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Dr. Jim L. Davis of RPRCA in front of a stocked Centaure Cavalry Model exhibit at the J. M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore, OK

The Italian Half Brothers of the Centaures in the USA

# Centennial Arms Corporation’s Other Percussion Revolvers

# Research of Replica Percussion Revolver Collector’s Association

# Colt 1851 Navy Pattern Pistols – Steel Frame

# Colt 1851 Navy Pattern Pistols – Brass Frame

# Revolver Kits

# Conclusions

# Another Perspective

# Contact Dr. Davis

# A Personal Note

 

Centennial Arms Corporation’s Other Percussion Revolvers: This page is to honor the fundamental studies of Dr. Jim L. Davis on the replica percussion revolvers and will hopefully add new facets on the history of the Centaure.

Our pards & pardettes on the west side of the Atlantic are regularly reporting Centennial Arms Corp. marked percussion revolvers of patterns other than our favourite Centaure New Model Army. By now we know for sure that these pistols were not manufactured by Fabriques d’Arms Unies de Liège, the maker of our Centaures, but by a number of Italian replica makers. Hence they are marked MADE IN ITALY.

Centennial Arms Corp. flyer 1961: note brass framed Navy MADE IN ITALY lower left corner

The time was not right earlier to address this subject because no Italian C&B revolvers marked “CENTENNIAL” have surfaced in Europe. It is unlikely that they ever will because Centennial Arms did not sell to Europe. But the fact of the matter remains that we would have no Centaures without the vision and determination of William B. Edwards and Sigmund Shore of Centennial Arms Corporation fame. Not in the USA, and certainly not in Europe.

So, it seems prudent to bring these other C&B revolvers of Centennial Arms into some perspective.

Research of Replica Percussion Revolver Collector’s Association: It was the many discussions with our mentor and good friend Dr. Jim L. Davis, aka FROCS #10 Dr. Jim, of above cited RPRCA in Claremore, OK that Panhandle Paden and I finally took a fresh look at the subject at hand, that we eventually saw the light and added this page to the Centaure website. Thanks, Dr. Jim, for kicking our butts so patiently.

However, you will appreciate that this is not going to be an in-depth study like we did on the Centaures. Because these Italian made “CENTENNIAL” marked C&B revolvers are of much greater relevance to the research program of Dr. Davis. We can never profoundly come even close to his important research of the replica percussion revolver story. Therefore, we will cover this subject only as a loose assembly of pictures and sketchy information as it becomes available.

Having said that, please, consider the market that Centennial Arms Corporation, Inc. was facing during the early 1960s. Thanks to the commemorating activities related to the centennial of the US Civil War the market for period replica guns had opened up wide. Awareness and desire to own such guns among the American community of re-enactors, shooters and to a limited extent also collectors was high.

Centennial Arms Corp. catalog 1961: note the addition of 1st, 2nd & 3rd Model Dragoons to the 3 basic Centaure models then marketed, pictured on lower part of ad

However, this situation must not exclusively be attributed to the marketing geniuses of Centennial Arms Corp.’s Messrs. William B. Edwards and Sigmund Shore but also to their then friendly competition of other well-known US replica distributors like Val Forgett’s Navy Arms from Union City, NJ or Turner Kirkland’s Dixie Gun Works of Union City, TN. Additional US distributors like Replica Arms from El Paso, TX smelling the business opportunity of this emerging replica market were soon to jump on the bandwagon of black powder guns as well.

At the same time in Italy further small gunshops mushroomed in the cosy village of Gardone in Val Trampia near Brescia. These shops manufactured additional period percussion revolver models or variants of existing models for the booming US market. At that time Centennial Arms Corp. offered a wide assortment of FAUL made black powder rifles, shotguns and single shot pistols from the Civil War and the American Revolution period. Some are pictured on their above 1961 flyer.

On the other hand they had only one exclusive C&B revolver in their assortment, namely the New Model Army Centaure of Colt 1860 pattern but are already allowing a glimpse of their future product policy in the lower right corner of that flyer. An Italian made Colt Navy 1851 pattern pistol with brass frame.

A couple of months later their revolver program from Belgium was already extended to three models of their Centaure line, namely the Regular New Model Army, the Civilian and the Cavalry Model. And they had also added the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Model Dragoon from an Italian maker, if we are to believe above ad. The caveat here is this: yes, they sold the 3 Centaure Models and more variants of the Belgian Colt Army in the years to come. But at this point we do not know if above Dragoons really existed in numbers for sale. And if they were available for sale we do not know for sure who made them.

