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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Back in July of 2021, I was contacted by FfNJGTFO.

He had inherited a few guns from his Uncle a few years before and wanted to know if I was interested in two of the old rifles that he didn't want.

Me being me, I immediately said yes.

Near the end of July, he stopped by my house to drop them off.

There were two rifles:

M1868 Trapdoor Springfield (Made in 1880), chambered in 50-70
M78 Swiss Vetterli Rifle. made sometime around 1885, chambered in 10.4x38R Rimfire

Both of the rifles were not in the greatest of shape and were very rusty.

The day I got them, Trapdoor on the left, Vetterli on the right.
Wood Hardwood Font Lumber Flooring

After taking both of them apart and assessing, I determined that the Vetterli could be restored and even made to function.

The Trapdoor Springfield was unfortunately too far gone to restore to shooting condition.

The rest of these posts will be focusing on the restoration of the Vetterli.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Part 2 History:

The Vetterli rifles were a series of Swiss army service rifles in use from 1869 to 1889, when they were replaced with Schmidt–Rubin rifles.

The Swiss Vetterli rifles combined the American Winchester Model 1866's tubular magazine with a regular bolt featuring for the first time two opposed rear locking lugs. This novel type of bolt was a major improvement over the simpler Dreyse and Chassepot bolt actions. The Vetterli was also the first repeating bolt-action rifle to feature a self-cocking action and a small caliber bore.

On December 20, 1866 the Swiss committed themselves to adopting a repeating rifle to arm their armed forces. At the time no suitable design existed. The task of designing the rifle was left to designer Friedrich Vetterli, who had joined the Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft Waffen-Department (SIG) in 1864. Vetterli already been involved in weapon design with the Germans, French, and British, and was strongly influenced by American rifle designs, most notably the Henry Repeating rifle. By 1866, Vetterli had already come up with a single shot, bolt operated rifle. The action was a modified Terry action, designed in England in the early 1850s. 1867 saw the wedding of the bolt action concept to the tube magazine, and 1868 resulted in a spring operated bolt. On February 27, 1868 the Swiss government placed an order for 80,000 Vetterli rifles.

This design represented a significant advance in European Military Technology. Up to this point, the Swiss had been using Milbank-Amsler Rifles, single-shot muzzleloaders, which had been converted to fire rimfire cartridges (for more information about Milbank-Amsler rifles, click here and here.) The Vetterli Rifles were capable of holding up to 13 rounds, and a rate of fire of 21 rounds per minute.

This amount of firepower significantly outstripped that of any rifle in regular Military Service of the day. The Vetterli was chambered to fire the 10.4x38 Rimfire round. Although a rimfire round, it shot further and flatter than most of it's contemporaries. The Vetterli striker has a forked firing pin which passes through two firing pins holes in the bolt face for a double strike on the rimfire cartridge, improving the likelihood of ignition.

Vetterli Bolt Face showing the two striker fins for the rimfire ammo
Liquid Fluid Water Gas Jewellery

As one of the few rimfire cartridges to see military service, the 313 grain bullet and 1,400 fps muzzle velocity was respectable compared to its contemporaries. The most popular arms chambered for this round were the Vetterli series of rifles. This type of round was also used in the 1867 Peabody. Adopted in 1869 along with the Vetterli turn-bolt rifle, it was discontinued, along with the rifle, in 1889. With a 334 gr (21.6 g; 0.76 oz) bullet, it is adequate for deer, and only at short range.

The original round's case was made from copper which held a round nosed lead bullet. In 1871 and 1878, the paper patch was improved, but ballistic performance was only marginally improved.

