Monday, April 29, 2013

Combi-Flamer Conversion

Last year I commented on the questionable Sternguard weapons kit put out by GW. Not only did the overall quality look poor, but the combi-flamer and combi-plasma designs were underwhelming. Sternguard have access to cheap combi-weapons and I was interested in using this kit to arm my in-progress squad. When GW's own promotional images couldn't make the Finecast weapons look good, I gave up on them.

I already had a plastic combi-melta and a combi-plasma from the Space Marine Commander box, but I could have used more. What annoyed me most about the whole situation was that GW flubbed a kit that represented the only way to get an Imperial combi-flamer outside of Forge World's Character Conversion Set. It's odd that GW hasn't included a plastic combi-flamer in any kit since combi-weapons only get a single shot with the non-bolter part of the weapon; the combi-flamer is the only one that's guaranteed to hit with that one shot.

In case you're wondering, I decided against the FW kit since I would have to pay for a bunch of parts that I don't really need. Also, in the heat of battle I need obvious visual cues to remind me to maneuver, protect, or use special weapons or models. The FW combi-flamer is too similar to a standard bolter for me.

A new item for my wishlist: the Plasma Blaster
Anyway, I looked at several different ways to make my own combi-flamer but couldn't see how to do it to my satisfaction without a lot of conversion work that could easily produce a very awkward looking weapon. Even GW's professionally designed plastic combi-weapons seem a bit unwieldy to me, especially the combi-plasma. Later, while researching Captain Agemman on Lexicanum for my counts-as-Lysander model, I came across an entry on his predecessor, Captain Invictus. Invictus carried a plasma blaster; a twin-linked plasma gun that was represented by two truncated plasma guns mounted side-by-side. It soon occurred to me that a side-by-side combi-weapon might be easier to make than a stacked one.

Later, I saw Forge World's Space Marine Terminator Weapon Set. Like GW's Chaos Terminators, FW's Horus Heresy era Terminators are typically equipped with combi-bolters (i.e., two mechanically joined bolters that fire as a twin-linked bolter) but can also carry other combi-weapons. (The Chaos Terminators' combi-bolters are ridiculously similar to Loyalist Terminators' storm bolters.) While the combi-weapons carried by Chaos Terminators look very different from their combi-bolters and generally stack the special weapon above the bolter portion, the FW combi-weapons simply replace the right-side bolter with the secondary weapon. The FW Terminator combi-weapons look great and are very similar to what I had been considering.

The other night I finally dug through my bits box and pulled out the storm bolter I saved when I converted a Black Reach Terminator to carry an assault cannon. Luckily, the box magazine on this storm bolter was asymmetrical. The symmetrical magazines or the dual curved magazine storm bolters don't look quite right after the conversion because they're obviously meant to be feeding bolts into both sides of the gun. Of course these magazines could be replaced with an asymmetrical one from a vehicle storm bolter, but I used those up when I made my Sternguard bolters.

The body is from a Black Reach Terminator storm bolter

The work on the storm bolter itself was very straightforward. First, I cut the wide double barrel and the bayonet lug off the front of the gun. I used a razor to slightly flatten the side that was going to be the flamer part of the weapon so that the promethium tank would fit better. I chose the left side of the gun for the flamer since the magazine's protrusion to the right suggests that the right side should house the bolter.

The flamer section is on the left since the
bolter magazine protrudes to the right

Next, I cut a single barrel off a vehicle storm bolter I used for a Sternguard bolter conversion. This required a lot of caution; not only is the barrel small and easily damaged, but I knew that I would never find it again if I dropped it on the carpet. I glued the barrel onto the face of the gun on the right side.

The bolter barrel comes from a vehicle storm bolter

Finally, I cut the end off a flamer and glued the end to the face of the storm bolter parallel to the bolter barrel. I wanted to make it look like a promethium tank is welded onto or recessed into the side of the combi-flamer, so I cut the tank off the flamer and removed the side of the tank. I glued the tank to the side of the gun and used some Testors Contour Putty and small amounts of glue to fill in the crevices.

Glue and Testors putty fill the crevices. A small patch on top
of the bolter section was used to cover a defect in the bit.

Since this combi-flamer is based on a storm bolter, it lacks a forestock and only really works as a one-handed weapon. I didn't want to chop up more bits than necessary, so I decided to use an arm that usually wields a bolt pistol. And while I would have preferred to mount the gun on the Marine's right hand since the magazine protrudes to the right, the fact that the storm bolter was originally meant for a larger Terminator hand means that the back of the weapon extends a bit farther onto the wrist than usual. The standard right-handed Space Marine bolt pistol arm is bent far enough that the back of the gun would interfere with the shoulder pad. Since a left-handed bolt pistol arm is nearly straight, it works a lot better with the converted combi-flamer. And it lets me use one of my many grenade-wielding right arms on the final model.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tyrannic War Veterans WIP, Part II: Sternguard Bolters

The box magazine protrudes slightly
from under the lower receiver
I guess I exaggerated when I said, "coming soon" with regards to Tyrannic War Veteran (TWV) updates; I ended up working on other models that I thought were more useful than Sternguard. On a whim, I played five Tactical Marines as a small Sternguard Squad during our recent Cabal tournament. The squad's special ammunition made short work of the Tau and did some major damage to the Orks. The next game night, when I played the same squad, I used their Vengeance rounds to wipe out Carl's Interceptors. When a group of only five Sternguard Marines proved to be an outstanding success, I decided to move up my plans for a ten man squad.

