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GUNS Magazine July 2011 Digital Edition - Page 36
HOLT BODINSON Like a lever-action Winchester, the Vetterli tubular magazine is loaded through a port in the receiver. This bolt-action repeater was full of “firsts” in military small arms. f you’ve enjoyed your Swiss M1911 and M1931 SchmidtI Rubin, wait until you handle a Swiss Vetterli in 10.4x38R, otherwise known as the .41 Swiss. designed by Professor friedrich Vetterli at the SIG factory in Neuhausen and adopted by the Swiss army in 1869, the Vetterli was the first self-cocking, small-bore, bolt-action repeating rifle ever adopted for general issue by any country. Beautifully machined and finished. The Vetterli incorporated, in concept, the side loading port, tubular magazine and cartridge lifter of the Winchester Model 1866: the turning bolt of the dreyse needle gun with the locking lugs of the Greene/Chassepot. The Vetterli soldiered on until 1890 when it was officially replaced by the Model 1889 Schmidt-Rubin. Imported into the United States by the thousands in the early 1900s and sold to the public by mass retailers like Sears-Roebuck and surplus dealers like Francis Bannerman; the Swiss Vetterli was popular enough as a sporting arm that UMC/Remington/ Peters loaded the .41 Swiss rimfire cartridge right up until WWII. I became acquainted with the .41 Swiss rimfire cartridge long before I ever laid eyes on a Vetterli. The first incident occurred in the 1950s when my grandfather closed out a hardware store in Nebraska. In the box of loot I received from the deal were several The Vetterli bolt features two massive locking lugs at the rear of the bolt. thE SWISS vEttErLI The rear leaf of the M1881 sight can be pulled out to increase the sighting range to a whopping—if overly optimistic—1,600m. loose .41 Swiss cartridges. The heads were stamped with the Swiss cross and the lead bullets were paper patched. The second incident occurred a year or two later in Wyoming, when I was walking across a corral and glimpsed an old, corroded case in the dirt. Picking it up, I knew immediately what it was. It was a fired .41 Swiss case. At one time in this country, there were more than a few surplus Vetterlis being carried afield. The 10.4x38R rimfire cartridge preceded the Vetterli. In 1867, the Swiss converted their 10.4mm muzzleloading Model 1851 and 1863 Federal rifles into a rimfire trapdoor, calling it the Model 1867 Milbank-Amsler. The cartridge, the 10.4x38R, designed for the MilbankAmsler conversion maintained the 10.4mm bore size of the Federal rifle. The roundnose, lead bullet of the original load weighed 313 grains and was .425" in diameter. The black powder charge was 56 grains and the velocity was approximately 1,427 fps. In 1888, black powder was replaced by smokeless, and the hardened lead bullet was paper patched. When the Vetterli was adopted in 1869, it just made good sense to When introduced, the Swiss rifleman had a rifle with a capacity of 12+1 rounds of 10.4mm ammo. The round featured a 313-grain lead bullet at 1,427 fps, which was good power for 1869 and not bad today. 36 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2011