Samuel Colt's "repeating" pistol was revolutionary - the ability to carry 6 shots that could be fired in a matter of seconds was no small feat during the era of single shot muzzleloaders. Unfortunately for Colt, with any great innovation comes those who wish to copy it. This was the case with the "Brevete" Colts. The story begins during the 1850's when Colt's revolver was gaining immense popularity with retailers offering Colt pistols in every major Westernized country of the world. It didn't take long for Colt's pistols to find their way into the very skilled and capable hands of the gunmakers in and around Liege Belgium. Belgian gunmakers were quick to copy Colt's design and soon began selling illegal Colt copies throughout Europe.
Initially, Colt attempted to combat the counterfeiters; filing lawsuits against several of the forgers and even including the phrase "beware of counterfeits and patent infringements" on company advertising. Eventually Colt realized he was fighting a losing battle as there were too counterfeit guns being produced by too many small shops for Colt to prosecute them all. So, Colt devised a new tactic: if he couldn't stop the Belgian gun makers from ripping off his designs, he could at least profit from it.
Colt realized that according to European law, any Belgian-made firearm offered for public sale had to be proof-tested by the Liege proof house. So Colt hired a Belgian representative, Monsieur Devos-Sera, to represent his best interests in Liege. Devos Sera was stationed at the Liege proof house where he visually inspected the revolvers that had already been test fired and stamped with the Belgian ELG-star proof mark. The arms that were up to Colt standards were accepted by Devos-Sera and the top of the barrel was stamped “COLT / BREVETE” (Brevete is a French word meaning "patent"). Guns that passed Devos-Sera's inspection were then required to pay a royalty fee to Colt of 10 francs for each gun that passed through the Liege proof house. The infringing gun maker had no recourse but to comply with Colt’s demands. If they refused to pay the royalty, Monsieur Devos-Sera, could legally confiscate the revolver, leaving the gun maker with nothing to show for his labor or materials. Part of Colt's stipulation was that the licensed guns had to be of sufficient quality in order to receive his literal stamp of approval. Additionally, the licensed copies could not be exported for sale in America where they would compete with the "genuine article."
During the course of Devos-Sera's employment with Colt from the winter of 1851 through mid-April 1853, a total 17,550 francs were paid to Colt in royalty fees. This means that approximately 1700 Colt Brevete revolvers and revolving rifles were accepted and placed on the market in Belgium. It may never be known how many unauthorized, counterfeit revolvers were made and marketed during this period. This relatively small production rate combined with the fact that Colt Brevete guns could not be legal marketed in the US makes the prospect of finding a true Colt Brevete revolver on the American collector market extremely rare.
This particular example is a true Colt Brevete which was personally inspected and stamped by Colt's Belgian representative Monsieur Devos-Sera; and features crisp Liege proof marks and an excellent "Colt Brevete" stamp to prove it. Modeled after Colt's M1851 Navy model revolver, this .36 caliber pistol is in excellent shape. The lock up is nice and tight with no wobble in the cylinder. The action is smooth and positive. The hammer has a solid half and full cock and the cylinder locks up tight when cocked.
The barrel is in great condition. There is no wobble in the barrel. The bore is very good with, sharp rifling and only minor scattered pitting. The cylinder matches the barrel in terms condition. Each one of the chambers is crisp and clean with no pitting or erosion. The hand cut serial numbers are visible on all principle components and all match.
The grips, trigger guard, back strap, and loading lever are all original and all matching, The grips appear to be rosewood and are in good condition with no cracks, chips or other damage.