Power Weapons are rare and greatly coveted personal close combat melee weapons that are used on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium. Few members of the Adeptus Mechanicus retain the knowledge necessary to make these deadly weapons, and those that are in existence are often hundreds or even thousands of standard years old. Only the most powerful and influential members of the Imperium possess a power weapon as a result. Inquisitors and high-ranking Commisars or Imperial Guard officers tend to possess them, as do members of various noble families with potent political clout and wealth. The Space Marines make use of many of the power weapons in existence, as is their right.
Power Weapons generally exude a hazy, blue-coloured field of energy that wraps around the primary impact region of a melee weapon, be it a sword's blade or warhammer's head and is capable of disrupting the molecular bonds of matter when it strikes. These weapons may be constructed to appear as a primitive, simple melee weapon, with the power field generator concealed within the hilt or haft of the weapon. Once the power field is switched on, however, the obvious humming sound given off and the blue light gives the secret of the weapon's true nature away. There are special variants of these "traditional" types of power weapon, such as Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn's power sword, which had no actual metal blade, just a hilt that projected a blade of pure energy. Another such variant is the Eviscerator, an enormous chain sword where the admantine chain blade emits a weak power field.
The most notably effective use of a power weapon is the Chainfist, which is a combination of a Powerfist and a Chainsword which usually protrudes from the back of the hand, just above the knuckles. This weapon is capable of cutting through even the toughest of armor on battle tanks. Chainfists are so massive and encumbering (limiting their effectiveness against enemy troops), not to mention energy-inefficient, that they are normally only ever seen on Space Marines equipped with Terminator Armour.
The most powerful close combat weapon is the Powerfist mounted on a Dreadnought. It is more powerful than its infantry equivalent since the Dreadnought is unencumbered by its weight and is able to strike quickly, while it is also just as effective as the chainfist when used against heavily armoured vehicles. The Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed has a lightning claw instead of the Powerfist usually found on other Dreadnoughts, but current game rules treat the lightning claw the same as the Powerfist.
Imperial Power Weapons
A Power Axe allows for greater impact when striking than a power sword, but are less nimble in the hand. Their inferior defensive capabilities are often mitigated by pairing them with Combat Shields or even more sophisticated means of protection. Still, they have a reputation as a brutal and unsubtle weapon; the choice to employ one is often more personal than strategic.
A Power Fist (also known as a Power Glove) is a large metal gauntlet surrounded by an energy field that disrupts solid matter. It is large and slow in combat, and so the bearer must be willing to take damage before they can strike back. The benefits of the power fist are that it increases the user's strength, much like Power Armour due to the extra power put in by the electronics designed to allow it to move. It is most commonly found fitted to Space Marine Tactical Dreadnought Armour. Officers from the Imperial Guard may also take them. Commissar Yarrick is most famous for his power claw, which he tore from an Ork Warboss. Other armies also make use of the power fist including Chaos Space Marines, Sisters of Battle, and Eldar. The Orks use a similar device known as a Power Klaw which is a large claw with three bladed fingers and another similar device used on Space Marine Dreadnoughts called a Power Claw has the same effect as a Power Fist. A variant of the Power Fist is the Chainfist, which is similar to a Power Fist but with a miniature chainsaw blade attached.
Like all flails, the power flail is a blunt, jointed apparatus capable of inflicting significant harm upon anyone unfortunate enough to be within its arc even without its power field. With the seething power field activated, however, it is a true instrument of destruction, shattering armour and defences with a crushing, inexorable swing. This is a two-handed melee weapon.
A Power Maul is an Imperial Power Weapon most commonly used by the Adeptus Arbites. Effectively a baton surrounded by a power field, the power maul has a hidden subtlety: the power field setting can be extensively adjusted so that its disruption effect can vary from bashing a hole through a wall, to delivering a sudden knock-out blow to an individual. This tactical depth-of-use makes it a valued tool of Imperial law enforcement. Arbites shock troops employ the weapon in combination with the suppression shield in breaking up riots. A similar weapon is the shock maul, which uses an electrical discharge instead of a power field to incapacitate the enemy.
