2.9 Production of the Centaures

Chapter 2 – Facts and Figures

2.9 Production of the Centaures
















Production of the Centaures

Centaure Revolvers from 1959 to 1973

Centaures – Manufacturing and Proof Testing

The Human Factor – Potatoes, Serial Numbers and Other Quality Issues

Murphy’s Law – Report of a Contemporary Witness

Myth Buster




Centaure Revolvers from 1959 to 1973


Our favorite Belgian percussion revolvers were fabricated in Liège, Belgium, by Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.). The company was then owned and managed by cousins Albert (administration) and Paul (operations) Hanquet. Paul was the great-grandson of Jean Baptiste Hanquet who in 1853 signed a letter from Sam Colt to the Liège Gun Trade stating the conditions under which they, Hanquet on behalf of the famous consortium of seven (7) Liège gun makers of the Liège Gun Trade, might manufacture revolvers according to his 1849 Belgian patent. These conditions specified high quality and payment of a royalty of 10 francs (worth about $ 2 in gold in those days or compared to about 20 cents today).



Centaures – Manufacturing and Proof Testing


William B. Edwards and Sigmund Shore selected Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) for the making of the Centaures (aka New Model Armies (NMAs)). They got to know them as one of the leading Belgian gun makers and from a previous deal about musket replicas.

For the Centaure project Edwards supplied F.A.U.L. with two Colt 1860 Armies of the Civil War period from his gun collection as model guns. One was serial numbered #138572 of 1863 production. Allegedly she had gone missing when sent back home to Edwards during the early 1960s.


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2.9_1 Colt 1860 Army #138572 was one of two model guns provided by William B. Edwards’s to F.A.U.L. for the Centaure project


Our good Swiss pard FROCS #80 Arizona Pete who happens to reside in Belgium was privileged to take a close look at selected pieces of the Hanquet gun collection in March of 2019. During this visit he rediscovered this Colt 1860 Army #138572. The old Colt was found sans the wooden grip and front sight.



2.9_2 FROCS #80 Arizona Pete from Maubray in Belgium in July 2020 stylishly protected by FROCS face mask


The parts of these two Civil War Colt 1860 Armies provided the technicians at F.A.U.L. with detailed information for finishing, type of polishing, color of blue etc. One of the pistols had been dropped on concrete resulting in a slightly bent trigger guard but was otherwise perfect. As an expression of faithfulness with which the Belgians wished to execute the demands of Edwards they copied the guns including the dent. Thousands of guards were cast up with egg-shaped bows. Fortunately this was discovered early enough and corrected before the first shipment left for the U.S.A.


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2.9_3 Sportsman William B. „Bill“ Edwards


Centaures sport modern, shallow regular rifling with constant twist, made by the button rifling process. The rifling groove caliber is a real .44 caliber nominal of .446″ adapted to .451″ round ball. The first gun, unnumbered, was kept by Paul Hanquet.


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2.9_4 Centaure RNMA 1st variation 1st sub-variation #M1 model gun from 1959: No visible serial numbers, stamped M on barrel lug, frame and trigger guard


The second gun stamped MODEL was given to then-president of the Colt Company in Hartford, CT. Edwards had the top of the barrel engraved with ADDRESS FRED ROFF, HARTFORD, CT.


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2.9_5 Centaure RNMA #M1 model gun: Stamped M on cylinder face


Unfortunately, neither correspondence with Nadine Hanquet about her uncle’s Paul Hanquet nor with Colt regarding the Fred Roff Centaure did reveal anything about the whereabouts of these two earliest 1959 made Belgian Colt 1860 Army pattern pistols.

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2.9_6 Centaure RNMA #M1 model gun: Stamped M on buttstrap


If you want to read more about these very first Centaure model or pattern guns, go to chapter 3.1.2.

