M1870 Italian Vetterli

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Vetterli Model 1870
Vetterli-Vitali rifle M1870/87
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin  Kingdom of Italy
Service history
In service 1870-1941 (at least)
Used by Kingdom of Italy
Wars First Italo-Ethiopian War
Boxer Rebellion
World War I
Second Italo-Ethiopian War
Spanish Civil War
Production history
Variants M1870/87 and M1870/87/15
Weight M1870/87: 10.19 lb (4.62 kg)
M1870/87/15: 10.19 lb (4.62 kg)
Length 52.95 in (134.5 cm)
Barrel length 33.85 in (86.0 cm)

Cartridge M1870/87: 10.4×47mmR
M1870/87/15: 6.5×52mm Carcano
Action Bolt-action
Muzzle velocity M1870/87: 1,410 ft/s (430 m/s)
M1870/87/15: 2,395 ft/s (730 m/s)
Effective firing range M1870/87: 2,000 m (2,200 yd)
M1870/87/15: 2,000 m (2,200 yd)
Feed system M1870: single shot
M1870/87: 4 round magazine
M1870/87/15: 6 round magazine

The M1870 Vetterli was the Italian service rifle from 1870-1887, when it was gradually replaced with the M1870/87 Italian Vetterli-Vitali variant. The M1870 was a single-shot bolt action rifle chambered for the 10.4mm Vetterli centrefire cartridge, at first loaded with black powder and later with smokeless powder. The M1870 was based upon the M1869 Swiss Vetterli but simplified for economy.


  • 10.4mm Fucile di Fanteria, Modello 1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali

In 1887 (until 1896), the Italian Army began converting the M1870 to a four-shot repeating rifle, based on the system designed by Italian Artillery Captain G. Vitali. This conversion added a box magazine fed from a Swiss-style fabricated Steel and wood stripper clip holding four cartridges, in the same caliber 10.4x47R mm as before. The clip is pressed into the magazine, until the last round catches under the Cartridge retainer, and then the clip is withdrawn using the "Pull string" in the top wooden frame of the clip. Clips of cartridges were supplied in a soldered sheet steel box, holding 6 clips.

The Conversion to the Vitali Magazine was done on the Long Rifle, the TS ( Special Troops Musketoon) and Possibly some of the Carabinieri Carbines; No Vitali conversions were done to the Moschetto da Cavalleria for Metropolitan Italian Troops. In 1888, the Fondo Coloniale (Eritrea) requested 500 Vitali-converted Vetterli Cavalry Carbines for the Eritrean Native Cavalry ("Spahi"—Swahili for "horse-soldier"). There are currently 5 known (confirmed) examples still in existence ( 1 Australia,2 USA,2 Italy). Collectors refer to it as the M1870/88 V.V.Eritrean Cav.Carbine The Regio Esercito (Royal Army) Cavalry units maintained the M1870 single shot Moschetto da cavalleria until replaced by the M1891 Moschetto da cavalleria, in 1893.

The conversion is indicted by a cartouche "ARTIG. FAB. D'ARMI TERNI 1888" (date varies), on the butt stock. The center of the cartouche displays a Crest of Savoy and the word, "Riparazione" (Italian for repair) is directly below the cartouche. Shortages of small arms appeared from the very beginning of Italy’s entrance into World War I on the side of the Allies.

As more of the population mobilized for the first total war in European history, the supply of modern small arms fell short before the end of 1915 and a large number of obsolete Modello 1870/87 Vetterli-Vital were issued to newly formed regiments that were not expected to be in combat, however, troops carried these antiquated rifles into battle on several occasions.

As well, in 1916, Italy sent a large number of Vetterli-Vitali Rifles to Russia; ammunition and components were contracted for by Britain to Remington Armory. These "Tsarist" Rifles eventually ended up in Republican Hands in the Spanish Civil War, as the Soviet Union emptied its depots of all the old black powder and early smokeless rifles it had inherited after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.


