# Centaure – the True 2nd Generation Colt Army?
# Centaure 1960 = 2nd Generation Colt Army 1860?
# The Puzzle of the “Name” of the Belgians
# Range Reports
# Odd Centaures
Centaure – the True 2nd Generation Colt Army? A considered personal comment is probably in order here: “Are the Centaures Armies re-issues or replicas?” There is no doubt about this licensing agreement from 1853 between Sam Colt and the Liège Trade Consortium of which the Hanquets were a valued member. At the same time there exists no indication that Colt’s or the Belgians ever terminated or cancelled this contract. But it is a historical fact that no 1860 Army-type C&B revolver was ever produced outside the Hartford factory…until 1959 at Rue Treppé Nr. 22, Liège, Belgium. Years before Uberti turned out their replica 1963 and before Colt began marketing their 2nd generations between 1978 and 1982.
Some Centaure enthusiasts are pushing this even further by presenting convincing arguments that the Belgians are the real 2nd generation Colt Armies with more DNA of the 1st generation than the ones finished under the Blue Dome in Hartford but with firm roots of production in Gardone, Italy.
However, as the guru says the market is always right, consider this: prices for Centennial Armies at auctions on both sides of the Atlantic have increased significantly since early 2008. Even run down specimens of the more common 1st or 3rd variation RNMAs or 1st variation Marshals demand premium prices today nobody even thought possible during the 1990s and the early 21st century. They are now achieving prices comparable to 2nd gen. Colt Armies and we are not talking about rare Civilians, stocked Cavalry Models or small scale production variations of the RNMA here…Pards & pardettes, the conclusions are all yours.
Centaure 1960 = 2nd generation Colt Army 1860? With some regularity we are stumbling over threads in gun forums suggesting that Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège manufactured and/or Centaure pistols actually are the 2nd and even the 3rd generation Colt Armies.
Fact is that William B. Edwards and Sigmund Shore had noted gunsmith and restoration expert Thomas Haas “colterized” a few Regular New Model Armies, Civilian and Cavalry Models during the early 1960s into Civil War period Armies with proper markings, some even with period engraving, see MOTHERLOAD page for details. These Centaures were for their private collection only, however. Therefore, to make a long story short: Colt commenced “making” their 2nd generation Armies from 1977 into the early 1990s (whereas production of the 3rd generation Armies aka Signature Series lasted from 1994 to 2002). But as we know FAUL had discontinued their Centaure production already 1973...and never tooled up again thereafter!
The Puzzle of the “Name” of the Belgians in Europe and the USA: the generally used name for the pistol was and still is Centennial Army in the USA but Centaure in Europe. Why the different terms used? What might have been the rational or emotional rather for this development?
No matter in which geographical area these pistols were sold, all Belgians (except Marshals and factory engraved pistols) had the top of their barrels roll engraved with the line
“1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” (1960NMA). Pistols marked
“1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK CHIGAGO U.S.A (1960NAM CTM CU) on top of the barrel found in the USA and New Zealand are known from 1963 only. Later during that same year the first pistols marked
CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” (CTM 1960NMA) were reported.
Only from 1965 the barrel marking
“1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK (1960NMA CTM) has been confirmed. FAUL marked the barrels 1960NMA, CTM 1960NMA and 1960NMA CTM alternately until the end of production in 1973. For details check the survey.
# Facts regarding the Centaure pistols sold in the USA: during the 1960s Centennial Arms Corporation, Chicago (CACC) was the main dealer for these Belgian Armies in the USA while their import was handled by sister company Mars Equipment Corp., Chicago. Both were subsidiaries of Shore Galleries, Inc with their HQ in Lincolnwood, IL, USA. Until 1963 all Centaures had the barrel marking “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”. CACC ran intense advertising campaigns for the Centaures which was the only 1860 Army type game in town until 1963. Once CACC felt the Centaure was firmly established in the US market as THE New Model Army they shifted their marketing focus some and had FAUL add the marking CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK before or after the “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” on top of the barrel from 1963 as explained above. Their objective now was to create customer awareness for Centennial Arms Corp. as the premier replica dealer … which was accomplished a little later. CACC never highlighted the involvement of Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège in their communication platform.
Later during the 1960s and 1970s Italian made C&B replica revolvers like Navies, Pockets and Dragoons were sold through Centennial Arms Corp as well. Many of these Italians were marked CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK or CENTENNIAL ARMS, CHICAGO ILL. on the top or the side of their barrels.
After discussions with a number of first and current owners of Belgians in the USA here are my conclusions: most US shooters perceived CACC as the manufacturer of the Centaures and still do so today. They linked Centennial and (Belgian made) Army and the name stuck! In addition, the Centaures were launched in the US market 1960, intentionally 100 years AFTER the introduction of the Colt M 1860 Army. Again CACC used that fact in their promotions…which is another rationalization for (the) Centennial (of the) Army (model)! On the other hand the name Centennial Army has nothing to do with the Centennial of the Civil War 1961-1965. Replica C&B revolvers other than the Centaure were manufactured by FAUL but never made it beyond prototype stage.
# The European Theatre: first sketchy Centaure sales in Europe are reported from 1963 only, i. e. 4 years after the USA. CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” was the barrel marking of pistols from that period. In the various European countries FAUL had to deal with many different importers and dealers. Contrary to the situation in the USA in Europe FAUL themselves got actively involved in the promotions of their guns by providing advertising support like catalogs and flyers to their business partners. This promotion literature was customized by their respective dealers by adding their individual address. Interestingly the European shooters did not care how the factory or the dealers termed the pistols or different models. Once the market took note of these Belgian Armies, shooters and gun journals referred to them as Centaures because of the corporate centaur logo on the left side of the frame. That name stuck on the Eastern side of the big pond until today.
