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Warhammer 40K: Bolter Rounds of the Imperium & Chaos

5 Minute Read
Mar 10 2023

There are a lot more types of 40k bolter rounds than most Adepts think. How many of these do you know about?

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.

Bolter Ammunition Types

The Adeptus Menchanicus and Techmarines of the Chapters themselves create a verity of rare “special issue ammo” for their most elite warriors. Here are just a sampling of the bolter rounds available:

Standard Bolt: Standard bolts comprise the following components: outer casing, propellant base, main charge, mass reactive detonator cap, depleted deuterium core, diamantine tip. The calibre of the standard round .75 and it possesses a super-dense metallic core.

Banestrike Rounds: These mysterious shells are believed to have been developed in secret by the Alpha Legion during the Great Crusade. Their sole purpose seems to have been to breach the ceramite Power Armour of Space Marines. It was used openly for the first time at the Drop Site Massacre where they proved devastating.

Bloodshard Shells: Ammunition used by the Blood Angels for their Angelus boltguns. Its payload of razor-filament is very effective against most armours.


Derevenant Bolts: Used by the Deathwatch, the Shells were developed by survivors from Fort Volossia. They contain a cyclic temporal core found to disrupt the Necron‘s reanimation long enough for their remains to vanish entirely

Dragonfire Bolts: Used by Sternguard Veterans and release a gout of superheated gas that makes a mockery of cover; the gas discharge ensuring that struck targets receive full damage, even if partially protected.

Gas Powered Bolts: These Bolter shells are propelled only by the gas expelled from the barrel. As they lack the secondary rocket ignition, they are substantially more quiet than standard bolt rounds. As a result, they are used for stealth operations.


Hellfire Rounds: Replaces the core and tip of the standard bolt round with a vial of mutagenic acid, and thousands of needles that fire into the target’s flesh on impact, pumping the acid into the target. Developed specially to combat Tyranids, Hellfire Rounds have equally devastating results on other organic targets.

Inferno Bolts: Designed to immolate their targets and destroy them with superheated chemical fire. The deuterium core is replaced with an oxy-phosphorus gel, known as Promethium. It should be noted that the Chaos Space Marine Thousand Sons have their own similarly-named but unrelated type of inferno bolts, which are actually psychically-bound slugs that release arcane energies; these slugs explode with sorcerous energies upon impact.

Korvidari Bolts: Utilized by the Raven Guard. These are etched with raven-feather charms and sport an abnormally long range. The bolts are packed with extra propellant for superior range and accuracy. Each bolt also houses a minute, hyper-sensitive targeting and flight correction relay, allowing for a marksman’s accuracy even against heavily obscured foes.

Kraken Penetrator Rounds: Powerful armour-piercing rounds. The deuterium core is replaced by a solid adamantine core and uses a heavier main charge. Upon impact, the outer casing peels away and the high velocity adamantium needle accelerates into the victim, where the larger detonator propels shards of super hardened metal further into the wound. These are effective against heavily-armoured infantry.

Metal Storm Frag Shells: Best against multiple lightly-armoured targets. They detonate before impact and spray shrapnel, shredding their victims. A proximity detonator replaces the mass-reactive cap, and the diamantine tip and deuterium core are replaced with an increased charge and fragmentation casing. They are similar to flak rounds and are used against clusters of enemies.


Morbidus Bolts: Silent projectiles that are relics of Vanguard Spearhead formations. They are a perfection of the specialist shells used by Reiver operatives behind enemy lines. When fired, Morbidus Bolts streak unseen and unerringly through the weak spots of a foe’s armor. They then shatter and dispense potent toxins, that slay their targets instantly and silently. A spent Morbidus shell’s final act, is to expel a gaseous hallucinogen, that renders the silent victim doubly horrific to their shocked allies.

Psycannon Bolts: Are used by the Inquisition, primarily the Ordo Malleus and Grey Knights, in Psycannons.

Seeker Bolts: Special rounds used by Chaplain Boreas of the Dark Angels. Each handcrafted round contains a miniature cogitator capable of steering the bolt towards the heat signature of a target.

Stalker Silenced Shells: Are rounds with low sound signatures, meant for covert fighting and used in conjunction with an M40 targeting system and an extended barrel and stock on a bolter to produce a sniping weapon system. A solidified mercury slug replaces the mass-reactive warhead for lethality at sub-sonic projectile speed. A gas cartridge also replaces both the propellant base and main charge for silent firing.

Tempest Bolts: Incorporate tiny plasma shock generators that emit electromagnetic and thermal radiation when the shell detonates. Produced only on Mars, Tempest shells are noted as particularly effective against machines and mechanical targets.


Vengeance Rounds: Utilise an unstable flux technology which makes them slightly hazardous to use but makes them very good against armoured targets. In fact, they were originally developed to combat Traitor Marines.

Witchseeker Bolts: Used by the Black Templars. These consist of metal casings forged from the blades of fallen Battle-Brothers and blessed by Ecclesiarchy Priests. These bolts have an unnerving talent for finding their way into the heart of a Psyker.

~How many of these 40k bolter rounds did you know? 

Author: Larry Vela
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