Pulse Weapons are a family of advanced Plasma Weapons developed by the Earth Caste of the Tau Empire, and exclusively used by the Tau Fire Caste. Pulse Weapons operate by utilising pulsed induction fields to propel lethal micro-bursts of plasma over long ranges. Pulse Weapons such as the Pulse Rifle and Pulse Carbine are issued as standard to every frontline Fire Warrior. Pulse Weapons are notorious amongst many of the starfaring races of the galaxy, for they have a range and damage output that outclasses the standard weapons of every other intelligent species the Tau have yet encountered.
Pulse Weapons were first developed during the Tau Empire's Campaign of Cleansing from 606.M38 to 792.M38, the first prolonged war of the Tau against the Orks. Whilst the Tau suffered many defeats early on, they were ultimately able to eradicate the Greenskins, thanks in part to the Earth Caste refinement of the first Pulse Rifle. As a result of this campaign, the Dal'yth Sept was successfully founded.
Whilst Pulse Weapons are typically found as infantry-portable arms, more recent technological developments during the Third Sphere Expansion have given rise to large Pulse Submunitions weapons, which are designed to saturate large areas with plasma pulses at range. However, their sheer size and power limits their use to Tau Battlesuits.
A Pulse Weapon works by electromagnetically accelerating a plasma shell down its barrel. In effect, it is a miniature mass accelerator. On firing, a ferromagnetic, solid slug is chambered from the magazine and turned into plasma by electromagnetic induction, as it would be relatively easy to alternate the coil current at frequencies sufficient enough to heat the coil to an extreme temperature while keeping it in the chamber. The solenoid is then charged fully, propelling the newly produced plasma out of the gun at an extreme velocity while keeping it cohesive. Though this electromagnetic field continues to keep the plasma together until impact, residual plasma is expelled from the barrel to produce the weapon's considerable muzzle flash. Maintenance of the field is also aided by a bolt-like apparatus, which increases the field strength and therefore the range. The weight of the bolt also serves to dampen the recoil from firing. Without the electromagnetic field, the fired plasma would all dissipate at the barrel mouth, producing a weapon with a range of approximately twenty centimetres. As it is, residual energy and waste plasma, together with the heat produced by energizing the coil, necessitates two barrels to avoid overheating.
The power required to generate these immense electromagnetic fields comes from the secondary magazine which is effectively a very powerful and dense rechargeable battery in the weapon's stock. It is changed less frequently than the primary power pack, and can be recharged from the firer's suit or combat armour. Vehicle-mounted Pulse Weapons are usually connected directly to a suitable power source, allowing higher rates of fire with sufficient heat dispersal and eliminating the secondary magazine. Pulse Weapon rounds do a great deal of damage on impact, mostly due to the extreme thermal energy of the plasma mass and the speed with which the projectile impacts, which helps ensure that armoured targets are more heavily damaged. The electromagnetic field that holds the charge together flattens on impact slightly before breaking, which causes the resulting impact to spread over a wider area than would otherwise be possible. The speed at which the plasma projectile is launched is so extreme, that in some cases, it has been known to "light the air on fire".
Known Pulse Weapons
- Pulse Blaster - The Pulse Blaster, also known as a Pulse Shotgun, is a type of Tau Pulse Weapon. Commonly used by Fire Warrior Breacher Teams. Similar to the Human Shotgun in function, the Pulse Blaster is designed to deliver powerful close-range firepower.Though the Tau are historically disdainful of close-range warfare, the Pulse Blaster had to be developed due to Tau difficulties in urban combat on labyrinthine confined Imperial Hive Worlds. The Pulse Blaster uses a two-stage firing process to enhance its lethality of its plasma-based ammunition. When the trigger is halfway pulled, an invisible volley of negatively charged particles paint the target, followed by the full plasma payload. This causes victims to glow with a ghostly light moments before they're hit.
- Pulse Carbine - The Pulse Carbine is similar in most respects to a Pulse Rifle, but sacrifices the Pulse Rifle's longer range for greater portability and an underslung Photon Grenade launcher. This allows the weapon to fire a Photon Grenade over a short distance, a capability that is especially useful in close quarters where the weapon can then be used to pin down those enemies affected by the Photon Grenade's flashbang effect.
- Longshot Pulse Rifle - A Longshot Pulse Rifle is a variant of the Tau Pulse Rifle, modified specifically for a sniping role. As such, it has a far further range and fires more focused plasma pulses, whilst maintaining a similar rate of fire to its standard counterpart. Lethal weapons capable of sending plasma pulses over great distances, a well-placed shot from a Longshot Pulse Rifle is capable of taking out any target.
