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Mod. 1870 Italian Vetterli

(Fucile da Fanteria mod.1870 Vetterli)


A Mod. 1870 Italian Vetterli Rifle, fitted with its original quadrant sight, dust cover, secondary bayonet lug, and original Clavarino “safety” mechanism.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Robert Wilsey with reviewing and correcting errors which inevitably occur in any venture of this sort.  Our Vetterli pages are substantially better due to his kind and scholarly suggestions.


  The modern nation of Italy came into existence with the culmination of the decades-long conflict known in Italy as the Risorgimento. In September of 1870, Victor Emanuel II entered Rome and took possession of The Papal States, the last major independent principality on the Italian peninsula. The capital of the new Kingdom was moved to Rome in 1871 and the nation we recognize today was essentially complete.

  Critical to the success of the newly-united nation was a national Army equipped with modern small arms. Up to this point, Italian soldiers had been equipped with a hodge-podge of arms left over from the armies of the earlier independent Italian states. The most modern arms in the national arsenal were in all likelihood the .50 caliber Belgian and English made M1868 Papal Remington Rolling Block rifles captured from the Papal army of Pope Pius IX, but there were far too few of them to equip the new Italian nation.  A new rifle that could be produced locally was needed.


  The rifle eventually selected by the Italian authorities was a single-shot version of the breech-loading, bolt action Vetterli, the M1869 Swiss Vetterli, a Swiss design by Friedrich Vetterli (1822-1882) that had been adopted by Switzerland a year earlier.


  The Swiss version of the Vetterli utilized a tubular magazine and a 10.4mm (.41 caliber) rimfire cartridge. The Italians dispensed with the tubular magazine, in favor of a much less complicated and less expensive single shot rifle, but adopted a more modern center-fire cartridge denominated the 10.35x47R. The Italian Vetterli was, in fact, the first widely adopted bolt-action centerfire military rifle.*

*  It has been suggested that the tubular magazine of the Swiss Vetterli was rejected because of its cost. That may have been a factor but there were also others. Tubular magazines were not well adapted to military purposes, a fact understood (and possibly even exaggerated) by many different national ordnance departments at the time. They enjoyed a relatively short period of popularity despite being adopted in France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. In every case, rifles featuring box magazines eventually superseded them. Also, the Swiss magazine and cartridge lifter was copied from the M1866 Winchester in a gross violation of Winchester’s patent rights. Because Switzerland did not recognize the validity of any foreign patents, there was nothing Winchester could do to prevent this. However, had the Swiss design, with its stolen magazine, been manufactured elsewhere, it isn’t clear what the legal ramifications may have been. By opting for a single shot version of the Vetterli, this problem was completely avoided.

Operatig Mehanism


  The M1870 Italian Vetterli is a quintessential single-shot, bolt action military rifle of the early metallic cartridge period. The firing pin is powered by a short coil spring located under a cap at the rear of the bolt. Lifting the bolt handle cocks the rifle. Pulling the bolt back exposes the chamber.  A single cartridge is introduced either into the receiver or directly into the chamber. Closing the bolt completes chambering the cartridge and turning the bolt handle down causes a pair of locking lugs at the rear of the bolt to engage the receiver making the rifle ready to fire. A spent case ejector, consisting of a stud at the rear bottom of the receiver, in combination with an extractor mounted along the top of the bolt, serves to pivot up and flip out spent cartridges. This is substantially identical to the ejection system later utilized in the M1874 French Gras.  The earliest versions were fitted with a safety designed by Captain Antonio Clavarino. Rather than lock the action, the Clavarino safety allows the bolt to be closed and the firing pin to be gently lowered on a live round without discharging it. Simply pulling the bolt handle up and pushing it back down re-cocks the rifle ready to fire. Relatively few of these Clavarino safety devices remain as nearly all were replaced after the adoption of a new and stronger safety designed by Captain Giuseppe Vitali and adopted in 1884.

  Early rifles are also equipped with a thin, sheet metal, rotating dust cover, a feature omitted on later conversion models.



