Where it all Began & a Few Little Known Facts

Shore during the late 1950s

Sig Shore and Bill Edwards shared a common interest in military history and Civil War guns. As we know today they made the Centaure “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” a reality: the modern made, quality re-issue of the time proven Civil War warhorse Colt 1860 Army, ready before the Centennial of the war 1961 for the American shooters and re-enactors!

They must have started putting their heads together early during the second half of the 1950s, about the time Val Forgett of Navy Arms toured Europe and Italy to eventually team up with Vittorio Gregorelli and Aldo

Uberti for the making of his Colt Navy 1851 and Remington 1858 replicas. Interestingly, also this enterprise was helped by Edwards.

Views of FAUL blunderbuss: engraved metal…

…carved stock…originally for African markets

Shore saw the business opportunity in the making of a Colt 1860 repro. He provided the financial funds for this enterprise. Edwards was the technical expert with the manufacturing know how. He knew the right maker for this C&B revolver.

FAUL sales man’s sample gun of fully functional DB C&B shotgun ½ scale (bottom) & Centaure (top) for comparison

It was Edwards who brought Belgium Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège (FAUL) into play. He got to know them as reliable business partners with other US firms from previous replica projects regarding single shot flint lock and percussion rifles, shotguns and pistols.

Minute details of engraving

Engraved patchbox

Through 3 letters of credit Sigmund Shore funded the Centaure project with close to 0.5 Mio $. FAUL needed this credit to tool up, make model guns, purchase material, etc. The Belgians then shipped and invoiced the Centaures at a bit less than $ 40.00/piece to Mars. Explains Field: “Shipments were usually 50 to 100 Centaures. Sometimes they came in by air. Turn around time was quick, around 2 to 3 months at the most. Shipment and invoicing was to Mars Equipment. Initially Mars sold the Centaures to Centennial Arms Corp, another Shore company founded 1960 for the sole purpose to function as a replica arms dealer. That was to be an arms length arrangement because later Mars would sell to other US dealers as well.”

1959 made “M“ stamped model gun. Barrel marking “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”. Note brass loading rod usually found with later Pocket Armies

Les Field was involved with Mars from the beginning. Players at Mars were Sigmund Shore as majority shareholder, and in addition to Mr. Field William B. Edwards, Robert Ruvell and Dr. Frank A. Torrey.

Note “M“ stamps on barrel lug, frame, trigger-guard…

breech side of cylinder

…butt next to MADE IN BELGIUM

Centennial Arms consisted of Shore again as majority and Edwards and Field as minority shareholders. Remembers Field: “I worked fulltime with Mars and Centennial, but Edwards never surrendered his writing and editing. From the early 1960s he worked most of the time with GUN MAGAZINE which rewarded Centennial Arms with decent conditions for ads in return.”

About production: “A.L. Roncarati, an Italian immigrant, was contracted (by FAUL) to produce the barrels, cylinders, and frames made of tool steel for the 1860 Army in the white. First revolvers were rejected because barrels did not line up with cylinders and frames. Early arbors were made of low carbon steel and stretched when fired with normal black powder loads used in the U.S. All calibrations of the early design were based on data of Belgium proof loads which were much lighter that those used in the U.S. This arbor later was changed to a harder steel.”

Roncarati did not have modern heavy metal working machinery so most all work done on metal parts fitted in the white was done by hand. Only one man was responsible for the “S” curve (curve from bottom of barrel into barrel flat to frame) the rear of the barrel where it fitted into the frame. This was done by hand with metal cutting

At Roncarati’s: Civilian Model before case hardening

hand tools and hand polishing. Another individual removed all square edges with a metal cutting knife, again by hand.”

“The stocks were all made in Ougree, Belgium. They were produced by fitting rough brass hardware to a rough finished wood stock and the whole unit then hand finished together. This accounts for the very close fit of metal to stock. Also, the need for numbering of the individual parts.”

Market coverage: “As Centennial Arms Corporation our interest was the American market. If memory serves, however, there was a deal involving Centaures to New Zealand, probably in connection with a surplus arms shipment from Mars Equipment. Business outside the Americas that was left to FAUL. For what it’s worth no sales were made to Mexico.”

“During the early 1960s we were concerned about establishing the CENTENNIAL brand in the US market hence CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK was added at the Belgian factory, either before or behind the original barrel marking which read “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” only. I do not remember, however, why we had CHICAGO U.S.A. added sometimes.”

“Mars Equipment and Centennial Arms Corporation were both terminated 1984…”

 

WDN/June 18, 2010

© 2007-10 Wolf D. Niederastroth

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