I've always pictured them as regular laser beams, like that of a ruby-based laser. Just a beam of red light that emits from the end of the rifle to the target for as long as the man wielding it holds the trigger.
"There is a cancer eating at the Imperium. With each decade it advances deeper, leaving drained, dead worlds in its wake. This horror, this abomination, has though and purpose which functions on an unimaginable, galactic scale and all we can do is try to stop the swarms of bio-engineered monsters it unleashes upon us by instinct. We have given the horror a name to salve our fears; we call it the Tyranid race, but if it is aware of us at all, it must know us only as Prey."