1871 Vetterli Conversion

Converting an old Swiss Vetterli 1871 .41 Swiss to centerfire. Here’s a modern way to conduct the conversion with the help of a 3D printer.

by Kevin Baxter

The 10.4×38 (.41 Swiss) Vetterli is a fascinating firearm of the late 19th century – an early bolt action with a cam actuated loading mechanism that lifts cartridges fed from a tube magazine and a rimfire cartridge that spanned the evolution from black to smokeless powder. It is a not uncommon rifle and even nice specimens are not expensive. Largely, it is probable, because the rifle is a rimfire the ammunition is difficult-to-impossible to find. According to Cartridges of the World, the rounds were produced into the 1940s but evidently not since.

In the due course of events, I inherited a Swiss Vetterli 1871. From my earliest memories seeing it leaning against a wall in my grandfather’s attic the rifle had fascinated me. A good bit of family apocrypha surrounded the rifle, not the least of which being that my grandfather’s friend, from whom he had inherited the rifle, had begun boring out the barrel in preparation to convert it to an available rimfire caliber. This I took at face value for years.

The omniscience of the Internet ultimately gave the old rifle new life. Upon doing a little research I discovered there is a small community of shooters who have converted by a variety of methods the various models of the .41 Swiss Vetterli to shoot centerfire ammunition and that reloading dies were available. This inspired me to consider how to convert my rifle, if it was sound.

Read more in the July 2017 issue.

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