FRIENDS OF THE CENTAURE SOCIETY

6.1 Centaures Glorious Shooting Irons and then Some

Chapter 6 – Centaures the Glorious Shooting Irons and then Some

6.1 Centaures in Competition Shoots

 

 

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6.1

 

 

6.1.1

6.1.1.1

6.1.1.2

 

6.1.2

6.1.3

 

6.1.3.1

 

 

6.1.3.2

 

6.1.3.3

 

 

 

Centaures in Competition Shoots

(by Michael „Socks“ Mayer, translation Jörg „Magic Joe“ Ullrich)

Quality Guns?

Paper Puncher

Cowboy Action Shooting –Fun for the Young and the Young at Heart

Conversions in Cowboy Shoots

Sporting Successes with Centaures since 2006

1 Gun Sporting Successes in Competitions of Major Shooting Associations

Sporting Successes in Regular Cowboy Action Shoots

Top 3 Centaure Shooters in Matches during Annual Meetings of the FROCS

 

 

6.1.1

Quality Guns?

 

The preceding chapters intensely covered the Centaures‘ history, technology and their eligibility as a collector’s item as well as to why they qualify as project guns for historically correct conversions. Now we will address their use as a sports equipment since this is what Fabriques d‘Armes Unies de Liège (F.A.U.L.) had originally built them for between 1959 and 1973.

There is no doubt that Centaures are made of high-quality steel, the measurements of the chambers and the rifling groove diameter match perfectly and the arbor is bottomed tightly in the hole. The bore offers a perfectly centrical alignment with highly polished lands and grooves along with a neatly countersunk muzzle. Compared to models of other manufacturers, the Centaures, particularly of later production, feature a higher front sight. This simplifies adapting the point of impact (POI) to your favorite load. In a nutshell these elements promise ruggedness, longevity and over all accuracy.

As to the gun’s handling, the large grip of the Colt 1860 Army suits not only shooters with large hands. Moreover,  this Colt model, specifically, delivers a convincing performance with both the 8’’ as well as the 5.5’’ barrel due to its well-balanced weight distribution. Many shooters also appreciate the ideal ergonomics regarding the relation between grip and hammer especially when shooting single-handed or duelist style. Hence, they prefer these Colt pattern pistols like the Centaures over those of their period competition.

The tight-fitting arbor of proper length allows for removing the cylinder to load it using an external loading press without affecting point of aim (POA) or point of impact (POI), respectively. This also adds to the important advantages of Centaures over other revolvers today.

The open frame construction is often referred to as less rugged compared to models equipped with closed frames. It is also criticized for the wedge connecting barrel and frame. But some shooters choose this model exactly for these features. According to our own experience and after conducting torture tests over longer periods of time, mentioned elsewhere on this website, we can attest that significantly less smoke and powder residue will accrue in the nooks and crannies of an open frame revolver as opposed to closed-frame models. Therefore, this feature provides for a much more reliable function.

However, I have to admit that the workmanship especially of later production Centaure models leaves a lot to be desired. There are sloping boreholes (often the hammer screw’s drill hole), creaking hammer movement, mis-timing and creeping triggers. Centaures of earlier production seemingly show a better quality, as many shooters confirm who have been using them for decades (!) for bulls eye competitions.

 

6.1.1.1

Paper Puncher

 

A shooter I have known for years uses his Centaure with great success since 1966 (!) according to DSB rules in bulls eye matches (i.e. 25 meters off hand). This blued Regular New Model Army (RNMA) 1st variation 3rd sub-variation #5814 has never been overhauled and still functions perfectly. Only once the leaf spring of the hand broke, of course in the middle of a match. A replacement was easily self-made and installed. Meanwhile in 2019, the still original nipples of this pistol are burnt out to such an extent that it makes you worry about the timing of the piece. These expanded flash-holes of the nipples let escape a lot of gas. This can cause the hammer to move backwards and make the cylinder rotate a little bit during firing thus affecting accuracy.

So, this old Belgian iron will now be equipped with brand new nipples, simple as that. Hence, for static sport shooting in standard categories a specimen of our favorite Belgian percussion revolvers put together well, with proper timing and good nipples, is more than sufficient.

