ish) slug load. But these are shot guns, with lower velocity then rifles. The only real comparison in terms of a solid slug would be some high powered "Elephant guns", for big game you need to put down with one shot, such as the .557 "Tyrannosaurs" (yes it seems to have been named by a five year old) round, which is a massive 14.9mms. This is what happens when you shoot one of those: note how 9 times out of 10 the gun jumps out of there hands. Considering that the standard propellant charge would be sufficient to effect terminal performance at short range, so...figure at least 3,000 ft/lbs or a 438 grain projectile leaving the barrel at 1750 ft/s as a solid minimum. This kind of performance produces recoil that is manageable but capable of knocking a shoulder out of socket (remember this performance is a minimum). There are several available super-magnum pistol cartridges that perform comparably which means an Astartes bolt pistol is entirely feasible. Non-Astartes bolters however have been confirmed to be 12.7mm or .50 projectiles. Full size non-Astartes bolter performance could be judged at .50-70 performance which would about a 450 grain at 1250 fps (1500 ft/lbs) as a minimum which would be stiff but tolerable. Non-Astartes bolt pistol would likely be around the .500 S&W Special (350 grain at 1,100 fps for 941 ft/lb), so again stiff but plausible. But remember a Bolter's initial charge is not meant to propel the bolt to maximum speed, nor is a bolt round ever said to travel as fast as a rifle round. So somewhere in the middle of the 10 gauge shotgun and the T-Rex gun is a pretty reasonable guess.
Its all educated guesses but its better than just blind arguing.
40k being 40k, and despite its cool fluff, regular boltguns are kind of average weapons. Necron gauss flayers are superior to them in that they can rape vehicles, Tau pulse rifles and carbines have better range and strength, Eldar shuriken catapults get their semi-rending Bladestorm rule, and even Ork shootas and guard lasguns have something to say, as the first have better auto range, and the second gain the benefit of Rank Fire. Yet with enough money (a shitload of it, actually) and a few mechanicum friends bolters can become the most versatile weapon of the 41st millennium. First off, you can load it with a wide variety of ammo:
- Inferno rounds, with promethium-filled warhead, turn the bolter into a semi-flamethrower, as they set people, or cover they're hiding behind on fire;
- Hellfire rounds, filled with a poisonous acid turn monstrous creatures into a goo;
- Vengeance rounds, with unstable melta-warheads, can pierce through power armour, but tend to overheat the gun;
- Kraken rounds, with an expensive adamantium heart and tip, increase the effective range of a weapon, and allow it to pierce carapace armour;
- Metal Storm rounds, with a frag warhead, explode into shrapnel a few meters before the target, essentially turning it into a long-range shotgun;
- Stalker rounds, when combined with Stalker pattern barrel and scope, turn the bolter into a silenced sniper rifle;
- Dragonfire rounds, filled with superheated gas to hit targets hiding behind cover
- Antiphasic rounds, fitted with miniature dimensional stabilizers to prevent 5th-dimensional evasion
- Ensorcelled rounds, etched with psychic-reactive runes that turn them into armor-piercing spells;
- Bloodshard rounds, used only by the Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard, are filled with razor filaments to shred armour.
There are even more exotic ammo types, like anti-daemon Psibolts, psychic-guided Odysseus bolts, and even ridiculously expensive Warp shells, used by some of the most pimpin' Chaos Lords, which fire essentially miniature vortex-grenades (its a good thing they rarely have more than one shell). If you get a few types of ammo, you may as well add a cheap and effective ammo selector, to easily switch between them. You can also add a different barrel, like the aforementioned silenced Stalker pattern, and then add a scope and/or red-dot sight. Then you may mount something underneath or above your barrel. The cheapest and nonetheless effective variant would be a bayonet, which may be a mono-filament blade, preferable by the Bolter Bitches, or a chain bayonet, popular amongst Chaos guys. But you want to get more dakka, didn't you? So you may add a one-shot melta, plasma, flamer, or grav-gun to your bolter, turning it into a combi-weapon. Now your bolter can deal with enemy armour, heavy infantry or hordes, but its only one shot and need to be disassembled to be recharged, which you don't have the time to do in the heat of the battle. If you want more reliability, you may consider an auxilary grenade launcher, which can lob krak or frag shots in full-auto mode, and while lacking the sheer power of combi-attachments, does not run out of ammo after the first shot, and can perform multiple roles. Now, after spending a fortune on ammo, upgrades, and bribing Mechanicum weaponsmiths, you may enjoy the ultimate personal weapon of the 41st millennium.
