Air­gun His­tory

John Milewski goes all Brazil­ian this month wth a su­perb Rossi EB79 mil­i­tary train­ing ri­fle

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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.

RIGHT ARM

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.

HAN­DLING

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.

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