The 26mm Shuriken Catapult is commonly used by Guardians of many Craftworlds, as well as being a familiar weapon amongst Eldar pirates, outcasts, mercenaries and exodites, making it perhaps the most frequently encountered Eldar weapon. It has rarely – if ever accurately – been reported in the hands of Eldar Aspect Warriors, who seem to prefer a longer, larger calibre of Shuriken Catapult. Related weapons of the same calibre exist, including a higher capacity catapult fed by a large top-loading disc-shaped spindle, and a small, light pistol version, normally loaded with an ammunition stack of half capacity.
Though crafted to evidently exacting tolerances, it is an inherently inaccurate weapon, relatively speaking, with an effective range slightly below that of a small calibre auto-rifle. Its accuracy is sufficient to reliably hit a human silhouette at 200 metres, but the number of projectiles landing on target beyond this range quickly decreases by approximately 10% per 15 metres, making it a useful area weapon to a range of 300 metres, but highly ineffective beyond.
The limited range is of little concern given this particular Shuriken Catapult’s intended use as a militia weapon fielded and fired en-masse, normally deployed in conflicts fought over close or confined terrain – primarily cities and boarding actions. The omission of a stock is a telling feature, showing that the weapon is in no way intended for long range or single-shot accuracy.
At 3.62 kilograms loaded, and .855 metres overall length, the Catapult’s size and weight are closely comparable to a Triplex Las-Carbine, though the Eldar weapon lacks a stock, and is considerably thicker – the tapering fins situated parallel to the barrel being 134mm tip to tip at their widest. Manufactured primarily from the Eldar’s ubiquitous psionic-reactive polymer, the material is comparable to plasteel, though lighter and with a characteristic slow-elasticity.
Individual projectiles are normally 26.05mm in diameter, 2.33mm thick, sharp edged, and weigh between 3.26 and 4.26 grams depending on the design of shuriken, and are fired at a muzzle velocity of between 1320 and 1510 metres per second depending on shuriken weight, invariably generating about 3700 joules of energy at the muzzle.
The centre of a shuriken is concave on each side, and the entire surface has a friction-reactive coating that vaporises as the spinning disc flies through atmosphere, enveloping it in a thin cloud of ionised gas that significantly reduces drag, and also acts as a tracer – a hail of shurikens leaving distinct shimmering streaks as they crackle through the air. Tests have shown that without the reactive coating on their projectiles, Shuriken Catapults are reduced to dubious weapons at best, the projectiles following random parabolic trajectories, scarcely able to hit a target 50 metres distant.
Projectiles retain the majority of their energy to their 200 metre effective range, after which the loss of critical velocity degrades their flight. Shurikens are no more susceptible to disturbance by cross winds than auto-gun bullets, but are easily affected by up drafts and down drafts, and can have their trajectory dramatically altered by minor obstacles such as foliage and airborne debris.
The shurikens may be made from a variety of materials in a diverse range of designs for different applications. The two most common materials are a hard, brittle crystalline polymer – the shurikens normally created with veins of weakness to facilitate fragmentation on impact, and an ultra-hard, tough aggregate designed to resist deformation, facilitating penetration. More unusual ammunition may feature inclusions of tiny but potent explosives, or channels delivering mutagenic toxins.
The terminal ballistics vary by ammunition type. Splintering shurikens are preferred for use against light infantry, where even a glancing blow can be fatal, the centrifugal force splitting the projectile into numerous shards on impact, that spread into a wider pattern, effectively increasing the wound diameter exponentially the deeper the shards penetrate the target. With a square hit on a human torso, from a 26mm entry wound, the exit wound can be as much as 380mm across, proving instantly fatal, multiple hits dismembering and mutilating. However, splintering shurikens are easily stopped by rigid armour protection of diverse types fielded by various races. Therefore, ultra-hard aggregate shurikens are the more typical battlefield ammunition, capable of completely penetrating 18mm of homogenous plasteel at 50 metres without even being blunted. The wounds inflicted are less severe than with splintering ammunition making shot placement more important, though the spinning shurikens have a tendency to yaw dramatically, still causing significant internal injuries before almost inevitably over-penetrating an unarmoured target, sometimes at as much as 58 degrees to the entry wound. But it is almost assured that if a hit is scored the target will be injured unless protected by particularly heavy armour, tests against Protexer Chitin-D carapace cuirass have demonstrated the weapon’s abilities. While oblique impacts are stopped or deflected, a square hit at close range will penetrate, with enough remaining energy to inflict a lethal wound. Though it has also been shown that if worn over a layer of flakweave or padding, acting as a shock absorbent backing, the carapace cuirass will completely resist shuriken penetration beyond 20 metres, and 90% of impacts within 20 metres.