Bolters come in a dazzling array of different designs, as the weapon has been redesigned repeatedly and re-used continually over the years, and is in use with no less than six (or a dizzying eight if you count unused last-gen armies like Kroot and Lost and the Damned) different factions in Warhammer 40k, marking it as the single most ubiquitous weapon in the entire goddamned galaxy of 40K. While most are familiar with the iconic Astartes bolter seen in the picture bellow, there's also countless variations beyond that.
The Astartes MKVb Godwyn-Pattern Bolter is the standard-issue boltgun variant used by the Adeptus Astartes, although older chapters tend to use either different, older, or custom variants of boltguns. It is fitted with an array of devices meant to interface with the shooter's helmet, allowing the marine to use the boltgun with unprecedented efficiency, despite its unwieldy size.
The Traitor legions appears to have stuck to their old boltguns (judging from current GW art; they appear to resemble Phobos-pattern bolters), but its not far-fetched for a Chaos Marine to have access to newer bits via salvaging and looting.
As stated above, the Boltguns used by Space Marines are made for Space Marines only. They are too heavy and too large to even be held upright by a non-Astartes. The FFG game rules stated in the Recoil section above do say that normal humans can try to wield them, but they're too bulky to be handled properly.
|8th||24||Rapid Fire 1||4||0||1||-|
The Godwyn-De'az Pattern Bolter is the standard-issue Boltgun used by the Adeptus Sororitas and is pretty much the only one. They operate on the same principles as Marine boltguns, but are noticeably smaller in order to fit the Sisters of Battle's non superhuman physique, though still impossible to use without the increased strength given by the power armor.
They have the same stat line because tabletop's crunch does not actually differentiate between human-grade and Astartes-grade boltguns.
|8th||24||Rapid Fire 1||4||0||1||-|
These are standard-sized Imperial boltguns, meant to be used by non-superhumans. The still work on the same principles, albeit on a smaller scale.
Contrary to the Sisters of Battle and Space Marines' usage; Imperial Boltguns are pretty rare. Outside of high-ranking militants of Imperium like being an Inquisitor, Commissar, or veteran officers; boltguns are only issued as specialist weapons. While Heavy bolters are pretty common in the Guard for their vehicles and special weapons squads, infantry-sized bolters are rare. Only special forces units like Stormtroopers and Veteran Squads are likely the only ones able to requisition a bolter for use, although it is not completely impossible for rank-and-file guardsmen to be issued with one (just very unlikely).
While their overall designs are similar; there are many variants of regular-sized boltguns throughout the Imperium, owing to the fact that the thousands of Forgeworlds that supply the different Guardsmen armies throughout the Imperium, typically put their own spin on the design, so the Cadians, Mordians, and Tallarans would have their own variants.
A scaled-down Bolter that's designed to be used as a sidearm, firing the same high-caliber explosive shells as its big brother. Carried by all space marines but primarily wielded by Assault Marines and Sergeants in conjunction with a chainsword - both by the Space Marines, Chaos Marines, and even Imperial Guard, it also sees extensive use with higher-ranking units in just about every faction worth a damn in the Imperium. Although Space Marines use notably larger pistols compared to the ones the guard uses, probably because the Marines need larger firepower and your typical human is highly unlikely to be able to effectively fire a Marine-sized Bolt Pistol one handed. Its only drawback is that it has a shorter range than the larger Bolter.