The round continued to be commercially available in the U.S. until sometime after 1946 with 310gr bullets loaded by Winchester (K4154R) and 300gr lead bullets loaded by Remington (R326)

Original Swiss Military Box of Ammunition
Rectangle Font Signage Gas Metal

10.4x38R Rimfire Rounds Rim View
Font Close-up Ingredient Metal Circle

10.4x38R Rimfire Rounds Side View
Brown Wood Material property Ammunition Metal

US Commercial Ammunition
Rectangle Red Material property Tin Box


While the Swiss never used the Vetterli in any armed conflict, it is interesting to note the closest they ever came to combat was in Finland. According to Markku Palokangas, author of the book Military Small Arms in Finland 1918-1988:

Finnish supporters of active resistance against Czarist Russian oppression started planning an armed uprising and in 1904 contacted revolutionaries in St. Petersburg. It was agreed that weapons would be acquired in Central Europe and were to be smuggled partly to the St. Petersburg area, partly to Finland.

Colonel Akashi, Japanese Military Attaché in Stockholm, became financier of the operation. In this way Japan intended to cause confusion in Russia with who she was at war at the time.

With funds received from Col. Akashi the Finn leading the project, Konni Zilliacus, bought from Paris and Hamburg over 15,000 Vetterli rifles {ed. note - they were Model 1869/71s} with ammunition, discarded by the Swiss Army. Also an old cargo vessel, the S/S John Grafton, was acquired for transporting the rifles.

The operation was carried out in August-September 1905. When no one from St. Petersburg arrived at the agreed meeting point at sea the whole cargo was shipped to Finland. Only part of the rifles had been unloaded when the ship ran aground. In fear of being discovered the ship and the remaining cargo were blown up and sunk.

Nevertheless the Russian gendarmes learned of the operation. Rifles from the ship were recovered by divers and those stored ashore were confiscated.

After the unfortunate smuggling effort Vetterli rifles were known in Finland as Graftons, after the sunken ship. During the following years a further small number of Vetterli rifles were acquired and smuggled to Finland.

The Vetterlis featured in the secret preparations for the Finnish uprising but when the War of Independence started in the winter of 1918 the rifles were considered hopelessly outdated and lacked ammunition.

Nevertheless, more Vetterli rifles were obtained during the war when Russian arms depots were captured and rifles confiscated 12 years earlier were found.

The Finnish Defense Forces never adopted the Vetterli rifle as a standard service weapon but there was a small number stored in arms depots until the 1950’s."
The Italians adopted the Vetterli in 1870 as a single shot. A box magazine was later added, and in the early 1900s, many Italian Vetterlis were converted to fire the 6.5 Carcano round. Some of these converted rifles did see service in World War I.

It is significant note that while the rifle was the most advanced of it's type when adopted, it was likewise the most obsolete when finally replaced. The eventual replacement of the Vetterli, the Schmidt-Rubin series, continued the tradition, of high quality, shooters rifles, started by the Vetterli series.

Specific Rifle Data for the rifle in this post

Models 1878/81
Barrel Length: 33.5 inches
Overall Length: 52 inches
Weight: 10.19 lbs empty
Chambering: 10.4x38 (.41) Swiss Rimfire
Rifling: 4 groove, RH twist, 1 in 26"
Velocity: 1425 fps
Capacity: 13 (12 round tube magazine +1 in the cartridge elevator)
Total Production: 37,010 Model 1878/81s
Manufacture Dates: 1882-1889 Eidgenössische Waffenfabrik, Bern

This model was equipped with an improved rear sight. Also, various steel components replaced iron components, and the 1881 continued to see improvements in metal finishing. Otherwise, it was largely identical to the 1878 Rifle. Curiously enough, even after the updates were made, the Swiss continued to mark these rifles with the M.78 stamp on the left side of the receiver. It wasn't until around 1887, that the the M.81 mark replaced the M.78 stamp. M.78 marked rifles are referred to as Model 1878/81 Rifles.

The key difference between the M78 and the M78/81 was an improved rear sight with graduations up to 1600 meters
M78 Sight
Building Wood Brick Rectangle Building material

M78/81 Sight
Automotive lighting Wood Vehicle Automotive exterior Metal

The M78 and the M78/81 were also the first Swiss rifles to use a blade/sword type bayonet as opposed to a socket bayonet

M78 Bayonet
Rectangle Office ruler Tool Font Metal

Next Post: Stock and Rust..

