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Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - sons of the Gorgon

The Iron Hands are loyal Space Marines but as cold and unfeeling as machines - our guide introduces their lore and their tabletop tactics

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands lieutenant, a black armoured Space Marine with a white helmet holds aloft a power sword - both his hands are silver, replaced with augmetics

The Warhammer 40k Iron Hands Space Marines are cold and logical warriors, dispassionate and almost inhuman in their demeanour. They aspire to the purity of the machine, going further than any other loyalist chapter in their contempt for the weakness of the flesh and their efforts to replace it with unyielding bionics.


You’ll enjoy fielding the Iron Hands on the tabletop if you want to bring guns, more guns, and then even more guns to a fight. Our guide introduces their lore and the core gameplay info you’ll need to decide if this is the right Warhammer 40k faction for you.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - illustration by Games Workshop of the Iron Hands Primarch Ferrus Manus leading an assault through a ruined city

Iron Hands Primarch

The Iron Hands Primarch was Ferrus Manus. Shaped by the unforgiving realm of Medusa, he was named The Gorgon, renowned for his uncompromising will and scalding wrath. To this day, the Iron Hands are shaped both by his nature, and in conscious defiance of it.

When news of Horus Lupercal’s betrayal reached the Gorgon at the outbreak of the Horus Heresy civil war, he was incensed. He made all haste to the traitor stronghold on Istvaan V, ensuring that his legion was in the first wave of Space Marines to land on the black sands of that world, the first to bring battle to the enemy.

The Gorgon pushed the attack as hard and as far as he could, extending his lines into the enemy. He expected relief from a second wave – but he was betrayed, and the four legions that deployed behind the Iron Hands turned their guns on the embattled warriors.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - heavy armour of the Iron Hands comes under assault during the Drop Site Massacre at Istvaan V

The Iron Hands were encircled by the traitor Emperor’s Children legion. The Gorgon and his erstwhile brother Fulgrim, once close friends, duelled one to one. Fate – or perhaps the 40k Chaos God Slaanesh – favoured the traitor, and Fulgrim took his brother’s head.

The Iron Hands have never forgiven their father for his failure. To them, his towering passion and rage was a fatal flaw, an unforgivable weakness born from his mortal flesh. It is one that they intend to expunge from their own body.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - a black armoured Space Marine who has lost one arm prepares to strike a blow on a huge Ork warrior

Iron Hands bionics

Iron Hands bionics are more extensive than any other Space Marine chapter, not because they are especially reckless and prone to serious injury, but because they actively seek to replace their fallible post-human flesh with the purity of the machine.

This begins with initiation. New entrants to the chapter relinquish their left hand, receiving a bionic replacement as a mark of their ascension to full battle brother. Throughout his life, a warrior of the Iron Hands is likely to give up ever more of his post-human body, not merely body-parts damaged beyond use but perfectly functional limbs and organs.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - two black, boxy, walker vehicles, a pair of Iron Hands Dreadnoughts

The Iron Hands chapter boasts many living ancients interred within Dreadnought sarcophagi. Whereas other chapters may dread the living death of interment into a Dreadnought, the Iron Hands relish the prospect of such close communion with the machine, some seeing such a fate as the highest honour they can receive.

Always a harsh and austere brotherhood, over the millennia the Iron Hands have become ever more callous and insular. They aspire to the purity of machines, applying brutal calculus to all their decisions.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands eradicators, black-armoured space marines wielding huge meltarifles, painted by Gonders

This means participating in battles only when their cold logic says it will be a net benefit to the Imperium of Man – distress calls from those they deem too weak to be worth their time go unheeded.

Perhaps the only Imperial faction they count as close allies is the Adeptus Mechanicus, which shares their contempt for flesh and veneration of the machine.

Iron Hands successor chapters

There are very few Iron Hands successor chapters, for the legion was almost annihilated during the Horus Heresy. Those few who escaped the ambush on Istvaan V gathered together under the leadership of Shadrak Meduson, alongside survivors of the Salamanders and Raven Guard. The Shattered Legions’ guerrilla war proved a pernicious thorn in the Warmaster’s side.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - the shattered legions of Iron Hands, Ravenguard, and Salamanders, fight in the shadow of a huge city

After the Heresy Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines broke the Space Marine legions into chapters, to prevent any one leader gathering the incredible strength the Warmaster had wielded. The Iron Hands had only sufficient marines to found the Brazen Claws and Red Talons.

By the time of the Dark Millennium, the Sons of Medusa and Iron Lords are known to be further successors to the Gorgon.

Do Iron Hands follow the Codex Astartes?

As big fans of logic and rules, the Iron Hands generally follow the Codex Astartes. However, rather than gathering new chapter recruits into a dedicated scout company, each of the ten Iron Hands companies tithes its own recruits directly from one of the clans of Medusa, the chapter’s home world.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - illustration by Games Workshop, an Iron Hands Space Marine with a power axe fights off a maddened crowd of Adeptus Mechanicus skitarii cyborgs in red rboes

Iron Hands home world

The Iron Hands home world is Medusa, a forbidding planet of dark skies and unending strife. Its people live in great, roving land-trains and mobile fortresses, charting a nomadic existence to survive the planet’s ever-changing geology. Tectonic upheaval is constant on the world, and the sky is blackened by volcanic expulsions as well as the vile exhausts expelled by its people’s carrier cities.