During World War I, many M1870/87 rifles were converted to share the same 6.5mm smokeless powder round as the primary service rifle, the Carcano, by adding a 6.5mm barrel lining and a modified M91 Carcano magazine. The Barrel sleeving was called the "Salerno Method"; The bolt face was also machined to accept the smaller diameter 6,5 Cartridge head, and the Firing Pin shortened. These conversions were used for Rear Echelon troops (Guards, training, etc.) and were rarely, if at all, fired with standard 6,5 military ball ammunition. After WW I, a lot of these rifles were assigned to the Colonies of Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica ("Libia") and also to Eritrea and Somalia, again, as rarely-fired training rifles. These rifles were used again in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, mostly by native African soldiers.[1]

It is considered by knowledgeable collectors that due to the Rifle's age, and general condition ( Manufactured 1870-1890s) and converted twice (87-90s and again 1915-16), that the Black Powder Technology of the Vetterli Design is not suitable for Repeated use (i.e. Intense Combat use) with normal Italian Ball ammunition of 6,5mm, or its present-day commercial equivalent. Even back in the 1920s, anecdotal accounts of Salerno sleeves loosening under "hot" fire (they were soft-soldered in place) and subsequent "blow-by" experience since the 1950s appearance of these rifles as "Surplus" has led to a healthy skepticism about their safety. Owners of these rifles are advised in most Web-boards and Forums dealing with the Vetterli(Vitali)Carcano M70/87/15 to either "Wall-Hanger" it, or only use cast bullet loads or mild handloads with jacketed bullets, and not "over use" the rifle.

Comparison with contemporary rifles[edit]

Calibre System Country Velocity Height of trajectory Ammunition Source
Muzzle 500 yd (460 m) 1,000 yd (910 m) 1,500 yd (1,400 m) 2,000 yd (1,800 m) 500 yd (460 m) 1,000 yd (910 m) 1,500 yd (1,400 m) 2,000 yd (1,800 m) Propellant Bullet
.433 in (11.0 mm) Werndl Austria-Hungary 1,439 ft/s (439 m/s) 854 ft/s (260 m/s) 620 ft/s (190 m/s) 449 ft/s (137 m/s) 328 ft/s (100 m/s) 8.252 ft (2.515 m) 49.41 ft (15.06 m) 162.6 ft (49.6 m) 426.0 ft (129.8 m) 77 gr (5.0 g) 370 gr (24 g) [2]
.45 in (11.43 mm) Martini–Henry United Kingdom 1,315 ft/s (401 m/s) 869 ft/s (265 m/s) 664 ft/s (202 m/s) 508 ft/s (155 m/s) 389 ft/s (119 m/s) 9.594 ft (2.924 m) 47.90 ft (14.60 m) 147.1 ft (44.8 m) 357.85 ft (109.07 m) 85 gr (5.5 g) 480 gr (31 g) [2]
.433 in (11.0 mm) Gras France 1,489 ft/s (454 m/s) 878 ft/s (268 m/s) 643 ft/s (196 m/s) 471 ft/s (144 m/s) 348 ft/s (106 m/s) 7.769 ft (2.368 m) 46.6 ft (14.2 m) 151.8 ft (46.3 m) 389.9 ft (118.8 m) 80 gr (5.2 g) 386 gr (25.0 g) [2]
.433 in (11.0 mm) Mauser Germany 1,430 ft/s (440 m/s) 859 ft/s (262 m/s) 629 ft/s (192 m/s) 459 ft/s (140 m/s) 388 ft/s (118 m/s) 8.249 ft (2.514 m) 48.68 ft (14.84 m) 159.2 ft (48.5 m) 411.1 ft (125.3 m) 75 gr (4.9 g) 380 gr (25 g) [2]
.408 in (10.4 mm) Vetterli Italy 1,430 ft/s (440 m/s) 835 ft/s (255 m/s) 595 ft/s (181 m/s) 422 ft/s (129 m/s) 304 ft/s (93 m/s) 8.527 ft (2.599 m) 52.17 ft (15.90 m) 176.3 ft (53.7 m) 469.9 ft (143.2 m) 62 gr (4.0 g) 310 gr (20 g) [2]
.397 in (10.08 mm) Jarmann Norway and Sweden 1,536 ft/s (468 m/s) 908 ft/s (277 m/s) 675 ft/s (206 m/s) 504 ft/s (154 m/s) 377 ft/s (115 m/s) 7.235 ft (2.205 m) 42.97 ft (13.10 m) 137.6 ft (41.9 m) 348.5 ft (106.2 m) 77 gr (5.0 g) 337 gr (21.8 g) [2]
.42 in (10.67 mm) Berdan Russia 1,444 ft/s (440 m/s) 873 ft/s (266 m/s) 645 ft/s (197 m/s) 476 ft/s (145 m/s) 353 ft/s (108 m/s) 7.995 ft (2.437 m) 47.01 ft (14.33 m) 151.7 ft (46.2 m) 388.7 ft (118.5 m) 77 gr (5.0 g) 370 gr (24 g) [2]
.45 in (11.43 mm) Springfield United States 1,301 ft/s (397 m/s) 875 ft/s (267 m/s) 676 ft/s (206 m/s) 523 ft/s (159 m/s) 404 ft/s (123 m/s) 8.574 ft (2.613 m) 46.88 ft (14.29 m) 142.3 ft (43.4 m) 343.0 ft (104.5 m) 70 gr (4.5 g) 500 gr (32 g) [2]
.40 in (10.16 mm) Enfield-Martini United Kingdom 1,570 ft/s (480 m/s) 947 ft/s (289 m/s) 719 ft/s (219 m/s) 553 ft/s (169 m/s) 424 ft/s (129 m/s) 6.704 ft (2.043 m) 39.00 ft (11.89 m) 122.0 ft (37.2 m) 298.47 ft (90.97 m) 85 gr (5.5 g) 384 gr (24.9 g) [2]



