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Posted - 04/01/2006 : 3:15:07 PM

From the time of the Napoleonic Wars (and before) the Duchy of Savoy ( then after called the Kingdom of Piedmont & Sardinia, through the Crimean War) and finally the Kingdom of Italy from 1861), utilised french made and Turin made copies of French Charleville pattern muskets. At the end of the napoleonic wars,(1815) Piedmont was left with a large quantity of French Musketry, which was refurbished and improved during the 1820s-30s.
With the Advent of percussion, conversion of French items as well as New manufacture along both French and English designs progressed. The Piedmontese Navy acquired a moderate quantity of Pattern 1853 Enfield Muskets for naval use.

In 1860, following German advances in "Zundnadel" technology ( Dreyse Needle Gun) a Sgt-Armourer at Turin Artillery Arsenal, one Salvatore Carcano, a Milanese whose family who had fled Austrian oppression (Lombardy was part of the Post-1815 Settlement, and was considered part of the Hapsburg Empire) developed the "Carcano ad Ago"( Needle Carcano), which was accepted by the Piedmontese Army as an improvement on the Muzzle Loaders then in use. Not many were used in the War of Independance in 1861, but by the Prussian-Austrian War of 1866 ( Italy was an ally of Prussia) there were substantial quantities of M1860 ad Ago in use by frontline troops. Even thyough the italian forces lost both the land battles (Custoza) and the Sea battle (Lissa) against the Austrians, buy the terms of the treaty with Prussia, the Austrians surrendered the Veneto ( and Venice) to Italy.

When Italy finally took the City of Rome in 1870, ( the glorious 20 September, 1870, by a charge on foot through a Breach in the City walls at Porta Pia (the Pius Gate) on the south side of the city. (The gates held, but artillery battered a collapse in the surrounding walls, through which the Bersaglieri (Light Infantry) armed with M1860s, charged. An after-the-fact painting of the charge depicts accurately the men involved (most were identified) almost as if it were a photo.
The Bersaglieri immediately were re-issued with the captured Nagant- made Remington Rolling Blocks ( 12,7mm Papal Remington) which they retained until issued a few years latter with Vetterli M1870 Rifles.

As the Vatican(Papal)States had had French Military support till just prior to the "presa di Roma", some Chassepots may have been present during the initial stages of the siege of Rome.

During the 1870s to 1890s, the Issue Rifle for Most troops was the M1870 Vetterli,(metallic cartridge, Black Powder) with its Cavalry Carbine and TS versions. With the improvements in magazine feeding, the Vitali magazine was adopted in 1887, but only the Long Rifle and TS short rifle were so fitted. Tha Cavalry in metropolitan Italy retained the single-shot M1870 carbine, with reversible socket bayonet.
In 1888, the Fondo Eritreo ( a Treasury/Colonial office" Fund")ordered 500 Vetterli CC M70 converted to the Vitali magazine system for issue to the Eritrean cavalry; these were delivered by 1889;
I have one of two or three known to have survived till now ( ?two in Italy, one in Aus.--mine was souvenired (from natives) by a Queenslander on Sudan Survey service in the 1920s).

The M70/88 Eritrean carbine was for NCO and Askari Mounted use, Italian officers on Colonial service acquired M1873 (?) Winchester carbines ( whether through Italian agents or from the Turk traders along the Red Sea is unclear...Turkey had acquired numerous M66 and M73 Winchesters in .44 Turkish RF in the lead up to the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78; by 1888, these rifles would have been available as Turkish Surplus in the Ottoman Empire and its areas of Influence, such as the Red Sea.( Mare Eritrea in Roman times).
No known examples of Italian-use Winchesters from East Africa have yet come to light, either in Italy or elswhere.

The Italian Navy did trial and use a couple of other magazine conversions of the Vetterli, both Tube magazine conversions, the Vetterli-Bertholdo, and the Vetterli-Ferraciu'; both were the inventions of Naval Arsenal Armourers, and only had use for Onboard issue TS short rifles.Given the small requirement for a ship's Small Arms Locker, the survival rate of these naval rifles is very small (Many were lost in both WWI and especially WW II, where many Italian Navy ships were sunk or lost in both the Mediterranean and the Asia Station (Tientsin was the major Italian base east of Africa).

Italy did not have the financial nor technological capacity to do great things in Infantry Rifle design during the first years of its existence as a nation (1861-1890s) and relied on the proven Swiss vetterli design, modified for a centrefire cartridge, and eventually a Box magaxine, with charger filling. Major designs,technology, even steel was imported and modified for Home consumption ( Rifle was swiss, cartridge design was French/British, machinery was Swiss, british and some US, and steel was British and German ( all these nations, especially Britain, were also involved in Italy'sNaval construction and Steel making industries, at both financial Investment and technology transfer levels).

Posted - 04/02/2006 : 10:03:37 AM
DocAV -- you really need to write a General History Book of the rifle from 1860 to 1920. I'd buy one or 2!

Posted - 04/03/2006 : 10:28:39 AM

Examples of pre-Carcano long weapons, from the Carabineri website:

Mod. 1814 Piedmontese flintlock

Mod. 1833 Flintlock

Mod. 1844/60 percussion (the rifle version was made both in Turin and in Belgium: some Belgian production overrun was later imported by the Union during the US Civil war)

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