The shuriken ammunition is carried and loaded via a slightly curved cylindrical sheath of relatively soft polymer, containing 120 shurikens, the complete unit weighing between 470 and 590 grams depending on projectile type. Inside the sheath, the shurikens adhere to each other through a powerful magnetism, requiring tools and considerable force to separate them. It is a combination of this magnetism and a similar force at the top of the firing chamber that holds the stack in place, and draws the ammunition up into the weapon during the firing cycle. There is a butt cap on one end of the sheath, and a cap with a suspension loop at the other, by which it is hung from webbing, a firm pull removing it from the looped cap, ready for insertion.
In operation, a single shuriken section of the stack is stripped off along with ring of the polymer sheath, which acts as a sabot, giving the impelling forces a greater mass to act on. The slight curve of the sheath allows the front face of the sabot to be narrower than the rear, unsheathing the shuriken cleanly as it leaves the barrel. Multiple partially used or unused stacks may be joined together by introducing two exposed ends, the butt cap being removed with a firm twist. The innate magnetism will fasten stacks together, correctly aligning them, and the polymer sheath seemingly heals over, forming an imperceptible join. While it takes considerable effort to sever a stack with a steel blade, the crystal polymer utility knives carried by Eldar – and in experiments a charged force blade – can effortlessly impart a perfect level cut, the sheath exhibiting a predisposition to being parted by these tools.
The firing cycle involves a minimum of moving components; the trigger is depressed, generators of artificial gravity cut a section from the ammunition stack and force it down the barrel at great velocity, and in its wake the stack is instantly pulled up into the firing chamber. Rows of vertical notches line the top and bottom of the barrel, providing surfaces against which an excess of gravitic forces act, effectively pulling the weapon forwards and counteracting the majority of the recoil forces, making the Shuriken Catapult very easy to control in sustained shooting, despite its high cyclic rate of fire - approximately 1200 rounds per minute. The firing cycle is very efficient and produces little heat. After emptying an entire 120 round stack in 6 seconds, the weapon’s internal temperature will only be a few degrees above ambient. Lengthy sustained fire of several thousand rounds can make the barrel exterior hot enough to cause minor burns, but no amount of concentrated use has been observed to induce failure. The firing mechanisms are essentially self-cleaning and the weapon needs little if any maintenance – as long as the internals are kept free of debris and the catapult is fed with ammunition and power, it can fire almost indefinitely.
The energy to power the firing cycle is drawn from either a cable or a crystal battery inserted into the butt of the grip. Eldar Guardians will normally have a power cable extending from the elbow of one arm, linked to their suit’s compact backpack generator. Plugged into the Shuriken Catapult, this can provide enough power to fire a greater combined weight of projectiles than the Eldar could ever conceivably carry – several hundred kilograms worth. Crystal batteries are glassy silver octagonal prisms, about the size of the tip of a human thumb, with a density equivalent to bismuth. These batteries are often preferred by various outcasts, who may demand a greater manoeuvrability and versatility from their weapons than the en-masse deployed Guardians of a Craftworld. Each battery providing enough power to fire 1200 shurikens, and the lack of cable allowing the user to operate or carry the weapon with no restrictions.
The rear upper receiver contains a type of psionic antenna to which the Eldar operator – being inherently psychic – can subconsciously interface with. This provides the operator with feedback on the weapon's status regarding ammunition, power levels, obstructions, structural failures and any other issues, but primarily allows them to aim instinctively via optical muzzle reference sensors, making adjustments for environmental conditions and providing them with a constant sight picture of the exact point of aim and predicted trajectory. No fixed sights are present, but without use of the psionic interface, adequate aiming can be achieved by sighting over the rail along the top of the barrel. The normal firing stance assumed by most Eldar is to brace the weapon against the hip, or to hold it in tight against the armpit, though it is also often held at arm's length over or around cover, using the advanced psionic aiming interface to fire from a protected position. This provides perfectly adequate accuracy even for long bursts of automatic fire, given the very light felt recoil, though versions of the catapult used by various outcasts may feature short fixed stocks, usually serving an additional function by housing an array of crystal batteries.
The external controls consist of the single-action trigger, a release button for the ammunition stack on the right side of the receiver above the trigger, a battery/power cable release button on the opposite side, a telescoping disassembly lever at the rear of the receiver, and a socket on top of the receiver to which a multispectrum scope sensor is sometimes attached. The firing grip has the appearance of being uncomfortably thin, but in the hand of a psionic operator it can expand considerably, forming a custom fit to the individual operator. While Eldar could easily create weapons that move, aim and fire purely under telepathic direction of the operator, or completely autonomously, and in many cases do, on an individual level they evidently prefer interacting with their weapons with their own hands.
_________________Warhammer 40,000 5th edition
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