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In the 1870s and 1880s, France experimented with a huge variety of repeating rifle designs, including tube magazines hopper magazines, box magazines, and all sorts of other unique systems (more than 40 different types in total). These experimental rifles appear from time to time, but only a small number of each were ever made. Today we have one I have termed a Gras-Vetterli, although it important to not that it is not the only variation to bear this name. Another rifle type is documented in Jean Huon’s books called a Gras-Vetterli, but without the loading gate in the side. The example we have today uses a Kropatschek style lifter and tube magazine, but with a side loading gate like the King’s patent type used on the Swiss Vetterli rifles. The receiver itself was made new, and is not a repurposed Gras receiver, although the bolt is of the Gras type. It is also marked “Henry”, but the exact extend of involvement by the New Haven Arms or Winchester companies is unknown to me. While some external parts of this rifle have been restored, the mechanical elements have not been, and the loader is frozen in place. A missing element on the right side of the receiver could have been a loading gate cover, magazine cutoff, or magazine capacity indicator. So many unknowns!
Many thanks to the owners of Galerie de Mars in Paris for giving me access to film this rifle from their reference collection.
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At Forgotten Weapons I think the most interesting guns out there are the most obscure ones. I try to search out experimental and prototype weapons and show you how they work, in addition to more conventional guns that you may not have heard of before. You’re much more likely to find a video on the Cei Rigotti or Webley-Fosbery here than an AR or Glock. So, do you want to learn about something new today? Then stick around!