As usual with the Liège gun makers, work was outsourced to regional subcontractors and then put together at Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.). State of the art modern machinery has been said to be in place. But, was occupied at the time for other gun production and to manufacture selected spare parts for Colt’s in Hartford. Other sources claim, however, that the F.A.U.L. machinery was pretty old and worn out and that much manual labor was used. Contrary to stories published in a number of gun magazines, F.A.U.L. was never assigned the status of an official spare parts manufacturer for Colt.

Barrels, cylinders and frames for the Centaure were made of tool steel. This job was outsourced to the Liège machine shop of A. L. Roncarati, an Italian immigrant. At the Roncarati shop the barrels were machined to shape, the loading levers color case hardened, and the frames machined from solid forging, whereas cylinders were lathed from stock.

Early on backstraps were constructed in two pieces, welded together and bent-over, thus avoiding the use of special machinery. This is in contrast to the way it was done at Colt for their 19th century 1860 Armies where it is one piece. Later cast backstraps were used at F.A.U.L. Quality Control had the first revolvers rejected because barrels did not line up with cylinders and frames.


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2.9_7 Paper weight? Nope, rough cast Centaure frame of later production, discovered on a flea market in Belgium during the 1990s


Due to some error in the translation of the manufacturing instructions provided by Edwards early arbors were made of low grade carbon steel. They stretched when fired with normal black powder loads used in the U.S.A. Because all calibrations of the early design were based on data of the Belgian proof loads. As was found out later these loads were much lighter than those used by the U.S. shooters. The arbor was changed to harder steel during early 1961.

Roncarati did not have modern heavy metal working machinery. Hence, most all work done on metal parts fitted in the white was done by hand. According to Bill Edwards’s associate Leslie Field, only one man was responsible for the S-curve of the barrel lug. Metal cutting hand tools and hand polishing were used. Another workman removed all square edges with a metal cutting knife, again by hand.

The one-piece wooden grips were all made in Ougrée, Belgium. They were produced by fitting rough trigger-guards and back-straps. The whole unit was then hand fitted together which accounts for the close fit of metal to wood of the New Model Armies (NMAs).

This procedure also explains the need for numbering individual parts of the pistols. Guns fitted and assembled in the white were marked with their serial numbers before being disassembled for bluing and case hardening. Cylinder roll-engraving work was done in Belgium except for the Regular New Model Armies (RNMAs) with the Colt/Ormsby type scene.

This latter naval scene was roll-engraved at Centennial Arms Corporation’s shop in Lincolnwood, IL, U.S.A. on rebated, blank cylinders of what we term RNMAs 1st variation today. These RNMA’s were obtained from the Belgian factory fully proof tested. By roll-engraving the Ormsby scene on the cylinders these 1st variations became what collectors call RNMAs 3rd variation today. To read more about these Colt/Ormsby-type cylinders and the story behind it check chapters and

Ordering and importing of the Centaures for the U.S.A. market was handled by Centennial Arms Corp. sister company Mars Equipment Corp., Chicago. Mars Equipment was also in charge of the military surplus business of the Shore Group.

In line with Belgian test firing regulations finished guns were assembled and proof tested at the Banc d’Épreuves de Liège i.e. the Liège Proof house. This testing was performed with a heavy charge of lead over a heavy, wadded charge of black powder. Each pistol passing the proof testing procedure bears the famous ELG oval on the cylinder. This ELG oval is the mark of the Liège Proof House.

In addition, they were stamped with the distinctive Perron de Liège on the left side of barrel lug and frame. This arrow shaped mark is a stylized rendition of a famous water trough surmounted by a water tower in the center of Liège. Check chapter 2.4 for more details about the different Liège proof marks and the proof testing procedures.

Only after the pistols were returned from the proof house were the different barrel markings and the centaur logo   applied at Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.).



