40K Lore: Know Your Space Marine Bolters

Today Loremasters, we speak of the massive family of boltguns – the will of the Emperor, wielded by the Adeptus Astartes.

Imperial Bolter Designs

The Boltgun, also commonly referred to as the Bolter, is the standard weapon of the Adeptus Astartes and Adepta Sororitas. A .75 caliber weapon, the Boltgun fires a self-propelled explosive ‘bolt’ which explodes with devastating effect once it has penetrated its target, effectively blowing it apart from the inside. Finely hand-crafted by Space Marine Forges or the Adeptus Mechanicus, Boltguns are heavy, sturdy weapons with a powerful recoil normal humans would find difficult to handle.

For the Astartes the boltgun is a holy symbol of the Emperor‘s wrath.

The following information mainly concerns Bolters manufactured by/ for and/ or used by the various factions and organisations of the Imperium, not for bolters or bolter-like weapons manufactured by Xenos, which are dealt with in the relevant paragraph at the end of the article.

The original Imperial boltgun was an invention of the Emperor of Mankind‘s own design.

Adeptus Astartes Boltguns

Like other Space Marine weaponry, Astartes boltguns are designed around their superhuman physique. The weight of each weapon would require most humans to use a supporting brace, with hand-grips larger than any normal human could manage. However, even if a normal human were to fire the boltgun, the resulting recoil would rip their arm from its socket. Normal humans found to be in possession of even a single Astartes bolt round, much less a boltgun, can expect a swift justice for their crimes.

Note that some of these are only used by specific Space Marine Chapters.

Artifex Pattern

The artifex pattern bolter is amongst the most potent of its kind. Fitted with multi-spectral augur lenses, a silacharibdis shot selector and a gene-grip bioveritor, its warlike spirit responds only to its rightful owner. It is known to be used among the ranks of the Deathwatch.


Artifex Pattern

Artifex Pattern Bolter


Angelus boltgun/bolter

The Blood Angels and their successor Chapter use a wrist-mounted, drum-fed variation of the standard boltgun for their Sanguinary Guard called the Angelus boltgun. It uses Bloodshard shells as ammunition. This is not to be confused with the Angelus Bolt Carbine which is not a boltgun and not a Space Marine weapon.

Angelus boltgun

Angelus boltgun

Angelus boltgun

Angelus boltgun

Angelus boltgun

Angelus boltgun


Mk.II Cawl pattern Bolt Rifle

The Mk.II Cawl Pattern Bolt Rifle is a new version of the venerable Boltgun developed in the closing days of the 41st Millennium for the Primaris Space Marines. Named after Magos Belisarius Cawl, the large Cawl-pattern Bolter is said to be re-crafted and re-engineered to perfection.


Cawl Pattern

    Cawl Pattern Bolt Rifle


Fenris pattern Mk.IV

The Space Wolves utilize a pattern of Boltgun produced on their own homeworld of Fenris, decorated with the skulls of Fenrisian beasts.

Fenris Pattern Mk.IV

Fenris Pattern Mk.IV Boltgun

Gilded Boltgun

The Gilded Boltgun is a master-crafted artificer weapon of unsurpassed beauty and artistry; a weapon fit for a Sector Lord, or a Space Marine Captain. No record remains of how this weapon made its way to the Jericho Reach, but it has been used by some of the most heralded Ultramarines to serve in the Reach.

Godwyn pattern

The model currently used by most Space Marines is designated the Astartes MK Vb Godwyn pattern. The Godwyn-pattern bolter has a built-in ammo counter and uses a Sinister/Dexter locking mechanism with a sickle-shaped magazine carrying 30 rounds. It fires the standard Astartes .75 calibre bolt, composed of a diamantine tip, depleted deuterium core and mass-reactive detonator, typically in bursts of four rounds. Other features include a palm-print sensor for genetic identification, as well as an integral targeter that links with the autosenses in the Marine’s helmet for superior accuracy. It can also be upgraded with weapon accessories such as the M40 Targeting System.

Other Godwyn patterns include the Astartes Mk IIIa Godwyn Pattern, an older version, still used by the Dark Angels Chapter.

Godwyn Ultima

N.B. Due to the ambiguous labelling of the images it is not possible to say if the Minotaurs weapons shown here is a “Godwyn Ultima” or an “Ultima”.

The Minotaurs are known to have used Godwyn Ultima bolt weapons during the Badab War – it is unclear if these are Boltguns or Bolt pistols. The Exorcists used Godwyn-Ultima bolters during this war.

Godwyn Ultima

Godwyn-Ultima with Chainbladeattachment


Godwyn Ultima or Ultima(see above)

Godwyn Ultima or Ultima(see above)



The Deathwatch uses the Hesh-pattern boltguns since M36. This weapon was originally designed by Magos Cymbry Jamis of the Adeptus Mechanicus in recognition of the Deathwatch’s services. The bolters of this pattern are more compact than other weapons of its type and show exceptional craftsmanship. Due to their smaller size they are well-suited for fighting in confined spaces and they are also favoured by vehicle crews and by certain Assault Marines. The bolters incorporate an integral folding stock, motion predictor, and prey-sense sight.


possibly a Hesh-pattern


N.B. The picture shown is located next to the article about the “Hesh-pattern”, but does not have a description confirming that it is this pattern.

