Richards Transitional Conversion

Under construction. 

The Colt 1860 Richards Transitional Model or Richards II (R2) as some call this “improved” Richards conversion is the rarest of the Colt Hartford factory conversions. Their total number produced is estimated today at less than 1000 specimens. If you add to this equation the survival rate of period guns at only 10 to 15 % but that Colt breech loading Army conversion pistols in particular saw extensive military use – not only through the 1880s at the Western and Southwestern frontier but later again during the skirmishes of the Mexican revolution between 1910 and 1929 – it does not come as a surprise that well maintained R2s demand very high prices at auctions.

If originals hit the market at all they are usually in a used to molested condition.

This might be an explanation why my good friends from Gardone/Italy decided to market 2006 a replica of the Richards Transitional instead of the more common Richards plus they are less costly in the making.

What is a Colt Richards II?

In essence the barrel assembly of the Richards (R1) combined with frame, cylinder and conversion ring of the later Richards-Mason (RM). The R2 was launched during the 1870s after some 9000 Richards Army conversions (R1s) were completed.

Original Colt Richards Transitional Model

Although the US Army was happy with their R1s Colt’s found them too expensive in the making! Hence they incorporated these afore mentioned short cuts in the production which allowed to make further use of their stock of old 1860 Army Model C&B parts. While some of the Richards had reworked C&B cylinders, all Richards II had newly lathed cartridge cylinders installed where the rear segment has been strengthened. This R2 program led to the even more advanced RM conversion once the inventory of percussion barrels in Hartford was exhausted!

Centaure R2 Project Outline

Thanks to Austrian master gunsmith Karl Nedbal Centaure Richards (R1) and Richards-Mason (RM) chambered for the modern .44 Colt cartridge are reality by now as customs conversions. On the other hand, a Centaure R2 would bridge the evolutionary gap between R1 and RM within the family of Hartford made Colt Army type conversions. Therefore, I had to have one for my collection of Centaure conversions.

My 2003 Uberti Richards Transitional #X04444 (left), RNMA #6981 1st variation 3rd sub-variation base gun for the R2 conversion project (left)

A respectful “Good bye  was in order to my Uberti Richards Transitional X04444 pictured above left: “You served me well but I like the period correct proportions of my Centaure conversions better!” So she had to go!

After the experience FROCS #50 Luger Master aka Karl Nedbal had gathered with the previous Centaure breech loading conversions and the Richards and the Richards-Mason in particular this Richards Transitional conversion was going to be a straight forward task. This time Nedbal converted his RNMA #6981 from 1966 for me. The project was kicked-off July 18, 2010, right after the 1st European FROCS & Centaure meeting.

Centaure Richards Transitional Conversion Project Outline
Base pistols RNMA 1st variation, 3rd sub-variation #6981
Caliber .44 Colt inside lubed (liner, .429 rifling groove diameter)
Ejector housing Richards type
Wedge Centaure
Conversion ring gated, Richards II type
Conversion cylinder newly lathed conversion type, Centaure proprietary naval scene engraved
Hammer altered from Centaure
Gate spring external
Back-strap Centaure (steel, no toe on butt for shoulder stock)
Trigger-guard Centaure (brass)
Finish barrel, cylinder, back-strap rust blued, original case colored parts unchanged if possible

We agreed on a completion date around the end of March 2011. Because at that time I had some business trip scheduled to Vienna. It will not be necessary to discuss details of her making. This is already covered in the subject chapters on the Centaure Richards (barrel assembly) and the Richards-Mason (frame/cylinder/conversion ring assembly). But I like to share one piece of information with you, namely the labor time incurred for this conversion. It added up to an amazing 40 working hours!

Nedbal Centaure Richards Transitional #6981: right side view

As anticipated in mid-2010 the day of truth was to be March 29, 2011 when I took possession of this last piece of Karl’s conversion art.

The Shock of March 29, 2011

Yes, pards & pardettes, you got that right I am afraid. This Nedbal Centaure Richards Transitional Model is the last conversion that the master completed!

Nedbal Centaure Richards Transitional #6981: left side view, note .44 CAL on trigger-guard

Why the last one? Because Karl will not accept any more new orders for conversions or any other sizeable gun projects. Because he will close his shop during the next few weeks once the last orders on hand like repair jobs etc. are done. Because Mr. Nedbal retired at the age of 65 in April 2011.

Nedbal Centaure Richards Transitional #6981: new firing pin on hammer, outside gate spring (left), original barrel marking maintained (left)

While this sad news is sinking in please, take a closer look at some of the finer details of this Centaure conversion.

A legend in his time, a great European artist of traditional and innovative gunsmithing, renowned Colt and Winchester collector who has in the tips of his magic fingers more about restoring, repairing and tuning of originals and clones alike than many of the so called specialists.

Nedbal Centaure R2 #6981: note serial number on loading gate (left), Liège Proof house marks are maintained, note domed screw heads (right)

To add another perspective Karl Nedbal is the genius who made small series of .45 ACP Lugers from scratch which are sought after the world over. Karl is tired and steps down as a gunsmith at his terms. So much for the bad news.

Nedbal Centaure R2 #6981: frame & conversion ring with newly lathed arbor (left), breech side view of the newly lathed conversion cylinder (right)


Winter 2011/12 – Update from Downrange

Nedbal’s Centaure customs Richards (R1) and Richards Transitional (R2) were both entered into this endurance & torture test to evaluate big frame percussion revolvers and their conversions for Cowboy Action Shooting. Subject comments on the performance of the R1 are over on the page WHAT WE GONNA DO NOW, BUTCH. Here are a few comments from the testers on R2 #6981. They found her to be a very reliable shooter with smokeless loads during part 1 of the test which was 6 strings of 5 rounds loaded with smokeless powder.

More than sufficient accuracy at typical CAS distances & for relaxed bulls eye shooting with my preferred 200 grainers over nitro loads

During the 2nd part 6 strings of 5 cartridges loaded with black powder where required. Like the Centaure R1 black powder fouling started to affect the cocking of the hammer and turning of the cylinder of the R2 from the 4th string. That was easily taken care of with a little teflon paste applied to the front side of the cylinder. The testers found her trigger nice and crisp. This is desirable in stages or side matches where maximum accuracy is required. Accuracy was satisfactory with both smokeless and black powder loads.

FROCS CAS Test of Winter 2011/12: Nedbal Centaure R1 #4079 (top) & Centaure R2 #6981 entered into the endurance & torture test

Trio of Nedbal Centaure Richards

What do you think of below trio of conversions? They all have “Richards” in their names and represent the evolution of the Colt Army factory breech loading conversions.

Nedbal Centaure Conversions proudly displayed on the Austrian flag (top to bottom): R1 #4079, R2 #6981, RM #6176

WDN/June 21, 2013

© 2007 Wolf D. Niederastroth