3.1 Introduction to the Models & Variations of the Centaures

Chapter 3 – Models & Variations of the Centaure

3.1 Introduction to the Models & Variations of the Centaures















Introduction to the Models & Variations of the Centaures

Centaures‘ Revival as a Shooting Iron and Birth as Collector Pieces in the 21th Century

First Among Equals

Recollections of Contemporary Witness Peter Harlos



Centaures‘ Revival as a Shooting Iron and Birth as Collector Pieces in the 21st Century


The seasoned businessman William B. Edwards would certainly have drafted a business plan during the late 1950s. Among others the plan would describe the making of the F.A.U.L. fabricated interpretation of the Colt 1860 Army pattern C&B revolver (aka Centaure) and the launch program in the U.S.A. We can assume the below goals were important considerations between him and Sig Shore, the financier of the project:

# Provide the U.S. shooters and re-enactors by 1960 with THE Colt 1860 Model re-issue, the most important Civil War handgun, as an  alternative to then only available Italian Colt 1851 Navy, 1862 Griswold & Gunnison and Remington New Model 1863 Army replicas.

# Have this „1960 NEW MODEL ARMY“ made as a high-quality pistol, an accurate, rugged and reliable shooting iron, not a display piece.

# Bring her to the market at an affordable price.

Edwards witnessed the conception and the long-lasting appreciation by U.S. shooters and reenactors for these New Model Armies (NMAs). Early on he was a member of the Shore management group until he took up his researching and writing again after a few years.

This appreciation lasted longer and was more intense than his personal interest to further develop the Centaure line during the second half of the 1960s let alone the 1970s. But we can presume he noted „from the outside“ Fabrique d‘ArmesUnies de Liège’s (F.A.U.L.’s) launch of the Centaures in Europe, their marketing activities, experiments with new finishes and modern steel alloys, eventual line extensions and the introduction of factory engraved NMA variants.

What Edwards could not foresee during the late 1950s and early 1960s was the shooting community’s general loss of interest in percussion revolvers from around the end of the 1970s, this market segment he had helped to make and develop. Back then collecting Centaures was not on his agenda either.

New interest in big bore cap & ballers came about through the advent of cowboy style shooting in the U.S.A. from the middle of the 1980s. Followers around the globe adopted the new sport with the usual delay of five to ten years. Except for a few dyed in the wool percussion revolver hardliners who never „surrendered“ their hardware this dynamic sport led to a revitalization of replica C&B revolvers by this new group of cowboy shooters. Hence, our favorite Belgian pistols were rediscovered by these initiates who knew what makes for a more competitive shooting iron in the S.A.S.S. Frontiersman category or BDS Westernschießen 1870 Disziplin as it is called in Germany.


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3.1_1 German FROCS #99 Magic Joe’s brace of Centaures (top down): RNMAs 1st variation 2nd sub-variation #13923 and 6th variation 2nd sub-variation #14219; top guns in the 2011/12 C&B revolver torture test and this German Champion’s Westernschießen winning irons seven times in a row starting 2012. Magic Joe elected to switch to a breech loading category in 2018


Reasons for this new interest ten to twenty years after the Centaures‘ production ended? The harder Belgian steel, bottomed arbors or chamber diameters adjusted to rifling groove diameter as well as better quality workmanship were the buzz words for providing the edge in the game. This rediscovery led to a revival of the Centaures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Even today, early in the 2nd decade of the 21st century and close to five decades after the cease of production, well maintained Centaures are perceived as just what Edwards had written all over the NMA’s blueprints back then. Namely accurate, rugged and reliable Colt 1860 Army pattern shooters with finesse!

Their performance during the more recent years in static as well as dynamic competitions has been documented. Have a look at the Milestones in chapter 2.6.

Their attractiveness to the collector’s community as a new field of gun collecting is a more recent development, however. It was triggered as early as 1971 by the launch of the factory engraved Centaures.



First Among Equals


Before we discuss the regular production Regular New Model Armies (RNMAs) in next chapter 3.2, let us take a quick look at what are likely the first Centaures ever made, i.e. the model (pattern, pre-production, pilot series) and presentation guns. I believe their total was ten at a maximum, probably a handful only. I suggest the use of the term model gun for them.

These model guns look like their kin of regular making. But instead of visible serial numbers they are visibly marked with uppercase Ms only. In my opinion, they served the dual function of both reference for the production and presentation guns to support early marketing and sales activities.

Currently three (3) such model RNMAs are recognized and documented. From the group of RNMAs 1st  variation 1st sub-variation we have serial numbers #1 (documented as #M1) and #4 (referred to as #M4) whereas #5 (called #M5) is an RNMA 2nd variation 1st sub-variation #5.

How are they identified? According to our understanding of the Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (FAUL) operating procedures, they were the first few models of a given block of serial numbers. Hence, they are marked with M for model gun. In the locations where you usually find this cluster of three visible and matching serial numbers on a Centaure (under barrel lug, frame and behind the front screw of the triggerguard) these pistols are stamped with the letter M instead. This M is stamped also on the face of the cylinder and under the butt strap.



3.1_2 Model gun RNMA 1st variation 1st sub-variation #M1 from 1959: Note locations of M on barrel lug, frame and triggerguard …



3.1_3 M on face of cylinder in 5’clock position …


3.1_4 M on butt strap between screw head and MADE IN BELGIUM mark



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3.1_5 Impressions of RNMA 2nd variation 1st sub-variation #M5 from 1959: Note varnished grip and historically correct low profile front sight …


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3.1_6 #M5: Note period proof marks on left side of barrel lug, Centaure proprietary cylinder engraving, no logo on frame …


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3.1_7 #M5: Note 2nd version hammer spur and legend on cylinder. The latter is found on Civilians 1st variation only


The real serial numbers – digits – are not visible at first glance. In contrast to the regular production RNMAs these model guns need to be disassembled in their major parts to discover them. On #M4 they are located here:



3.1_8 Barrel lug: 4 between the locator holes



3.1_9 Butt strap: 4 inside left side



3.1_10 Cylinder: 644 on the breech side



3.1_11 Frame: 4 rear side below the left screw hole