Throughout history, the spear has consistently proven itself a deadly and efficient weapon, and the Imperium of Mankind honours its legacy of bloodshed through various creations such as the explosive-tipped hunting lance and the power spear. Officers in certain Imperial Guard Rough Rider regiments prefer to wield power spears over weapons like cavalry sabres, or even wield them as a secondary weapon for use after a hunting lance charge. This is a one-handed melee weapon.
A Power Sword is a Power Weapon that has been shaped into a sword of varying lengths and designs crafted from one of any number of different materials, though usually Adamantium. When its power cell is activated, often by touching a control located on the hilt, the blade is sheathed in a lethal corona of disruptive energy. This energy field allows the blade to carve through flesh, bone and most forms of armour plate alike, making a Power Sword a highly effective Imperial close combat weapon. Power Swords are used by all members of the Imperial armed forces, including the troops of the Imperial Guard and the Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes.
A Relic Blade is a large two-handed power weapon often resembling a sword, axe or glaive that is surrounded by the same matter-disrupting energy field as other power weapons. They are large and unwieldy in combat and are required to be wielded two-handed. The Relic Blades are almost equivalent in quality to Artificer Armour for power weapons. Many were constructed during and just after the Horus Heresy, as a result, only a Space Marine of great and faultless service may wield one. They provide a strength bonus that is not as great as a Power Fist's but makes up for it by being faster than the unwieldy Power Fist. Relic Blades are only used by Space Marines, the most famous being Vulkan He'stan with the Spear of Vulkan, which is actually a highly ornate and well crafted Relic Blade. Space Marine Honour Guards use Relic Blades the most (in some instances whole squads wield them), due to their long and distinguished military careers. Certain Space Marine Veterans and Captains have also managed to earn the right to wield a Relic Blade.
The Chainfist is a variant of the Power Fist, a weapon often used by the Adeptus Astartes. The Chainfist is created when a Power Fist has a small chain sword attached to it, the size of a large bayonet. This is also covered by the matter-disrupting energy field, and is used to carve through armored bulkheads and such. It can also be used quite effectively in close combat, punching through even Terminator armour. Like the Power Fist, the Chainfist is most often used by the elite of the Space Marines, often in conjunction with Terminator armour. Also, like its relative, the Chainfist is slow and cumbersome, meaning the user will usually get hit first simply bringing it to bear, and again if he misses.
A Lightning Claw is a specialized type of Power Weapon. It consists of a power gauntlet and four blades attached to the gauntlet's fingers that crackle with matter-disruptive energy. These blades are the equivalent of small power weapons which carve through armour and flesh with ease. They are most commonly used by Space Marine Terminator Assault Squads; the entire squad can be armed with them, but can also be used by anyone with access to the armoury. Lightning Claws are generally worn as a pair. Lightning Claws are used by the Space Marines, Ordo Malleus and Chaos Space Marines armies.
The Crozius Arcanum serves as both a sacred staff of office and as a weapon for Space Marine Chaplains. This duality is perceived as only natural to a Space Marine, who sees battle as the most glorious form of worship to the Emperor. The Crozius Arcanum itself is a staff or mace of medium length, topped with either an Imperial Aquila symbol or the winged skull emblem of the Space Marines called the Imperialis. A few versions use iconography from the Chapter they belong to, such as the blacksmith's hammer-version used by some Chaplains from the Salamanders Chapter. Cassius, Master of Sanctity of the Ultramarines Chapter, has fashioned his Crozius Arcanum after a Tyranid head, in remembrance of the invasion of Macragge by Hive Fleet Behemoth during the First Tyrannic War. Incorporated within the staff is a powerful energy field capable of disrupting matter much in the same way as a power weapon. Crozius Arcanum are also still used by the corrupted Dark Apostles of the Word Bearers, the only Chaos Space Marine Legion still to employ the use of their version of Chaplains. However, the weapons are known as Accursed Crozius, debased and twisted from their original form into an icon of worship for the Dark Gods of Chaos. Not only is the Crozius still a potent weapon, it also signifies that the bearer is blessed by their patron god, enjoying physical protection as well as a closer connection to the daemons of the Warp.
