A Hunting Lance is a one-handed, single-use melee weapon used exclusively by the Rough Rider mounted cavalry units of the Imperial Guard. This weapon is constructed of a hollow, lightweight metal shaft tipped with a spear point, which is also connected to the impact fuse of the weapon's shaped charge. This small explosive charge is constructed to direct the blast and fragmentation effect towards the target and away from the user. Once detonated, the user is left with only the shaft, which is then discarded. In close quarters combat against densely packed enemy formations, or in close confines, the Hunting Lance is very unwieldy and all Rough Riders carry at least one back-up weapon. The Hunting Lance also ignores the protective effects of most forms of armour, in a similar fashion to Power Weapons.
Since the days of ancient Terra, the cavalry charge has been one of the most impressive displays of battlefield power available to humankind. Be they oddly armed mercenaries on barely trained horses, or ranks of gleaming knights atop sturdy thoroughbreds, the ancient warriors of old could smash through infantry like a Melta charge through hull plating, and the sheer psychological effect of such a charge could end battles as quickly as the damage it inflicted. In the endless wars of the late 41st Millennium, where tanks and God-Machines stride the battlefield and voidships with thousands of crew hang in orbit unleashing megatons of explosive death, the cavalryman and his trusted steed still have a vital role to play. The Imperial Guard often makes use of specialised cavalry units known as Rough Riders. Even with its legions of machinery and armoured fighting vehicles, the Imperial Guard has a place for these mounted warriors. The majority of Rough Rider units are raised from worlds where it is still common for warriors to fight from horseback.
Rough Riders are a potent force on the battlefield, utilising mobility and speed to spearhead an attack as easily as carrying out a flanking manoeuvre. Rough Riders carry a variety of weapons, but the most deadly are the explosive-tipped Hunting Lances derived from the lethal spear heads used by the cavalry on their homeworlds to hunt down large carnivorous animals. This 3.5 metre-long weapon is constructed of a hollow, lightweight metal shaft tipped with a spear point, which is also connected to the impact fuse of the weapon's shaped charge. This small explosive charge is constructed to direct the blast and fragmentation forwards the target and away from the user. Once detonated, the user is left with only the shaft, which is then discarded. In close quarters combat against densely packed enemy, or in close confines, the lance is very unwieldy and all Rough Riders carry at least one back-up weapon. After the initial "shock" impact of the charge has been expended, a rider will reach for a Lasgun or Autopistol. The thundering momentum of a cavalry charge as it crashes into the ranks of the enemy leaves only death and carnage in its wake. Those foes not impaled are trampled to death beneath the heavy hooves of the Rough Riders' powerful steeds.
Hunting Lance Tips
While Hunting Lances are, by far, most commonly fitted with a powerful explosive charge, many variants have been implemented over the millennia. Often, this is due to some quirk of a regiment's homeworld, or, more rarely, the rediscovery of a lost weapon pattern by a Forge World. A Hunting Lance may be equipped with a variety of alternate tips:
- Inferno Tip - The psychological effects of a cavalry charge are often as great as the physical damage inflicted. The sight of mounted warriors smashing into their lines and running infantry down can break the morale of an enemy force even when tanks and heavy weapons fail. This is doubly true when the charging cavalry leave a trail of flaming devastation in their wake, the raging inferno causing additional casualties amongst the panicking foe. The Hunting Lance Inferno Tip consists of a broad, blunt head, designed to impact as much surface area of the target as possible, rather than to puncture armour. When the lance impacts a target, Promethium canisters affixed below the blade expel their contents in a burst of white-hot flame. Usually, Inferno Tips are designed to break away on impact, leaving the enemy to contend with the burning fuel canister. Though their effects can frighten more skittish mounts, the utter terror they inflict on most enemies makes them more than worth the risks that accompany their use.
- Krak Tip - Consisting of a shaped charge similar to that of a Krak Grenade, a Hunting Lance Krak Tip explodes with even more devastating effect than the standard Hunting Lance charge, making its use preferable against resilient enemies such as Orks. The additional weight of the dense explosives and the irregular, rounded shape make a Hunting Lance armed with a Krak Tip somewhat less well-balanced than one equipped with a standard charge. Consequently, some of the more traditional Rough Rider regiments look down on their use.
- Melta Tip - Most enemies would not expect that their heavy vehicles would be targeted by traditional cavalry, giving an edge to Rough Rider squads equipped with Melta-tipped Hunting Lances. Nevertheless, making a frontal charge against enemy armour is dangerous at best, and regiments that employ Melta Tips have a reputation for reckless behaviour and suicide missions. While incredibly devastating to armoured targets, Melta Tips are extremely heavy, and while this is not a problem when used against tanks or fortifications, they are ill-suited to use against smaller or more agile targets.
- Plasma Tip - Only employed in dire circumstances, and only by regiments hailing from worlds with deep ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Plasma Tip is as rare as it is dangerous. When a Hunting Lance Plasma Tip impacts a target, it triggers a containment breach of the volatile energies stored within. As with all Imperial Plasma Weapons, to be granted the use of a Plasma Tip is something of a dubious honour. Plasma Tips are dangerous to wield at best and considered somewhat suicidal at worst. Wielders must take care to direct their mount away as they strike, lest they be caught by the exploding energies of the plasma charge. The risk is deemed acceptable due to the Plasma Tip's effectiveness against targets so tough or heavily armoured that even the Krak Tip proves insufficient.
- Poison Tip - Some xenos monstrosities that the Imperial Guard must face are so unnaturally resilient that even the explosive tip of a Hunting Lance is insufficient to incapacitate them on the charge. Against such foes, the virulent toxins of a Poison Tip can prove more effective. When necessary, a Magos Biologis can tailor the toxic payload to a particular creature, ensuring that even a minor flesh wound brings swift death to the abomination.
- Shock Tip - While unusual, there are situations in which the Imperial Guard seeks to take prisoners, be they xenos specimens for study by the Adeptus Mechanicus or Traitors possessing vital intelligence. Fast-moving cavalry armed with Shock-tipped Hunting Lances provide an excellent means for subduing dangerous, high-priority targets. The Hunting Lance Shock Tip utilises the same technology as other shock weapons, discharging a powerful jolt of electricity on impact, in order to incapacitate a target. Unlike other Hunting Lance tips, a Shock Tip is not destroyed when used, but only temporarily expends its store of energy.
Notable Rough Rider Regiments that Utilise Hunting Lances
- Attilan Rough Riders
- Death Riders of Krieg
- Ezelti Lancers
- Gantor Riders
- Kanak Skull Takers
- Kharak 21st Heavy Lancers
- Krum XVI Ironsides
- Martreb 99th "Ragers"
- Paladius Freelancers
- Praetorian Guard Hussars
- Pyran Dragoons
- Remus Crushers
- Rinon 3rd Rough Riders
- Savlar Chem-Riders
- Tallarn Desert Raiders
- Vostroyan Hussars
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pp. 24-25
- Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 44
- Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 46
- Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 1st Codex), pg. 19
- Only War: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 187
- Only War: Hammer of the Emperor (RPG), pp. 12-16, 119-120, 133, 136
- White Dwarf 181 (UK), "Rough Riders of Attila: Imperial Guard," pp. 7-9
- White Dwarf 111 (UK), "Rough Riders and Whiteshields," pp. 12-18