- Pulse Pistol - A pistol-sized Pulse Weapon, Pulse Pistols are only used by certain Tau personnel as a basic defence and hold-out weapon unleashed in desperate situations.
- Pulse Rifle - Pulse Rifles are the most common form of Pulse Weapon, and are elongated rifles that are utilised as standard weapons for Tau Fire Warriors. Pulse Rifles can be wielded effectively whether the user is stationary or moving, and when compared to a Space Marine Bolter, it fires at a far slower rate but does significantly more damage and possesses a much longer range.
- Kroot Rifle and Kroot Gun Pulse Ammunition – Since the Kroot joined the Tau Empire, the Tau have adapted their weapons to fire a charged pulse round supplied by them, instead of relying on standard Kroot ballistic ammunition that is fired using primitive chemical propellants. This new ammunition provides Kroot weapons with far greater damage and armour penetration capabilities, making Kroot warriors fearsome enemies at range as well as in close combat.
- Burst Cannon – Multi-barreled weapons capable of sustaining very high rates of fire, Burst Cannons are an offshoot of Tau Pulse Weapon technology. They are usually mounted on Tau Battlesuits and vehicles, providing heavy anti-infantry support. Burst Cannons have four barrels and are short-ranged like Pulse Carbines, though this deficiency is offset by the maneuverability of the Tau units commonly armed with them. Long-barrelled Burst Cannons are variants of standard Burst Cannons usually mounted on Tau aircraft, and possess almost double the range due to their extended barrel lengths.
- Heavy Burst Cannon – Heavy Burst Cannons are larger variants of standard Burst Cannons that are only mounted as primary arm weapons on the experimental XV104 Riptide Battlesuit. A Heavy Burst Cannon possess six large barrels with extended lengths, and are capable of ferocious rates of fire that can mow down enemy hordes with ease. A Heavy Burst Cannon can also draw upon an XV104's Dark Matter Nova Reactor to nova-charge its power, allowing for a devastating hail of pulse rounds that can crack even the toughest of armour with ease.
- Pulse Submunitions Rifle - A Pulse Submunitions Rifle is a newly developed form of Pulse Weapon, designed to saturate large areas with plasma pulses at range. Whilst it possesses a slightly shorter range compared to a Pulse Rifle, the scattered nature of its fire allows it to bypass cover more effectively to target fortified enemies. Pulse Submunitions Rifles were first developed as primary Tau Battlesuit weapon systems for the XV9 Hazard Battlesuit to complement its battlefield role as close-ranged fire support, and thus far have not been deployed on any other Tau weapons platforms.
- Pulse Submunitions Cannon - Unlike standard Pulse Weapons, these powerful cannons fire clusters of sophisticated micro-submunitions that detonate in close proximity to their target in a storm of separate pulse-discharges, showering a wide area with deadly effect. Larger targets such as bulky infantry, monstrous creatures and vehicles inevitably suffer proportionally greater harm from Pulse Submunitions Cannons as they can be struck with a wave of near-simultaneous detonations, magnifying the blast and ripping them apart. Pulse Submunitions Cannons have an extreme range and generally are used in a heavy long-range fire support role. Pulse Submunitions Cannons are only wielded in pairs by XV107 R'varna Battlesuits, which can also nova-charge the weapon systems via its Dark Matter Nova Reactor and double their rate of fire.
- Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver - A recent development of Tau pulse technology, a Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver consists of three linked cannons that can fire a mix of high explosive and kinetic projectiles in rapid volleys; whether this be in a concentrated bombardment upon a single target or in arcing trajectories to shower a wider area to equally devastating effect. Currently this weapon can only be found deployed on KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour as its primary back-mounted weapons system.
- Pulse Bomb Generator - A Pulse Bomb Generator is a primary weapon system for a Sun Shark bomber, and is mounted underneath the aircraft’s rear hull. When activated, a Pulse Bomb Generator produces a ball of deadly plasma beneath the aircraft in the course of spinning its generating mechanisms. At the pilot's command, a pulsed electromagentic induction field propels the glaring energy ball towards targets on the battlefield below. Sizzling the air around it, the Pulse Bomb explodes on the ground with an incandescent fury, spreading destruction over a wide radius.
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pg. 118
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 28, 36-38, 46, 48, 65-67, 69
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 26, 29, 40
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pg. 19
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 366
- Imperial Armour Apocalypse II, pg. 58
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 80-81, 178
- Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (RPG), pg. 121
- Rogue Trader: Tau Character Guide (RPG), pg. 28
- Forge World – XV107 R'varna Battlesuit Experimental Rules Datasheet
- Forge World - Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver