M1870 Italian Vetterli (First & Second Types):

GENERALLY: Walter notes that the Italians in the late 1860's were focused on post-unification standardization and were favorably impressed with the breech designed by the Swiss designer F. Vetterli and adopted by Switzerland in their M1869 Swiss Vetterli rifle.  The Swiss rifle, however, was a tubular fed repeater and too costly for the much larger Italian army which settled on the M1870 Italian Vetterli, an elegant single shot rifle.  This rifle was equipped with a safety of sorts on the right side of the bolt, a loading port dust cover, trigger guard spur, iron nosecap and unique sight.

PHOTO:  The rifle shown is a M1870 (Second Type) Italian Vetterli Infantry rifle fitted with an early Vetterli rear sight..

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS:  This is an 11mm, single shot Vetterli turning bolt action rifle.  The Vetterli bolt assembly houses the large coil firing pin spring beneath a metal cylinder behind the bolt handle.  Only Italy and Switzerland utilized the Vetterli system.  General issue Swiss rifles are all tubular magazine repeating rifles.  The M1870 is a single shot, later modifications being converted to, then newly manufactured with, the Vitali magazine system. (See M1870/87 Italian Vetterli-Vitali).   TheM1870 rifles were finished in the white, while the M1870/87s were blued.  The M1870 First Type Vetterli has a form of safety mechanism sticking out the right side of the stock at the wrist, where a lockplate might be in an earlier percussion rifle, as well as a spur of sorts immediately behind the trigger inside the trigger guard.  These were removed and replaced with an alternative safety as in the pictured rifle in the Type Two variant.  Later Type Two rifles were also fitted with the rear sight found on the common M1870/87 Italian Vetterli-Vitali.

MISC NOTES:  The particular rifle pictured here is unusual (which may explain its survival as a single shot), in that it was a special production rifle made expecially for use with the "Tiro a Segno Nazionale," the Italian National Shooting Organization, or it may have been presented as a prize to a national match winner.  This is indicated by the "crossed rifles with target" markings on the knoxform.  (see below)  See also the interesting article on Italian Prize Rifles published in the Military Rifle Journal      (published as:  Italian Prize Rifles, October 1999).
The M1870 was also manufactured in Short Rifle (Moschetto per Truppe Speciali) and carbine (Mochetti) versions.

The Italians continued to load for the 10.4 mmVetterli after the introduction of smokeless powder and before conversion of the Vetterlis to 6.5mm but with Nobel "ballistite" and copper/zinc plated bullets.

More Information:

30 April, 2007
Dear Mr Doyon,

Further to my email to you of October last year, I said that I would inform you when my book was available. This is to let you know that my short book on the Italian Vetterli Rifle 'The Italian Vetterli System' has now been published by the Royal Armouries in Leeds, UK. I spoke to the Editor-in-Chief today and I understand she is sending you a copy. If you want any more copies they are available from the Royal Armouries for £stg 15.00 at the link below.
The ISBN number is 0948092599.
With best wishes and many thanks again for your assistance.
Robert Wilsey



    The single shot M1870 is further distinguishable from the later M1870/87s by the additional bayonet guide at the very end of the muzzle to support the M1870 Sword Bayonet, in addition to the more standard bayonet lug furter back.

    The M1870 Italian Vetterli with loading port dust cover closed.  The dust cover rotates counter-clockwise via the cross-hatched knob seen in the center.

    The M1870 Italian Vetterli with loading port dust cover open

    Especially for "Tiro a Segno Nazionale," the Italian National Shooting Organization

More M1870 Italian Vetterli (click here)
            (Lots of great pics!!  But a SLOW load unfortunately )


Page first built: September 9, 1999
Revised May 7, 2000