Range Reports: I would like to see more range reports comparing performance and handling characteristics of the Centaures to their Italian repro cousins or 2nd and 3rd generation Colt brothers. A suitable platform for such reports is our forum.
Odd Centaures: #1 During Summer 2008 I had a conversation with a German Colt collector, CAS shooter and proud owner of 2 Centaures. He told me about his visit to Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège in the late 1960s. He remembered handling there a newly made C&B revolver in .36 cal. with creeping loading lever. It looked like a Colt M 1861 Navy.
Could FAUL have been working on such a pistol to extend the line of percussion revolvers? Is the prototype of a Centaure Navy re-issue out there somewhere? From a production point of view it is not a far step from the Army to the Navy. Being prepared for the unexpected I will not be surprised if a “1961 NEW MODEL NAVY” surfaces at an auction, in the classified section of one of the cowboy forums or gun journals one of these days.
FAUL prototype of Leech & Rigdon CS Navy
BELGIUM on butt
#2 I was privileged to inspect and photograph Centaures and FAUL memorabilia of the magnificent Shore Collection in Lincolnwood during February 2010. Above pistol stuck out from the rest because it did not look like a New Model Army: this is a FAUL made, neither serial numbered nor proof tested or otherwise marked prototype of a round barrel Leech & Rigdon CS Navy marked BELGIUM on the butt. It further featured an Ormsby type naval engagement scene roll-engraved on the cylinder (not PC), 2 grip panels (not PC either).
#3 “read and learn” says the wise man. I like to thumb through old catalogs and check the pictures. Early September 2009 RPRCA let my have right Centennial Arms Corp. ad from Guns Magazine 1962. The pistol with the detachable shoulder stock on the left is an early fluted Cavalry Model no question about it. Then there are 5 Centaures in a row plus a single shoulder stock:
1. Civilian Model,
2. RNMA 1st variation: with the rebated, plain cylinder,
3.…and then what: 7,5” barrel, 4 screw frame like the early Cavalry Model but rebated cylinder with navy scene? Subtitle says: Another version of the Regular NMA .44, this is like a transitional Colt 1860, few found with 7 1/2” barrel and round cylinder navy scene. Never heard about this one before!
4. Cavalry Model 1st variation sans stock (ha, they could be had without…), finally the very rare but
5. infamous Pocket Army easy identified by the short 4” barrel sans loading lever assembly.
The Belgian shoulder stock (left close-up of above ad) could be fixed to your Cavalry pistol or the RNMA. A couple of aspects are worth mentioning here:
# Centennial Arms Corp. calls the Cavalry pistol their “1st Model Centennial” in this 1962 ad. This confirms our findings that the Cavalry Model was first launched 1961 in the USA, during the year of the centennial of the Civil war.
But which Centaure variant is their “2nd Model Centennial”?
# you could buy these early Cavalry Models with and without stock.
# this stock would work for the RNMA (with some fitting?) as well, no 4th or guiding screws needed?! That is new information directly from the horses mouth.
# In February 2010 I had the opportunity for a close inspection and disassembly of one of these extra shoulder stocks in Lincolnwood. It was stamped MADE IN BELGIUM on the left side of the yoke but no serial number was present, not on the yoke nor on the top of the butt plate!
The more important issue here, of course, is above pistol #3 marked red (left close-up). Is this an unknown variation of the early Cavalry model with rebated cylinder? I hope to be privileged one day to study a life specimen.
Until this ad was brought to my attention I was led to believe that early Cavalry models were only available with fluted cylinders AND they were the only 7,5” barrel C&B revolvers ever issued by Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège.
And this is not yet the end of the story: did some double checking of old information in the data bank Sept. 15, 2009…and rediscovered an inquiry regarding Cavalry Model #F620 with rebated cylinder from earlier that year. Check over at the Models & variations on the 2nd or Cavalry Model.
#4 During January 2012 FROCS #111 L&N Guy from Kentucky told me that he owns a Centaure he purchased during a visit to Belgium directly from Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège. At that time during the early 1960s he was US Air Force stationed in the United Kingdom. In 1962 he visited FAUL for the first time because he started early collecting guns. Among other things he took a couple of pictures at that visit.
Two of his pictures show the three different model Colt Dragoons still in the white (above). He comments “As I never saw any out for sale, I just assumed that they were prototypes.”
Everything seems to fall into place sooner or later. Do you remember this 1961 ad below from Centennial Arms Corp. featuring Dragoons and a Walker? Was this Centennial Arms’s first signal to the market that they were about to market replicas of early Colt horse pistols, manufactured by the maker of the Centaure?
But were these revolvers actually made in FAUL’s pattern room? If yes did FAUL ever got beyond prototype stage with their Dragoon and Walker production? Or were these Dragoons that L & N Guy photographed 1962 assembled at FAUL’s from rough parts supplied by Italian Armi san Marco, and were “FAULerized”, like Colt did with the Uberti parts for their making of the 2nd generation percussion revolvers?
And if FAUL’s calculation of the final pistols finally showed they were too expensive in the making as Mitch Shore 2010 was indicating … what happened to these prototypes and possible trial production guns?
What do you think? Any suggestions. Share it with the pards & pardettes over in the forum.
And now you know the rest of the story … or don’t you?
WDN/July 31, 2012
© 2007-12 Wolf D. Niederastroth