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Part 3: Stock Work

As received, the stock was in pretty rough shape. The wood was completely black, and had what appeared to be grey paint splashed on it.

Surprisingly, the rifle came apart fairly easily. Once the rife was apart, the rusty pieces were soaked in Evaporust, and the stocks were soaked in acetone.

After soaking for a few weeks, the wood came out like this:

Hat Wood Musical instrument Headgear Household supply

Swiss Proof marks on the buttstock and handguard
Hand Tire Wood Finger Wood stain

Wood Flooring Floor Rectangle Hardwood

The wood got a once-over with 400 grit sandpaper to knock off any splinters from the edges and to smooth the wood out.

The wood was allowed to dry out completely, and then got a few coats of raw linseed oil thinned with turpentine, and then with a mixture of beeswax, turpentine, and raw linseed oil and allowed to cure.

Every few months, the wood would get a new coat of the wax mixture and the stocks were buffed.

Wood Wood stain Bumper Hardwood Varnish

Next Post: Metal Work.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Part 4: Metal Work:

After Pulling all of the rested parts out of the evaporust, it was time to start polishing.

Out came the dremel with the wire brushes and the sandpaper.

Removing rust from the receiver:
Automotive tire Wood Bumper Automotive exterior Gas

Roll stamp and serial before polishing
Wood Gas Font Metal Cylinder

Trigger Guard after polishing:
Wood Flooring Gas Sledgehammer Nail

Rear sight Base:
Hand Finger Nail Thumb Wood

Rear sight tangent
Hand Wood Gesture Finger Tool

Wood Finger Thumb Nail Toy airplane

Once everything got polished, it was time to reblue the parts

Trigger guard and nose cap In the rusting/Heating cycle
Food Recipe Ingredient Home appliance Pork

After rusting and boiling the parts a few times, they were heated to 300 degrees and then dipped in oil to rest for 24 hours.

Pulled them from the oil and cleaned them up the next day
All smaller components blued.
Font Wood Tool Eyewear Metal

Next Post: Receiver:

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Part 5: Barreled Receiver:

Bigger pieces take a little more effort to blue. Maintaining heat is done with a propane torch, and the water is boiled on the stove and the boiling water is poured into a pipe holding the parts.

The PVC pipe that hold the boiling water. The insulating properties of the PVC keep the water surprisingly hot for quite some time.
Hood Automotive tire Wood Asphalt Road surface

Work platform set up, yo can see the blowtorch and rust bluing liquid, as well as the receiver, cleaning rod, and a Japanese Type 30 bayonet I was bluing for a friend....
Wood Flooring Floor Wood stain Plank

The parts are heated with the torch until the temperature is around 250 degrees., then a light coat of the rust bluing solution is applied.

Receiver after a few passes of heating and applying bluing solution
Tire Wood Automotive tire Tread Wheel

Then it was time to boil My pipe isn't long enough to Hold the whole rifle so I have to do it in parts.

Receiver side down:

Drinking straw Ingredient Wood Non-alcoholic beverage Drink

Receiver side up
Car Photograph Vehicle Hood Light

After a few cycles of bluing and boiling, the parts were done. Since I don't have a large enough container to immerse a part this large completely in oil, I heat the metal again with a torch and apply a mix of Vaseline and motor oil and allow it to cool, which builds up a layer of grease/oil over the metal while the bluing cures.

After oiling
Wood Handwriting Road surface Floor Flooring

Close up of receiver.
Wood Air gun Gun barrel Trigger Hardwood

Next Post: Conversion.......
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Part 6: Conversion

The rifle was cleaning up well, but it was still a rimfire, and ammo has not been made for it since 1946. Doing some digging online, there is a lot of information out there on converting these to centerfires.

Since I like guns I can actually shoot, I decided that it was worth a shot.

Got with a friend of mine that was kind enough to give me use of his lathe.

Note: This work was done prior to polishing and bluing.