Mark III boltgun

The Mark III or MKIII pattern boltgun is known to exist as Badab Primaris Manufactura Issue and has been used during the Badab War by the Astral Claws.

Mark III

Mark III


MKIII (Astral Clawsapproved)


Mark IV boltgun

N.B. It is unknown if and which pattern this weapon would be as it is just referred to as “standard”.

The standard model Mark IV (pictured here with a sickle magazine containing 20 bolts) has single-shot and burst fire (i.e. firing three bolts in short succession) modes. The bolter also incorporates a palm-print sensor to identify its wielder by its genetic imprint.

Mark IV

standard Mark IV



The Salamanders are known to have used Nocturne-Ultima modified boltguns during the Badab War.


Nocturne-Ultima modified (Salamanders)


Phobos pattern

The Phobos Pattern Bolter, officially known as the Phobos R/017 Pattern, is closely associated with Mk II ‘Crusade’ Armour and is perhaps the most venerable design of the Bolter used by the Adeptus Astartes. This weapon was .70 caliber as opposed to the .75 round most associated with the Bolter today. Phobos pattern bolters were hand-crafted by the Fabricators of Mars at the very birth of the Imperium, to ensure that every Marine had the finest wargear with which to reunite the scattered elements of Humanity during the Great Crusade.

Phobos pattern

Phobos pattern bolter with optional combat blade attachments


Heresy-era Phobos PaternBolter


The Primarch’s Wrath

The Primarch’s Wrath is a relic item which is believed to have come from the personal collection of Roboute Guilliman. Chased in Theldrite moonsilver and inscribed in microscopic lettering with every treatise on tactics that Guilliman ever penned, this weapon’s quality is such that it allows the wielder to sweep away great swathes of the enemy with a storm of shells.

Ryza-Ultima Variant

The Star Phantoms are known to have used Ryza-Ultima variant boltguns during the Badab War.

Ryza-Ultima variant

Ryza-Ultima variant (Star Phantoms)


Stalker Bolter

The Stalker Bolter is a variant of the standard Boltgun. With an elongated barrel and scope, it is used by Space Marines as either a precision battle rifle or sniper weapon.


Space Marine Stalker Bolter

Sergeant Torias Telionarmed with a Stalker-pattern boltgun.

A Tigris-Exitus Pattern Stalker Bolter of the Raven Guard


Sternguard Bolter

The Sternguard Bolter is a variant of the standard Boltgun wielded by Sternguards. It includes an enhanced scope, shoulder-sling strap, and a specialized magazine that allows the Sternguard to carry different types of ammunition and switch between them freely. The specialized magazine allows a variety of ammo types, at the expense of capacity of standard ammo and an increased cost to reload.


Sternguard Bolter


Tigrus Pattern Bolter

The Tigrus Pattern Bolter was first discovered in the depths of Forge World Tigrus and the STC data for it was quickly disseminated throughout the Imperium before the beginning of Horus Heresy. The Tigrus pattern Bolter is a .60 caliber weapon as opposed to the modern .75 standard. Tigrus is now lost, yet the Bolters that bear its name, though no longer produced, continue to see service in the 41st Millennium.

Note: this is also known as the Tigris class

Tigrus pattern

Tigrus pattern bolter



N.B. Due to the ambiguous labelling of the images it is not possible to say if the weapon shown here is a “Godwyn Ultima” or an “Ultima”.

The Minotaurs are known to have used Ultima bolt weapons during the Badab War – it is unclear if these are Boltguns or Bolt pistols.


Godwyn Ultima or Ultima(see above)

Godwyn Ultima or Ultima(see above)


Ultra pattern

The Mk II Ultra Pattern features a Dark-Eye nightscope.

The Mk IV Ultra Pattern has a 25-round magazine, standard features include ammo-counter and targeter which links with autosenses, and palm-print genetic indentification.

Mk IV Ultra Pattern

Mk II Ultra Pattern with Dark-Eye nightscope (Red Scorpions)

Mk IV Ultra Pattern (Red Scorpions)


Umbra pattern

The Umbra pattern boltgun was first used in the later years of the Great Crusade and was produced in large quantities.

The variant known as Umbra Ferrox was mass-produced by Techmarines to ensure that enough weapons and ammunition were available during the ongoing Horus Heresy. The difference to the “normal” Umbra pattern is the replacement of the original sickle magazine with a higher-capacity box. Also incorporated are a long-range gunsight with additional target reciprocator systems that mesh with the power armour‘s autosenses.

Note: contrary to the statement that the “Umbra-Ferrox variant” is different only in the magazine used, other sources show “Umbra-Ferrox patterns” with sickle magazines.

Umbra pattern and Umbra Ferrox variant

Umbra patternmanufactured in the Mantis Warriors Chapterforge

Umbra pattern(Executioners)

Umbra pattern with Chainblade attachment (Carcharodons)

Umbra pattern with optional combat blade attachments

Nocturne modified Umbra-Ferrox pattern with Chainblade attachment (Salamanders)

Umbra Ferrox variant with optional combat blade attachments

Umbra Ferrox variant with attached combat blades

~Ok, which one’s your favorite. I know you have one.


