Chapter 1 – Introduction
0.1 Acknowledgements and How this Site came about
This study to reconstruct the history of the Centaure the licensed Belgian brother of the venerable Colt 1860 Army of yesteryear started as a transatlantic tandem research project of my brother in Centaure crime James „Panhandle Paden“ Frugé of Lubbock, TX, U.S.A. and me in Hofheim right in the heart of Germany. Kick-off of the joint program was in the summer of 2007 after I stumbled over this unusual stocked Centaure at Collectors Firearms in Houston, TX a few months earlier. Already towards the end of the year computer wizard and webmaster James posted the first results of our research on the continuously growing Centaure & FROCS website www.1960.nma.org.
Obviously, without Panhandle Paden there would be no website, nor would there be the International Centaure community of the FRiends Of the Centaure Society (FROCS). Likewise, I would never even had thought about publishing the English language Centaure reference book Centaure aka Centennial Army – Myths, Fiction, Facts and Figures in 2014 and its updated and amended German version of 2015, titled Centaure oder auch Centennial Army – Mythen, Fakten und Fiktionen.
Thank you, my friend, for your untiring efforts to pursue our common cause.
0.1_1 Pictures of this “Belgian Copy of an 1860 Army .44 caliber revolver with shoulder stock” on the Collectors Firearms website https://www.collectorsfirearms.com/products/6407-belgian-copy-of-an-1860-army-44-caliber-revolver-with-shoulder-stock-pr7751.html …
0.1_2 in May 2007 and subsequent discussions in U.S. cowboy and BP forums …
0.1_3 were the initial spark for the Centaure research program (pictures courtesy Collectors Firearms, Houston, TX, U.S.A.)
Early on our research was supported by gun journals and S.A.S.S. Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) magazine and website, auction houses and gun dealers in Europe and the U.S.A. However, it is you, the pards and pardettes from both sides of the Atlantic and down-under from altogether twenty countries who responded to the call. It case you are wondering which countries they are Antigua, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.A.. You shared data, photographs and often also real-life specimens of your prized Centaure pistols for physical inspection, evaluation and analysis. This led to some surprising and fascinating discoveries. Thanks a lot.
Much to my regret, William B. Edwards, Civil War and firearms historian, international firearms industry negotiator, consultant and businessman with a dream passed away too early to observe, to be part of the rediscovery of these Belgian Colts by re-enactors, black powder precision and cowboy action shooters and the collectors‘ community during the early 21st century. Because these Centaures were his brainchildren. He smelled the market niche for this first ever re-issue of a Colt 1860 Army during the late 1950, masterminded their production from 1959 at the Hanquets‘ family business, famous Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) in Belgium, and in 1960 their introduction into the United States of America. Edwards was a man of vision and determination.
Thank you, Sir, for the formidable Centaures. We owe you!
0.1_4 William B. Edwards * Nov. 10, 1927 – † Sept. 7, 2008 (picture courtesy Virginia Edwards, Afton, VA, U.S.A.)
Mrs. Nadine Hanquet of Liège, Belgium, the last of the owner family of Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège kindly added important facets that helped to bring the Belgian Colt story into historical perspective. They were amended by supportive technical information from Jean-Luc Strassen, Director of the Liège Proof House but particularly through Alain „Alan Trigger“ Daubresse of the Club Littlegun, a Belgian gun collectors and study group (http://www.littlegun.be/). This research could not have been substantiated without their help.
Dennis „Chain-Fire“ Russell of Marietta, GA, another firearms historian, collector and author of the first reference book on 2nd and 3rd generation Colt percussion revolvers PERCUSSION COLT REVOLVERS – THE SECOND GENERATION offered fresh thoughts regarding the evolution of the Centaure manufacturing, their Cavalry Models and the making of the factory engraved pieces of art from F.A.U.L. Roger „Major“ Ragland provided inspiring insight how the film industry made good use of the Centaures aka Centennial Armies aka „1960 New Model Armies“ in well-known Civil War and Western movies. Thanks, pards.
My special thanks go to Roy Marcot of Tucson, AZ. Roy is also a firearms historian and co-author of the acclaimed book COLT BREVETE REVOLVERS. He provided the hard background data on Samuel Colt’s contract of April 1953 on the licensed production of his percussion revolvers by the Consortium of Seven Liège Gunmakers. The Hanquets were a member of this consortium and this agreement impacted upon the making of the Centaures more than 100 years later.
I am particularly grateful to Dr. James L. Davis for his advice regarding the structuring of our research. Jim provided original literature and added specifics of a number of very rare „1960 New Model Armies“ from the collection of Replica Percussion Revolver Collector’s Association (RPRCA). Dr. Davis pushed this even further. He virtually „opened the door“ of Shore Galleries in Lincolnwood, IL. for me to meet with the family of former U.S. importer and exclusive dealer of the Centaures. They allowed me to study their collection of early Centaures and provided invaluable insight into the making of our favorite Belgian percussion revolvers. Jim Davis kept Paden and me on track! Sadly, our mentor and good friend crossed the Great Divide in September, 2019. Jim, we will be missing you.
I am indepted to my trusted friend Hartmut „Mullie the Bullie“ Wienands who had this knack for languages. Mullie volunteered to communicate for me in French with Nadine Hanquet and also translated Flemish texts. Unfortunately, Hartmut did not survive Corona. Jean-Francois Pancé, a French gentleman living around the corner in Hofheim, made sure that I fully appreciated the history of the Hanquet family by translating their original French family story.
0.1_5 Brothers in Centaure Crime (from left): James „Panhandle Paden“ Frugé, Wolf D. „Long Johns Wolf“ Niederastroth
Technically our knowledge about the strengths but also the shortfalls of these licensed Belgian brothers of the venerable Colt 1860 Army would lack solid gunsmith know how and backing without the advice of one U.S. smith who elected to go by the alias Rifle only. Together with Austrian master gunsmith and conversion artist Karl „Luger Master“ Nedbal they provided important facts including comparisons of Centaures to 1st generation 1860 Colts and modern made clones. And Master Nedbal did not stop there, see the chapters on conversions in this site for all his contributions.
However, all this investigative digging, the puzzling game of assessing incomplete data and the technical contributions got us only so far. Up until in 2011 two German cowboy shooters entered the scene. They showed us what determined sportsmen can accomplish when they blaze away with their Centaures. They are Michael „Socks“ Mayer two times European Champion in the Classic Cowboy and six times in a row German champion Jörg „Magic Joe“ Ullrich in the historical „1870“ category. „1870“ is a German cross between the S.A.S.S. Frontiersman and Classic Cowboy category to comply with German gun regulations: Blackpowder loads and duelist style shooting is mandatory, as is a MIP of 80 for pistols, 120 for the rifle, the shotgun must be of the hammered kind and short strokes are illegal. Thanks boys, you showed us how it’s done and made my days.
Wolf D. „Long Johns Wolf“ Niederastroth
September 3, 2022, Hofheim