  Italian Vetterlis are well marked. The serial number of the rifle, stamped into the octagonal chamber are of the barrel is also stamped on the right side of the buttstock, between the cartouche and the buttplate. The stock information also appears on the on the left two exposed flats of the octagonal breech where the barrel meets the receiver. The serial number and inspection marks are found on the right two flats.


The serial number code systems of the Italian manufacturing armories are complicated at best.  Nearly all Italian Vetterlis are serialized with a three or four digit number preceded by a one or two letter armory code. 


    Torino                          A to M               

    Terni                            K to KZ and AK, BK       

    Brescia - Fucili            L to T               

    Brescia - Moschetti    A to Z               

    Torre Annunziata       U to Z               

    Glisenti Brescia          A, B, C or none

Note that as a result of extensive use of existing rifles for spares, many stocks and receivers are mismatched.


  By no later than 1880, the Italian armories had refined their manufacturing tolerances to the point where nearly all of the parts were interchangeable.*  In order to easily recognize these arms, the top center flat of the octagonal breech was marked “P.P.” (for Parti Permutabili) in an oval cartouche. Not all rifles qualified for this marking and the older arms continued to serve alongside the improved models to the end of the Vetterli’s service. Most all of the other small metal parts are also inspection marked, including barrel bands, the nosecap, trigger guard, buttstock, receiver, upper tang, etc.

* This was a problem all of the European countries struggled with. The American Civil War had propelled the United States far ahead of Europe in the production of machine tools and small uniform parts – which is why Europeans still call uniform mass production the “American System”. Most of Europe re-equipped their armories with American machines while Italy and Russia appear to have favored British suppliers. Sir Henry Royce, best known as the designer of the Rolls-Royce automobile, is believed to have begun his engineering career at Greenwood & Bately, in Leeds, building machinery for the Italian national armories.

  The cartouches stamped into the buttstocks of the Italian Vetterlis bear special mentioning because they are attractive, extensive and usually well and deeply marked.  Its variety of excellent cartouches may be one of the best reasons to collect these under-appreciated rifles.  In most cases, the name of the manufacturing armory and date of manufacture are impressed into the right side of the buttstock.  Cartouches are most often oval or hexagonal, although the Genoan repair facility cartouche is in the form of a shield.  The manufacturing armory’s cartouche usually, though not always, includes the Stemma Sabaudo (the Royal Savoian Shield).  If not, then the date, writ large in a circle, is in the center.


  The main armories responsible for production of the Italian Vetterlis from 1870 until 1892 include the four national armory facilities at Torino, Terni, Torre Annunziata and Brescia.  Vetterli Infantry rifles manufactured from 1887 on were newly manufactured as M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitalis and their production continued up to 1892. While new M1870/87s were being built, the earlier single shot models were being converted by the manufactories to Mod1870/87s


   Italian Vetterli cartouches may incorporate the phrase “Artig.A Fabb.A d’Armi (Arms Factory) or sometimes “Fabbrica Nazionale d’Armi (National Arms Factory, or Arsenal).  Subsequently, both repair and conversion work was carried out not only at the four main armories but also at private factories located at Genova, Firenze, Piacenza, Alessandria and later at the Officina Costruzione d’Artiglieria, in Rome, although only rifles altered to the later smokeless Carcano cartridge, the M1870/87/15, have been observed marked with the Rome facility.  Cartouches applied by the latter facilities will almost universally also include the term “Riparazione” (Repair, sometimes abbreviated RIPARAZE), either incorporated into the facility’s cartouche or, if the repair or upgrade was carried out at the same arsenal at which the rifle was built, contained in a banner added below the original cartouche.


This “crossed rifles” mark certified that it had met the quality control (QC) and accuracy requirements of the Italian Ministry of Defense.  About 1% of standard issue rifles would have had this stamp. Some of these rifles were made available for purchase by civilians and some were awarded as competition prizes.  This might explain how this particular rifle escaped conversion to M1870/87, it might have been privately owned when conversions were undertaken.

A Note concerning the Tiro a Segno Nazionale (TSN Crossed Rifles) stamp.


   All service rifle production (Vetterli and up through Carcano M91) were checked for quality. About 10% of daily production were more carefully checked, and approximately 10% of those (ie: 1% of the production) were actually test fired.  If they reached heightened accuracy limits they were stamped with the target and crossed rifles on the right receiver flat.