Each company of The Iron Hands occupies a mobile Hall of Conquest, an armoury and barracks. Except for the infrequent tithes of recruits from their vassal tribes, the Space Marines remain aloof from the human population, rarely intervening to preserve the lives of their subjects, even from Drukhari raiders – for what use is there in defending a people that cannot defend itself?

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands army

An Iron Hands army will usually focus on tanks, dreadnoughts, and long-ranged firepower. Like all their Space Marine kindred, they have access to an armoury of specialist troops, including stealth and close combat experts – but heavy weapons are the core, and often the entirety, of an Iron Hands force. As well as lots of dakka, Iron Hands are extremely durable.

Key army features Iron Hands
Current codex(es) Codex Space Marines 9th edition
Iron Hands Codex supplement 8th edition
Chapter Tactic Iron Hands models ignore wounds they suffer on a roll of 6+
Vehicles that suffer from degraded characteristics as they lose wounds are considered to have twice their actual number of wounds remaining when calculating their stats
Combat doctrine bonus While the Devastator doctrine is active, re-roll to-hit rolls of one for attacks made with heavy weapons, and ignore any to-hit penalties when moving and firing with heavy weapons
Unique units Iron Father Feirros

Arks of Omen Iron Hands

In the current matched play season, Arks of Omen, Iron Hands have a big advantage. The Arks of Omen Balance Dataslate changes the way that Space Marine combat doctrines function – unlike the description in Warhammer 40k Codex Space Marines, it’s possible to remain in the Devastator Doctrine for the whole battle.

The Arks of Omen matched play season began in January and will last until June or July in the Summer – which means there’s a good chance Iron Hands will have this bonus right up until Warhammer 40k 10th Edition launches.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands hammerfall bunker - an automated defence emplacement and SAM site, painted by Gonders

The Devastator Doctrine is the Iron Hands’ happy place, as their specialist combat doctrine grants them additional bonuses while they remain in it.

The Arks of Omen Warhammer 40k Detachment active for the season allows you to construct an army with almost no restrictions, particularly, no mandatory troops.

While Intercessors with Heavy Bolt Rifles are actually a very strong choice for Iron Hands, you only need enough to provide a bullet screen for your Techmarines and the powerful special character Iron Father Feirros. The rest of your list can be devoted to dreadnoughts and enormous guns.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - Iron Father Feirros model, a space marine heavily augmented with bionics wielding a huge axe, painted by Gonders

Iron Father Feirros

Iron Father Feirros is a beast. Make sure to check the errata for him at Warhammer-Community, as his rules have been tempered very slightly from the ones printed in the Iron Hands supplement, but make no mistake – he’s an absolute monster.

Armed with a master-crafted heavy bolter, a particularly potent power axe, and two servo-arms, he can put out plenty of damage if needed. But he’s also a profoundly powerful support piece.

His Signum Array is able to grant +1 to hit for ranged attacks made by a friendly Iron Hands unit within 3” – similar to a Techmarine’s Awaken the Machine Spirit ability, but not limited to vehicles. Infantry units within 6” of Fierros gain a 5+ invulnerable save from his Rites of Tempering, and his Blessing of the Omnissiah allows him to heal three wounds on a vehicle.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands - two units of veteran space marines beside a massive redemptor dreadnought walker

Iron Hands dreadnoughts

Iron Hands dreadnoughts are superbly survivable. The unique March of the Ancients stratagem allows a single Iron Hands Dreadnought to become a character, gaining +1 Attack and Leadership. More importantly, they can now benefit from Look Out Sir! protection if, like a Venerable Dreadnought, they have nine or fewer wounds.

While the mighty Redemptor Dreadnought and Leviathan Dreadnought can’t enjoy this protection, Iron Hands Chapter Tactics let them ignore wounds on a roll of 6+, and they need to suffer 50% more wounds before suffering a degraded profile, ensuring they stay functional for longer.

Warhammer 40k Iron Hands repulsor executioner anti-grav tank, painted by Heather Armstead

Iron Hands vehicles

Iron Hands vehicles are lavished with more care and empathy by their battle brothers than they would bestow on fellow humans. Even Iron Hands librarians can contribute to keeping vehicles operational using the Reforge psychic power.

All Techmarines can repair vehicles with Blessings of the Omnissiah, but Iron Hands Techmarines, including Iron Father Feirros, can use the Machine Empathy stratagem to repair two vehicles in a turn instead of one. This does mean clumping up your vehicles, but there’s more good reasons to do that.

All Space Marine Dreadnoughts have an innate ability to reduce any damage they suffer from an attack, but Iron Hands can extend this to any vehicle. The bearer of the Ironstone relic provides a 3” aura that reduces the damage suffered by vehicles by one.

If you’d prefer your Space Marines a little less shooty and a little more choppy, check out our guide to the Blood Angels, or if you prefer incendiary weapons over solid shot, the Salamanders might be for you. We also have a handy guide to painting miniatures if you want some tips on making your surly sons of Medusa look their best.

With thanks to Gonders for the photos of Eliminators, Iron Father Feirros, and the Hammerfall bunker, and the_real_iron_hand  for her excellent Repulsor Executioner and Primaris Lieutenant.