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On the scale mismatch of bolts and bolters


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#1
coldfyre

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TLDR:  Bolts need to be thicker and longer.

 

So there’s a disconnect between the scale of Space Marines, boltguns, and bolter rounds.  Obviously we all know this is the dastardly work of the hero scale, but because we’ve all grown accustomed to the imagery of the Space Marine and his holy bolter, trying to fit in your mind what a “realistic” scale would look like only makes things look super weird.  Can you imagine the goofy POG below handing his rifle to the Marine and trying to pretend it doesn’t look ridiculous?  So, we must tryto figure out how to make the scale issues work.  Take the following basic stats into consideration:

 

Space Marine: 7-7.5’ tall

Boltgun rounds: .75 caliber

(some early fluff/sources also listed it as .998 caliber, but we’ll get to that later).

 

For this demonstration, we’ll be using our generous demonstrator fr the Iron Falcons chapter (first diagram I found on Google images), and the 7-foot scale I made for him.

 

Picture1_zpsd8f49099.png

 

Usually, when we think about bolter rounds, we conjure the images of the trusty 40mm HE grenade.  It’s a big ol’round,  sort of squat and fat and with “purpose” written all over it. Hefting the thing from hand to hand really gives you a sense of the power, explosive destruction, and weight that you think of when you think “bolter round.”  it’s the inspiration for all the official-ish fluff you see on bolter rounds.  I even used it when I designed my own ammunition for my Tormentors chapter.

 

Picture12_zps4db071f8.png

 

The problem is that we latch onto the aesthetic of the 40mm grenade, but then we willingly ignore the fact that we’ve also generally accepted that bolter rounds are .75 caliber… or 19.x mm.  So it’s roughly half the diameter.  Remember that the caliber of a round is the diameter of the actual projectile.  So if we take the accepted size and shape of the bolter round, the true comparison really looks like this:

 

Picture13_zpsf32bb6b1.png

 

 

So looking at the comparison here, we see that the .75 cal bolter round is by no means TINY, but it certainly has lost a little bit of the visual impact we all imagine.  We also conjure up images of 20mm cannon rounds (far left), yet note that the round diameters are equal, yet the large size discrepancy.  For future’s sake, I also upsized my bolter round to ~.998cal on the right.  We haven’t even compared it to the gun yet…

 

Picture14_zpsded67b07.png

 

Boom.  The mighty Godwyn-pattern bolter.  (Side-note, it’s seriously silly to differentiate patterns based solely on interchangeable magazines, but that’s another battle).

 

Yes, I created a line drawing version in Power Point.  I’m a nerd and it helps me to visual/design 2D images, because I don’t have the inclination to create 3D models.  Point is, based on the size of the gun/barrel, I sized the round to fit as best as possible with the barrel, the magazine, and the ejection port.  While this is certainly unrealistic to do when we knowingly work in the heroic scale, the fact remains that altering the scale of the boltgun fundamentally changes the concept of the boltgun that we’re working with.  Remember, we want Astartes weaponry – huge weapons and huge bullets.  Leave the “human” sized stuff to human sized Soldiers.

 

Assuming those rounds are very aggressively packed, it’s conceivable that you could fit 18-20 rounds in a magazine.  Maybe.  But here’s the glaring problem with this scale:  the bolts are .75 inches in diameter, and the whole cartridge depicted is 2.25inches long.  The bolter, comparatively, is roughly 6.6 cartridges long, translating to roughly 14.85 inches in length.

 

Guys, that’s tiny.  The wee little Hk MP5K measures in at 14.5 inches with the stock folded.

 

Picture15_zpsecbc1fb5.png

 

Okay, for the nth time, we’ve identified the scale issues between bolter and bolt.  Let’s go to scaling with Marines.