     The Tiro a Segno Nazionale was a civilian shooting organization supported by the Italian Ministry of Defense.  It encouraged marksmanship, much like the US Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). Also like the CMP, military rifles could be purchased at a discount by TSN members. They would normally be quality control stamped with the target and crossed rifles, to ensure that they met the required accuracy limits.  The Tiro a Segno Nazionale adopted a club logo which was based on the same design as the target and crossed rifles, hence that mark also became known as the 'TSN stamp'.


    Similar to other nations at the time, TSN prize winners were often presented with a prize rifle by the Italian MOD. This rifle would be a standard military rifle except often without a serial number and bayonet bar. They would also be TSN marked.


    Some civilian TSN competition shooters ordered special barrels to try and improve their chances. For example Verda in Switzerland produced highly regarded barrels for Vetterlis but the TSN administration stepped in to rule that all TSN competitors must use Italian-made components. Verda responded by opening an office in Verona! Their competition rifle was nicknamed the Vettterli-Verda.


   Summary:  Military rifles and carbines with the 'TSN' stamp were not necessarily extraordinarily accurate, but they had  been checked for accuracy and had met the Italian MOD laid-down accuracy requirements. The next 98 military rifles or so from the production line, without the QC stamp, were likely as accurate, but there might also have been one or two occasional 'rogues' that were slightly less so.   Examinations by Italian Vetterli scholar Robert Wilsey of some 929 Vetterli rifles and moschetti over 20 years found 34 with the 'TSN' quality control mark, suggesting that such marked arms seem to have had a slightly higher survival rate than the average Vetterli.

  • Alfeo Clavarino,1890, Armi e Tiro.

  • Edisport, Page 56-57.Fucile degli ItalianiDi Giorgio and Pettinelli, 2007, 1891 Il

  • Robert Wilsey, 2016,The Italian Vetterli Rifle, Mowbray Publishing, Page 29.



Distinguishing Characteristic


  The Italian Vetterli is a 10.35mm, single shot, bolt action rifle. It is fitted with two barrel bands and a separate nosecap.  The bands are both spring and screw retained, the screws secured with screw keepers on the ends of the threads.  The sling is mounted via a loop below the lower band and at an independent sling swivel screwed into the lower bottom edge of the buttstock.


  The firing pin is driven by a short, thick coil spring located beneath a metal cap at the rear of the bolt. Like many early bolt action rifles, the locking lugs are located at the rear of the bolt, which is unlike more modern (and far stronger) bolt action rifles with lugs located at the font of the bolt and locking immediately behind the chamber.


  The metal parts of the M1870 rifles were originally bright polished bare metal, although this finish is rarely seen on Vetterlis today as Army Order 50 dated April 1884 ordered that all new and existing rifles were to be blued. (see below).


  Single-shot Italian Vetterli infantry rifles are rare. The Italian government appears to have been extremely efficient in locating and altering almost all single shot rifles to repeaters, so that single shot infantry rifles, of which the largest quantity were made, are nearly unknown today. Of the several variations of the M1870 Italian Vetterli, only Cavalry carbines and some of the short rifles were not altered in any significant quantity and survive in their original form.


  A further distinguishing characteristic of the infantry version of this rifle is its trigger guard spur, a rounded, protruding tab at the back of the trigger guard.  This feature is shared only with the Swiss Amsler-Milbanks and Swiss Vetterli rifles.  But unlike the Swiss rifles, the back of the trigger guard is flat, perpendicular to the stock, a feature copied over on the Netherlands-built M1871 Dutch Beaumont rifles.   Interestingly, all of the shorter variants of the Italian Vetterli (except for the later Vitali box magazine converted Moschetto da T.S. mod. 1870/87) mount conventional, rounded trigger guards, curved at the rear and lacking the trigger guard spur feature.


  When first adopted, the M1870s mounted a quadrant rear sight similar in appearance to the M1867 Norwegian Rolling Block and somewhat similar to the early Swiss Vetterlis.  This sight was graduated from 500 meters to 1000 meters in 100 meter steps, although at least some rifles were fitted with a modified version of this sight graduated from 200 to 1000 meters in 200 meter intervals.  See photos.  The sight leaf was moved up and down by pulling back with thumb and forefinger on a spring-loaded tab mounted below the leaf which, when released, locks the leaf into detents at each range marking.