According to RPRCA at that time the only maker of replicas of Dragoons, Walkers, Baby Dragoons and Pocket percussion revolvers of Colt pattern was Italian Armi san Marco (ASM). But their US distributor back then was Replica Arms from El Paso. We do not know if Replica Arms had an exclusive deal with ASM and if they had for how many years.

We also do not know if FAUL had made prototypes of these Dragoons like they had done of a Colt Navy pattern Leech & Rigdon for Centennial Arms. So, this could just as well have been pictures of FAUL Dragoon prototypes on that flyer…

Centennial Arms C&B revolver assortment 1975: Italian Navy pattern 1851s with steel & brass frame in 2 barrel lengths, Remington Army & Navy replica, Remington Army with adjustable sights dubbed Remington Target Revolver & the Belgian Centaure right column 2nd from top

During the early 1960s Navy Arms sold the Uberti 1851 Navy with steel & brass frame plus the Remington Army and Navy in various configurations in the USA as their prime offerings. But they were working hard with their Italian partner Aldo Uberti to extending that line, with their version of the Colt Army 1860 replica to be added in April 1963. Kirkland’s Dixie Gun Works focussed on CW and American revolution rifles back then.

To take further advantage of the market’s momentum and their strong market position, to advance to become the major player they eventually were, Centennial Arms’s visionaries Edwards and Shore elected to extend their line of percussion revolvers. They were looking for makers of unique and exclusive percussion revolver models that could not be had from their competitors. But they realized that successful competition required mainstream pistols like the venerable 1851 Navies and/or the Remington family of percussion revolvers. As mentioned before we know that FAUL produced at least one prototype of the CSA Leech & Rigdon revolver for Centennial

Arms which is in the Shore Collection today. This Belgian Navy pattern pistol was never launched for sale to the best of our knowledge. Bearing that in mind we cannot rule out that FAUL made prototypes of other percussion revolver models like Dragoons or Remingtons as well but none have surfaced.

It stands to reason that Centennial Arms charged FAUL during the early 1960s with the task of extending the “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” line. But Williams and Shore eventually looked elsewhere for other Civil War revolver replicas.

We will be looking at percussion revolvers with the “CENTENNIAL” mark as part of their marking. Here is what we got:

 

# Colt 1851 Navy pattern pistols – steel frame

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Armi san Paolo 1851 Navy from the RPRCA collection. Steel frame, cylinder with the correct Ormsby naval engagement scene. The marking on top of the barrel from the breech to the muzzle reads CENTENNIAL ARMS, CHICAGO ILL. Serial number is #33288, MADE IN ITALY and Army san Paolo logo are stamped under the barrel. According to the proof mark the pistol is from 1971.

 

# Colt 1851 Navy Pattern Pistols – Brass Frame

Centennial Arms referred to these pistols as “brass frame Colt 1851 Navy”. This terminology was of their own making and is not historically correct. The correct terminology for brass frame, octagon barrel, plain cylinder percussion revolvers was Schneider & Glassick.

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Investarms Schneider & Glassisk Sheriff model from the RPRCA collection. The marking on the left side of the barrel lug reads CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK in two lines. Serial number is #13643. According to the Italian proof mark XX7 she was made 1971.

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File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Schneider & Glassick Model with regular 7,5” barrel, from the RPRCA Collection. This pistol does not have any manufacturer marks anywhere on the revolver. The marking on top of the barrel from the muzzle to the breech reads CENTENNIAL ARMS, CHICAGO ILL. The proof mark again is XX7, i. e. she is also from 1971.

Software: Microsoft Office

Page 185 of the 1974 Lyman Muzzleloader’s handbook (courtesy RPRCA) lists a number of Centennial Arms revolver kits. Our current research indicates that these kits are from one or more Italian makers but not from FAUL in Belgium.

 

Conclusions: Our beloved Centaure aka “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”, definitely has half brothers running around the US. These Italian pistols made from the 1970s are marked “CENTENNIAL” in one way or the other but NOT MADE IN BELGIUM.

