This is a fantastic example of an 1850's era Percussion Revolver manufactured for or by Jean Mathieu Deprez (Joassart) of Belgium. The frame, cylinder, trigger guard, and grip cap are fully relief engraved with grape vines while one-piece ebony grips are finely checkered with hand-carved shells on each side leading up to the frame. In the past, we have tended to stay with American-made revolvers but this Deprez has such an amazing blend of an American influenced gun coupled with European design improvements and Old World craftsmanship, that I couldn't resist. It's similar to a Colt 1851 Navy in that it's a single action with an open top frame design in .36 caliber with an octagon barrel (6-1/4"), but stylistically, it takes a very different approach. Most of the information we were able to uncover on Deprez had to be translated from French but we know that he was the author of no less than ten patents in Belgium from 1857-67...followed by more revolver designs in the 1870's. In addition to his gun innovations, Deprez had an iron foundry located in Herstal, Belgium...which is close to Liege...the epicenter for 19th century European gunmakers.
HERSTAL: While most of us have heard of Liege, does "Herstal" sound familiar to you? Herstal is the hometown of world famous gunmaker "Fabrique Nationale" whose fame is at least partially due to an American gun inventor named John Browning. For almost twenty years, Browning designed and sold his inventions almost exclusively to Winchester Repeating Arms Co. Winchester always bought Browning's designs for sums of cash...but that was all about to change. In 1902, Winchester Repeating Arms made a disastrous decision to not allow Browning royalties on an automatic shotgun design that had taken the inventor years to perfect. Browning took his gun and left New Haven for Remington Arms in Ilion, NY where the head of Remington anxiously awaited the inventor and this incredible new shotgun. In a tragic turn of events, on the same day Browning arrived, the president of Remington died of a heart attack at lunch with Browning was literally waiting outside the the president's office. That left Browning with his third choice...a bicycle company in Belgium made guns and bicycles named FN! Browning came to FN Herstal in 1902. The company graciously accepted Browning's royalty agreement and the Belgian Browning Auto 5 shotgun was born. He kept an office there and died in nearby Liege in 1926.
CONDITION: Overall condition is NRA Antique Fine++ to Excellent. The barrel retains 85% bright original blue. Cylinder has 90% finish...while the frame finish has mostly flaked resulting in a light brown patina with blue in protected areas. The release lever, loading lever, trigger and hammer show portions of their original straw-colored tempered finish. Grips are in excellent condition with sharp checkering, no chips, cracks, or repairs.
ENGRAVING: Unlike most traditional American engraving...where a design is cut into the metal...relief engraving is not unlike carving wood or chiseling rock away to form a sculpture. The metal is removed from around the object the engraver wishes to portray...in this case grape leaves, grapes, and vines. It's difficult work, very time consuming, and I've got to say, the results are often a rough chiseled look...especially in the background which are often uneven. It takes a very good engraver to do this style of engraving to a level that doesn't resemble a carved wood-block print pattern done in a 10th grade art class. Metal is not kind to work with and it can be unforgiving to less than skilled hands. I've got to say though, this Deprez Revolver has relief engraving that far exceeds the level of most that I've seen. The designs have well defined borders...look how the edges of the grape leaves flow so smoothly...not chippy or erratic. Then look at the backgrounds...how flat and consistent they are...not rough and choppy from the engraver's chisel. More amazing are the thin vines running through the design...with no chisel marks or mistakes. Truly, the work of a highly skilled hand.
MECHANICS: There is no doubt this revolver has some of Sam Colt's DNA but is different in other ways. Rather than the Colt method which uses a simple wedge of metal which passes through the lug of the barrel and a slot in the cylinder pin to hold the barrel tightly against the frame, Deprez developed a small lever located underneath the barrel...the fulcrum of which has a cam or lobe that presses into an oval shaped cutout on the bottom of the cylinder pin. The loading lever is side-mounted similar to a British Adams or Tranter type percussion revolver. The hammer spur is much flatter and shaped like a beaver tail. The bolt stop is a simple round pin that pops out of the back wall of the recoil shield between the lugs of the cylinder. One thing I really like about his design is that the cylinder pin has a spring running length-wise to keep the cylinder from sliding back and forth.