5th Model or Pocket Army

# Period Rational

# 5th Model Pocket Army – Common Characteristics

# 1st Variation - Key Features

# 2nd Variation – Key Features

# 3rd Variation – Key Features

# Serial Numbers

# Pricing

# FAQ

 

 

Period Rational: Many 1860 Armies carried during the Civil War and more often thereafter were modified by their owners or smiths on the frontier with the loading lever removed and barrels cut off to a comfortable length between 2” and 4” to carry as a back-up pistol. Usually the slot in the barrel lug that previously accommodated the loading lever was not plugged. A few of these pistols had dovetailed front sights fitted, others just a blade, a bead or post mounted on the barrel and quite a few no front sight at all. No matter the sights or barrel length of these .44 cal. pocket guns they made impressive & functional Avenging Angel or Natchez Special type revolvers.

Colt Model 1860 Avenging Angel nickel plated from the 1860s

Since April 2008 a Centaure Pocket Army has been haunting me when an US FROCS presented a 1964 Centennial Arms Corp. of Chicago ad mentioning this pistol for the first time. A Centaure snubby with full size frame, grip and .44 cal. 6 shot cylinder was offered as special order gun. It was further explained to be modelled after the rare .36 cal. 5 shot cylinder pocket size frame Colt M 1862 Police in what some call “Trapper” or “Avenging Angel” design. Like this Trapper instead of the integrated loading lever this Belgian came with a separate brass plunger.

 

5th Model

Pocket Army - Common Characteristics

Barrel

4", no integrated loading lever - uses heavy duty loading rod made of brass

Barrel marking

"1960 NEW MODEL ARMY"

Front sight

post

Frame

3-screw

Finish

blue & color case hardened (B/CCH)

Chambers

large

Arbor

1st version

Logo

rampant centaur

Comments

available on special order only in the USA, very rare; No visible serial number

By February 2010 further Centaure ads from the 1960s had surfaced, more information became available. This included the announcement of the Belgian Pocket Army with 4” barrel “on regular or Civilian frame”. Another ad dubbed the Pocket Army Sheriff’s Model.

I suggest, however, to use the name 5th Model or Pocket Army.

Please, don’t get carried away by the prices of below 1961 and 1962 Centennial Arms Corp. ads. My heart is bleeding, too and I am chiming in with you “If I could turn back time” (quote from Cher).

Centennial Arms Corp. ads: 1961 featuring 3” barrel Colt SAA aka Sheriff’s Model (left), 1962 4” barrel Pocket with fluted cylinder (right)

In February 2010 I was privileged to take a close look at the outstanding Shore Collection of early New Model Armies (NMAs) including three of these rare Pocket Armies, pictures below. The 4” barrels are specially made without slots for the loading lever, the barrel-lug is contoured with a drastic, no-nonsense 90° angle from the bore line. That is the way a gunsmith on the frontier would have chosen it back then. It makes for a belly gun with a very distinctive, almost brutal look. This is in contrast to the pocket sized 3rd. gen. Colt Police or the Italian short barrelled Army clones without loading lever pictured further down. These replicas were launched decades after the Centaure made it to the range.

Centaure Pocket Army: no visible serial numbers (left), note post front sight & fluted cylinder (right)

The $$$$ question: Why introduced Centennial Arms Corporation the Pocket Army during the early 1960s at all?

How about this theory. Quick draw competitions with short barrelled Single Action Armies loaded with wax bullets or blanks were a hot game during the late 1950s and well into the 1960s. Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Sammy Davis Jr. and a few others were into quick draw action stuff back in the 1960s.

According to this other old ad above left Centennial Arms Corporation in 1961 had a genuine Colt SAA with 3” barrel, without loading lever dubbed Sheriff’s Model .45 as an exclusive from Colt’s. Mitch Shore of Shore Galleries advises that this was actually the first Single Action Army made by Colt as a Commemorative! But that is another story …

3rd gen Colt Police Trapper (left), 2 Italo Pocket Armies with loading rod, re-contoured barrel (center), unplugged slot (right)

Being the only company in the USA with a re-issue of the venerable 1860 Army at that time a line extension into this booming sport of cowboy quick draw with a Centaure in belly gun configuration might have looked like a great idea because they were the only place in town to attract both cartridge and C&B revolver aficionados with taylor-made exclusives from Hartford/USA and Liège/Belgium, respectively.

1961 US Colt Sheriff’s of Centennial Arms (left); Belgian Centaure Pocket Army #1 (rigt)

Based on currently available information here is what little is known today about this Centaure Pocket Army Model.

We have to assume Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège (FAUL) made the Pocket Army in three variations.

 

1st Variation

Pocket Army - Key Features

Frame

full recoil shield ("Civilian" frame)

Back-strap

no toe on butt

Finish

trigger-guard & back-strap silver plated

Cylinder

Centaure proprietary naval engagement scene without legend (assumed)

Comments

no specimens recorded in survey, only known from descriptions in ads

 

2nd Variation

Pocket Army - Key Features

Frame

full recoil shield ("Civilian" frame)

Back-strap

no toe on butt

Finish

trigger-guard & back-strap silver plated

Cylinder

fluted

All three Pocket Armies in the Shore Collection are of this 2nd variation pictured below. One pistol was stamped with the inspector mark * over U, two with * over R. All carried the typical early production rampant centaur logo on the forward left side of the frame. The one piece wooden grips were varnished. There was no toe on the butt but the MADE IN BELGIUM mark.

