Italian Vetterli-vitali 1870/87

Discussion in 'Curio & Relic Discussion' started by gunsmoke11, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    Sometimes you just don't learn till you become an old buzzard. When I was around seven years old I was given my first gun by a family friend who brought it back at the end of WWII. It's an Italian Vetterli-Vitali model 1870/87 in caliber 10.35x47R(10.4x47R) not to be confused with the 10.4 pistol cartridge.

    I used to take that darn thing apart and clean it all the time. This was the early 50's so kids liked playing soldier all the time, even with real guns. Today if a neighbor saw a little kid running around with a rifle in an alleyway they'd have the cops down and the parents would have cuffs thrown on them. This would also be on the news.

    Without me knowing my grandfather took a chisel to the tip of the firing pin for safety reasons. I've owned many guns in my life and made sure that rifle was stored away for sentimental reasons. It was usually stuck in the corner of a cellar and totally ignored unless it had to be moved out of the way for some reason.

    A while back I dragged it out and cleaned it up. I looked at it real close and said to myself it was interesting and it deserved being shot. I even looked it up on You Tube and watched someone shooting it. I also researched it well and became fascinated with it. It turns out to be worth more than I realized.

    This rifle was made in 1875 and was originally a single shot. In 1887 the military converted it to a repeater by adding a 4 shot box magazine. Those rifles were used everywhere, including Russia. There were other models made including a Swiss model in 41 Swiss RF. In 1915, due to weapon shortages during WWI, the Italians converted many of the model 1870/87's to 6.5 Carcano and designated it the model 1870/87/15. They sleeved the barrels and changed the box magazine to a flat one, which is similar to the Carcano rifle. These rifles can be dangerous to fire due to the increase in the power of the 6.5, but many are being shot today due to the availability of the ammo.

    Mine is in the hands of a gunsmith now and should be functioning again within the next 2, or 3 weeks. Other than the pin it is in real nice shape compared to others I've seen. I located an obsolete ammo maker and will be purchasing some ammo for a day of fun that's been on the back burner for almost 60 years. I just wish my grandpa could be with me when I do finally shoot it.

    I recommend that anyone with a gun that's been handed down through the family that's in shootable condition to do just that, shoot it.
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    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  2. kfox75

    kfox75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Nice looking rifle, and a very cool story. A friend of mine has one of the old Swiss models, and has been dieing to shoot it. Any chance you can post the contact information for that ammo manufacturer? I have a few obsolete calibers myself, and would be interested in finding out if I can aquire them. Thanks for sharing, and please remember to give us a range report when you shoot that piece. Once again, vey cool!
     

  3. batjka

    batjka New Member

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    The Vetterli-Vitali rifles have a fascinating history. They were used in WW1 by Italy (even the unconverted ones) due to shortage of Carcano rifles. As they were being phased out by the Italians, the Czarist Russian govt purchased them due to shortage of Mosin rifles. There were whole front-line Russian divisiins armed with them. Then the Russian Civil War broke out and these rifles were used extensively on all sides. One interesting detail - the Communists supplied Vetterlis to the anarchist forces of Makhno because ammunition was uncommon and when the Communists decided to turn on the anarchists they cut off the ammo supply leaving their adversaries defenseless. In the 30s, Stalin sent great numbers of these obsolete rifles to Spain to arm the Republicans.

    Look closely at your rifle. If it has a 'Made in Italy' stamp, it is likely one of the rifles with a rich history. If it doesn't have the stamp, it stayed in Italy and missed all the action.
     
  4. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    Kfox75, after posting about this rifle I figured no one was interested in it since there were no responses for almost 2 days. I'd be glad to help you with any information I can. I assume your friend's is the 41 Swiss RF. I hope he gets a chance to shoot his soon. Many people convert them to cf, which is something he can consider. Those Swiss models are nice looking. I see them fairly often at gun shows. As far as ammo goes check out Gad Custom Cartridges, N2143 County Road C, Medford, Wisconsin, phone# 715 748-0919, ask for Bernold.