 

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6.1.1.1_1 96 rings out of 100! DSB competition target shoot with Centaure RNMA #5814 under the good old “13 shots/3 discarded” rules

 

6.1.1.2

Cowboy Action Shooting – Fun for the Young and the Young at Heart

 

If you like to add some dynamics to your shooting, then Cowboy Action Shooting (C.A.S.) is for you. The objective is to combine accuracy with fast-paced shooting on the clock. Every single stage must be completed as fast and as clean – clean means no misses – as possible. Usually, the shooter lines up with two single action revolvers, one lever action rifle and one shotgun, all to be fired one after another within one stage. The Range Officer (RO) will time the shooter while three spotters count his hits and misses and indicate those afterwards to the Range Officer. Each miss will add 5 seconds penalty to your time, each procedural error or a minor safety violation is acknowledged with 10 seconds penalty. Major safety issues, however, will result in a stage or even a match disqualification (DQ). The key is to find the personal balance between speed, safe gun handling and accurate shooting. Every little malfunction of the gun, every misfire e.g. from a cap not igniting, every jam caused by a cap fragment sneaking into the mechanism, will waste a lot of precious time when competing with a cap-and-ball revolver and thus can determine victory or defeat.

A perfectly working revolver is a crucial factor. Centaures are capable of being tuned so that they can easily take the burden of rapidly firing 120 shots over a three-days‘ competition, such as the Annual German Open Championships Philippsburg Star in Philippsburg, the Annual European Championships Days of Truth – varying locations – or the Annual World Championships End of the Trail now in Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A. They will work absolutely flawlessly without a single malfunction, as Jörg Ullrich aka FROCS #99 Magic Joe has repeatedly proven. He has won the German Championships with his brace of Centaures already seven times in a row between 2012 and 2018.

 

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6.1.1.2_1 The translator’s Magic Joe’s Centaure RNMA 6th variation 2nd sub-variation #14219 spitting flames

 

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6.1.1.2_2 Magic Joe’s match winning pair (top down) of RNMAs 1st variation 2nd sub-variation #13913 and 6th variation 2nd sub-variation #14219, used by seven-times German Champion in BDS Cowboy Action Shooting 1870 category

 

Klaus Schmierer aka FROCS #63 Fir Mountain Ranger also is happy with his flawlessly working pair. Using his RNMA 6th variation and Marshal 1st variation he successfully completed several matches clean without any miss. Every ball went where it was supposed to go and the guns’ function was perfect.

However, these shooters’ guns have been thoroughly tuned by gunsmiths specialized in repairing and tuning of CAS guns. Let’s shed a little light on these tuning jobs.

 

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6.1.1.2_3 Author Socks of this chapter produces white smoke with Centaure RNMA 7th variation #12305

 

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6.1.1.2_4 Two RNMAs 7th variation #12305 und #12307 in the author’s possession: Fully reworked and tuned for CAS; NB serial numbers, Wolf owns #12306!

 

Usually after about three stages cap and ball revolvers suffer from black powder fouling. This fouling affects flawless and reliable functioning of the revolvers. It is due to black powder residues on arbor, front of the cylinder, breech side of barrel lug etc. It happens when the shooter is not considering some interim cleaning of these areas between stages. Contrary to static shoots, in today’s cowboy type sport shooting this aspect is critical.

Looking at this subject from a historical perspective it seems to have had little to no relevance to our ancestors back in the 19th century. Why is that so? Well, a soldier in the Civil War expecting to need more than six rounds would have simply taken more than only one revolver to the field. We know reports from Civil War cavalrymen stating to have carried up to twelve (12) loaded revolvers on them and their horses. Reloading or even interim cleaning during the heat of the battle has not been heard of. If it happened at all it must have been a very rare exception.

 

6.1.2

Conversions in Cowboy Shoots

 

Even in 2022 shooters competing with conversion revolvers are a rare breed when it comes to dynamic shooting disciplines like Cowboy Action Shooting, even though Italy’s Uberti company has been offering all the major Colt and Remington big bore conversion models nicely beefed-up off the rack for a couple of years already.

For the aficionados of open frame conversions, custom altered Centaures are very special and, therefore, of even rarer occurrence. Taking a conversion model or even an adapted Centaure to the range seems to be limited to shooters who fancy the unique or wish to score in the historical authenticity department. Indeed, you need a little courage to attend a match competing with such revolvers which some initiates consider fragile proposition. Why? Because you deal with the wedge again holding frame and barrel together. Moreover, there is the mostly long sighting line offering only a very fine sight picture. Compared to the relatively wide cutout in the frame of a Single Action Army type revolver and its heavy front sight conversionistas need more time to cut the targets in their sights. This is adding to the pressure of time in a match.

