Conflicting Issues, Trademarks and a Couple of Odd Ends

# Centaure – the True 2nd Generation Colt Army?

# Centaure 1960 = 2nd Generation Colt Army 1860?

# The Puzzle of the “Name” of the Belgians

# Range Reports

# The Hunt Goes on

# Three Odd Ones

 

Centaure – the True 2nd Generation Colt Army? A considered personal comment is probably in order here: “Are the Centaures Armies re-issues or replicas?” There is no doubt about a licensing agreement between Sam Colt and the Belgian Consortium of which the Hanquets were a valued member. At the same time there exists no indication that Colt’s ever terminated or cancelled this contract. But it is a historical fact that no 1860 Army-type C&B revolver was ever produced outside the Hartford factory…until 1959 at Rue Treppé Nr. 22, Liège, Belgium. Before Uberti turned out their replica 1963 and before Colt began marketing their 2nd generations between 1978 and 1982.

Some Centaure enthusiasts are pushing this even further by presenting convincing arguments that the Belgians are the real 2nd generation Colt Armies with more DNA of the 1st generation than the ones finished under the Blue Dome in Hartford but with firm roots of production in Gardone, Italy.

However, as the guru says the market is always right, consider this: prices for Centennial Armies at auctions on both sides of the Atlantic have increased significantly since early 2008. Even run down specimens of the more common 1st or 3rd variation RNMAs or 1st variation Marshals demand premium prices today nobody even thought of before. They are now achieving prices comparable to 2nd gen. Colt Armies and we are not even talking about rare Civilians, stocked Cavalry Models or small scale production variations of the RNMA here…Pards & pardettes, the conclusions are all yours.

 

Centaure 1960 = 2nd generation Colt Army 1860? With some regularity we are stumbling over threads in gun forums suggesting that Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège manufactured and/or Centaure pistols actually are the 2nd and even the 3rd generation Colt Armies. To make a long story short: Colt commenced selling the 2nd generation Armies 1978. But as we know FAUL had discontinued their Centaure production already 1973...and never tooled up again thereafter!

 

MYTHBUSTER

#1 The Centaure 1960s are truer 2nd generation 1860 Armies? PLAUSABLE BUT CAN BE ARGUED BOTH WAYS!

#2 FAUL produced the 2nd generation 1860 Armies for Colt? WISHFUL THINKING!

 

The Puzzle of the “Name” of the Belgians: the generally used name for the pistol was and still is Centennial Army in the USA but Centaure in Europe. Why the different terms used? What might have been the rational or emotional rather for this development?

No matter in which geographical area these pistols were sold, early on the top of all Belgians marketed had their barrels roll engraved with the line “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” (1960NMA). Pistols marked “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”    CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK CHIGAGO U.S.A (1960NAM CTM CU) found in the USA and New Zealand are known from 1963 only. Later during that same year the first pistols marked CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK   “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY” (CTM 1960NMA) were reported. Only from 1965 the barrel marking “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”   CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK (1960NMA CTM) has been confirmed. FAUL marked the barrels 1960NMA, CTM 1960NMA and 1960NMA CTM alternately til the end of production in 1973.

# Facts regarding the pistols sold into the USA: during the 1960s Centennial Arms Corporation, Chicago (CACC) was sole importer and main dealer selling these Belgian Armies in the USA. They ran heavy advertising campaigns for the “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”. This 1860 re-issue was the only Army type game in town (til 1963). The advertising created great and long lasting awareness for Centennial Arms Corp. and their (Belgian made) Army Model. CACC never highlighted the involvement of Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège in their communication platform.

Italian Armi san Marco C&B replica revolvers like brass framed Navies and steel framed Dragoons were sold through Centennial Arms Corp as well. Many were marked CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK on the side of their barrel.

My conclusions: most US shooters perceived CACC as the manufacturer of the Centaures. They linked Centennial and (Belgian made) Army and the name stuck! The name Centennial Army has nothing to do with the Centennial of the Civil War 1961-1965. Replica revolvers other than the Centaure were not made by FAUL. Centennial is probably a trade mark of CACC.

# The European Theatre: only as late as 1964 the first Centaures are reported in the survey from France, Belgium and Germany. Pistols from that period are marked CENTENNIAL TRADE MARK   “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”. In the different European countries FAUL had to deal with many different importers and dealers. FAUL themselves got actively involved in the promotions of their guns by providing advertising and flyers that could be customized by their respective dealers by adding their individual address. Interestingly the European shooters did not care how the factory or the dealers termed the pistols or different models. Once the market took note of these Belgian Armies shooters and gun journals referred to them as Centaures because of the corporate centaur logo on the left side of the frame. That name stuck on the Eastern side of the big pond til today.

