5.1 What we Gonna do now, Butch

Chapter 5 – Centaure Conversions the Next Level of the Evolution?

5.1 What we gonna do now, Butch or the Making of the Centaure Richards or R1 Conversion


















What we gonna do now, Butch or the Making of the Centaure Richards or R1 Conversion

The Cowboy Way

The Long and Winding Road to the Centaure Richards Conversion

The Making of the Nedbal Centaure Richards Conversion

Wish List

Project Outline Centaure Richards Conversion

Detour to the Bulls Eye

Winter 2011/12 – Update from Downrange

More Centaure Richards (R1)?



The Cowboy Way


While you go shooting your Centaure aka Centennial Army models with the holy black, I’m sitting back now on my porch, considering myself lucky to be one of this great bunch of cowboys and cowgirls and getting all this help for this transatlantic Centaure research program from Canada, the U.S.A., the Caribbean, many European countries and even from down-under in New Zealand and South Africa. It evolved into an almost global project now if you look at the countries listed in the Acknowledgement page or the survey chart. At the same time, I am a bit surprised that no other Northern or Western European Belgian Colt owners are stepping forward with their Centaures like from Portugal? When I browse through all those CAS or black powder forums there are active cowboy action and black powder shooting communities in these countries in addition to Western gun collectors.

On the other hand, I would have been greatly surprised to receive any contribution from Italy considering their highly competitive replica industry in the Gardone Valley.



The Long and Winding Road to the Centaure Richards Conversion


IMHO rarer specimens of the Regular New Model Armies (RNMAs) like the 4th, 5th or 7th variation, the Civilian, Cavalry and Pocket Army Models, and certainly the beautiful custom and factory engraved variants should have their rightful place in your Civil War or Western gun collection right next to their great-grand-uncles of 19th century Colt 1860 Armies. The more common sub-variations of the RNMAs or the Marshals will surely appreciate a regular diet of powder, wad, ball and cap on the range. But please, clean them painstakingly afterwards to maintain their value. They are also ideal project guns for a conversion.

For years I had this hankering for a modern made period correctly fabricated Richards conversion to shoot my favourite inside lubed .44 Colt ammo loaded with smokeless powder. That is after I obtained an Uberti made Colt 1860 Richards-Mason Army conversion and one of their 1871/72 Open Tops in 2002. Both pistols were .44 Colt cal. As for a companion rifle a gunsmith had converted my brass framed Uberti 1860 Henry from .44-40 to .44 Colt. So, pistols and rifle would use the same ammo.


D:\ASM 1860 Army Richards\1-FIL31742.JPG

5.1.2_1 My first Colt 1860 Army Richards replica: This Armi san Marco conversion #522 pictured with.44 Colt reloads


During the Ides of March in 2004 I stumbled over this conversion described as Richards Army in .44 Colt cal. at a U.S. auction. The ad said she was made by the now defunct Italian company Armi san Marco (ASM). The price was OK, and I just had to have her. A Texas friend purchased her for me, took care of the export paperwork with a little help from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and off she went with the next plane to Europe.

Today I am admitting I did not do my homework regarding these ASM conversions back then and their historical correctness. Checking the pictures at that auction would have been prudent, too. But I was just happy to find an Army size Richards conversion to complete my line of modern made Colt Army conversion clones at a reasonable price. When all importation formalities were completed at Frankfurt Airport customs and I unpacked the parcel pistol #522 looked awesome with frame and hammer in beautiful case colors and deeply blued barrel, cylinder and back-strap. In that respect the picture above does not do her justice. To that period looking arrangement the polished nickel-plated trigger guard made a pretty contrast.


D:\Ammo .44 Cal. (l-r) Henry, S&W American, Russian, Colt (old), Special, Magnum, 44-40\1-44RF44AM44Rus44Colt44Sp44Mag44_40.jpg

5.1.2_2 Array of .44 cal. cartridges (from left): Henry, S&W American, Russian, Colt outside lubed, Special, Magnum, WCF


Functioning and accuracy was fine, light trigger pull and all. But somehow, she did not look right. No, it was not the scaled-up frame, cylinder and barrel which irritated me. My Uberti Colt Army conversions were beefed-up, too. Have a look at the two Colt Richards for comparison converted at Colt Firearms in Hartford during the 1870s.


D:\Ammo .44 Colt + .45 Colt\1-P1030927.JPG

5.1.2_3 Inside lubed .44 Colt ammo: Round tips are factory, flats are my 200 grainer reloads


Then realization struck. The straight cylinder, the rest of the watertable of the frame machined off, combined with this too short lip lathed to the conversion ring plus the separate gas ring just were not right. So, she had to go, made another German pard happy who wanted an unpretentious but different looking shooter in .44 Colt. After that experience, however, I did my homework on the ASM conversions. I discovered that Armi san Marco had made Richards conversions that never were like 1951 and 1861 Navy Richards in .38 Long Colt/Special and various barrel lengths. To make things worse a pard called his model of an ASM Richards Army Il Barstardo in my favourite U.S. forum. Which says it all, doesn’t it?

But I still wanted that period correct Richards Army conversion.