But there are advantages of the 1860 conversions over the widely used SAAs as well, like to name its bigger grip, its fair balance and the shorter hammer stroke. Let’s have a quick look at the most important Colt pattern conversion models:

  • Thuer-Conversion: This variant is very, very rarely spotted at CAS events. It incorporates a couple of built-in disadvantages. The most critical being the front loaded and only friction held cartridges and empties in the chambers. Because these cartridges or empties tend to move forward during shooting affecting the flawless rotation of the cylinder and reliable ignition of the primers. Thuers are “reloaders only” conversions. Proper ammunition is hard to fabricate.
  • Richards-Conversion (R1): The highly visible rear sight on the conversion ring allows for a fast target acquisition comparable to a long-barreled SAA. In addition, the R1 offers the advantage of the larger grip. The R1 has proven its reliability more than only once. This would make this conversion model the ideal gun for CAS but there is a catch. The typical trait of that lip on the conversion ring prevents the Loading Range Officer to easy check the empty chamber under the hammer.
  • Richards Transitional (R2) und Richards-Mason (RM) Conversion: Contrary to the R1 these two variants are more often used for CAS. They present themselves as quite feasible. Especially shooters who have been using cap and ballers before are preferring these conversion models. Like the cap & ballers both these conversion types have their rear sight as a V- cut on the tip of the hammer.

While the Richards Conversion (R1) can be had only custom made, but the R2 as well as the RM are offered by the replica industry off the rack with the caveat of being beefed-up.

Both the R2 and RM allow for an easy verification of the safe loading condition by just a glance due to their gap between cylinder and conversion ring.

R1, R2 and RM demonstrate comparable handling and shooting characteristics, given that the same loads are used.

  • Long Cylinder Conversions (LCC), „Mystery“ Conversions: Centaure Conversions crafted by a conversion artist are special by definition, but LCC and “Mystery” are in a class of their own. The historical background these conversions are based upon is rarely known to Colt students even. Allegedly they have been made of Colt parts only in small batches in Mexico or Texas after 1865 (LCC) and Mexico 1875 (“Mystery”), respectively. Similarly rare are the chances to see them in action in a Cowboy Action Match, although they can well be used for that purpose.

When using an LCC the shooter should avoid pointing the gun upwards when cocking the hammer. Due to the lack of a loading gate – like you find on an arsenal conversion of a Remington New Model 1863 Army – a cartridge or an empty can slip partly out of the chamber blocking the rotation of the cylinder. In addition, and according to C.A.S. rules, the drift-adjustable rear sight located in a dovetail on the breech end of the barrel must be locked in place although that is what some of the originals actually featured back in the days.

 

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6.1.2_1 Loading condition of Richards Conversion not visible (top), considerably better with a Richards Transitional (bottom)

 

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6.1.2_2 Pair of Centaure Long Cylinder Conversions, converted by master gunsmith Klaus Mumme using two RNMAs 1st variation as project guns

 

When considering a newly made Army conversion you should choose the right caliber. Modern calibers are no option. It must be something original. So, what could seem more appropriate as the cartridge .44 Colt? There is nothing more original than that, many of the originally produced conversions were converted for this caliber at the factory. However, the originally used .44 Colt had an outside-lubricated heel-type bullet with a larger diameter (.440″ – .460″) compared to the modern-day .44 Colt. The latter uses an inside-lubricated bullet with diameters around .429. The modern .44 Colt cartridge is highly accurate. It can be loaded with smokeless as well as black powder. All necessary components for reloading are commercially available (see chapter 5.9).

 

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6.1.2_3 No loading gate to stop cartridges or empties from slipping out of the Long Cylinder Conversion cylinder if you aim at low flying objects

 

Of course, you may want to consider calibers such as .45 Colt or .45 S&W. However, when converting modern made cap and ball revolvers such as the Colt M 1860 for the use with .45 cal. cartridges the radius of their cylinder can accommodate only five chambers. This is due to the given dimensions of the frame and rim size of .45 cal. cartridges. Revolver cylinders holding only five cartridges are legal by CAS regulations, if the breech side of the conversion cylinder (or of the conversion ring in case a 2-part cylinder is used) is notched to safely rest the hammer between two loaded chambers.

 

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6.1.2_4 Mexico connection: Centaure „Mystery“ conversion built from RNMA 1st variation 2nd sub variation #11691, Long Cylinder Conversion of RNMA 6th variation 2nd sub-variation #13859, 2 projects of master gunsmith and conversion artist Karl Nedbal

 

In summary we advise to go for the .44 Colt for all the above-mentioned conversion models (excluding the Thuer front-loader conversion).