The Human Factor – Potatoes, Serial Numbers and Other Quality Issues


As usual when starting production of a new gun there were a few bugs in the manufacturing before the process ran smoothly. Edwards reports an incidence with the electro-brazing of the loading lever catch to the barrel. This produced a problem that was not solved for some time. It was noticed that slightly spotty rust would form about 2 inches from the muzzle, marring the otherwise brilliantly burnished button rifling. Repeated attempts were made to find the cause of this, including instructions of the proof house about oiling after cleaning. Still, light rust persisted. Then the same kind of rust was noticed in a rack of barrels not yet sent to the proof house. When this was brought to the attention of the works manager, he explained that to keep the heat from spoiling the bore the workman stuck a piece of raw potato in the muzzle while brazing the catch. ”No more raw potatoes!”

While the regular production process for the New Model Armies (NMAs) was established during 1960 and new models were added one could still find a revolver thereafter with minor flaws e.g. a bolt hole in the frame opened up too far, frame inside not milled right or the like. Such imperfections did not affect the Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) reputation as the premium manufacturer of newly made Colt Army 1860s. The high quality level was maintained into the early 1970s.

As mentioned elsewhere compared to the manufacture of modern weapons the making of Centaures was not an automated or computer aided process. It involved many manual operations. This implies mistakes were bound to be made. The serial numbering of parts in general, the numbering of cylinders in particular is to be remembered here. However, this issue was of little concern back in the 1960s.

It is a field of growing interest for today’s Centaure students and collectors, however. It can be summarized under the heading mismatched Centaures. As explained above the numbering of the parts took place when the revolvers were in the white before bluing/case hardening and proof testing. Regarding records of proof testing documentations at the Liège Proof house I believe the inspectors back then were concerned about the matching of visible serial numbers only, i.e. on barrel lug, frame and trigger-guard. For more details check chapter



Murphy’s Law – Report of a Contemporary Witness


Here is an unfortunate report of a contemporary German Centaure owner and FROCS #76 Gunfire. It exemplifies the kind of quality of many but certainly not all of the Belgian Colt Armies made during the late period of production,


“I own my 2nd Centaure since mid-1972. They were from Bärbel Harlos in Bavaria. On the range with the first one the mainspring broke after the 3rd round.“

„Installed a new mainspring. After the 5th round the handspring broke.“

„Installed a new hand. After the 10th round the bolt stop broke.“

„Installed of a new bolt stop. After having fired the 3rd cylinder the arbor dropped out of the frame. Thanks God not during firing.”

“The revolver was returned to the dealer. I got #12106 in exchange.”

“Experience with #12106? Same maladies with mainspring, hand, waggling arbor, bolt stop, broken trigger.“

„Being the engineer that I am what did I do? I repaired the parts myself. Made a couple of springs for the hand. Fixed the arbor to the frame, installed a new trigger taken from a HS121 blank firing revolving carbine.“

„Since the case-colored frame showed already signs of rust I blued the part. From black powder residue the brass trigger guard had developed some black spots so I had it nickel plated.“

„So much about the quality of these Super-Colts.”


Therefore, we have to assume the combination of high production cost and spotty quality forced F.A.U.L. first out of making our favorite percussion revolvers in 1973 and completely out of gun manufacturing in 1976! In retrospect and all fairness, however, quality cannot have been that bad back then. Because we have a number of Centaures of this late period of production in the survey that were and still are regularly and successfully used today in 2020 in S.A.S.S. Cowboy Action Shooting and bulls-eye type competitions.



Myth Buster

Centaure percussion revolvers were produced on 19th century machinery from Colt?

Myth busted!

Old blueprints from Colt were used to manufacture the Centaures?

Myth busted!

Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) was official spare parts manufacturer of Colt?

Myth busted!

Better quality of steel used for the making of the Centaures?

No myth, confirmed.

Exchangeability of parts with 1st generation Colt 1860 Armies?

For the most part myth confirmed.

Fall-off of quality during the later period of production?

Myth confirmed!

Quality of workmanship?

If the few revolvers of later production were excluded quality is better than contemporary Italian reproductions. Myth open for discussion!


Updated November 28, 2023

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