What is the Bolter and Its Classification?
Across the Imperium and her colonies, the Botguns can be seen taken on many forms: from pistols, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, and even a PDW (more on that.) The 10,000 year old technology has been applied to many common military firearms types seen on the battlefield, but the standard issue Boltgun is a bit of a mystery: the current issued (and most common) Boltgun among the Astartes chapters is the MK Vb Godwyn Pattern. When it comes to the classification of the standard form of the (Rifle? PDW?) Bolter...that's the hard part.
What Do Those Bolter's Fire?
The ammunition appears to be linked to the unsuccessful concept of "Gyrojet" ammunition and the weaponry developed around it from the 1960's. This concept was popular with some sci-fi creators in the 1980's, as seen BattleTech and this one. Soon, Yoel will be examining Rocket Guns in his next Armory blogpost! When firing the standard Bolter shell, the weapon operates more or less like a normal firearm, with the shell casing ejecting, and the kick-charge propelling the shell out of the barrel. Once it leaves the barrel, four micro-rocket ports activate and launch the round, spinning to its target at ever building velocity.
Then there is the matter of the recoil. For years, Games Workshop has attempted to use the massive recoil of the Boltgun to illustrate how badass their enhanced superhuman Astartes are. However, real-world Gyrojet weapons actually lacks much in the way of any recoil and normal human soldiers are seen using Boltguns without any type of armor or assistance...eroding the case of the "rip the arm out of the socket" recoil. This could be explained by the difference between the Bolter shell and the Gyrojet ammunition. Production Gyrojet ammunition by MBA used micro-rockets to propel the round downrange. The bullets would exit the barrel at very low velocity, to the point that you could stop the round leaving the barrel with your hand and not suffer major trauma. That is not true, seemingly, of the Bolter. It uses an kick charge to propel the projectile out of the barrel, and then the rocket lights up after exiting the barrel. Recoil could result from the kick charge...all of this is theoretical without a real Boltgun to test...FWS doesn't have the R&D budget for that.
The History of the Boltgun
Please note that I will not be discussing the dozens of "Patterns" that exist for each major variant of the Imperial Boltgun unless they are important to the topic. There are just too many for the scope of this blogpost.
The Standard Bolter
The Bolter Pistol
The Stalker Pattern Bolter
this is what would happen if an Saiga-12 (shotgun) fucked a Mark-19 (automatic grenade launcher). Highly inaccurate, exceptionally ugly, and heavy on the boom-boom."
The Chaos Boltgun
The Heavy Bolter
The Vulcan Mega-Bolter
Nothing on Earth could've lived. Not at that range. Cities, demonic forces, starships, hordes of godless Orks, and shit-in-your-pants Tyranid could stand up to that kind of fire. It is the hand of god and is beyond engineering that we know today. Why? The mere weight of the shells coupled with the force of the cannon barrels rotating and the recoil would violently rattle the mech to shrapnel and most likely create an minor earthquake at the site of firing.
The Bolter: The Symbol of the Adeptus Astartes...Or Not?
What Does the Bolter Say About the Imperium of Man?
The Boltgun as a Real-World Firearm
The Major Issues with the Design and Function of the Boltguns
explained the distorted and disconnected relationship between the size of the Bolter shell and the size of the weapon itself. He believes that the standard Bolter is too small in size and that all of the Boltgun family weapons, presented in official GW 40K art and gaming, actually reflects the use of numerous Boltguns firing numerous sized cartridges depending on who wields them. For example, he contends that the Heavy Bolter fires 2inch shells while the Astartes standard Bolter chambers an .998 long (seen in the Space Marine THQ game Bolter), while their Bolt Pistol is .998 short. Lastly, the familiar .75 caliber that has been presented for years in canonized sources is for the normal human handheld Bolters and Bolt Pistol.
Other Appearances of the Boltgun
The Classic 1987 40K Rouge Trader Game
The Boltgun, also known as the Bolter or Blaster, fires small bolts or shells having explosive or armour piercing tips. Boltguns are popular with pirates and criminals because they make a loud, violent and suitably satisfying noise. For the same reason they are most popular with Orks - and represent the most common weapon used by those loathsome creatures. "
The "Realm of Chaos" Cover Art for the British Band Bolt Thrower (1989)
Space Hulk PC Game (1993)
Space Hulk:Vengeance of the Blood Angels 3DO/PSOne/Sega Saturn/PC Game (1996)
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate for PC (1998)
Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior for PC and PS2 (2003)
Only released on the PS2 and the PC, the game received mixed reviews, and most fans were insulted by the easy that an single Fire Warrior defeated Space Marines. It was also ugly, too hard at the end levels, but did have an great opening, cut-scenes, and one of the better representations of the Boltgun in 40K video games. In the game, the Bolter is a slower firing boxy weapon that launches massive shells into its enemy with crushing results. Incoming Bolter fire is like a hailstorm in hell and only a few shots finish you off. This, to me, seems like the Boltgun I've always imagined. Your Tau Fire Warrior is allowed to pick up Space Marine Bolter and even an Chaos Marine Bolter...which functions and shoots the same as the non-corrupted Boltgun, but looks like it is dressed up to go to a GWAR! concert. Fire Warrior is largely forgotten today, and its graphics have completely not withstood the test of time nor has the gameplay mechanics. It was viewed as an odd duck of the 40K video game world.
THQ's Space Marine Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 Video Game (2011)
Dawn of War PC Games for PC (2004-2016)
Ultramarine: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie (2010)
Flashgitz's "Space Hulk" and "the Trials of Lord Draigo" Videos
Space Hulk for the PC, Wii, PS3, and Mac (2013)
Space Hulk: Deathwing for the PC, Xbox One, and PS4 (2016)
Fan-made Bolter Replicas
wrath of GW. I've seen some masterfully crafted Boltguns of all patterns and variants for cosplayers and display. Seriously, Games Workshop, you cannot sell an officially licensed Bolter for the cosplay community?
The Impact of the Bolter
Why This Blogpost was Difficult to Write and Research
Next Time on FWS...