    I'll definitely report back how everything went when I shoot it.
     
  5. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    Batjka, those rifles have been around a lot. It's a shame how I ignored it for so long. I think my grandfather may have been a little familiar with it since he came from Russia.

    The more I look at it and research it, the more my interest grows. It doesn't have made in Italy stamped on it, so maybe it wasn't used too much. I know it was being used when it was picked up and brought back. I can't say whether it was gotten in Italy, or even France. I recall him talking about France to my family, but I was very young at the time.

    I've been collecting guns for close to 50 years and felt pretty confident about my knowledge, but like a dummy I always kinda looked down at this rifle and just considered it something I played soldier with as a kid. I never would even look at it. I've seen Swiss Vetterlis at shows, but never had any interest in them.

    I have many antique guns that I've enjoyed shooting and now the thought of shooting this particular rifle that was made in 1875 just plain excites the hell out of me. This is one of the few times I regret not doing my own reloading, but I'm not planning on firing 500 rounds out of it, so if I pay a couple of bucks a round and fire 50 rounds, or even less in a shooting session I won't complain.
     
  6. jpattersonnh

    jpattersonnh Active Member

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    The "Made in" stamp was used after WWII for arms coming into the U.S. It is worth more without it. That stamp has nothing to do w/ where its' been or who used it. Many arms were returned to their country of origin as they were a lease.
     
  7. kfox75

    kfox75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the info. I will let my friend know and we will check them out.
     
  8. batjka

    batjka New Member

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    The reason why the "made in Italy" stamp is important is because it denotes a batch of rifles that were imported from Spain in the 60s. And the only way Vetterli-Vitalis got to Spain was through Russia. Other Spanish Civil War rifles bear that stamp, too. Mosins have a "made in Russia" stamp etc.

    Russian Vetterli-Vitalis sometimes have a cyrillic 'P' or 'C' stamped on the stock or by trigger guard.

    When I was looking for a Vetterli-Vitali, I wanted one with a "made in Italy" stamp due to the rifle's use in WW1, Russian Civil War and Spanish Civil War. They really have neen through a lot for such an antiquated design.
     
  9. 303tom

    303tom Well-Known Member

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    That is a good looking old rifle..................
     
  10. jpattersonnh

    jpattersonnh Active Member

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    Your info is not exactly correct. There are Enfields stamped made in England, never used in the Spanish or Russian revolution. It only denotes the time frame they were imported. You are correct that most are not imported from the country of origion, some are. Many Enfields have the same type of stamp.
     
  11. batjka

    batjka New Member

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    I stand corrected on the general statement I've made.

    I have to say, however, that research had been done on Russian Vetterlis and basically every one encountered in the States has a 'made in ...' stamp. Same for SCW Mosins and other miscellaneous arms used in that conflict.
     
  12. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    I finally shot my Vetterli yesterday and it was great, but I mistakenly posted it under the reloads and my post#13. I got a gunsmith to repair the firing pin and I purchased what was needed for my friend to make me the ammo. There's too much to state here again, but I covered pretty much everything on the other thread.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
  13. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    Went shooting in Pa. this week. It was very hot at the range and there were too many people as well. The bench I had to use had the seat busted off, so sitting on a small metal plate with screw heads felt like a frying pan and tortured my butt. I can complain about the jerk who acted like Rambo standing next to me rapidly popping off his 9 causing me to flinch, but I can complain about too many other things as well. I was unfortunately next to the 25 yard targets, but couldn't go anywhere else. Public ranges just plain suck period.

    I was able to shoot 2 four shot groups at 50 yards. One group was around 4". The other group had 2 rounds almost touching, but I flinched twice sending 2 rounds to opposite ends of the target. I then gave up cause that ammo is too hard to come by to waste. I then tried to sight in my Anschutz also at 50 yards. Fortunately after a 12 rounds it was perfect. I then took one careful shot with the Vetterli, which I was very happy with. My friend packed up while I was at the car leaving 2 of my targets behind.

