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(Infanterij-Geweer M.71-88, also Geweer Klein Kaliber “Small Caliber Rifle” M1871/88)
M1871/88 Beaumont Vitali
For a more extensive history on the Beaumont rifle please see the M1871 Beaumont Page.
After years of using the M1871 & M1871/79, the Dutch like other countries in Europe were facing the evolution of firearms and the pending obsolesce of their rifle. Military leaders throughout Europe were refusing the adoption of a repeating rifle. However, by the early 1880s it was becoming apparent that the repeating rifle was the future.
The cost of producing a whole new weapon or changing the current manufacturing led many countries to again consider modifications to their current weapons to save time and money. Many countries in Europe started adopting these rifles, the German army adopted the M.71/84 Mauser rifle, the Italian M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali, the Austrian M1886 Mannlicher, and many more. In 1887, the Dutch decided to test out the Mannlicher and Vitali system on their Beaumont rifles. Both were tested by the Infantry divisions and during the tests both were satisfactory however the Vitali system was preferred. The Vitali clip unlike the Mannlicher one was not attached to the cartridges and only served as an aid to loading. The Vitali could also be loaded with a single cartridge and the current ammunition didn't have to be repackaged. The ability to fire a single cartridge also helped with the leaders who still doubted the effectiveness of the greater rate of fire.
Giuseppe Vitali - Photo Credit Giuseppe Vitali (1875 - 1932) - Biography - MacTutor History of Mathematics (st-andrews.ac.uk)
The Dutch decided to go ahead with the Vitali conversion, but a few changes needed to be made. M. 71 rifles had a cut made in the feed way of the receiver and in the stock just ahead of the trigger guard for inserting the body of the magazine. Additional modifications included a single spring loaded, cartridge retaining rib in the left receiver wall and a cut off lever on the left side of the receiver. When pushed forward, the lever depressed the cartridge retaining rib and held it in place, pressing down the top round in the magazine so it could not be picked it up when the bolt moved forward.
Already obsolete in the day of "small bore" smokeless powder cartridges, the M1871/88 Beaumont‑Vitali is derived from the M1871 Beaumont converted into a repeater via the Italian 4-round box magazine system designed by Major Giuseppe Vitali. The conversions began in 1888, two years after the appearance of the M1886 French Lebel (the first smokeless powder, small bore, cartridge infantry rifles) and were applied to all of the Regular Dutch army rifles, except for a few in service in the Dutch East Indies and with the Home Guard. It does not appear that the Dutch naval Beaumonts were converted to the Vitali magazine system.
Photo Courtesy of Mathieu Willemsen
A side view of the Vitali Magazine
The Vitali employed an innovative form of "charger," composed of two spring steel strips linked along the top by a wooden block, featuring a short knotted cord. These steel strips were curved inward toward each other, designed to secure the rims and bullets of the cartridges. At the bottom, they were pinched together to prevent any from falling out.
M871/88 Beaumont magazine charger clip - Photo Courtesy of Mathieu Willemsen
The operation of the bolt of the M1871/88 Beaumont-Vitali is identical to that of the M1871 single-shot rifle. However, the introduction of the Vitali magazine added several features in addition to its repeater capability. Besides the non-removable box magazine mounted against a cut-out in the lower receiver, the extractor was now moved to the right side of the non-rotating bolt head and the matching channels in the left side of the receiver and left of the bolt head was now fitted with a floating ejector. The ejector comes into play in the last 6 mm (.25 in) of rearward bolt travel, forcing the spent case to pivot against the extractor, thus ejecting the case to the right and out of the receiver.
The left side of the receiver is now also fitted with a magazine cut-off lever which actuates a spring-loaded tang in the left receiver wall below the extractor channel. Moving the lever forward actuates the tang pressing down on the top cartridge. This locks cartridges in the magazine below the bolt, keeping them from being stripped and loaded into the chamber. When in place, this allows the rifle to continue to function in a single-shot mode. The M1871/88 Beaumont-Vitali was wholly without any safety mechanism at all.