Bolt body chucked up, drilling firing pin hole
Yellow Amber Casting Gas Metalworking

Modifying one of the rimfire strikers to take a RCBS Primer Decapping pin
Finger Water Thumb Wood Human leg

Striker modified and decapping pin installed. The two striker arms were ground down slightly
Font Metal Publication Soil Rectangle

Fitting the striker with new pin into the bolt
Wood Bumper Tints and shades Automotive exterior Metal

Reassembling the bolt as a test
Tool Gas Office supplies Auto part Wood

Checking pin protrusion:
Wood Electric blue Auto part Metal Engineering

Next Post: Assembly
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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Part 7: Assembly

Once everything was blued and polished, it was time to put everything together

Bolt Components:
Household hardware Wood Gas Tool Hand tool

Wood Air gun Tool Metal Blade

Cartridge Lifter
Wood Grey Flooring Font Shadow

Hood Grey Art Font Tints and shades

Rear sight components:
Font Wood Auto part Automotive tire Fastener

The hole in the buttstock holds a spare rimfire striker, so the spare was put back where it belongs. Apparently these had a habit of breaking, it is literally the ONLY part on the gun that does NOT have a serial number on it.
Wood Bumper Finger Wood stain Hardwood

Replacing the butt cap
Wood Table Durango boot Hand tool Hardwood

Next Post: Finished
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Part 8: Finished

All done!

Wood Textile Eyewear Flooring Floor

Air gun Trigger Gun barrel Gas Gun accessory

Wood Line Gas Office supplies Road surface

Wood Writing implement Floor Flooring Musical instrument

Trigger Air gun Bumper Wood Automotive exterior

Wood Tints and shades Kitchen utensil Hardwood Metal

Next Post: Ammo....
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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Part 9: Making Ammo.

Lee Precision actually makes dies for the Swiss Vetterli, they call it the 41 Swiss, so I found a place that had one is stock and got it ordered.

The same site that gave the the information for how to convert the bolt to centerfire also had suggestions for forming brass.

One suggestion was using 348 Winchester brass, which is do not have
The other suggestion was using the 8mm Lebel brass.

I have lots of 8mm Lebel brass....

Note that 10.4mm is 0.409", so the designation 41 Swiss makes sense, however, the groove depth is 0.430.

This process took a bit of trial and error. The neck diameter of the 8mm Lebel brass is 0.3275", so it will need a large amount of stretching to get to 0.430"

In the end, I had to take the neck sizing portion out of a 9mm die, a 10mm die, and a 41 caliber die and run the brass through the 41 Swiss sizing die 4 times.

8mm Lebel case, and 3 iterations of resizing.

Table salt Drinkware Tableware Serveware Seasoning

Once the brass was sized, it was cut to length, and the case mouth deburred and chamfered.
Table Wood Gas Tableware Serveware

I did not have bullets in the correct weight range (330 grain), but I did have 240 grain case lead bullets, so I gave them a try. They are shorter than the standard cartridge, so I can only single load, but it should be adequate for testing.

Tin Drinkware Tableware Tin can Serveware

Searching for load data, since these were originally black powder rifles, it was suggested that the cases be loaded with black powder, which I do not have and do not want, or loaded with Trail Boss, which is a smokeless powder that has pressure values similar to black powder. It is also a high volume powder, so a little will fill the case.

I loaded the brass with 12 grains of Trail Boss and took my gun and ammo to the range.

Given the size, it is a very mild shooter..

Accuracy is perfectly acceptable given I am using the wrong sized bullets....

White Blue Azure Yellow Rectangle

I was able to locate some appropriate sized bullets. When I get home, I will have to load them up and see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
WOW! Number of hours put into this?
I travel for my job a lot, I am actually in TN as I type this, so it is hard to judge actual time since I squeeze this stuff in on weekends and time off.

All together?, about 150 hours of actually working on it. Not counting the time that the wood soaked, etc.

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
And, once restored, they are yours to keep or sell as you please. I am confident they will go to a worthy home... be it your home or someone else;s..

I don't sell guns.😊
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