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Field Editor ~ GUNS Magazine, Co-Author ~ Serbian Army Weapons of Victory &PH - Kudu Safaris
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Hello Gents,

WOW!!!!........Talk about ghosts from future past? I hadn't a clue that an eight year old post could be brought back to life? Dr. Frankenstein I presume???

In response to your question Darrell, I have acquired four Russian issue M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali's since I posted this thread in October of 2006. For those of you who are not familiar with this subject, here is a segment of the two part article I wrote, "Arming Ivan" for GUNS Magazine years ago.


"Help from Italy is on the way!

Although suffering severe supply problems of their own, the Italians wanted to show support for their Russian Allies as well as to help the French and the British in the process, neither of which wanted to see Russia pull out of the war. In addition, the Italians didn’t want to see the entire weight of the Austro-Hungarian Army descending on the Southern Front where the two armies traded attack and counter attack across the Isonzo or in the jagged crags and peaks of the Alps.

Their contribution to Russia came in the form of 400,000 Model 1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali repeating rifles. Like the Berdan II and the Mle 1874 Gras, the Model 1870 Vetterli was originally adopted as a black powder single shot. Then in 1887, one year after the French introduced the Mle 86 Lebel along with it’s smokeless powder chambering, the Italians decided that while they were going to develop a new smokeless powder rifle of their own, they needed to extend the life of the Vetterli. The answer came in the form of the Vitali box magazine. The stocks were cut to accommodate a box magazine and a piece of sheet metal reinforcement was added to the bottom of the stock surrounding the magazine. A four shot magazine, with reinforced side ribs was then added to the action. The floor of the bolt-way was cut away to allow the magazine to be loaded from the top.

In this respect, the Vetterli-Vitali is quite different from other rifles of the period that utilized Mannlicher style clip to load the magazine. The four round Vetterli clips had small pull tabs of linen, which were used to pull the empty clip up and out of the top of the magazine once the four round magazine was full. All of the other Mannlicher rifles of the period were designed for the empty clip to fall or be pushed out of an opening in the bottom of the magazine after the last round was fired.

The M70/87 Vetterli-Vitali’s were chambered for the rather anemic 10.4x47mmR cartridge, the ballistics of which just about match a heavy bulleted 44 Magnum load fired out of a single action revolver. Not exactly a long range proposition, but still, it was preferable to the black powder single-shots in terms of volume of fire and as was the case with all of the obsolete rifles that saw service on the Eastern Front, it was better than no rifle at all!

The Vetterli-Vitali was issued to Russian troops with the Model 1870 sword bayonet. The M70 has an extremely long straight blade, measuring 20 ¼” from the cross guard to the tip of the blade. The Model 1870 Vetterli-Vitali was produced in several carbine and gendarmerie configurations, however, all of the weapons known to have been shipped to Russia were infantry rifles."



The reason that Russian issue M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali are marked "Made in Italy" is the result of the import requirements in the 1950s. When Interarms imported the left-overs from Spain, the various obsolete rifles that Stalin had supplied to the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War eventually made their way to the United States. The small number of surviving M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali's were among the assorted WWI era rifles that included M1895 Winchesters, Mle 1874 Gras rifle, Mle 1878/84 Kropatchek rifles and a host of other period weapons.

It is important to note that there were no M1870/87/15 Vetterli-Carcano 6.5x52mm conversions that were sent to Russia during WWI. Any of the 6.5 conversions that ended up in Spain, did NOT come from Russia.

In addition to the importation mark, i.e. "Made in Spain", the Russian issue M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali's were Russian marked upon inspection and issue to the Imperial Russian Army. The strangest aspect of the Foreign rifles supplied and issued to Imperial Russian troops during WWI is the absolute inconsistency when it comes to inspection marks on rifles supplied by the Entente or purchased from Foreign governments??? Here is a short list that provides an example of the inconsistency of the Russian inspection of foreign supplied or manufactured rifles.

Japanese Type 30, Type 38 and Type 35 Rifles - None of these rifles were marked in any way by the Russians.

U.S. M1895 Winchester Rifles - ALL of these rifles are Russian inspection marked.

U.S. Model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen Rifles - None of these rifles are Russian inspection marked.

French Mle 1874 Gras Rifles - ALL of these rifles are Russian inspection marked.

French Mle 1878/84 Kropatchek Rifles - ALL of these rifles are Russian inspection marked.

French Mle 1886/93 Lebel Rifles - None of these rifles were marked in any way by the Russians.

French Mle 1907/15 Berthier Rifles - None of these rifles were marked in any way by the Russians.

Why some foreign rifles were inspection marked while other weren't is hard to explain???


In the interim, here is a cross section of the Cyrillic letter markings on Imperial Russian issue M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali Rifles. Some of these photos were taken by the folks I purchased rifles from:









I would suggest that in the first uyear of the WWI Centennial, everyone out there with a M1870/87 Vetterli-Vertali Infantry Rifle to check their example to determine if it was one of the 400,000 rifles that saw front line service in the hands of Imperial Russian soldiers during the Great War.

Warmest regards,

JPS
 

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Super Moderator
Field Editor ~ GUNS Magazine, Co-Author ~ Serbian Army Weapons of Victory &PH - Kudu Safaris
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11,449 Posts
Hello Se12,

Those are just dings in the receiver. The importance of the "MADE IN ITALY" marking is based on the requirements that the U.S. Govt. imposed on the importation of large numbers of obsolete weapons that were in storage in Spain in the 1950s. Stalin had emptied his arsenals of all of the oddball weapons left over from WWI and the Russian Civil War and shipped everything to the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. The rifles that survived the SCW were exported to the U.S. after WWII. This is how a broad assortment of Russian WWI issue foreign arms ended up in the U.S.

The Cyrillic markings on the M70/87 Vetterli-Vital rifles are always found on the stock. I have found them behind the trigger guard tang, in front of the magazine floor-plate, on either side of the stock below the action and up on the forearm on either side of the middle barrel band or behind the top band. I have never seen a Vetterli marked anywhere on the metal.

By comparison, both the French Mle 74 Gras and the French Mle 78/84 Kropatchek are frequently marked on the receivers and/or the stocks.

Hope this helps!

Warmest regards,

JPS
 
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