John Milewski goes all Brazilian this month wth a superb Rossi EB79 military training rifle
Brazil is not a country that immediately springs to mind when we think of airgun manufacture, but a very interesting military trainer was available during the 1970s and 80s. ‘Rossi’ is a name that might be familiar to firearm enthusiasts because their lever-action, Winchester-style rifles have enjoyed popularity for some considerable time, particularly in the USA.
The firm of Amadeo Rossi was founded in 1889 and is now owned by Taurus, another Brazilian arms manufacturer. Today, Rossi concentrate on the importation and distribution of foreign-made airguns from around the world, but once made a conventional break-barrel air rifle that they marketed under the ‘Dione’ brand name. In fact, Tim Dyson Air Guns had one on their website at under £100 whilst I was writing this review, but Rossi’s most interesting air rifle was a close copy of the FN FAL assault rifle.
Brazil’s armed forces were armed with the FN FAL, a Belgian design, which was used as a service arm by numerous countries, including Great Britain where it was known as the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle or simply SLR. Rossi made two air rifles based on the FAL: the Sport 82 for the civilian market, and the EB79 for the Brazilian army (Exército Brasileiro, hence the EB designation) – ‘79 and ‘82 were the years of introduction.
Following the end of WW2, much of the world was split between communist and capitalist nations, and with the threat of nuclear war ever-present, smaller-scale proxy wars were fought all around the globe. These were backed by the USSR on one side and the West on the other. The USSR supplied ‘freedom fighters’ and rebels with the ubiquitous AK47, whilst many nations backed by the West used the FN FAL, where is became known as ‘the right arm of the free world’.
The 1982 Falklands conflict saw both the British and Argentine forces using variants of the FN. Brazil also armed their forces with the FN, which brings us back to the subject of this month’s test, the Rossi EB79. Brazilian authorities commissioned a trainer for the FAL and one of these rifles found its way into the collection of Bisley stalwart, Andy Draper, who kindly loaned the rifle to me for testing.
A TRUE LIKENESS
The Rossi is a full-sized clone of the firearm, and the rear half of the rifle could be easily mistaken for an FAL at first glance. The barrel sits higher on the Rossi than the FN, due to the breakbarrel nature of the design, but otherwise it is a very realistic copy. For example, the Rossi has a dummy wooden magazine, carrying handle, pistol grip and backsight, which are all faithful copies. Part of the barrel has a shroud
to add weight, and a flash hider encases the muzzle. This final item imitates the flash hider of the Brazilian FAL, chunkier than those fitted to the British SLR.
The metalwork of the EB79 is not traditionally blued, but has an electro-chemical ‘Parkerized’ finish, common on military rifles such as the US M1 Garand, and even the Hakim air rifle. It is matte-grey on the Rossi, and is intended to protect the finish from wear and rust.
When I first picked up the Rossi, my initial impression was of the rifle being a lot lighter than the 9lb SLR that I recall from the Cadets, and a brief spell in the TA, many moons ago. However, my kitchen scales confirmed the weight at 9¼ lbs, which surprised me because the rifle balanced so well that it felt a lot lighter; and at 42¾” long, the rifle was indeed a full-sized copy of the FN. The rifle has a neutral balance, which makes it way easier to handle than the Diana K98K clone, for example, which has so much weight up front that it can be difficult to shoot for extended periods. There were no such issues with the Rossi, and shooting sessions were a pleasure that lasted all too briefly, especially as I knew at the back of my mind that I only had the rifle on loan for testing. That in itself is a sign of a great design.
The Rossi cocks like any other conventional break-barrel air rifle and has a very smooth cocking stroke. The barrel pivot has a screw thread, and can be tightened up if play is detected between the breech block and cocking jaws of the rifle. The Rossi felt like it had been tuned and over the chrono’, I recorded an average 543 FPS with .177 Superdomes. Consistency was excellent too, with a variation of just 7 FPS over a 10-shot string. I did try other pellets, but the Superdomes provided the best accuracy and consistency.
NEXT MONTH …
I’ll continue the story of this remarkable military trainer next month with a little more practical testing, and I’ll also take a look at the Rossi Sport 82, which was a ‘civilian’ version of the EB79. Strange as it seems, I know of a handful of EB79 air rifles in the UK, but not a single Sport 82, although the latter was made in several variants, as we shall see next month.
Below: Barrel markings. Below: Despite its looks, the Rossi EB79 has a conventional break-barrel action. Below: The peep sight is ramp-adjustable for elevation and can be moved laterally too.
Left: The guarded FN FAL-style foresight matches the peep sight extremely well.
Above: The Rossi EB79: (Exército Brasileiro or Brazilian Army 1979 Model).
Shooting the Rossi was a true pleasure.
Below: The wooden dummy mag’ and carrying handle add realism.
Right: The Rossi butt pad is a nice touch.