Rossi EB79: At their service
PUBLISHED: 17:14 26 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:14 26 July 2017
John Milewski concludes his fascinating examination of the Rossi EB79 with its role as a military trainer
The Rossi EB79 has been used as a military trainer by both the Brazilian Police and Army for almost 40 years. The air rifle is seen as an economic introduction to the basics of gun handling because pellets are cheaper than service ammunition. An air rifle that outwardly resembles the service arm, and weighs the same, builds confidence in recruits. Shooting fundamentals such as aiming and trigger control can be taught with the EB79 at reduced cost when compared with live ammunition and recruits are consequently less nervous when they move on to live firing with the 7.62 IMBEL-produced, Brazilian version of the FN FAL.
The Rossi EB79 is generally referred to as the FAC in Brazil. This stands for Fuzil de Ar Comprimido, which is Portuguese for ‘compressed air rifle’ and an acronym suitably close to FAL, as in FN FAL. Some Brazilian sources claim the rifle is affectionately known as the ‘Chumbinho’, a local name for the airgun pellet, rather like ‘Diabolo’ is in other parts of the world.
The Brazilian armed forces have used the FAC since the rifle was introduced in 1979, and it can still be seen in use today. In the Osprey Weapon Series, The FN FAL Battle Rifle, Bob Cashner explains that whilst Brazil possesses conventional military forces, the country also polices the vast rain forests of the Amazon Basin, which is jungle territory. Brazilian forces are therefore experienced in working in a jungle environment and elements of the British army have trained with them over the years.
Rarely encountered in the UK
Perhaps while on a tour, some British service personnel recognised the EB79 as an SLR lookalike and were presented with a rifle to bring back home. This could explain how limited numbers of these rifles have reached the UK, whilst no Sport Model 82 variants are known to me within the UK. Neither were intended for sale in the UK; the EB79 was for exclusive use of the Brazilian military.
Units such as the 31st Motorized Infantry Battalion have held shoots in commemoration of ‘The Week of the Army’ and images from their website show a company of Marines competing against the Command and Support Company. Around 10 shooters armed with the EB79 can be seen, firing prone and kneeling at paper targets placed around 10 metres away. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain permission to reproduce the images, which can be found on the Brazilian Army website.
Iron man competition
Brazil certainly seems to pay plenty of homage to their forces; another example is the 23rd Battalion of Hunters holding a traditional event known as ‘Soldado de Ferro’. This Iron Man-style competition is intended to promote the combative spirit, said to be common to the Brazilian soldier and seeks to give fair recognition for the daily effort and dedication shared by all those who make up the Brazilian Army in the state of Ceará. Soldiers compete in air-rifle shooting using the EB79 in the standing, unsupported position, a tug-of-war, rowing, and a relay race, whilst armed and equipped. At the end of a recent contest, the team from the 23rd Hunters Battalion were victorious and crowned as champions.
War shooter for one day
Brazil regularly holds an open ‘Soldiers’ Day’, which involves the parents and families of service personnel participating in sporting activities. The event, ‘Shooter for a Day’, intends to show family members some of the military training provided during the period of military service. This introduction consists of precision air rifle shooting with the EB79, alongside the accurate launch of inert grenades.
As well as the army, the Brazilian Military Police also train with the EB79. Their tasks include patrolling the frontier, and personnel are armed with 7.62 FN FALs to provide them with suitable firepower when coming up against well-armed robbers and bandits. Images of the 6th Battalion of Military Police practising with the EB79 can be seen on the website of Correio Do Estado, an on-line newspaper. The newspaper emphasises the need for a powerful service arm in the hands of the Military Police and cites a recent example of an arsenal found in the back of a Bolivian-registered pick-up truck. This haul consisted of five 9mm pistols, a .357 magnum, a 7.62mm rifle and around 1500 rounds of ammunition. Apparently, the two apprehended criminals had tried to assault a transport company and had been part of a gang specialising in armed robbery. They ended up in the Campo Grande maximum security prison.
The EB79 can also be fitted with an FN Type C bayonet, such as those used by Brazil and the Argentinian forces during the Falklands conflict. The tubular handle of the bayonet slides over the dummy flash hider and locks into place solidly. All in all, the EB79 has provided great service to the Brazilian military and remains in use as a trainer. The air rifle is rarely encountered in the UK and is well worth picking up by collectors with an interest in military history and military-styled air rifles.
Sincere thanks to Carla Almeida of the Brazilian Embassy, John Walter, Tim Dyson and Andy Draper for their kind assistance during the production of this article.