It is quite possible that the Bolt Pistol does in fact use different ammunition than the Bolter, in order to achieve a higher muzzle velocity for close-range kills. This would probably manifest in a different propellant used in the pistol shells, something that has a faster and more explosive burn to it than the typical Bolt shell, leading to the shorter range while maintaining close-quarters deadliness.
A variant of this weapon is the Executioner Pistol used by Eversor assassins. It can fire either standard bolt rounds or poisoned darts. Most Eversors prefer to shoot both at the same time, despite the feasible impossibility of such a maneuver.
The Bolt Pistol is, perhaps, most infamously used by Commissars, who tend to use it in the most direct manner possible:
Commissar: "...The Emperor teaches that only through his glory can we find victory on the battlefield."
Soldier: "Sir Commissar, what does the Emperor teach about the two-headed mutants that roam the frontline?"
Commissar: "Um... er..."
Soldier: "....Well, so much for the entertainment."
Its stats are as follows:
Sometimes, fire rate accounts for a lot. ("Yer zoggin' right it does, 'umie!") In recognition of this, many units make use of a double-barreled bolter which can spray out considerably more ammo out to max range, effectively making for a more dangerous weapon capable of ladling out more explosive-filled armor-piercing goodness. This is most commonly seen used by officers and Marines in Terminator Armor. It has 2 magazine wells, one for each barrel, usually these will hold either a Duplus X magazine (which is 2 sickle/straight mags strapped together), or a single box magazine which connects to both wells at the same time. For arm mounted Storm Bolters (i.e. Grey Knights), the wells are on the side of the weapon. For conventional Storm Bolters, the wells are on the bottom.
Chaos Marines lack access to the Storm Bolter, as the weapon was invented/rediscovered after they fled to the Warp. However they still have an older version of the weapon called the Combi-Bolter, sometimes called a Tandem or Twin-Linked Bolter, which was used around the time of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Basically 2 bolters hooked together and linked to the same trigger mechanism, this offers both an advantage and a drawback; at maximum range storm bolters fire two shots where the combi-bolter fires one, but the combi-bolter is twin linked and rapid fire, making it the better weapon when at short range. Chaos Terminators can even assault after using combi-bolters, due to being Relentless. Combi-bolters are mostly used by Chaos Terminators and Commanders, the latter of which are known for raging hard at the fact that Chaos doesn't get better ranged weapon options for its commanders. Unless you're a Tzeentch Commander, or a Sorcerer (or Emperor forbid both). In which case you shouldn't care either way.
In Fantasy Flight Games' Warhammer 40k RPGs such as Deathwatch, the Storm Bolter has a similar rate of automatic fire to a bolter, except that each shot is in fact the discharge of both barrels, and every hit counts as two hits from a tightly grouped pair of rounds, representing the synchronized firing mechanism involved in the two internally mated boltguns. The Combi-Bolter on the other hand can gain a bonus to hit or score a single additional hit in a burst, representing the fact that the two component barrels are neither tightly mated nor are they firing in timed synchronization, so spraying the bolt rounds provides a greater chance to hit with at least some of the shots, but with less likelihood of hitting with all the shots.
The tabletop game stats were as follows:
|24||4||5||Rapid Fire, Twin Linked|
In 8th, the stats for both are now identical:
|24||Rapid Fire 2||4||0||1||-|
There's a new type of Space Marine, and with them comes a new type of Bolter, too. the Mark II Cawl-pattern Bolt Rifle looks like an extended out Bolter and operates somewhere in between a Bolter and Heavy Bolter in effectiveness, with the same fire rate and strength as a normal Bolter, but greater range and armor piercing capabilities. Re-engineered, re-crafted, and perfected, the Bolt Rifles are proof that when the Mechanicus get off their asses and actually try to create something (or when you have an Archmagos working directly for you to bypass such pesky matters), sometimes they can improve upon a classic.
|30||Rapid Fire 1||4||-1||1||-|
However, looking at the profile for the thing a long in the tooth space marine player might think "Hang on, that sounds like Kraken rounds?" While we don't know what special issue ammunition looks like in the new system yet, -1 Ap and +6 range on a normal bolter sounds a lot like the AP4 Kraken special issue ammunition. It may be that Kraken Bolts in standard bolters could yield identical results, though if they do it's unknown how Kraken Bolts will function with Bolt Rifles when/if they get their own Veteran equivalents.