Thunder Hammers are weapons of ancient design, utilizing a power field similar to a power sword or fist, and used by Space Marines and the Daemonhunters of the Ordo Malleus, primarily by Terminator Assault Squads and characters with access to the relevant armoury. Where other power weapons emit a constant energy field, the Thunder Hammer is designed to energize the power field only upon impact, enabling it to conserve energy until it is actually needed, and allowing the weapon to deliver a particularly devastating blow. Upon impact, the Thunder Hammer's blue energy field explodes with a thunderous crack, more often than not smashing through armour, and leaving a smoking hole that crackles with blue sparks. The power unleashed on impact is such that a warrior not in Terminator armour will likely be knocked over. The weapon's main drawback in combat is its slowness in delivering a strike compared to most other close combat melee weapons. The Thunder Hammer is often combined with a Storm Shield, giving the wielder a combination of unmatched lethality and superb protection in close combat.
Chaos Power Weapons
An Accursed Crozius is the ritually-defiled weapon of a Dark Apostle, the former Chaplains of the Word Bearers Legion of Chaos Space Marines. At the time of the Horus Heresy, most Space Marine Chaplains resisted the lure of Chaos and were slaughtered by their brother Astartes. However, the Chaplains of the Word Bearers had the same fervent desire to find objects worthy of their worship as their Primarch Lorgar and so willingly turned to the dark devotion of Chaos. To prove their dedication of faith to the Ruinous Powers of Chaos, the Chaplains corrupted their once-sacred Crozius Arcanum, their badge of office and later symbol of the Imperial Cult. With such blasphemous actions, the Crozius were blessed with fell powers to show that no servant of the Emperor, even the strongest-willed, is immune to the call of Chaos. In battle, they now serve not only as both a weapon and mark of rank, but also a powerful link between the bearer and the Warp itself.
Ork Power Weapons
A Power Klaw is the Ork version of a Power Fist. It has the same characteristics, just with a more Orky name and appearance. It is a piston-driven pincer comprised of two to three snapping blades. These blades are sheathed in energy the same way a Power Fist is and so can effortlessly ignore any armour. These weapons are amongst the biggest and choppiest an Ork can possess, and many of them are often owned by Warbosses or by particularly brutish Nobz. Most commonly though, they are used to complement Ork Mega Armour.
Eldar Power Weapons
A Diresword is an Eldar Power Weapon into which a potent Eldar spirit has been placed through the incorporation of a Spirit Stone into the blade. When a blow is struck, the spirit within the sword will attempt to destroy the enemy's mind, potentially killing them instantly. This action is similar to the Imperial Nemesis Force Weapons used by psykers like the Grey Knights. The first Diresword, the Sword of Asur, was created by the Phoenix Lord Asurmen. The spirit contained within the Sword of Asur was that of Asurmen's brother Tethesis, which allowed him to continue the fight against the forces of the Eldar's Great Enemy Slaanesh when all seemed lost for the Eldar species. A Diresword is now usually only wielded by the Exarchs of the Dire Avengers Aspect Warriors.
The Executioner is an Eldar Power Weapon sometimes carried by the Exarch of a Howling Banshee Squad. It is two handed and shaped like a great scythe or heavy spear, and it is the largest and most potent of all the Eldar hand-held power weapons, tremendously augmenting the reach and strength behind each blow.
A Mirrorsword is a type of Eldar Power Sword employed by a Howling Banshee Exarch. Two Mirrorswords are commonly employed by those Howling Banshee Exarchs who have mastered a deadly ambidextrous form of melee combat that uses the paired blades of two matching Power Swords. Mirrorswords allow for a greater number of blows to be made by the wielder in melee combat, compared to other Eldar warriors who also wield dual close combat weapons.