While the white helmet and shoulder pad trim show a Codex-compliant Marine to be a 1st Company Veteran, there is one simple detail that has become symbolic of the Sternguard: the large box magazine holding various types of special ammunition. While these magazines aren't absolutely necessary to show that a Marine is a member of the Sternguard (GW's site designates the Tyrannic War Veteran models as Sternguard, despite their seemingly standard equipment), the box magazine is a quick indicator that a Marine is carrying special ammunition.

The box magazine extends
up to the upper receiver
I had intended to forgo the special magazines when building a squad from plastic Marine parts since I didn't know where I could get the appropriate bits. However, I decided to attempt a conversion when I found that several modelers had built Sternguard bolters using standard bolters and box magazines taken from vehicle storm bolters. I wasn't entirely happy with some of the conversions since many modelers were simply cutting off the original curved magazines and gluing the box magazines directly below the lower receiver. Although this arrangement seems to match the line drawing of an Astartes Mk IIIsx bolter in the Space Marine codex, the result seems awkward to me.

The lower receiver extends
all the way to the forestock
Rather than replicate the Mk IIIsx bolter, I used the bolters on GW's Sternguard models themselves as a guide. The first thing I noticed is that the box magazine is roughly L-shaped. The right side of the magazine (i.e., the side that usually faces away from the Marine) covers the side of the bolter's lower receiver and extends all the way up to the bottom edge of the upper receiver. The bottom of the magazine (i.e., the portion that feeds ammunition into the bolter) runs under the lower receiver and protrudes slightly from the other side.

The easiest part of the conversion involved modifying a bolter by cutting off the curved magazine from the lower receiver. The switch on the side of the lower receiver had to be scraped or sliced off to avoid interfering with the new magazine. I usually removed the bolter's grip at this point, too.

Modified Space Marine bolter

Like the other modelers, I used the box magazines from the vehicle sprues. (When you realize that the storm bolter upgrade on a Land Raider costs as much as the multi-melta and that a storm bolter on a Razorback or a lascannon Predator is mostly a waste of points, you find that you have plenty of bits with which to do this conversion.) All Marine vehicles' storm bolters have two magazines, one on each half, but you have to watch out for the Land Raider Crusader's storm bolter. The Crusader's magazines are more ornate and only the right side magazine shows the bolts pointing the correct way.

Front and back ends of a vehicle storm bolter cut
away from the section with the magazine

After cutting the magazine free of the storm bolter, I made a horizontal slice parallel to the bottom of the magazine and immediately below the hole used to mount the storm bolter to the vehicle's pintle mount. (I apologize for the lack of photos here, I lost them in a computer crash a while back.) I had to be careful with the depth of this cut; the blade tended to accelerate once the cut got far enough. I frequently checked the depth of the cut against the width of the bolter's lower receiver.

Once the horizontal cut was made, I removed material to complete the L-shape with a series of vertical cuts. This was somewhat like slicing a loaf of bread. During this process, I frequently checked the fit of the magazine against the lower receiver. When I had removed the bulk of the plastic and had the shape I wanted, I scraped the vertical and horizontal surfaces to smooth and flatten them in order to get a close fit. When a dry fit showed that the magazine was correctly shaped, I glued it into place. The magazine had to be pushed up against the bolter's forestock to fit properly.

Front view of a modified bolter and magazine. The magazine
was carved into an L-shape to fit around the lower receiver.

Box magazine in place. Note that
the magazine contacts the forestock.

Box magazine in place. Note the slight protrusion
from under the lower receiver.

With the magazine in place, it's obvious that the lower receiver on a standard bolter is slightly different than that on GW's Sternguard bolters. Specifically, the plastic bolter has a small space between the lower receiver and the forestock. I filled the space with a small amount of Testors Contour Putty, which is easily scraped into the desired shape once dried.

I converted seven bolters using this method. The end result is close to GW's, although the magazines are a bit wider. Considering that GW shows Terminators using three different kinds of magazines within the same squad (mankind's ability to standardize equipment in the 41st Millennium is poor, apparently), I didn't feel too bad about not perfectly replicating their Sternguard bolters.

My other Sternguard members will be carrying either combi- or heavy weapons. Unfortunately, the combi-weapons that come with the Space Marine Commander box are not well suited to this conversion, so the Marines with the combi-melta and combi-plasma will have to settle for standard magazines.
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