The special issue ammunition has been replaced with special issue bolters, which have a static AP-2, making them a straight upgrade over Bolt Rifles. The Deathwatch still gets special issue ammunition, and yes, Kraken Bolts works like Bolt Rifles.
Two variants of the Bolt Rifle design exist: the Auto Bolt Rifle, designed for a greater fire rate at the expense of range, and the Stalker Bolt Rifle, which has a slower rate of fire but better range and armor piercing capabilities.
Incidental: calling this a rifle imply that all other bolters are Carbines.
The heavy machine gun version of the Bolter fires even bigger bolts, is fully-automatic, and with a heavier armor-piercing tip and nearly double the range. Naturally, this advantage means that the weapon can cut through infantry with horrifying ease, and it remains a "must have" weapon when facing mass-based armies like the Imperial Guard, Orks, or Tyranids. Sadly, it's so big that it takes 2 people (or one Marine) to transport and operate, and normally, it cannot be fired on the move - unless you're Imperial Guard Gunnery Sergant Harker, in which case you can because you're concentrated manliness of such a degree that you make your whole squad fearless in the process.
It's usually seen on vehicles if not in heavy weapon units - either Heavy Weapon Teams for the Imperial Guard, or Heavy Weapon soldiers for the Adeptus Sororitas, Chaos Space Marines, or Space Marines. The Adeptus Mechanicus are known for modding a few of their Servitors for the sole purpose of carrying and firing a Heavy Bolter, presumably so the Tech-Priest can get some fucking work done while a bunch of Orks are screaming and brandishing pointed sticks in their general direction.
Special recognition goes to the Leman Russ battle tank for mounting three of these fucking things in most configs. If you want to rape an entire squad of infantry, accept no substitutes (except for the Leman Russ Punisher, which renders most of the above a moot point). Or a Baneblade.
In fluff terms; the Heavy Bolter uses a 1.00 (25.4mm wide) caliber round as opposed to the regular bolter's 0.75 caliber, allowing it to tear through all but the most heavily armored of targets. It also attains a higher rate of fire than standard boltguns and is commonly fed from a large ammunition feed like box and drum magazines or the large backpack-mounted feed belts used by Space Marines, allowing for sustained fire (although it can still feed from free-hanging ammo belts, as evidenced by Chaos Marines). As stated above; the weapon is massive, requiring either a vehicle, two human operators, or a super soldier to carry. Thus, the operator(s) commonly have to entrench themselves before firing the weapon in order to control and accurately fire the weapon.
To give you an understanding of just how deadly a Heavy Bolter would be, consider: a .25 inch difference in terms of caliber is pretty enormous because the relationship between the radius and volume of a cylinder is proportional to the
cube square (x^2) of the radius rather than linear. A 1.00 caliber round would have almost twice the volume (and mass) of a 0.75 caliber round if it was the same length; on top of that, Heavy Bolter shells are also proportionally longer, judging by the size of the ammunition feed chute. And of course, volume is extremely important when it comes to determining the power of an explosive.
Worthy of special note are the Hellfire shells space marine scouts may fire from this weapon, it is a poisoned (2+), blast shell, particularly useful against Tyranid biomorphs or just general blob armies
Stats? Oh, we got 'em:
Yet another bolt-weapons variation of the Primaris-issue line, being either constructed by arch-magos Belisarius Cawl himself or it's construction being comissioned by Belisarius Cawl. In general, these are heavy bolters (with the corresponding high rate of fire and firing heavy bolter-issue shells) made into heavy pistol-grade (well, by Astartes standards, that is) firearms, capable of being fired from a single hand because of the Astartes power armour and the recoil being reduced by magnetic shied.