 

Picture16_zps6c76db2d.png

 

We’re paying our friend the Iron  Falcon another visit, along with our garrison gate guard who mistakenly found himself sucked into a vortex and hurtled tens of millennia through the future to a time when life sucks 1000 times more.  This time I went ahead and swapped out the Falcon’s bolter with my own line drawing version.  It looks a little more Space Marine-y than what he has, and matches up with bolter mag size, grip size, etc, and the size is more in line with the models.  We will use my own bolter for the sake of consistency.

 

First thing to note is that the bolter is downright humongous if you handed it to the mortal.  It’s actually a little bit longer than the guys fully extended M4 (which has a 14.5” barrel if you follow that kind of thing).  It’s too big to use comfortably, but that doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic – look at the size of that Marine’s hand compared to the mortal’s!  Plus, it’s something that normal people COULD manipulate in an emergency, albeit with some real difficulty.

I then created a 7-foot scale.  The Marine is 7ft in armor to the top of his helmet, and the mortal is slightly smaller than 6 foot.  (I arrive at his height because his M4 is fully extended at 33”, or 2.75 ft, and adjusted from there).

 

Picture17_zps854a8a07.png

 

Boom, so we have the bolter’s real life scale, now it’s a simple matter of measuring.  We arrive at a bolter length from end to end of 3ft, 1.5 inches, or 37.5.”  Not horribly crazy.  Until…..

 

We look at how big the .75cal bolter round is at this scale.  If we accept that the bolter is about 3 ft long (large, no-doubt, but largeness is a fact supported by fluff), and a bolt’s diameter is 75% of one inch, that leaves us with…. a cartridge so small that you could fit four bolts at the same time through the hole you drill in the side of your barrel!  By comparison, the “ideal” size I scaled earlier would have to be close to 2.00 caliber!  Now the size looks like:

 

Picture22_zps5f7eef71.png

 

Granted, now the bolter looks certifiably awesome, but other factors come into play.  Namely, ammo carrying capacity and the fact that the rounds would have to be terribly heavy (though that won’t matter much to Astartes)  While I said earlier that you could ostensibly fit 18-20 of the “ideal” sized bolters in the bolter, when you consider the space a spring takes up, it’s probably closer to 12-15.  May be enough for you, but my guys like at least 24 so they can use 4-round bursts without reloading every 3 seconds.

 

For my purposes, I took the middle ground and went with a 1 cal (well, .998) round.  It’s larger than the .75, but you can actually fill a magazine with them.  This diagram shows 15 rounds (so 30 when they are double stacked) laid out for 2.0 cal rounds, .998’s, and .75’s.  For my purposes I’m going with 25 round mags, which should fit nicely.

 

Picture18_zps31135a55.png

 

However, that leaves our last problem – the bolt cartridges are too stubby.  Of course, that’s not an issue if you are going with 2 cal rounds for your bolters, but I’m saving those for my heavy bolter teams.

 

Lengthwise, the standard 2 cal rounds perfectly fits the bolter’s magazine, but the .998 is sadly too short.  This is the easiest to fix, however, because, while we are mostly attached to the proportions between our massive Space Marines and their big massive guns, I think that there is room to play around with what bolts actually look like.  Most people tend not to think about them until they’re curious one day and decided to look it up on Google.

 

Picture21_zpsaa54fdf9.png

 

Looking at the diagram again, we see the 2 cal bolt next to the .998 next to the lowly .75, with the 40mm grenade thrown in for good measure.  By lengthening the .998 cartridge to the length of the 2 cal, I basically solve all my problems, and they will now load fine into my magazines.

 

Picture20_zpsf8f2d255.png

 

So this is the bolt family that I came up with.  Check out how the lengthened .998 matches up favorably with the .50 and 20mm round.  (Note that those rounds have more space for propellent, but the hold projectiles hold the additional rocket boost, so ostensibly come out on top there, too)

My theory goes like this: 

2 cal = heavy bolter (may possibly be lengthened, too);

.998 long = Astartes bolt gun;

.998 standard = Astartes bolt pistol;

.75 standard = mortal bolt weapons.