  • KreskinsESP

    I’ll be sending my too irritating to ignore/too difficult to kill Iron Hands successor Chapter Master in Terminator Armor with a Storm Shield and The Primarch’s Wrath out for one last battle as the ultimate fly in the ointment before the new the new edition hits.

    There’s nothing quite like a character that puts out 5 S4 AP4 shots at 24″ that gets to reroll both a to hit and a to wound roll once per turn, along as he stomps around with 4 T4 wounds hiding behind 2+/3++ armor/invul saves along with 6+ Feel No Pain and It Will Not Die.

    He’s my favorite unit in 7th edition, and he is so because of The Primarch’s Wrath. He’s a death star that you think you can ignore since he’s not an imminently terrifying threat, but after a couple turns of him erasing enemy infantry at range with total impunity, he becomes a rock in your shoe that you simply can’t get rid of. I love him. I’ll miss him.

  • AircoolUK
    • euansmith

      Blimey; it never rains, but it pours. There seems to be so much new stuff coming out at the moment.

      I’m liking the new Bigmarines; though the jetpack guys look a bit derpy in those shots.

      The Chaos stuff certainly has an awful lot of detail. I’m not sure I like the aesthetic, but there is no denying the density of the bits and bobs.

      As ever. I’ll wait till I see the minis painted up by community painters before coming to a decision.

      • KreskinsESP

        They did a combat gauge for Age of Sigmar, but for whatever reason they also made it a piece of jewelry made from polished brass on a leather cord and charged $33 dollars for what can be done by a piece of paper cut to a certain size.

        At least it’s plastic now. If it’s under 10 bucks, I’d totally pick one up. Seems like it would make doing quick measurements like unit coherency and such quick and easy.

        Here’s the video they did for the AoS one. Seriously, it’s a useful gaming aid. It should probably be in the box along with the whippy sticks. But They had to go way overboard making it fancy.


    • Crevab


    • Fergie0044

      Thanks for that!

      New nurgle stuff looks awesome. In fact, TOO awesome. Will really show up the rest of my death guard. Blight drone thing is sweet.

      New marines look fine. Not a fan of the squad names though. Where’s the faux latin?!?

  • Rob brown

    Although doesn’t a deathwatch sergeant gift Gregor Eisenhorn his bolt pistol in Xenos?

    • Swimpackus

      It’s a Librarian and if I am not mistaken, it is mentioned to have suspensor tech somewhere in it.

      • Rob brown

        Yes you’re right, I just did some digging. At the time of writing it was a finely crafted space marine bolt pistol. However since then Dark Heresy, Deathwatch and HH came out and they were responsible for writing most of the fluff on day to day Space Marines.

    • Tyr

      Never mind that there are loads of humans that actually use Bolters in the game. Theres one in the catachan command squad ffs!

      And regarding the recoil… no, just no. The basic premise of a bolter is that the projectile has its own powersource, theyre basically miniature missiles. Recoil would be negligible. Probably one of the worst fluff articles Ive read.

      • memitchell

        According to the fluff, would still need to kick the bolt (i.e. miniature missile) out of the barrel, before the “rocket” ignites. That recoil could be significant to negligible, depending on exit velocity from the barrel. “Arm socket ripping” seems excessive and purpose-defeating.

      • Paul Raymond

        I see a lot of the lore talk about bolters having arm ripping recoil as exaggeration. Part legend and part misinformation as to why more non-Astartes don’t use them. I think of bolters as being like very advanced gyrojet guns. Gyrojets were developed in the 1960’s to fight commies in space. Didn’t prove necessary though. They were big but mechanically simple with few moving parts, as well as VERY little recoil. I just connect the two designs mentally, though the biggest gyrojets were only 13mm. I’ve heard bolters as 17mm normally, but now the’re .75 (19mm). Admittedly gyrojets are caseless and bolters are shown to spit out shells, but I mostly consider that as because GW doesn’t have an official tech document. 40k isn’t hard sci-fi, I can suppress my OCD… Mostly.

        • KingAceNumber1

          It actually really bothers me that the fluff is inconsistent with regard to whether bolts are caseless. Every bit of fluff I have read refers to them as self-propelled and caseless, but bolters are always shown in games and videos and hemorrhaging brass when they fire. It’s really minor, but still.

          • Adam Poultney

            Because it looks cool…

      • ieyke

        Human Bolters are not the same as Space Marine Bolters.
        Human Bolters are smaller, weaker, lighter, and less durable.
        The sheer size and weight is why humans can’t really use Space Marine Bolt weapons.
        Although I think there was an Imperial Guardsman at some point who was running around using a Space Marine Bolt Pistol as a 2-handed rifle weapon.

        And yea, Bolt weapons have basically no recoil.
        Anytime someone claims they have arm-ripping recoil, they should be smacked in the head.

  • euansmith

    The Godwin Pattern Bolter: accuses people of being Nazis on comment threads.