  In addition to the standard bayonet lug and tenon fixed further back along the right side of muzzle, the unaltered M1870 rifles also feature a small secondary bayonet guide at the very end of the left side of the muzzle, about 10mm back from the crown, to support the newly adopted M1870 Sword Bayonet which was built with a matching slot for the lug.  This system is similar to that used with the French Mle.1866 Chassepot (still evident with the converted Mle.1866-74 Gras except that were the Chassepot’s lugs are on opposite sides, the Vetterli’s lugs are in tandem.


  The cleaning rod is conventional, consisting of a shaft 857mm long with a 21mm long x 10mm diameter cylindrical head which has been slotted and machined flat on the two slot sides.  The tip is slightly rounded without dimple.  For all models and variants except butt-stock stowed versions, the rod is secured by screwing into the base of the receiver.

cleaning rod tip.jpg

Alterations to the M1870s

  An improved Vecchi-pattern rear sight was adopted in 1881.  The sight leaf is moved by depressing a leaf-spring loaded button on the left side head of the transverse sight leaf pivot pin and rotating the leaf up and down.  The leaf is locked in place by a series of detent notches in the right top edge of the sight base.  Initial versions of this sight utilized with the M1870 single shot infantry rifle are ranged from 300 to 1600 meters in 100 meter increments all marked on the top edge of the right sight wall.


  Rifles manufactured after adoption of the Vecchi-pattern are fitted with the improved rear sight and it appears that earlier stocks of Vetterli rifles were retrofitted with the later sight (although ranged differently at the time of their conversion to Vitali magazine repeaters (see mod.1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali, below).


  Similarly, Vetterlis manufactured after 1884, and all of the Vetterlis modified to the Vitali system, have a Giuseppe Vitali (1845-1921) designed modified de-cocker on the right side of the bolt which, when pushed forward, engages the bolt, keeping it from fully closing and simultaneously de-cocking the firing pin.  To fire, the bolt handle is merely brought up and back down without opening the bolt, which re-cocks the firing pin and causes the de-cocking lever to reset, back out of the way of the bolt handle allowing the bolt handle to be fully closed with the firing pin cocked and the rifle ready to be fired.

Vecci RIFLE rear sight.jpg

Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications with Vecci Pattern Sights. Photos Credit: Martin Wertheim


Mod. 1870 Italian Vetterli Infantry Rifle (Fucile da Fanteria mod. 1870)


Overall Length:  1360mm (53 in)  (Pagani)  1349mm Wilsey

Barrel Length:  870mm (33.5 in)  (Pagani)  862 Wilsey

Weight, empty:  4.3k (9.1 lbs)

Rifling:  4-groove; RH, concentric

Sight:  Initially a quadrant rear sight graduated from 500m - 1000m in 100m steps.

            Some rifles fitted with a modified version graduated 200m - 1000m in 200m steps.            

            After 1881, Vecchi pattern sights graduated from 275m to 1,800m.



  The M1870 sword bayonet, 25in overall (635mm), with its 20.25in (515mm) long blade and matching leather scabbard is somewhat difficult to find today as great numbers of them were converted for use with the M1870/87/15 Vetterli-Mannlicher-Carcano by shortening the blade.

    Early models were manufactured with a small rectangular recess in the muzzle ring into which would fit the guide lug located at the muzzle of the rifles.  Later examples of the bayonet were made without the recess as they were not necessary after the guide lug was deleted from later variants of the rifle.


  The bayonets were manufactured in the national armories alongside the rifles and both the bayonets, as well as their leather scabbards, will be marked with the manufacturing armory or, in the case of the scabbard, with the name of the city (armory) of manufacture



There were six significant variations of the black powder (10.4mm) Italian, four single-shot versions and two Vitali box magazine repeater conversions of the single-shot parent arms, the latter adopted in 1887, as well as two particularly scarce models produced in very limited numbers.  There were also a few smokeless powder variations which are beyond the scope of this site but all conversions of earlier built black powder variants)

Versions of the M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali box magazine arms are discussed at the page:  Italy at Mod. 1870/87 Italian Vetterli-Vitali.  Only the Mod.1870 single-shot versions are discussed here.