 

Your thoughts?  Also no idea why I spent so much time obsessing over this.


Edited by Dosjetka, 01 March 2015 - 03:17 PM.
Cheeky bit about Sororitas removed.


#2
Hemal

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Wow truly astounding analysis.  I'll probablt have to reread it a few times to get the full colour but yeah seems to make sense...


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#3
AceofCase

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This is a wonderful post. It definitely gave me a lot of insight into the scaling issues, and you came up with a sensible solution.



#4
Ethrion

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I absolutely love this article! Do assault cannons or autocannons next! :D



#5
Brother Pheidias

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You're obviously a crazed, obsessive person with too much time and intense Investment in a fictive universe of expensive toys and over the top writing.


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#6
Olis

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It's been a while since I've seen a thread like this - I've kinda missed them (a little bit). You might be obsessive, coldfyre, but you're our kind of obsessive. thumbsup.gif


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#7
SpecialIssueAmmo

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This is something I struggled with too. 2 cal, let alone .75cal is actually way too small to mesh with the badass bolter-porn imagery given in the art/models.

 

I try to reconcile the size disparities between the muzzle and cartridge with the assumption that the muzzle walls of the astartes boltgun are extremely thick - like an inch or so of solid metal, to withstand the rough handling they inevitably go through - when a superhuman marine is using their boltgun to smash in the armoured skull of an alien warrior, his gun better be armoured as well.

 

That, or I just squeeze my eyes shut and imagine them firing 40mm munitions on full auto instead. I think everyone would be fine with that particular retcon.

 

Also, it is generally accepted that the calibre of all boltguns is not standardised. The Tigrus and Phobos patterns used concurrently in the Heresy for example have stated calibres of .60cal and .70cal respectively in Betrayal, with bolt pistols going to  as 'low' as .50cal. Throw in the size disparity between pictures of mortals and astartes holding boltguns, and we have a good case for bolters covering a wide range of calibres, with wildly differing performance that might not be reflected on the tabletop.


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Analysis of the 41st Millennium - boltguns, chainswords, Space Marine capabilities

 


#8
Lucien Eilam

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Who says they still measure calibre in inches 38,000 years in the future? 0.75 cal could mean anything.


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#9
Olis

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Who says they still measure calibre in inches 38,000 years in the future? 0.75 cal could mean anything.

 

Indeed. Perhaps "cal" means "Caliver" (I know it doesn't but humour me). That would mean a 0.75 cal Bolt Shell would be three quarters the strength of a Volkite Caliver (which it kinda is, rounding up, of course), and .998 is almost of equivalent strength. :P


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#10
Xenith

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Heavy bolters fire fist sized munitions, however it does not specify human fist or Astartes fist (probably the former).

 

What calibre is a 12 cm fist?


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#11
Eddie Orlock

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Ye know, this is the kind of article that belonged in the Librum. Are we ever going to ge the librum back?


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#12
Wulfkry

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This is probably the most awesomestest post I've seen in awhile. Being a gun guy I've also tried to take a "realistic" approach to 40k step. Never on the level you have though. Truly impressive work.

side note: Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. Like the average and I mean average marine would be around Shaquille O'neal's size. I'n the real world being 7 feet tall is pretty damn tall, but common place enough. In a future where they are genetically engineered supermen its nothing special for Space Marines. In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

Edited by Wulfkry, 10 December 2013 - 05:48 PM.

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#13
Fibonacci

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 What calibre is a 12 cm fist?

1 calibre = 1"

12cm = 4.72441" or (about) 4.7 cal -- not that anyone would call it that.


When you hear someone say something like "a fifty calibre machinegun" what they are actually refering to is 0.50 calibre which is 1/2 an inch.  Most projectiles are refered to by their diameter so a 12cm gun would be called (drum roll please) a 12cm gun! :lol: 

 

Calibre is just a way of measuring smaller diameters.  A .45 pistol is just called a "Forty five" because it is easier than saying a "zero point four five calibre sidearm" or a 9/20 inch inside diameter pistol.