 

Range Reports: I would like to see more range reports comparing performance and handling characteristics of the Centaure to their Italian repro cousins or 2nd and 3rd generation Colt brothers.

The Hunt Goes on: four variants of the Centaure are currently only known from pictures in old catalogs or ads, namely the Pocket Army, Cavalry Model 2nd variation (rebated cylinder with naval scene; see also next chapter), the factory engraved Marshal (top left) and the Super de Luxe factory engraved New Model Army (pistol pointing upwards).

Please, shout when you track one down, share the pics with us und mail a completed questionnaire with the specifics.

 

 

Three Odd Ones: #1 Had a conversation during summer 2008 with a German Colt collector, CAS shooter and proud owner of 2 Centaures. He told me about his visit to Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège in the late 1960s. He remembered handling there a newly made C&B revolver in .36 cal. with creeping loading lever. It looked like a Colt M 1861 Navy.

Could FAUL have been working on such a pistol to extend the line of percussion revolvers? Is the prototype of a Centaure Navy re-issue out there somewhere? From a production point of view it is not a far step from the Army to the Navy. Being prepared for the unexpected I will not be surprised if a “1961 NEW MODEL NAVY” surfaces at an auction, in the classified section of one of the cowboy forums or gun journals one of these days.

#2 “read and learn” says the wise guy. I like to thumb through old catalogs and check the pictures. Early September 2009 RPRCA let my have right Centennial Arms Corp. ad from Guns Magazine 1962. The pistol with the detachable shoulder stock on the left is an early fluted Cavalry Model no question about it. Then there are 5 Centaures in a row plus a single shoulder stock:

1. Civilian Model,

2. RNMA 1st variation: with the rebated, plain cylinder,

3.…and then what: 7,5” barrel, 4 screw frame like the early Cavalry Model but rebated cylinder with navy scene? Subtitle says: Another version of the Regular NMA .44, this is like transitional Colt 1860, few found with 7 1/2” barrel and round cylinder navy scene. Never heard about this one before!

4. Cavalry Model 1st variation sans stock (ha, they could be had without…), finally the very rare but

5. famous Pocket Army easy identified by the short 4” barrel sans loading lever.

Below Belgian shoulder stock (close-up of above ad) could be fixed to your Cavalry pistol or the RNMA. Three aspects are interesting here: 1. Centennial Arms Corp. calls the Cavalry pistol their “1st Model Centennial” in this

1962 ad, 2. appearantly you could buy these early Cavalry Models with and without stock. This would explain why a few such pistols have surfaced recently with detachable stock but not matching serials between guns and stock. 3. this stock would work for the RNMA as well, no 4th screws or guiding screws needed?! That’s is new information directly from the horses mouth.

I am wondering if these “separate” shoulder stocks were stamped with serial numbers and F-

prefix, and if they were, were the serial number in the range of the Cavalry Models?

The more important issue here, of course, is above pistol #3 marked red, close-up below an unknown variation

of the early Cavalry model with rebated cylinder? I hope to be privileged one day to study a life specimen.

Until this ad was brought to my attention I was led to believe that early Cavalry models were only available with fluted cylinders AND they were the only 7,5” barrel C&B revolvers ever issued by Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège.

And this is not yet the end of the story: did some double checking of old information in the data bank Sept. 15, 2009…and rediscovered an inquiry regarding Cavalry Model #F620 with rebated cylinder from earlier this year. Check over at the Models & variations page to read the rest of the story.

Did I say you should be ready for surprises when you study the Belgian Colt Armies aka Centaures?

#3 Among others the 1974 Lyman Muzzleloader’s handbook lists a Centennial Army 1860 Colt Army revolver kit (left picture, 2nd from top, courtesy RPRCA).

Our current research does not provide any indication that this kit is actually made by Fabriques d’Armes Unies de Liège for a Centaure “1960 NEW MODEL ARMY”.

Until proof is produced of the contrary I take the stance that this one is from an Italian manufacturer and there is a lot of evidence for this.

In addition we are aware of Centennial marked brass frame Colt Navy and steel frame Dragoon clones (1st, 2nd & 3rd model, with detachable shoulder stock). Their Italian manufacture by the now defunct Armi san Marco is confirmed.

 

 

And now you know the rest of the story … or don’t you?

 

WDN/October 31, 2009

© 2007 Wolf D. Niederastroth

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