From the pre 1970 period none of the Italian percussion revolvers marketed by Centennial Arms Corp. are available for inspection. Hence we cannot be sure if they were marked “CENTENNIAL” in any way. We should bear in mind, however, that from 1962 Centennial Arms Corp. ordered their Centaures in Belgium with a barrel marking including “CENTENNIAL”, to further establish the company name as a trade mark in the US market. It would probably be a fair to assume that they had their Italian replica suppliers follow suit.

 

# Centennial Arms marketed brass framed & octagon barrel Colt Navy 1851 pattern pistols with 7,5” and 5” barrels MADE IN ITALY from 1961. The manufacturer is currently unknown.

# Centennial Arms advertised Colt Dragoon pattern pistols MADE IN ITALY from 1961. The manufacturer is assumed to be Armi san Marco because that was the only maker of Dragoon type pistols during the 1960s.

# Centennial marked Colt Navy 1851 pattern pistols with 7,5” and 5” barrels MADE IN ITALY are confirmed from the early 1970s. Makers were Armi san Paolo (steel frame) and Investarms (brass frame).

# Centennial marketed steel frame Colt Navy 1851 pattern pistols with 7,5” and 5” barrels, half fluted cylinders and lanyard ring MADE IN ITALY are confirmed from the 1970s. The 7,5” barrel variant was dubbed “Police”, the 5” barrel version “Sheriff”. The manufacturer was Armi san Paolo.

# Centennial marketed Remington Army and Navy pattern pistols incl. the Army Target variant MADE IN ITALY are confirmed from the 1970s. The manufacturer is assumed to be Armi san Paolo.

# Centennial marketed C&B revolver kits during the 1970s of brass and steel frame Navy 1851 pattern, Remington Army pattern, Colt Army 1860 pattern, made by unknown Italian makers.

# No completely finished Italian made Centennial Arms marketed Colt Army of 1860 pattern has been brought to our attention. Based on the evidence it is unlikely that they ever attempted to compete with their own flagship Centaure except in the kits’ department.

 

To add another perspective to this subject please note the recollections of our good pard Leslie Field aka FROCS #75 of June 2011: We have made a diligent search of the Mars/Centennial records at Shore Galleries and very little documentation remains.”

“ As one of the principals involved in Mars/Centennial, my experience at that time leads me to seriously doubt that many of the items ever existed in any quantity.”

“The one replica which I know existed and was sold in some quantity was the Harpers Ferry Flintlock single-shot pistol, which the Belgians considered to be the best thing we ever did.”

If you let Les’s statements sink in and in my humble opinion Italian percussion revolvers marked CENTENNIAL one way our the other seem to be a rare find in the USA but very much so in Europe. Which would make them interesting collector’s pieces in their own right.

 

Contact Dr. Davis: Both Dr. Davis and Wolf and Paden would love to know more about these Italian pistols. Please contact Dr. Davis at the address below or write Wolf or Paden if you have any C&B pistols with the Centennial Arms marking.

Jim L. Davis

P.O. Box 2461

Claremore, OK 74018, USA

Phone +1-918-341-3525

Email address: drjldavis@hotmail.com

 

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Display at the J. M Davis Museum

A Personal Note: I gladly let you know that many of the pictures of Centennial Arms Corp. ads, catalogs and flyers shown on this page and elsewhere on this website were kindly provided by Mr. Jason Schubert.

Mr. Schubert is the curator of the

J. M. Davis Gun Arms & Historical Museum

330 N. J. M. Davis Blvd

Claremore, OK 74017, USA

Phone +1-918-341-5707

www.thegunmuseum.com.

This museum hosts a huge exhibition of over 13,000 firearms. It is a gun student’s dream. You will find almost everything including over 11,000 prized weapons of the original collection of Mr. Davis. From a Chinese hand canon from the 1350s to modern machine guns and concealable defensive handguns. And of course some splendid Centaures like the stocked Cavalry Model featured with Dr. Jim Davis at the top of this page. If you work on a gun research project Mr. Schubert will certainly be glad to help you with the goodies in the museum’s archives and research library.

So, make sure to stop by if you happen to be in the neighbourhood and visit this fine museum and enjoy the displays. You ought to know that Dr. Davis is not related to the J. M. Davis family. But he retired to Claremore because of the museum. It offered great place to do research and just enjoy.

 

WDN/June 12, 2011

© 2007-11 Wolf D. Niederastroth

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