For the specifications and the service history of the Italian Vetterli-Vitali rifles. M1870/87 and the M1870/87/15: http://milpas.cc/rifles/ZFiles/Italian%20Rifles/The%20ITALIAN%20VETTERLI-VITALI%20RIFLES/VETTERLI-VITALI%20M1870%20MOSCHETTO%20CAVALRY%20CARBINE.wps.htm#MODEL_18708715_RIFLE, en:First Italo-Ethiopian War, Battaglia_dell'Amba_Alagi (it), Battaglia_di_Adua (it), Vetterli-Vitali_Mod._1870/87 (it), Vetterli-Vitali_Mod._1870/87/15 (it), http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=156589 Italian forces in the Boxer Rebellion.

For amendments and additions (July 2, 2015) Typographical, Vitali clip design and function, Eritrean Cav.Carbine, Salerno method, Safety of Ball 6,5 ammunition: Personal examination and research by Dr. Astrid M.Vallati MD, JD. (DocAV) AV Ballistics Technical and Forensic Services, Brisbane, Australia. Rifles examined: M1870/87 Long Rifle, ex-Tsarist Russia, ex SCW; Moschetto TS M1870/87 AOI marked; Moschetto Cavalleria Eritrea M1870/88: Provenance Confirmed, Bringback to Australia, in 1928, by Surveyor-Gen. of Sudan; Acquired from grandson of same in 1990s, with Certificate of Sudan Service. Fucile M70/87/15 Cal. 6,5mm.


  1. ^ http://candrsenal.com/rifle-italian-vetterli-carcano-m708715/ C&Rsenal
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The New Martini-Enfield Rifle" (PDF). The Engineer. 2 July 1886. p. 16. Retrieved 3 April 2017 – via Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.