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Italian Vetterli 1870/87 Mystery Rifle from Ethiopia

571 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  rk5n
Hey everyone,

Recently picked up this incredibly unique Vetterli rifle that came out of Ethiopia. It is very much similar to the Vetterli-Mauser hybrid rifle that Ian filmed on Forgotten Weapons. This appears to be an 1870/87 rifle that was cut down to short rifle length, similar to the standard “Ethiopian cutdown” rifles that were done to many other Vetterlis and other assorted rifles.

Several modifications have been made to this rifle, including the following:

1. The Vitali magazine has been cut at the rear and an additional section has been brazed on to lengthen it horizontally. The stock and supporting plate that surrounds the magazine have both been cut to accept the longer magazine. A ponger

2. A small sliver of bolt face has been brazed on to (assumedly) adjust the headspace

3.The chamber has been modified to fit some other cartridge (have not yet gotten to cast chamber). Original thinking was .303 British but I have found that 7.62x54r fits and cycles perfectly in the magazine and chamber.

4. The barrel has by some means been swaged down to around .312 or so at the muzzle end.

5. The muzzle end of the barrel has had Lee Enfield sights brazed on

6. The rear sight leaf has been cut and turned up to form a new V notch sight

7. An upper handguard has been added


This is definitely one of the more interesting pieces to come out of Ethiopia, and I am thrilled to have it be a part of my collection. Another individual ordered a Vetterli 1870/87 TS rifle from RTI and received this. He sent me some pictures of it wondering what was going on with it and I just threw money at him until he would sell it to me.

Would love to get this into the hands of Ian one day for a video on FW.

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That thing will probably explode if you fire a 7.62x54r round in it.
Only one way to find out I guess, right? ;)
Consider Othias and May had receivers crack test firing two different Vetterli Carcanos in 6.5, it’s safe to say a 7.62x54r round will definitely overpressure the action. It’s only got a single lug.

With that in mind, I’d look to see if they somehow added another locking lug to the bolt. I doubt it, but that would be interesting. Definitely a variation of Vetterli I’ve never seen.
It has two symmetrical lugs, not one. Not sure where you heard that.
Cool, it should be totally safe to handle high pressure smokeless rounds then!
No need to be sarcastic, was just pointing out that it’s not one of the one-lug designs.
I’m aware of the original lug configuration I was asking if they maybe somehow added an additional somehow to the front or the rear. If they didn’t and that thing is chambered in 303 or 7.62x54r it’s a grenade. It’d be interesting to see a chamber cast regardless.
I’m not sure if I’m following you there. Your comment seemed to imply that the original lug configuration was one lug. Did you just mean one set of lugs? Either way, I would presume it was shot at least once when Ethiopian Bubba modified it, so they must have done at least a half decent job at it.
Yes, the single symmetrical lug setup. Was curious if they added something else.
Ah, got it. Yeah I don’t think it’s even really possible since the bolt body doesn’t rotate, only the collar rotates. Would definitely be tough.
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