Mod. 1870 T.S. Short Rifle (Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870)


Mod. 1870 T.S. Short Rifle (Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870)

  While denominated a moschetto, the Truppe Speciali is not a carbine but rather what Europeans might term a musketoon (as it mounts a bayonet) or, for North Americans, a “short rifle.”  Indeed, the Truppe Speciali is pretty much simply a shortened infantry rifle intended for specialist troops, including engineers, artillery, ordnance corps etc.  It has a single spring and screw retained barrel band which carries the upper sling swivel.  The lower sling swivel is mounted identically to that of the infantry rifle.  It has a steel nosecap identical to that of the rifle, but positioned 6.5 inches (165mm) back from the muzzle, compared to that of the rifle whose nosecap is 5.0 in. (127mm) back from the muzzle.  It mounts the same bayonet in the same manner as the rifle and, like the early rifles, is fitted with a secondary mounting lug soldered to the left side of the barrel at the muzzle (not present on the converted M1870/87 version of the T.S.).  The cleaning rod is of the rifle type, but shortened to 25.5in. (648mm).


  The rear sight of the Truppe Speciali copies that of its larger brother the rifle, except that it is in a slightly smaller version, early examples being fitted with the early tangent rear sight which were later upgraded to the Vecchi pattern.  It is ranged exactly as the later rifles but features a shorter sight leaf.


  Distinguishing features of the short rifle include its overall length of only 43inches , and a plain trigger-guard bow, a feature which it shares with the other short versions of the Italian Vetterlis.

  Like all Italian Vetterlis, the Truppe Speciali short rifles were nevertheless chambered for the 1870 10.35x47mm Italian infantry rifle centerfire cartridge.  No special ammunition was fielded specifically for the shorter rifles.  


  French Mle 1874 M.80 Carabine de Gendarmerie a pied (foot police) and the French Mle 1866-74 M.80 Carabine de Gendarmerie a cheval (horse-mounted police).

Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications

Overall Length: 43.2 in (1097mm)

Barrel Length:  24in (610mm)

Weight, empty:  7.8 lbs (3.55 k) (3.65 Wilsey)

Rifling:  4-groove; RH, concentric

Sight:  Initially Quadrant graduated from 100 to 800 m (1,095 yds) in 200m steps.  

T.S. rear sight IMG_4710.jpg

Vecci pattern sights

Glisenti Mark Inv 4030.JPG

Glisenti manufactory mark on a Moschetto da TS dated 1875 ©Robert Wilsey

Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications with Vecci Pattern Sights:

In 1884, the later Vecci pattern sights were graduated identically to that of the rifle, but the range markings are spaced differently, and ranging is accomplished with a sight leaf that is about an inch shorter than that of the rifle.


Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications with Vecci Pattern Sights. Photo Credit: Martin Wertheim


Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications with a Vitali Safety catch. Photo Credit: Martin Wertheim


Moschetto da Truppe Speciali mod. 1870 Specifications with Vecci Pattern Sights. Photo Credit: Martin Wertheim

Mod. 1870 Carabinieri Carbine: (Moschetto da Carabinieri Reali mod. 1870)


Mo.d 1870 Carabinieri Short Rifle: (Moschetto da Carabinieri Reali mod. 1870)

  This variant of the Italian Vetterli, adopted for the Italian Carabinieri in 1875, is a substantially longer version of the cavalry/artillery carbine.  The Italian Carabinieri are exclusive/unique to Italy and there is no similar organization. The Carabinieri constitute a national police force throughout Italy who are trained as both specialty police and soldiers and which formed part of the Italian Army up to 2000 ( they are now a fourth branch of the armed forces).  They are a force quite different from police with some military training (Gendarmerie etc) found in many other nations, for example France, who equipped their national police with roughly similar mid-length arms such as the Mle 1874 M.80 Carabine de Gendarmerie a pied (foot police) and Mle 1866-74 M.80 Carabine de Carabinieri a cheval (horse-mounted police).


