Adopted by Italy in 1870 it is one of the earlier bolt action rifles. It bears some resemblance to the Swiss version though it is a centerfire version as opposed to the Swiss which was a rimfire. Originally it was a single shot as the prevailing thought among military authorities of the day was that repeating weapons wasted ammo. Later on however it was fitted with a magazine and called the Vetterli-Vitally. The Dutch Beaumont also adopted the Vitally system in later years of manufacture. The cartridge is a 41 caliber and is one of the smaller military cartridges of its day. It is 47 mm long while most of its contemporaries were from 55 to over 60mm in length.
Also most of the others shot bullets larger in diameter and heavier. However it did stick around for 20 years as the primary service cartridge until the 6.5 Carcano came out in 1891. As a note many of the Vetterlies were rebarreled to the 6.5 from 1914 to 1918. They were meant as a stopgap measure and the work was crudely done. If you have one have it thoroughly checked out prior to shooting and if you do shoot it use reduced loads. There were a number of them sold to the Irish around the same time and it gave good service to them. Like many of those rifles they saw service for many years after it was officially discontinued. They were given to home guard and second line troops. Some of the colonies also received them for their military use. 303 British ammo
If you want to shoot one there are a couple of challenges that you will encounter. There is no commercial ammo available anywhere so you have to make your own or obtain it from a custom loader. The brass can be made from 348 cases and a 41 caliber bullet will work ok. The rifle is well made and safe to shoot as long as it is in good shape and the ammo is properly loaded. They used a high velocity smokeless load at the end of production. It was a 246 grain bullet at 2000 feet per second while the military black powder load propelled a 313 grain out at about 1300 feet per second. My rifle has gas vents in the receiver in case of a rupture which was common in those days with the inferior quality of the brass. It also has a safety of sorts which not all rifles had. The finish and workmanship on the Vetterlies that I have seen is superior for a military weapon.
Due to the size and weight of the rifle the recoil is very mild. The accuracy is OK but with the gawd-awful sights inflicted on the rifle it’s a wonder that you can hit anything. My favorite bullet is a 300 grain cast with a gas check that is made for the 405 Winchester. With velocities in the 1500 feet per second range it is both pleasant and safe to shoot. You can use most 41 magnum bullets and get satisfactory results. I have shot it a couple hundred times and haven’t had any malfunctions of any kind. Like shooting any of the obsolete weapons I shoot I do it for the enjoyment of shooting history.
The extractors and ejector are sturdy and reliable as is the bolt and firing pin. I suspect that in the period when it was the military gun of Italy most if not all the malfunctions was due to the ammo rather then the gun. After metallic cartridges were put into general use it took them some years to prefect the case as it is today. Some countries started with brass foil cases or cases made out of soft copper or some other alloy. Some even used cardboard cases with iron or brass heads similar to the paper shotgun shells. While they were usable they had shortcomings especially in the durability area. By the mid to late 1870’s most countries were able to make a fairly decent brass case enhancing the reliability of their weapons.