#14
Eddie Orlock

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 Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. ... In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

I see this concept regularly and it bothers me. Why do folk think that wearing armour makes you taller. Heavier and bulkier sure, but the exosuit does nothing directly to the occupants skeletal system. To gain two feet of height we're looking for two feet from the top of the helmet and the soles of the boots. Even if the armour is six inches thick, I don't imagine my Astartes wearing eighteen inch platform boots. Well, maybe the Noisemarines.


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#15
Fibonacci

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side note: Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. Like the average and I mean average marine would be around Shaquille O'neal's size. I'n the real world being 7 feet tall is pretty damn tall, but common place enough. In a future where they are genetically engineered supermen its nothing special for Space Marines. In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

There is the old picture of Jes' Space Marine ... let me see if I can find it.

Ah ... he we go.
8ft_marine.jpg

Two things of note: First the little blow out at the top left to show that the top line is the 8' mark.
Second is the not exploded number on the bottom line (it's not there; you have to count down) showing that the scale starts at 1'

Most people will argue for either 8 or 7' tall marines in armor. I usually go with 7'6" and call it good. Nothing is really to scale anyway; its just made to look cool and that's as close as GW cares to make it.

Edited by Fibonacci, 10 December 2013 - 06:55 PM.


#16
coldfyre

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First, thank you for all the kind responses!  I joined this site a few years ago, but drifted away from the hobby.  I still always had a bunch of ideas floating around in my head though and it feels good to start putting some of those ideas to digital paper.

 

This is something I struggled with too. 2 cal, let alone .75cal is actually way too small to mesh with the badass bolter-porn imagery given in the art/models.

 

I try to reconcile the size disparities between the muzzle and cartridge with the assumption that the muzzle walls of the astartes boltgun are extremely thick - like an inch or so of solid metal, to withstand the rough handling they inevitably go through - when a superhuman marine is using their boltgun to smash in the armoured skull of an alien warrior, his gun better be armoured as well.

 

That, or I just squeeze my eyes shut and imagine them firing 40mm munitions on full auto instead. I think everyone would be fine with that particular retcon.

 

Also, it is generally accepted that the calibre of all boltguns is not standardised. The Tigrus and Phobos patterns used concurrently in the Heresy for example have stated calibres of .60cal and .70cal respectively in Betrayal, with bolt pistols going to  as 'low' as .50cal. Throw in the size disparity between pictures of mortals and astartes holding boltguns, and we have a good case for bolters covering a wide range of calibres, with wildly differing performance that might not be reflected on the tabletop.

 

These are great points.  Amongst hundreds of autonomous chapters and millions of organizations spread across billions of worlds, it makes sense that there is some (potentially large) variation (despite our best efforts to stamp out technological deviation).  This is why I think that it should peacefully co-exist that some chapters decide they want .75 caliber bolts, some larger and some smaller.  And the really high speed chapters can probably fit a couple 4 inch bolts in there if they really wanted to (hopefully they are charging furiously and won't need to shoot that often!)

 

This also means that ammo compatibility COULD be an issue - however since each chapter gets its own supply sources, they should be mostly okay.  However, for those times when a Salamanders task force is stranded and they have to be rescued by the Imperial Fists, for example, you would hope that they can both make use of the same ammo resupplies!  To that end, I'm toying with the idea that the oversized bolter barrels are simply barrel shrouds of some sort, and that marines can make use of various barrel sizes to accomodate different ammo sizes.  What's that?  my bolter shoots .998 and you only have a box of .75's for me?  Let me run to the Rhino real quick, swap barrels, and we're good to go!

 

It's a similar concept to my 5.56mm AR15, which I swapped to .300blk with just a new barrel.  Hell, maybe you could incorporate some sort of full-length choke system, too.  Who knows what they'll have in 40 millenia?!

 

Who says they still measure calibre in inches 38,000 years in the future? 0.75 cal could mean anything.