Seriously, you would think that the Primaris are already killy enough than the regular old Space Marine, but nooooo GeeDubs just have to give them SMGs that fire Heavy Bolt Rounds. On the plus side they look dope as shit, so keep your eyes peeled on bitz sites to give your HQs and heavy weapons guys a relatively unique weapon.
These weapons are normally issued to the Inceptor squad - Primaris Astartes equivalent of assault squad, and while they have decisivly inferior range over full-scale heavy bolter, they have the same stopping power and are dual-wielded for even greater volume of firepower
It's an assault cannon firing psybolt ammunition with gravitic suspensors to make it easier to wield. While it has shorter range than a heavy bolter or autocannon, in mobility, rate of fire, and wounding capability it is strictly better than a bolter or heavy bolter; it does more damage, on average, to any possible target than an autocannon, despite having the same strength and AP. Depending on which variant you use (see below), it can also be strictly better than a storm bolter. It fires powerful bolts loaded with psionically-resonant warheads; the Grey Knights' version of the Land Raider Crusader ripped out the twin-linked assault cannons in favor of a twin-linked psycannon! Even frontal tank armour can simply melt away under the onslaught of 4 S7 rending rounds.
Because GW are total idiots, psycannons have different profiles based on which codex they come from; Inquisitorial psycannons are drastically better when fired by non-Relentless models, even though Grey Knights are the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus. Unfortunately for the Inquisition, only terminator Inquisitors (Ordo Malleus upgrade) can take psycannons. meaning that there is no difference between them, given that Heavy and Salvo are functionally the same on Relentless Models.
|24||7||4||Assault 2, Rending|
|24||7||4||Heavy 4, Rending|
Terminators always use the Heavy 4 profile
|24||7||4||Salvo 2/4, Rending|
8th Edition has both types use the same profile:
Chaos' version of the Psycannon, the Kai Gun was a Daemon Weapon in the Fourth Edition ruleset of Codex: Chaos Space Marines. If you were to bring one to the tabletop now, it would count as a Deathscreamer (Tzeentchian Daemon Weapon). Its current-edition stats makes it one of those weapons that can either be amazingly good or amazingly bad depending on how the dice favor you. Notably, in Dawn of War II, Tarkus will use one in Chaos Rising if he turns.
The Kai Gun was produced by the Machine Smiths of Kai when the Kai system was absorbed into the Eye of Terror by the warp storm Gae-sann in M34. The Smiths realized that they could make weapons that flashed the finger to every known Law of Physics, and maintained Imperial presence on the planet while bartering their services for a measure of protection from the daemons of the Warp and produced hundreds of physics-defying weapons, the Kai Gun included, in return. Eventually this deal came to an end when Daemons descended on Kai and butchered the bulk of the population. Several Chaos Lords, being more cynically enterprising, swooped in to secure some (very grateful) potential candidates and weapon-techs during the massacre. Ultimately, when the dust settled only the massive, arcane, Bolter-like weapons that were the Kai system's legacy remained. Mostly because GW won't tell us what else Kai made during its stint in the warp.
|24||6||3||Assault 2, Daemon Weapon|
|24||4||3||Assault D6, Daemon Weapon|
Note that due to the new Daemon Weapon rules, the Kai Gun counts as a Power Weapon in close-combat and gives +1d6 attacks in close combat every time its bearer is involved in an assault. Due to the Daemonic spirit in it, however, it rebels on a roll of a 1 for its firing or attack bonus stats, giving no attacks and firing no rounds and instead inflicting an automatic wound on its owner with no saves allowed. Power at a price.
But now you can't get one, because the 6th Edition Codex doesn't have them.
These are the Bolters you see attached into the various weapons of the Emperor's Golden Boys. Bolt Casters are double-barreled bolt weapons, that are used by the Adeptus Custodes and can be built into their other various weapons, such as the Guardian Spear and Sentinel Blade. In the Custodes' skilled hands, Bolt Casters are able to lay down a hail of fire at short range, that can cut down traitors, heretics and Xenos with ease.
