1.1 Close Encounters of a Third Kind

Chapter 1 – Myth and Motherload

1.1 Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind or It All Started in 1974













Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind or It All Started in 1974

What is a Centaure, anyhow?

„I am too Old to Go Soldiering any more, too Stiff in the Joints to Ride Point and too Damn Fat to Wrestle Drunks”

There are Different Ways to skin a Cat



What is a Centaure, anyhow?


„This ain’t no Colt Army replica you are shooting, pard, no naval scene on the cylinder. What kind of a pistol is it?” demanded yours truly from the shooter at the Hofheim Shooting range early in summer of 1974. After careful aiming and hitting another bullseye he said, “Well, that’s a .44 caliber Centaure cap & ball revolver from Belgium the most accurate and most expensive Colt Army clone money can buy.”

My first exposure to the famous Belgian Colts and Icouldn’t have cared less. Because back then I did not know the difference and was totally happy with my Uberti Colt 1860 Armies.

Some 20 years later it is a completely different story. My interest in guns had shifted from merely shooting to the historical aspects of firearms as well. Some affinity to cowboy action style shooting had evolved. But, more importantly gun collecting was the thrill and still is. In April 1993, at the International Stuttgart gun show, I was looking for a replica of a Colt 1860 as a shooter, ideally in stainless steel. And there she was on display in one of the sales desks in all her shiny silvery beauty.


D:\#14219 RNMA 6V 2SV ES D\1-FIL13500.JPG

1.1_1 My first Centaure #14219: Shining high gloss polish after some special treatment by her new owner FROCS #3 Elwoody


#14219 with 8” barrel and fluted cylinder – my first Centaure revolver and at a price of Deutsche Mark 400,00, back then a steal. As I learned later she had the stainless look all right; but, was not made of stainless steel at all. It was the high gloss polish,”in the white”, finish of later Centaure production. One of my many mistakes was to trade her two years later to my shooting buddy Elwoody who is #1 a genius in reloading – see .44 Colt ammo page in chapter 5 – #2 still teases me about that deal and #3 became FROCS #3 eventually.

I stumbled over my next Centaure checking the deals of Egun, the German Internet auction house (, in October of 2005. One Centaure on sale looked like an ordinary blued and case colored Army Model with the typical rebated plain cylinder. She came with an extra-cylinder roll-engraved with some sort of naval scene resembling the Ormsby scene found on Colt percussion revolvers.


D:\FAUL RNMA 1V 2SV #4079 Nedbal-Richards-Conversion\1-FIL15241.JPG

1.1_2 My second Centaure #4079: She came with an extra cylinder with a naval scene


D:\FAUL Extratrommel RNMA 2V #969\1-FIL08480.JPG

1.1_3 Extra-cylinder stamped #969 on the breech side, factory engraved with a naval scene


I had learned in the meantime that #4079 was a pistol assembled relatively early during the 1960s. Some demanding previous owner had a knowledgeable gunsmith apply traditional Colt bluing and case colors to the gun, a job beautifully executed. Never shot her with the Holy Black; but, in 2008 had her converted into a Richards type breech loader in .44 Colt cal. by Austrian master gunsmith Karl Nedbal. Hence, #4079 became my first Centaure conversion. See also subject pages of chapter 5 on Centaure Conversions. She is getting her regular diet of smokeless behind 200 grainers now.

Another long barreled Centaure with fluted cylinder had my name written all over her at Egun again in the summer of 2006. #12307 turned out to be one of the few revolvers made by the Belgian factory from stainless steel. Shot her only once. She was printing approx. 15 cm/6 inch high at 25 meters (too light a .36 load!) and a mite to the left. Attempts to correct POI with my little file by adjusting the rear sight notch failed. For the first time I noted the extraordinarily hard steel of these Belgian Colt Armies. The file would not bite, file marks were barely visible. I retired the pistol into my cowboy gun collection until a few years later and deep into the Centaure research program FROCS #30 Lederstrumpf aka Socks talked me out of her. He had recently liberated #12305, another stainless steel Centaure. Socks is using the pair successfully in cowboy competition shoots.