   The Mod 1870 Carabinieri Carbine shares the same general characteristics as the carbine, but is the same total length as the M1870 Truppe Speciali. It carries the socket bayonet of the carbine which, like the carbine, is also reversible and stowed reversed with its blade in the forestock below the barrel.  Also as with the cavalry carbine, the cleaning rod is stowed in the butt via a small, round buttplate access door.  However, the cleaning rod quite different from that of the Cavalry Carbine as it is one, single piece (not folding as the Cavalry Carbine), approximately 23 inches (~585mm) long, fitting into its 24 inch deep butt channel, even with a reversible bayonet!

   It’s major distinguishing characteristic is its unique nosecap/barrel band which is a significantly different pattern from the carbine, being significantly larger and utterly different from that of the rifle and Truppe Speciali short rifle.  Like the nosecap/upper band of the carbine, that of the Moschetto da carabinieri accommodates the bayonet blade through its center for storage and also carries the upper sling swivel.  The bayonet itself is identical to the reversing socket bayonet of the Mod. 1870 Cavalry Carbine.

   Its second distinguishing characteristic is its lower sling swivel, which is mounted below the buttstock but  8 1/4in (210mm) up from the buttplate, quite noticeably higher than the mounting point of any of the other Vetterlis’ lower swivel.

   The buttplate itself is unique to the Gendarmerie, in that it is significantly more deeply curved than that the rifle and T.S. which share identical buttplates, has a longer upper tang, and, like the cavalry carbine, has a small, round door providing access to the cleaning rod chamber in the buttstock.

Moschetto da carabinieri mod. 1870 Specifications

Overall Length: 1095mm (43.1in)

Barrel Length:   610mm (24in)

Weight, empty:  3.85 k (8.5 lbs)                “

Rifling:  4-groove; RH, concentric

Sight:  Quadrant graduated from 100 to 1,000 m (1,095 yds). 

Bayonet: Identical to the reversing socket Cavalry Carbine bayonet discussed in detail below.


Mod. 1870 Cavalry Carbine: (Moschetto da Cavalleria mod.1870)


Moschetto da Cavalleria mod.1870

   Adopted at the same time as the infantry rifle but apparently fielded a year later, the cavalry carbine is mechanically similar to the rifle though differing in multiple details.  The action and receiver are identical to that of the rifle, including the dust cover, and the stock is closely similar.  However, the buttplate, with cleaning rod door, is flat rather than slightly curved and the half-stock extends only 3.1 inches (79mm) forward of the diminutive rear sight (11 inches (280mm) back from the muzzle), ending in a pinned spring-retained barrel-band/nosecap which carries the upper sling swivel.  The lower sling swivel is positioned on the lower edge of the buttstock, 4.75 inches (121mm) up from the buttplate.  In keeping with its overall scaled down size and weight, the buttstock is considerably narrower than that of the infantry rifle and its buttplate is proportionally considerably smaller as well.


   Despite the diminutive size of the carbine, and its rear sight, this arm is chambered and sighted for the infantry rifle cartridge, with rear sight ranged from 100 to 1000 meters in 100 meter increments.


   The nose cap has a stepped appearance with a hole in its center, below the barrel. The long-bladed socket bayonet, which locks around the front sight rather than utilizing a separate bayonet lug, is stored reversed when not required; the tip of the blade running back into the nosecap and down inside a forend channel.  As the bayonet is stowed beneath the barrel, a folding half-length cleaning rod is carried in a butt trap. 


   Note that the bayonet locks on the front sight, which is quite a common arrangement, however, as the bayonet stows away beneath the barrel, the barrel is fitted with a small (5mm) separate bayonet locking lug brazed or soldered beneath the barrel ¾ inches back from the muzzle onto which the bayonet locks when not in use.  To accommodate the bayonet’s socket when the bayonet is stowed, the front sight is located a full 2.5in. (63.5mm) back from the muzzle.


   Like all of the shorter Italian Vetterli variations, the trigger guard is a plain bow, without spur.

