Forgotten import: The Swiss/Italian Vetterli rifle
In the 1860s, the Swiss government went looking for a rifle that would replace older percussion muskets and elevate them into the revolution in worldwide military arms ushered in with the U.S. Civil War. What they came up with saw extended service for the next 80 years in one form or another and was one of the most popular hunting arms in the U.S. for generations.
Why was it adopted?
In 1864, the standard Swiss Army rifle was the M1842/59 Milbank-Amsler, a gun that began life as a muzzleloader (M1842) then was modified over the years to a breechloader along the lines of the American Allin Springfield design of the same period. It was functional, but after the advent of rifles such as the Winchester and Spencer repeaters, and the French Chassepot and German Dreyse needleguns (both of whom shared a border with Switzerland), the Swiss needed to up their game if they wanted to remain quietly neutral.
This led to the one Friedrich Vetterli, a well-known firearms designer, joining with the Swiss gun maker Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft Waffen-Department (SIG) to come up with a neat design for its time.
We give you: the Repetiergewehr Vetterli and its Italian cousin, the Vetterli-Vitali