 

I think in "reality" the Imperium speaks some sort of unutterable space gibberish and measure lengths in shmeebmorbs, which are multiples of the length of the Emperor's junk.  I would submit that everything we read is merely translations to make people in our time understand the lengths, times, and so on that they are dealing with in the far future.  So, while a space marine might measure his height to be be 1.6 shmeebmorbs (don't underestimate the size of the Emperor's junk), to us, that translates to meters or feet.  And a meter is a meter, a foot is a foot, and a caliber is a caliber.  Now, maybe in reality the bolt is .75 shmorkdorks, and in that case, it can mean whatever our hearts desire!

 

This is probably the most awesomestest post I've seen in awhile. Being a gun guy I've also tried to take a "realistic" approach to 40k step. Never on the level you have though. Truly impressive work.

side note: Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. Like the average and I mean average marine would be around Shaquille O'neal's size. I'n the real world being 7 feet tall is pretty damn tall, but common place enough. In a future where they are genetically engineered supermen its nothing special for Space Marines. In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

 

Thank you!

 

I initially went with a height of 7.5.'  However, for my purposes I went with 7' because I felt like it visually scaled better with the humans.  Though the differences are not that extreme, and of course not all Soldiers are exactly the same height.

 

However, armor should not greatly improve your height - the only gains in height come from the soles of your boots and the thickness of the armor on top of your helmet.  So maybe a few inches at best?

 

I wouldn't equate the basketball player with a marine though (though they would be a great starting point for casting a live action movie).  The difference in bulk is simply staggering.  While I was looking at this, I stumbled across a guys site that has a lot of his own incredible detail and thought in various aspects of the GW universe:  http://www.philipsib...orphology.shtml  He compares a ton of different aspects of lore, but this comparison between marines and various mortals was enlightening to me.  Look how the 5'9 guy looks like a hobbit, and the basketball player looks kind of frail, even though he's 7'6 and 350lbs.  I think we focus a LOT on the height of marines, but it's really the added bulk that makes them monsters.

 

side note: Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. Like the average and I mean average marine would be around Shaquille O'neal's size. I'n the real world being 7 feet tall is pretty damn tall, but common place enough. In a future where they are genetically engineered supermen its nothing special for Space Marines. In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

There is the old picture of Jes' Space Marine ... let me see if I can find it.

Ah ... he we go.
8ft_marine.jpg

Two things of note: First the little blow out at the top left to show that the top line is the 8' mark.
Second is the not exploded number on the bottom line (it's not there; you have to count down) showing that the scale starts at 1'

Most people will argue for either 8 or 7' tall marines in armor. I usually go with 7'6" and call it good. Nothing is really to scale anyway; its just made to look cool and that's as close as GW cares to make it.

 

After looking at all this, I think i'll probably go with marines averaging at 7.5 feet or so.  Fortunately, the scaling does not dramatically change.  It just makes Space Marines and bolters even bulkier, and makes the standard bolt rounds seem even smaller! Sad face.



#17
coldfyre

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Having said all that, I take it back about the Marine's height.  He comes to 7' in my scales, but that's while he's in that slight squat.  I submit that if he were standing straight, his height would be right around 7.5 feet or so, so the bolter and bolt scales should still be valid.  Maybe?



#18
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Thanks for a good read thumbsup.gif


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#19
Veteran Sergeant

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side note: Id always imagined SM's to be 7 feet tall outside of their armor. Like the average and I mean average marine would be around Shaquille O'neal's size. I'n the real world being 7 feet tall is pretty damn tall, but common place enough. In a future where they are genetically engineered supermen its nothing special for Space Marines. In power armor I imagined them to be around 9 ft tall that is something awe inspiring a real demi god of war.

There is the old picture of Jes' Space Marine ... let me see if I can find it.