    Here's a few photos I took.

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    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  14. Trez

    Trez Well-Known Member

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    I think I seen one of these in a local shop in 6.5 Carcano, they wanted $ 300 for it.... I think it was a 1870/81??
     
  15. texaswoodworker

    texaswoodworker New Member

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    Do you reload? If not, that would probably be a good round to start on. It will most like save you some money in the long run, and it gets rid of the "hard to find" issue.

    Nice shooting.




    Question on the 6.5 versions. Can you put modern ammo through them, or only light loads? Just curious.
     
  16. nitestalker

    nitestalker New Member

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    Many long years ago when the planet was more free I found an old rifle. We were quail hunting on the Texas Border West of El Paso. I bought an old Remington Rolling Block circa 1868. The old 11 MM or .43 Egyptian hung over the fireplace for some 40 years.
    I decided it should come back to life. Over a number of years the orginal parts were found. I bought some brass and reloading dies. The old .43 Remington is very close to the Sharps .44-77. It is an orphan setting beside my Sharps but it has an untold history dating to the end of the Civil War era. :)
     
  17. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    There are plenty of the 6.5 around. Those are called 1870/87/15. During WWI the Italians were short of rifles so they lined the barrels, changed the magazines and firing pins and issued them to those behind the lines thinking they won't be used. They work, but the black powder receivers really aren't strong enough to handle that round. Some have blown up, so it's suggested that the 6.5 be loaded down. The 10.35x47 is the one to get.

    Many were sent by the Italians to Russia and they in turn sent them to Spain during their civil war. Some also were used by the IRA against the Brits in Northern Ireland. Those rifles got around. Mine was picked up in France during WWII.
     
  18. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    I'm too old and too lazy to start reloading now. I'm lucky my friend is willing to do it for me, but I don't want to take too much advantage of him. He worked real hard loading each one at a time to make sure it was done correctly.

    I bought the dies and bullet mold as well as 100 pre-formed shells made from 348 Win. brass from Buffalo Arms. I had my gunsmith swag the barrel, cause these rifles have bore sizesthat vary from .425 to .435 and that's why no one wants to manufacture this bullet. Mine measure at .434 and the mold was .436, which is perfect. I was always lucky to have friends that were into loading, especially 45LC, but foolishly I should've done it myself. I have other guns with hard to find ammo as well, but fortunately I don't shoot as much as I collect now.

    The 6.5 is shot by plenty of people and they're the most common to be found. It's recommended not to shoot them unless you load them down, but many shoot them anyway and that can be seen on YouTube. Just gotta be careful. The first time I shot mine it was tied down to a shooting bench with a couple of bungies, then I tied a string to the trigger and pulled on it while a few feet back. Over the years I've shot lots of old guns without taking precautions, but I'm older now and my luck's something that I haven't had good experience with lately.

    I have to say that this rifle is sweet to shoot with barely any recoil and it's a lot more accurate than I thought it would be. It also attracts attention at the range. I'm gonna have bp loads made up as well. I just love shooting bp, just not too fond of cleaning up afterwards.
     
  19. gunsmoke11

    gunsmoke11 New Member

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    I can see that you understand the frustration of watching something sitting idle for so many years when you know it should be shot. It took me 58 years to get the lead out and get that rifle to fire. I did spend between the gunsmith and buying everything needed to load it over $500. Each brass case was over $2 each and that was $200 for the 100 I got. But considering how many times they can be reloaded it will pay for itself down the road. Also all the things needed for it to be shot in the future will stay with the rifle and it will increase it's value.
     
  20. towboater

    towboater Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the story. I really enjoied reading it. Im also glad ya got to take it out for a shooting session.