How the Custodes can reload the damned thing due to the way the ammunition is placed is a large mystery (Actually, they have Servitors to do this for them. A Custodes takes less than a few seconds to reload his Bolt Caster.)
The Boltstorm Gauntlet is a Bolt Weapon used by the Primaris Space Marines. Often wielded by Captains, it bares a strong resemblance and function to Roboute Guilliman's famed weapon Hand of Dominion as well as Marneus Calgar's Gauntlets of Ultramar. As you can imagine, one of the many nicknames include the Boltfist or the HoD's little brothers. The usage of the Boltstorm Gauntlet is so that powerfist enthusiasts have a easy way in offering some close quarters firepower to give the powerfist some range to compensate. This makes the Boltstorm Gauntlet a trusted sidearm for the Primaris Space Marines due to this particular benefit. The Boltstorm Gauntlet consists of a Power Fist with built-in Bolter. Aggressor Squads can use the related Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets, which as the name suggests are fully automatic to aid in firing on the move.
It gives a whole new meaning to the word 'fisting'.
Mauler Bolt Cannon
The Mauler Bolt Cannon was a Bolt Weapon used by the Legio Cybernetica of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A field-support weapon founded within the Skitarii and mounted on certain Battle-automata, these bulky automatic cannons differed from the more common Heavy Bolter only in caliber, with the Mauler using substantially larger shells with a proportionally larger and stronger gun-frame needed to handle the recoil involved. The weapons were jealously guarded secrets by the Mechanicum.
As you can imagine, the size and recoil of the already immense supersized Bolt shells would make it impractical to even impossible for the augmented muscles of the Adeptus Astartes. It is of no reason why it is only given to the giant robots of the Mechanicum. Although one may wonder their usage if the Mechanicus was more lenient such as giving it to the Centurion or Terminator Squads instead.
Sometimes, one bolter isn't enough. There are so many enemies of mankind out there and only so few automatic mini-rocket launchers. What if a Space Marine was confronted by a few hundred orks and only one bolter? He might be able to kill them if he is badass enough, but not as quickly and efficient as the Imperium would want it. Slacking with killing the enemies of mankind is heresy. So what do you do when one bolter isn't enough? Well, six bolters firing at once should do the trick. Thanks to the Black Templars finding some techno-flubdubbery during the Jerulas Crusade their artificer was able to make the Hurricane-pattern Bolter, with the intention of using it for hive combat by mounting it on their Crusader-variant Land Raiders, also one of their innovations. Needless to say, it was terrifyingly effective against blobs of infantry, the common enemy inside the cramped quarters of the hive.
The hurricane bolter is one of the Space Marines' preferred vehicle close-range weapons. After its initial success with the Black Templars, they apparently decided to give the blueprints to everyone else, unlike certain other factions who boggart all the good shit for themselves. As of M41, the weapon has been mounted on numerous other vehicles, such as the Centurion warsuit, Ironclad Dreadnought, and Stormraven gunship. Naturally, the Orks love this. (Oy, look 'ere, boyz! Da humies is gettin' da idea!)
|24||4||5||Rapid Fire 3, Twin-Linked|
Avenger Bolt Cannon
The Avenger Bolt Cannon is the latest addition to the Bolter family, and seems to be intended to fill the role of "most powerful bolt weapon in non-Apocalypse games" (and at Strength 6, AP3, Heavy 7, it certainly is). It was introduced with the Avenger Strike Fighter and its big brother, the Fire Raptor, but is also an available option for the Imperial Knight Warden and Crusader in place of their standard-issue large-ass chainsword. The Dark Angels' Nephilim Jetfighter can also pack one around, though their Avenger Mega Bolter is only a glorified Heavy Bolter at AP4 Heavy 5, instead of the terrifying seven shots at AP3.
Castigator Bolt Cannon
Think of this as the Vulcan Mega Bolter's little brother. The Castigator Bolt Cannon is a type of heavy Bolt Weapon used by Knight Castigator's. This weapon is capable of obliterating infantry formations in a thunderous rain of mass-reactive explosions and whirling power blade, or carving apart light vehicles with ease. Like the Assault Bolter, the Castigator Bolt Cannon has a gun shield but on a much larger scale.