Ah ... he we go.
8ft_marine.jpg

Two things of note: First the little blow out at the top left to show that the top line is the 8' mark.
Second is the not exploded number on the bottom line (it's not there; you have to count down) showing that the scale starts at 1'

Most people will argue for either 8 or 7' tall marines in armor. I usually go with 7'6" and call it good. Nothing is really to scale anyway; its just made to look cool and that's as close as GW cares to make it.

Exactly. 7.5 feet seems about right since the Marine isn't standing straight up in that picture.

Some Black Library authors have inflated the Space Marines, and a lot of times people true-scaling their terminators forget that Terminator armor makes a Marine bigger and bulkier, but not taller. Terminator suits, at eye level, aren't going to be significantly taller than Power Armor because the same approximately sized Space Marine still has to fit inside it and be able to move around and operate it, lol.

 

 

As far as the question of caliber, and barrel diameter, remember that the actual barrel is significantly smaller than the typical flash hider. In the case of the bolter, it really just appears that the barrel shroud is designed to disperse the bolt's primary stage firing (since the bolt has two stages, one primary, and a secondary which propels it to the target) out to the side.

 

And since we know bolts are two-stage, it's entirely possible that the diagram we've seen isn't the whole round, and instead just the projectile itself (which would theoretically contain its own internal propellant). That would then allow the complete bolts to be far longer (and thus shaped more like conventional 20mm cannon rounds).

Of course, the real answer is that either way, the diagrams for the bolts (and the bolters themselves) were obviously designed by people who have no idea how guns work. Thus they are gun shaped, and the bolts are bullet shaped.


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#20
Roma

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I wonder, how oversized is a lasgun? I would imagine more so than a bolter.

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#21
FashaTheDog

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I wonder, how oversized is a lasgun? I would imagine more so than a bolter.

Considering that it shoots lasers or some form of concentrated energy and is supposed to be incredibly durable and easy to maintain, I would image any barrel issues can easily be chalked up to protective covering or handwavium technology to allow the weapon to fire reliably under a great many circumstances.

 

As for the bolter, the one thing I was thinking about reading this is that there may be more to it than current technology can explain.  Perhaps there is something special about the magazine that allows it to feed the rounds into the weapon with a spring that takes minimal space due to some wondrous new material or perhaps without a spring at all because there is some other unknown technology to us at work.  Then there is the fact mentioned about different sizes within the established fluff for the round's caliber, yet I cannot recall any cases of Marines not being able to reload because of it, so perhaps there is a mechanism within the bolter that adjusts the barrel size to fit the round.  It sounds far fetched, but considering the setting and some of the other technology described, it could be possible and might explain why the barrel on the gun is so much larger than the rounds fired as it is designed to accommodate numerous sizes.


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#22
Eddie Orlock

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Perhaps there is something special about the magazine that allows it to feed the rounds into the weapon with a spring that takes minimal space due to some wondrous new material or perhaps without a spring at all because there is some other unknown technology to us at work.

Well, they've reintroduced the notion that 'grav' technology is comonplace. So, perhaps they have a teeny, tiny, gravy generator at the flange where the magazine mates up that set up a field so the rounds litterally fall into the chamber from any angle?

 

If they're being pulled rather than pushed all the space that would normally be lost to springs and other mechanisms becomes available for more munitions.


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#23
Henricus Divis

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Interesting read, but I thought FFG had already confirmed that Astartes bolts were of a larger calibre than mortal .75 bolts in Deathwatch. :)


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#24
coldfyre

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Well, I got bored again, so I detailed the interior of my new Tormentors-pattern bolt, and gave a little firing sequence to imagine how it operates.  Is it overpowered?  is that even possible?

 

http://imgur.com/jmxYTua


Edited by coldfyre, 12 December 2013 - 08:30 AM.


#25
Dragonkin Arenis

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Well, I got bored again, so I detailed the interior of my new Tormentors-pattern bolt, and gave a little firing sequence to imagine how it operates.  Is it overpowered?  is that even possible?

 

http://imgur.com/jmxYTua

 

Yikes.

 

Sounds about right to me.


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