Top of the Vitali Magazine
Magazine cut off lever
Another photo of a Vitali Magazine
The M1871/88 is the M1871 Beaumont rifle fitted with the Vitali magazine (see specifications for the M1871 Beaumont). The Vitali magazine system was first applied to converting the M1870 Italian Vetterli rifle in 1887 creating the M1870/87 Italian Vetterli‑Vitali. The Vitali magazine follower is pushed by a coil spring and, given the substantial bottle shape of both rifles’ cartridges, gives the Vitali magazine its unique and distinctive shape. Additionally however, the M1871/88 bolt now incorporates an ejector as well as an extractor, and the receiver is drilled with angled gas escape vents in the event of a split case, much like the Swiss Vetterli series rifles.
Top of the Vitali Magazine
Photo of the gas escape vents
The rifles carry all of their original manufacturing and unit markings, but do not appear to be specially marked in connection with their conversion to the Vitali magazine system. See M1871 Beaumont Markings
SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA
M1871/88 Beaumont‑Vitali (Infanterij-Geweer M.71-88)
Overall Length: 132 cm (51.95 in)
Weight, empty: 4.55 Kg (9.7 lbs)
Barrel Length: 83.2 cm (32.7 in)
Rifling: 4-groove; RH, concentric
Sight: Quadrant, graduated from 100 to 1,800 m (109 to 1968 yds)
SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS
The bolt-housed main spring of the Beaumont design precluded the rifle being adapted to cavalry use by having its bolt turned down. See M1871 Beaumont for details on different types of Beaumont Rifles.
The M1871/88 continued to use the M71 socket bayonets and you can see more on these bayonets here: M1871 Beaumont Bayonets.
The M1871/88 used the 11mm Scherpe Patroon No. 8 and more information can be found here: M1871 Beaumont Bayonets.
Once the conversion to the Vitali system was decided the next decision was where to complete the conversion. The only arms factory in the Netherlands was the De Beaumont en Soleil in Massstrict which did not have enough capacity to convert the rifles fast enough so they would also contact foreign companies for bids. After discussions with a few companies in Liege, it was ultimately decided to go with completing the conversion in Masstrict with De Beaumont en Soeil.
Almost all of the 138,668 M1871 Beaumonts produced were subsequently converted to the Vitali magazine system between 1888 and 1895.
UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES
During the First World War, an unknown number of Beaumont rifles were used by German (at least Bavarian) second-line troops. This involved Beaumont-Vitali rifles that were shortened and burnished. Further backgrounds to these weapons are unknown, but it is likely that the weapons were found by the German occupier at arms dealers in Liège and subsequently confiscated. (Credit - Mathieu Willemsen)
Cut down Dutch Beaumont used by German second line troops - Photo Courtesy of Mathieu Willemsen
The stamp Deutsches Reich on the butt - Photo Courtesy of Mathieu Willemsen
A german corp stamp on the nose cap - Photo Courtesy of Mathieu Willemsen
PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES
Predecessor Rifle: M1871 Beaumont
Follow-on rifle: Geweer M. 95
Additional Dutch proofs on the right side of the barrel. We do not know their meaning. Anyone out there who can help?
Sight, proof marks, date of manufacture and serial number
This example built at Maastricht. Numbers are production lot numbers, not serial numbers. Note the gas escape holes in the event of a cartridge base or rim failure.
A special thanks to Mathieu Willemsen for the pictures and information.
Willemsen, Mathieu. LE FUSIL BEAUMONT DANS L’ARMEE NEERLANDAISE. Paris: Gazette de Armes, Issue 323, July/August 2001.
Martens, B.J. and G. de Vries. NEDERLANDSE VUURWAPENS 1866 - 1895. Arnhem, Netherlands: S.I. Publicaties BV, 2001.
The Dutch Geweer M.71 and M.71/88 Beaumont Rifles - Paul Scarletta
Page Created: Nov 19, 2023