D:\Colt 1860 Army Richards\1-FIL34982.JPG

5.1.2_4 Colt 1860 Richards conversions #4663 and #5596 (picture courtesy Chain-Fire, U.S.A.)


Finally in fall of 2007 the time was right. After more research among fellow collectors and inquiries in German language internet forums like Waffen-Online I was ready for the next move to get a Richards.



The Making of the Nedbal Centaure Richards Conversiom


This time I shipped my 1965 vintage Centaure Regular New Model Army (RNMA) 1st variation 2nd sub-variation #4079 to master gunsmith Karl Nedbal in Vösendorf near Vienna, Austria Nedbal was willing to transform her into a Richards like they did it at Colt Firearms back during the 1870s. In European gun circles Nedbal was recommended as a knowledgeable conversion smith.

Nedbal was said to have years of experience of converting Italian replicas of percussion Colt and Remington revolvers into cartridge firing front as well as breech loaders. He is using mostly Uberti cap & ballers for these tasks but also works on other maker’s guns delivered by his clients. Until we met his preferred cartridge for Army conversions was the venerable .44 Special. Commercially made rounds are readily available in Austria which is not the case when it comes to my pet cartridge .44 Colt. To accommodate the wider rim of the .44 Special his newly milled conversion cylinders have their chambers bored through with a slight cant. For shooting this caliber he recommends lining the percussion barrels. I should have listened to him. That would have saved me mucho dinero.


D:\Nedbal Uberti Colt 1860 Army R1 + 1861 Navy RM\1-FIL17218.JPG

5.1.3_1 Nedbal conversions of Uberti made Colt C&B revolvers: Ivory gripped Richards Army (top), Richards-Mason 1851 Navy (bottom)

Wish List


This was my wish-list for the Richards conversion of Centaure RNMA #4079 for master Nedbal:

#1: A one-of-a-kind conversion because to the best of my knowledge no Centaure has ever been altered to shoot metal cartridges.

#2: I wanted her converted to safely shoot .44 Colt cal. smokeless cartridges with inside lubed .429 diameter bullets. Hence, chambers were to be bored parallel (!) to the arbor. Since the rim of the .44 Colt is smaller than the .44 Special a cant was not needed. For those interested comparative measurements of the rim taken from the books are 11,51-11,75 mm/.453-.461 inch for the .44 Colt and 12,80-13,11 mm/.504-.516 inch for the .44 Special.

For acceptable accuracy this would require reaming chambers into the bored-through C&B cylinder and galvanizing the bore to this smaller diameter. I felt the use of the galvanizing technique instead of a liner was feasible because the factory groove diameter of the Centaure is ca. .446 only, whereas 1st generation Colts or their Italian replicas normally are in the ca. range of .451 -.454. This galvanizing turned out to be more complex and difficult than anticipated. Only with the fourth attempt an acceptable groove diameter seemed to have been obtained.


D:\Nedbal-Uberti Colt 1860 Army R1 .44 Spez\1-FIL17220.JPG

5.1.3-1_1 Another Nedbal Uberti Colt 1860 Army converted to Richards: 4-screw frame, custom engraved, silver plated, ivory grips, .44 Spec. cal.


#3: I prefer the unique Centaure proprietary naval engagement scene over the traditional Colt/Ormsby-style one. So, I suggested to Nedbal to use my extra cylinder #969 which was included in the deal when I had acquired #4079 back in 2005. My reasoning was the confirmed hardness of the Belgian steel would easily stand the moderate pressures of my .44 Colt reloads. As it turned out his assumption did not work out as anticipated. Not because of the quality of the steel but the Belgian factory had cut the cylinder notches too deep some 55 years ago. The Vienna proof house would not have accepted that for cartridges.

Project Outline Centaure Richards Conversion

Project revolver

RNMA 1st variation 2nd sub-variation #4079


8″, Centaure step removed

Barrel marking



.44 Colt inside lubed, liner of .429″ rifling groove diameter

Ejector housing

Richards type



Conversion ring

typical Richards with spring loaded firing pin, integrated rear sight riding on ring

Conversion cylinder

newly lathed from 1.7225-42CrMo4-V320 steel, Centaure proprietary naval scene engraved


bobbed Centaure

Gate spring


Grip frame

Centaure brass triggerguard, steel backstrap with notch for shoulder stock


rust bluing of barrel, cylinder, backstrap, finish of original case colored partes maintained


Rebuilding the chambers of percussion cylinder #969 for the inside lubed .44 Colt cartridges was not cost effective, either. Nedbal lathed and milled a new cylinder using proper strength steel, see table above. Compared to percussion cylinders the rear segment of the new conversion cylinder was beefed-up like Colt did in on their later Richards conversions during the 1870s. Of course, the notches were cut to proper depth. Nedbal also had the original Centaure naval scene of the cylinder provided copied and then engraved on the new conversion cylinder.

Being the kind Austrian Karl Nedbal turned out to be he documented the making of the Centaure Richards conversion, see story with a few selected pictures below:


D:\FAUL RNMA 1V 2SV #4079 Nedbal-Richards-Conversion\1-FIL22426.JPG Groove for ejector housing is milled into the barrel