These guys are what happens if you want to get as close to the firepower of the Vulcan without going full on Titan Legion or Baneblade armada.
Knight Pattern Heavy Bolter
A supposedly better Heavy Bolter Pattern existing only within the Cult Mechanicus, the Knight Pattern Heavy Bolter is only mounted on Knight Titan chassis, and is somehow designed to more effectively combat vehicles, monstrous creatures, and heavy walkers. How this is accomplished is uncertain, but it was apparently more suited to the task than the Imperial Autocannon. Supposedly two of these weapons can equal the power of a Vulcan Mega Bolter, which probably puts these Bolters soundly at a Vulkan stat-line, though only Heavy 6. Too bad we will never know, because Games Workshop hates Knights. Not anymore due to the new knights being released in plastic ERMAHGERD.
We can, however, infer that it is not the weapon itself but the ammunition used that makes it so devastating. That is how bolters work, after all. It most likely uses flux-core heavy bolt shells with a vastly superior explosive (and maybe better propellant or even an actual jet engine). There is a special ammunition type for bolters that is flux-cored. Basically it acts like Necron Gauss weapons except the power field surrounds the shell. It laughs at terminator armor (in fluff, anyway). This might also explain why it is only on Knights. That ammo is freakishly expensive (obviously) and the Mechanicus would sure as hell not want it to be wasted. That, and they probably can't mass produce it very well.
Vulcan Mega Bolter
The closest thing you will ever see to "enuff dakka" in a single weapon that does not require a starship, an Imperator class titan, or a platform the size of a small city rooted firmly into the ground to fire. Even the Punisher Cannon stands in awe. Think of a gatling gun but instead of using wussy little stubbers for its barrels, it uses extra large heavy bolters. Typically comes in pairs so imagine two groups of five very rapidly rotating heavy bolter guns all shitting out 10.00 caliber rocket propelled explosive rounds at emperor knows how fast (to see why bolters are powerful, see the main section on bolters, to see why heavy bolters are even more powerful see the heavy bolter section) .
Only seen on Titans (typically only the smaller ones like Warhounds and Reavers since they don't quite make a big enough boom to be worth placing on Warlords, Imperators or Warmongers), a type of Baneblade, and one class of Macharius Heavy Tank. Infantry and light vehicles suffer critical existence failure the instant one of these pops up as they are pulped out of existence by several hundred rockets per second. (Now while Gyrojets technically can only really fire 6 rounds per second or 360 rounds per minute at maximum per barrel due to the sheer amount of backblasted gas that the rockets create, bolters cheat around this limit by using a normal propellant charge to launch the bolt out of the gun, then firing the rockets once the bolt has exited the barrel.)
It shits out so many bolts that it can be surprisingly effective against things like Predator and Leman Russ tanks if you are smiled upon by lady luck and admiral awesome and they're presenting their side armor, but don't expect it to do much against something like Land Raiders or Monoliths but theoretically if you gave it anti-armor rounds it would make tank commanders shit bricks. The Imperium is considering loaning one of these to the Grey Knights and replacing the heavy bolters with psycannons for an amount of rape that would make Slaanesh weep tears of joy. Another proposal was to replace the heavy bolter barrels with assault cannons, for a gatling-gatling gun [("Yo dawg I heard you like assault cannons so we put assault cannons on an assault cannon so you can rape things while you rape things")THIS IS THE BEST IDEA EVER!] to bring a new meaning to the term "bullet storm." To counter this, the forces of chaos are pondering a version with two groups of six reaper autocannons arranged in a rotary cannon (twenty four short barreled autocannons in all) for massive levels of automatic tank cannon induced rape.