 

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6.1.2_5 Modern inside lubed .44 Colt Ammo: Factory cartridges pictured have round nose, flat tops are reloads

 

6.1.3

Sporting Successes with Centaures since 2006

 

Centaures and their conversions were used in quite a few competitions successfully; be that on the club, regional, state, national, Europeanor World championship level. Our favorite Belgian revolver saw action in 1 gun, 3- and 4-gun shoots.

  • 1-gun competitions: Usually static or dynamic categories of the major sporting associations on both sides of the Big Pond and down-under. In Germany such competitions are governed by the rules of Bund Deutscher Sportschützen (BDS) https://www.bdsnet.de/ or Deutscher Schützenbund (DSB) https://www.dsb.de/.
  • 3-gun competitions: Cowboy action shoots where only one (1) revolver is used, in addition to shotgun and lever gun in pistol caliber. This type of shoots is offered at the Annual Meetings of the FROCS for those FROCS and Centaure aficionados who attend with one Centaure percussion revolver or one Centaure conversions only. This is what we call the Vaquero class. Apart from these specialty rules of the Single Action Shooting Society (S.A.S.S.) https://sassnet.com/ in the U.S.A. or Bund Deutscher Sportschützen (BDS) Western https://www.bdsnet.de/ are applied.
  • 4-gun competitions: Regular Cowboy Action Shoots (CAS) where pistols used are either a pair of Centaure cap & ballers or Centaure conversions. Obviously, these matches are governed by the regulations of the U.S. Single Action Shooting Society (S.A.S.S.) https://sassnet.com/ or Bund Deutscher Sportschützen (BDS) Western https://www.bdsnet.de/. At the Annual Meetings of the FROCS attendees of these competitions are called Hacienderos.

For clarity and transparency three separate lists are presented below. In the first one (chapter 6.1.3.1) you find sporting successes with one Centaure or one Centaure conversion. The second list or chapter 6.1.3.2 features successes in regular CAS events whereas in the third one (6.1.3.3) results of the Vaqueros and Hacienderos attending the matches at the Annual Meetings of the FOCS are presented.

 

6.1.3.1

1-Gun Sporting Successes in Competitions of Major Shooting Associations

2011

FROCS #2 Long Johns Wolf 1st place Bullet Splitting event at S.A.S.S. 18th Annual Shoot Canadian River Regulators, Clarendon, TX/U.S.A.

2012

FROCS #86 Cougar 1st place Turning Target competition, DSB Frankfurt District Championships, Frankfurt/Germany

2013

FROCS #74 Poseidon 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy/Time Interval, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #74 Poseidon 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Speed, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #56 Archangel 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/ Germany

2014

FROCS #74 Poseidon“ 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #74 Poseidon 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Speed, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #74 Poseidon“ 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy/Time Interval, BDS German Championships, Philippsburg, Germany

 

FROCS #56 Archangel 2nd place Open Frame BP Revolver – Standard, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #56 Archangel 2nd place Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #74 Poseidon 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Knock-Down Plates, BDS German Championships, Philippsburg/Germany

2015

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 2nd place Combination Standard Percussion Revolver 1, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Combination Open Frame BP Revolver, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

2016

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Combination Open Frame BP Revolver, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Open Frame BP Revolver – Speed, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

2017

FROCS #56 Archangel 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS German Championships, Philippsburg, Germany

2018

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS Club Championships SSV, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #56 Archangel 1st place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 2nd place Combination Standard Percussion Revolver 1, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 2nd place Combination Open Frame BP Revolver, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

 

FROCS #140 Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Open Frame BP Revolver – Speed, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

2019

FROCS #56 Archangel 2nd place cat. Open Frame BP Revolver – Accuracy, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

9

FROCS # Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Open Frame BP Revolver – Speed, BDS North Rhine-Westphalia District Championships, Hückelhoven/Germany

2020

FROCS # Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Revolver > .38 cal. – Speed, BDS Club ChampionshipsCJS, Düren/Germany

 

FROCS # Cheyenne Wolf 1st place Combination Revolver> .38 cal., BDS Club ChampionshipsCJS, Düren/Germany

 

FROCS # Cheyenne Wolf 2nd place Revolver > .38 cal. – Speed, BDS Club ChampionshipsCJS, Düren/Germany

 

FROCS # Cheyenne Wolf 2nd place RevolverSAA – Speed, BDS Club Championships CJS, Düren/Germany

Red Alias: Centaure percussion pistol shooter

Blue Alias: Centaure conversion shooter