Power Blades are a form of Power Weapons commonly wielded by Warp Spider Exarchs. Like Mirrorswords, Power Blades always come in pairs, but in this case, each weapon is fixed to a vambrace of the Warp Spider's armour rather than being hand-held. These paired Power Weapons can be skillfully used by the Warp Spider Exarch to slash and stab at the enemy at close quarters, while leaving his hands free to operate his armour's twin Death Spinners when the enemy is out of reach.
The Scorpion's Claw is a special Eldar Power Weapon used by the Exarchs of the Striking Scorpions. It is a powered, claw-shaped glove which slips easily on to the forearm and incorporates a Shuriken Catapult in the vambrace, granting the Exarch both a powerful ranged and melee weapon while leaving his other hand free to wield an additional melee weapon.
Dark Eldar Power Weapons
The Punisher is a close combat melee power weapon in the shape of a halberd used only by Dark Eldar Incubi. It is large and unwieldy but incorporates a shock field generator which is beyond the ability of the Imperium to replicate. They are often easily alterable to suit the user with an extensible shaft and a monomolecular blade attached to deliver the shock.
Dark Eldar Power Sword
Dark Eldar warriors make use of Power Swords much like their Craftworld Eldar counterparts. But in addition to maintaining a potent power field that can burn and disrupt the atomic bonds of any substance the blade comes in contact with, wicked-looking Dark Eldar Power Swords are also often coated in horrific toxins and poisons that can cause all forms of excruciating death.
Unique Power Weapons
Axe of Chalcydon
The Axe of Chalcydon was a power axe borne by Saint Jason of the Ecclesiarchy during his crusade against the Eldar on the world of Huale. Massive, double-bladed weapons, the blades themselves have the Imperial Creed etched upon them in High Gothic script. The cutting power of the Axe of Chalcydon was formidable.
Fist of Dorn
The Fist of Dorn is a master-crafted Thunder Hammer with a fist-shaped head. It was given to Captain Darnath Lysander by his predecessor as Captain of the 1st Company of the Imperial Fists, Kleitus, when he materialised into a rock after a teleporter accident during the Siege of Haddrake Tor, coming to a most painful death.
Gauntlets of Ultramar
The Gauntlets of Ultramar are two mighty Power Fists with incorporated Bolters that were reclaimed from a fallen Chaos Champion slain during the Gamalia Reclusiam Massacre by Roboute Guilliman himself, the Primarch of the Ultramarines. No one has been able to penetrate the thick adamantine shell of the fists to study the workings inside. While not in use, the Gauntlets are stored within a crystal case at the Fortress of Hera, inside the Temple of Correction's "Shrine of the Great Primarch". The Gauntlets of Ultramar are only worn by Marneus Calgar, the current Chapter Master of the Ultramarines.
The Raven's Talons are a pair of Lightning Claws which are said to have been personally crafted by the Raven Guard's Primarch Corax on the Raven Guard's homeworld of Deliverance after the Isstvan V Drop Site Massacre during the Horus Heresy. They are said to be unbreakable and easily cut through any armour. Currently they are worn by Captain Shrike of the 3rd Company of the Raven Guard.
Sword of Hieronymo Sondar
This power sword was gifted to Colonel-Commissar Gaunt of the Tanith First and Only Imperial Guard Regiment after his successful defence of Vervunhive. The Sword of Heironymo Sondar is an exceptionally strong power sword, and an heirloom of the hive city of Vervunhive on the world of Verghast. It is said that whoever leads Vervunhive's forces in battle must wield this weapon. After the death of most of Vervunhive's leadership - military and administrative - during the invasion of Chaos forces under the command of Heritor Asphodel in 769.M41, the sword was given to Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, the senior Imperial commander in Vervunhive (all of the others were either dead or imprisoned). The sword remained in Gaunt's possession after the battle, gifted to him for his actions in the defence of Vervunhive during the Heritor's siege. A deadly weapon, it has never left the man's side.
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition)
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition)
- Codex: Dark Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Orks (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), p. 99
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition), p. 47
- Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition)
- Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymeara, p. 135
- Warhammer 40,000: Battle Manual
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 58-59
- Warhammer 40,000: Wargear (4th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Wargear (2nd Edition)
- Necropolis (Novel) by Dan Abnett