Possibly the single most awesome thing about this weapon, is that when mounted on a Stormlord (Shadowsword chassis with mega bolter primary weapon) the tank can choose to fire twice at different targets if it didn't move, that's thirty AP3 shots, that only need a 2+ to wound T4 models. Sooooooo basically it can cause two entire Space Marine Tactical squads to suffer critical existence failure in one turn, the weapon's only weakness is its operators, guardsmen with BS3....seems like a waste, doesn't it, still, if you're a master converter add some Space Marine crew for a small points increase, and watch as you opponent cries tears of horrified rage as 30 S6, AP3 shots tear into his precious precious battlesuits or whatever he has (and that's before adding the shots from the twin linked heavy bolters, the lascannons, and the shots fired by anyone riding in it, for maximum lulz, stuff as many heavy bolter carrying infantry as you can inside and take the two extra sponson mounts for a grand total of 13 more heavy bolter barrels raining death upon your foes).
One advantage of being a projectile weapon is that a variety of ordinance can be loaded into a bolter for a variety of desired effects.
Speaking of On the Tabletop
Despite the really cool fluff, the Bolter is, in fact, a middle-of-the-road weapon on the table; the average by which all default infantry weapons of every race must be judged. While not as potent and long ranged as the Tau Pulse rifle or annoying and devastating as the Necron Gauss Flayer, it's considerably better in terms of punch than most other infantry weapons in the 41st Millennium; Eldar Shuriken weapons have shorter ranges (but Bladestorm to make up for it), Lasguns have the same long range, but minimal armor-penetration (read: none) and less punch - the list goes on, but Bolters, while middling at best, are far from the worst gun on the battlefield. Besides, they're one of the cool parts of the Commissariat, since they are the primary weapon used for summary executions. Now, if only this stopped them from being doucheba*BLAM* Pretty much they're like Mario is in most of the games he shows up in where he isn't the only playable character. While the others are a lot better than he is in certain areas, no one else is as good overall (well...except for the Gauss Flayer and Pulse rifle... though both are on units that can't melee for shit, and one is on a unit that can't even shoot straight but costs more than two guardsmen, so it all kinda evens out.) Still, given the cost to make bolters, if their fluff performance was as average as their tabletop performance it could lead one to wonder why Astartes wouldn't just carry sawn-off heavy stubbers, for increased rate of fire which would help make up for space marines relative lack of numbers.
Certain Commissars prefer Laspistols or Hell pistols(If they're lucky/wealthy enough to get one) to Bolt Pistols however, but Laspistols are much worse at blamming because it's one of the very few weapons that Flak armor can resist. Bolt Pistols however, have recoil and have considerably less ammo (A typical mag only has 10 rounds[Even though that's enough rounds to execute an entire squad of troopers, including the Sergeant]) than Laspistols. Before you laugh at flak armor only working properly against lasers and shrapnel, keep in mind that fluff says it's kept stiff by therma-plas strips. (Besides, flak armor is only designed to withstand shrapnel anyway, and in RL shrapnel kills more soliders then bullets) It stands to reason that the Imperium would use plastic to keep the flak armor stiff, it just so happens that the only plastic they have decent access to happens to be on steroids and remember Kevlar is made of plastic so it's not out of the question. Of course, it is still plastic so it isn't that great against large-caliber bullets and clouds of mono-molecular shuriken. Also, Flak is sufficient to provide protection against autoguns (S3 AP-), which are equivalent to modern assault rifles.
- You can see this gun turning Tau into hamburger here.
- You can also see an in-depth explanation of how bolts work here.
- The MK19, while not having the punch capabilities of the bolter it gives you an idea of how one may look and feel IRL.video of MK19 going full cyclic rate of fire
- The XM-25 (a descendant of the grenade launcher portion of the OICW) functions much like you'd expect a bolter to, right down to the advanced variety ammunition. Although they are not rocket propelled.
- The Origin 12, though a shotgun, somewhat resembles a Bolter. Fostech Origin 12 SBV Non-NFA "Firearm",Now silenced. In theory, if one was up for designing a gyrojet shell that was fired out of a shotgun, you could make it a gyrojet weapon.