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 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.

Check out this fantastic book by Robert Wilsey on the Italian Vetterli Rifle!

'The Italian Vetterli Rifle; Development, Variants and History in Service' by Robert Wilsey, Mowbray Publishing, 2016. ISBN:‎ 1931464723.



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


The M1870 Italian Vetterli with dust cover open and bolt partially retracted. The "hook" protruding from the top and front of the bolt is the extracter/ejector.  The "keyway" throught the receiver to the rear of the bolt is the bolt stop.  It engages the extractor where it protrudes upward to lock the bolt in the receiver.  Removal of the bolt is as simple as drawing the key outward to the left to it's full travel (the key is locked in by a screw to prevent loss) and withdrawing the bolt.


The early quadrant sight of the M1870.  After 1881, later models were fitted with an improved Vecci pattern quadrant sight graduated to 1,200 meters.

Bolt is unlocked but still closed.  The case hardened piece is the safety which rotates into the notch in the stock to keep the bolt from fully locking and the firing pin from striking when in the "safe" position.


Reale Fabbrica d' Armi di Torino (Arms factory of Turin) Built a year before the intorduction of the Vecci pattern sight.


The "P.P." appearing in an oval on the top of the knoxform behind the sight represents "Parti Permutabili" the Italian phrase for interchangable parts, a novelty at the time and a direct result of mass production.  The M1870 was the first mass produced Italian military rifle.


  Back of the lower tang.  Even the smallest parts are marked.


Metal nosecap.


 Top of the buttplate.


Butt stock cartouches; Fabbrica d' Armi di Torino (Arms factory of Turin)

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

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Updated: Jan 21, 2022