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Book Review: The Vetterli Rifle

By Dean Roxby

THE ITALIAN VETTERLI RIFLE: Development, Variants and History in Service
AUTHOR: ROBERT WILSEY
PUBLISHER: MOWBRAY PUBLISHING, WOONSOCKET, RI 02895 gunandswordcollector.com
ISBN: 1-931464-72-3
COPYRIGHT: 2016
PAGES: 168, HARDCOVER, COLOR DUST JACKET, 350+ PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATIONS (MOSTLY IN COLOR), 8.5” x 11”
USD: $49.99

The Swiss-made infantry rifle adopted by the Italian Army

This book does a great job of explaining the history of an intriguing rifle. The Italian Vetterli rifle was issued in a surprising number of variants over its 40-year service life. Invented by Swiss citizen Johann-Friedrich Vetterli, it was first adopted by the Swiss military in 1869. Italy adopted a modified version the following year with the M1870.

The original Swiss version was a rimfire rifle, an odd choice when centerfire was already in use by that point. The Italian version was a centerfire design right from the beginning. Interestingly, the Swiss rimfire was a true repeater, with a tubular magazine built in, while the newer Italian centerfire was originally built as a single shot. Some years later, the Vetterli-Vitali 1870/87 magazine conversion appeared. Years later, during WWI, many rifles were rebarreled from the original 10.35x47R round to the newer 6.5x52mm Carcano cartridge. This was the 1870/87/15 series.

This book describes the various versions and sub-variants. Besides the standard issue versions, many rare experimental and limited issue variants are profiled in detail. Featuring crisp and clear color photographs, as well as beautiful artwork, this book really does a fine job of distinguishing one model from another. The artwork is provided by Guy and Leonard Alston-Roberts-West. The A-R-West brothers are well known among antique firearms collectors.

A detailed study of Nock’s form (rear end of the barrel, in the chamber area) markings and stock markings provides valuable information regarding factory codes and so on.

Bayonets, ammo pouches and other accessories and accoutrements are also examined at the end of Part One.

Part Two profiles the main arms factories in Italy that had a hand in Vetterli production or later conversions. There is a wonderful photo of an original display board showing the various steel parts that...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017

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