D:\#12307 RNMA 7V MM D\1-FIL22382.JPG

1.1_4 Top down: #12307 rare Centaure in stainless steel; extra cylinder #969 with naval engagement scene engraving; #4079 more common Centaure variant with rebated plain cylinder, custom bluing and case colors


During that time I began to follow discussions in various internet forums dealing with cowboy guns, particularly the U.S. ones. A number of inquiries were about Belgian Colts or 1860s Made in Belgium or Centennial Armies. They aroused my interest.

The last of my early Centaure acquisitions in December 2007 was a short-barrelled Marshal Model #12067. The price seemed to be right although the previous owner had damaged the bolt stop beyond repair and the front sight had gone missing. She needed some waynerizing – waynerizing is a secret process known to a few initiates of the gunsmith trade. Combined with elbow grease and some polishing with steel wool for better looks it brings back to shape run-down C&B pistols to function like the proverbial Swiss watch again. Eventually in 2010 #12067 was converted into a Long Cylinder Conversion (LCC) in .44 Colt cal. together with another Marshal. This task was executed by German master gunsmith Klaus Mumme.

To this day these two LCCs are my favourite pair of pistols when I am competing in cowboy matches with big bore conversions. To learn more about their story check the respective pages of chapter 5.


D:\FAUL LCC Marshal 1V 2SV #12067 LCC\1-FIL12101.JPG

1.1_5 Marshal #12067 somewhat molested



“I am too Old to Go Soldiering any more, too Stiff in the Joints to Ride Point and too Damn Fat to Wrestle Drunks” (Dutchie O’Dark 2008)


Discussions in the CAS-City forum ( in spring and summer of 2007 regarding the merits and history of the Centaures stirred my curiosity to what extent their reputed superiority over Italian Colt 1860 Army replications with and without connections to Colt in Hartford could be qualified. But there was one other issue.

The rich and fascinating body of rumor and myth, beginning with the story that these Centaures were made by the same outfit in Belgium with whom Colonel Colt himself had signed a contract in the 1850s for the manufacturing of his pistols.

Once this research project was kicked-off it became obvious that it was necessary to measure each point of the popular story against what can be shown through documentation of the characteristics and features of specific examples of the pistols: The sequencing of serial numbers, the appearance and disappearance of variant models over time, and the reported fall-off of quality until production of the “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” at Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) finally ceased sometime in the 1970s.



There are Different Ways to Skin a Cat


The challenge was, and still is, to reach the owners of Belgian made Colts 1860 Army pattern pistols out there, to motivate them to get hold of the questionnaire as a download from this Centaure & FROCS website from Paden or myself, as fax or letter, and to return it completed with the specifics of their pistol and possibly (digital) pictures. Gun magazines like the Cowboy Chronicle of the U.S. based Single Action Shooting Society (S.A.S.S.) and THE SHOOTIST, Deutsches WaffenJournal (DWJ), Schweizer Waffenmagazin, VISIER and the Waffenfreund reported about this study.

Thanks to a couple of pards in Belgium, Germany, France, South Africa and in the U.S.A. who advertised these research activities quite a number of questionnaires where and still are returned to this date. I still run regular internet searches on the subject, approach every identified Centaure owner I find in the various gun forums and ask him to submit the data of his pistol for the survey. So the news is spreading and completed questionnaires continue to pour in.

The use of the World Wide Web (www), smart phones, email and digital cameras made the task a straightforward one once the structure of the project was fine-tuned. However, Paden and I are fully aware of flaws in our method to approach this research. However, this is not supposed to be a scientific study. We do not try to satisfy just his handful of collectors around the globe. Regarding the cheaters out there, we accept the data of the pards and pardettes as submitted, particularly if supported by pictorial proof. If there appears to be need of further clarification we go back to the respective owner to double-check. If a question mark remains the specific pistol will not be included in the survey. And yes, there have been a couple of such incidents. However, due to the scope of this research physical inspection of individual guns will always be the exception rather than the rule.


Please take notice:

This website is a construction site and most likely will be because new information is added as it becomes available.

Most of the pictures you find in this website were provided by the pards and pardettes of the community of the FROCS, the FRiends Of the Centaure Society and the Centaure Aficionados around the globe. Hence, you will, please appreciate that their quality varies. We are proud that acclaimed gun photographer Terushi Jimbo from Düsseldorf/Germany let us post a couple of his exceptional Centaure pictures.


Updated December 6, 2023

© Mike, Neely & Wolf 2007/2023

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