Moschetto da Cavalleria mod. 1870

Overall Length: 36.5in (928mm)

Barrel Length:  17.8in (453mm)

Weight, empty:  7.25 lbs (3.025 k)

Rifling:  4-groove; RH, concentric

Sight:  Quadrant graduated from 100 to 1,000 m (1,095 yds). 


Moschetto da Cavalleria mod.1870 Bayonet

   The socket bayonet of the 1870 Cavalry Carbine is rather unusual.  While the blade is a conventional angular cruciform type, the elbow is quite long and the socket and locking ring combination is adapted to not only lock onto the front sight when mounted conventionally, but to also lock in place against a separate bayonet lug beneath the barrel when the bayonet is reversed and stowed into the forestock.  Overall length of the bayonet is 20 ¾ in (527 mm) with a 2 ½ in (63.5mm) long socket.  They are serially numbered to the carbines.  It is believed that the carbines were only manufactured at the national armories at Turin, Torre Annunziata and Brescia.


Mod. 1870 King’s Guard Carbine (Moschetto da Guardie del Re mod.1870)

P9230070 Guardie del Re.JPG

Moschetto da Guardie del Re mod.1870  ©Robert Wilsey

  Very little information exists in English regarding this very limited production carbine.  It is a variant of the Mod. 1870 Carabinieri Carbine (Moschetto da Carabinieri Reali mod. 1870) that was produced specifically for use by the Reggimento corazzieri de la guardia d'onore  i.e., mounted infantry regiment of the (king’s) honor guard but with gold plated brass fittings rather than steel.  Uniquely, they were fitted with a specially designed nose cap with an aperture for a sectioned clearing rod lying alongside the reversed bayonet.   Only about 100 were ever manufactured, and all at Brescia.

Additional Information


  A new cartridge was adopted together with the new Italian Vetterli rifle, the cartridge being denominated the 10.35x47R (aka: 10.35 x 47R, 10.4 x 47R, 10.4mm Vetterli).  The new round was based on the Swiss .41 rimfire cartridge (.41 Swiss) which had been being used in both the Swiss Amsler-Milbank series of rifles as well as the M1867 Swiss Peabody rifles, and was carried over by the Swiss into their new M1869 Swiss Vetterlis.  The Italian cartridge however utilized a centerfire ignition system in contrast to the several years older Swiss cartridge, thus while similar, the rounds are not interchangeable.


   The new cartridge entered service with the rifle in 1870 and originally was made with a copper case.  The copper cases use a smaller primer and although similar to the Swiss Vetterli Cases, the Italian cases were ~11 mm longer.  The case was later changed to Brass and utilized a larger primer.


   Along with the rifle, the cartridge also evolved over time to later be fitted with a brass jacket bullet.  See:  M1870/87 Italian Vetterli-Vitali.


  Some 1,800,000 Italian Vetterli rifles, short rifles and carbines of all varieties were eventually manufactured by at least four national armories and several depot-level facilities.  The main armories responsible for production of the Italian Vetterlis from 1870 until 1892 include the armories at Torino (Turin), Terni, Torre Annunziata (a suburb of Naples), and also at Brescia in Lombardy and at Glisenti between 1875-79 when government manufactories were overstretched.   Well over half of these arms were converted to M1870/89 Vetterli-Vitali standards or newly-built as such between 1889 and when production finally ceased in 1892.


   Later repair work as well as conversion to M1870/89s was carried out at the main government armories and also at the repair facilities at Genova, Firenze, Piacenza and Alessandria.


   All Vetterli rifles and variants are well marked and their origin is readily determined, although occasionally receivers were swapped out during conversion (nearly always interchanged during later 6.5 mm conversion), each bearing markings from their various points of manufacture, conversion or repair.


  As far as is known, Italy did not supply any M1870 Vetterli rifles in their original single shot configuration to any foreign power, although they were used extensively throughout Italy’s African colonies.


  Note that converted M1870/87 rifles (discussed at Mod. 1870/87 Italian Vetterli) were transferred to Russia for use during World War I and later used in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.



   For a deeper dive into the Italian Vetterli’s history, development, varieties and usage, see:  Wilsey, Robert, The Italian Vetterli Rifle: Development, Variants and History in Service, Mowbray , 2016.


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

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

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