Pocket Army #1 2nd variation: no visible serial number, original carton heavy duty brass loading rod

Since I did not dare to disassemble these Pocket Armies at Shore’s at that time I could comment if and where serial numbers are stamped. However, the Liège Proof house would not have applied their proof marks on the pistols without positive identification.

Early September 2011 Mitch Shore emailed that he might consider selling four specimens of the early Centaures of the collection … including the one Pocket Army with * over U inspector mark. I was lucky and could liberate her!

Pocket Army #8 2nd variation found a new herd in Germany

As expected the serial numbers are there alright on the major parts but most were stamped in the unusual places never seen on other Centaures. Here are the major parts of #8 and her serial numbers.

# Barrel lug: “8” between the holes for the 2 barrel pins

# Cylinder: “8” on the breech side as usual

# Back strap: “8” on the right side of the bottom strap … we have seen that on very few other Centaures

# Trigger guard: “8” on the left side close to the screw of the mainspring

# Hammer: “7” on the lower left side as usual (“7”?)

# Grip: “8” in the usual position at the bottom of the “spacer”

# Frame: “8” rear side right of the hammer

Why did FAUL chose these unusual positions for the serial numbers on this special order Pocket Army compared to regular production New Model Armies? This is open for discussions over at the forum.

Comparing sizes: 2nd  variation Civilian #C489 (top) and 2nd  variation Pocket Army #8 (bottom) with loading rod

Why a “7” on the hammer and not “8”? Is one of the other two Pocket Armies with the * over R inspector mark in the Shore Collection possibly serial numbered #7 but has my “8” hammer installed?

Early November 2011 Mitch Shore provided the serial numbers of these 2 pistols with the “R” inspector mark. They are #1 and #4 respectively. They have their serial numbers stamped in the same positions as has my #8. Their hammers’ are numbered 1 and 4 respectively!

 

3rd Variation

Pocket Army - Key Features

Frame

recoil shield cut for stock ("RNMA" frame)

Back-strap

toe on butt (assumed)

Finish

brass trigger-guard & blued back-strap

Cylinder

rebated, plain (assumed)

Comments

no specimens recorded in survey, only known from descriptions in ads

 

Serial Numbers: I am certain that the few other Pocket Armies out there are serial numbered as well and that they have their serial numbers in the same odd positions as found on currently known #1, #4 and #8. While the placement of their serial numbers is different compared to other Centaures the Belgians assumingly used the same numbering logic as applied to other NMAs, namely from #1 up and without a prefix.

Since the Pocket Armies start with #1 there is the risk that one day a RNMA #1, #4 or #8 might surface. Hence I speculate that a separate block of serial numbers was set aside for the Pocket Armies. Considering this they are listed separately from the RNMAs & 1st variation Marshals in the survey under the heading Pocket Armies, Odds & Ends.

Total production of all three variations combined was probably less than 50.

So, watch out for a mean, ugly & all business looking Army 1860 type hideaway gun with early Liège proof and acceptance marks, rampant centaur logo, MADE IN BELGIUM on the butt … and holler out loud!

Pocket Army Model

Serial Number Ranges

lowest serial number - year

highest serial number - year

Total

%

1st variation

S/N unknown launch assumed: 1962

assumed production end: 1963

5

12,5

2nd variation

#  1:                                            1962

#  8:                                   1962

30

75,0

3rd variation

S/N unknown assumed launch: 1965

assumed production end:  1965

5

12,5

TOTAL

 

 

40

100,0

 

Pricing: Between 1962 and 1964 Centennial Arms offered these Pocket Armies at $ 89,95. I am not telling what I paid almost 50 years later for #8 but she is worth it for me!

 

FAQ: “Clint Eastwood as Outlaw Josey Wales carried heavy hardware. Given the choice wouldn’t he have been better off with a couple of Centaure Pocket Armies instead?”

IMHO this is a sensitive, politically very incorrect subject. Admittedly I am a dye-hard Eastwood fan and like my Centaures. Deeply biased this is nonetheless a challenging proposition when it comes to tactical edges considering Wales’s gunplay. Fact is many of the bad guys in the movie toted Belgian Colt Armies as we learnt from Roger Ragland, see the page CENTENNIAL ARMIES IN THE MOVIES. So, we can assume that Centaures of the Pocket Army type could have been available through the prop master during the 1970s when OJW was filmed. Fact is also that Clint carried an armament of two heavy .44 cal. Walkers, one .36 cal. 1861 Navy or .44 cal. Army, and this 5 shot .31 cal. pea shooter under the armpit.

However, considering his gun fighter needs as portrayed in the movie I feel Josey Wales would have had more edges over his many adversaries when armed with four Pocket Armies instead. My reckoning might be a bit off because firing two Walkers looks impressive, but here are my thoughts:

# simplified logistics because just one type of ball or conical bullets is needed (.44 cal.) instead of three (.44, .36, .31 cal.)

# think of the poor horse which had to carry all that steel hardware to Texas (the animal rights people will be with us on this one, ha)

# faster on the draw compared to the holstered Walkers and the Navy or Army tucked into his belt

# more fire power by one ball with Pocket Armies: 4 Centaures 24 shots vs. Wales’s current armament 23 shots only

# at least as effective in the power department for his close range work, and finally (this one is the killer argument)

# much more fashionable.

What do you say?

 

WDN/June 27, 2013

© 2007 Wolf D. Niederastroth

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