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No. 1 With a Bullet

When I first knew Grissom--it seems like a century ago now--he was like a lot of other well-heeled jock wannabes. He wanted sporting goods. All kinds of sporting goods, and nothing but the best.

When Wilson came out with its top-of-the-line A-2000 outfielder's glove, Grissom (a pseudonym) was the first guy to plunk his hundred bucks on the counter, take the beautiful thing home and begin rubbing neat's-foot oil into the pocket. Little matter that Grissom couldn't find a fly in a pigpen, or that his baseball career had essentially ended when he was fifteen, in American Legion ball, with a .185 batting average. He had to have the A-2000.

Grissom also owned the most elaborate collection of scuba gear in the history of the Atlantic Ocean. Single tanks. Double tanks. Enough regulators to start up his own federal agency. Even as an eighteen-year-old, he had more fins than a school of sharks and glass-faced rubber masks of every conceivable shape. Let's not even get into the wetsuits--or the spearguns.

For a while there, Grissom was a golf nut (handicap unknown--or inconceivable), and that prompted him to buy every newfangled stroke-saver the manufacturers could dream up. Several basement closets in his house on Long Island are crammed to the ceiling with sundry left-arm stiffeners, hip trainers and neck-bracers. There are several full sets of abandoned cavity-back irons. He's got drivers as big as human heads, and dozens--I mean dozens--of failed putters whose blades resemble everything from Hershey Bars to ice trays to miniature Coupe de Villes. The discarded golf equipment is jammed in there with assorted official size-and-weight NFL footballs, archery stuff, bowling gear and a museum-quality collection of tennis racquets that span the entire history of the game--from old wooden Jack Kramer and Slazenger models on through the first gleaming steel trampolines once favored by Jimmy Connors to the latest in $300 Kevlar howitzers that look like they're from another planet.

Need I tell you that the man has more pairs of underworked, nearly-new shoes--spiked, cleated and rubber-treaded--than Imelda Marcos? You don't want to know about the skis and ski boots and ski outfits.

A mutual friend tells me that Grissom even has a curling stone in one of his mystery closets, but so far, this has been impossible to confirm. Grissom simply doesn't remember if he owns a curling stone.

What he does know--especially these days--is that he most certainly owns a matte black Para-Ordnance P10-45. For those unfamiliar with this particular piece of sporting goods, here we go: It's a 10+1 round .45 ACP super-compact semi-auto with a flared ejection port and a telescoping recoil guide assembly. It's just 4 1/2 inches high and 6 1/2 inches long--much smaller than Grissom's old A-2000 outfielder's glove, twice as concealable and not much heavier than two of his old tennis racquets.

This is the piece of sporting goods with which Grissom, just three weeks ago, quite literally shot himself in the foot. Despite having completed an NRA safety course and making regular trips to the range, he lost one entire toe and part of another in the incident. There's also a nasty hole in the floor of his basement TV room, he says. But otherwise, everything's fine. He's still crazy about his P10-45.

Now, before Charlton Heston runs down here and starts carving the text of the Second Amendment into my butt, let me say that I'm not all that interested--or partisan--when it comes to America's hot debate over gun ownership and gun control. It seems to me that both the national folklore--which is rooted in heroic tales of the Minutemen and says that American freedom begins and ends with the right to pack heat whenever you damn well feel like it--and President Clinton's stubborn effort to make gun control the holy crusade of his administration are ludicrous in about equal measure. Between the gun owner's fierce nostalgia for "self-defense" and the anti's passion for prohibition, a lot of wheels are being spun and a lot of time wasted that could be better spent.

I'm interested in Grissom's missing toes. And in the clear, startling impression he gives that--finally--he's settled on a sport, and a kind of sporting goods, that he means to stick with forever. It doesn't even seem to matter to him that the firmly anti-gun state of New York doubtless frowns on his P10-45. When you want the latest in soccer equipment, or a race car Michael Andretti would love, you find a way. When you want a .45, you also find a way.

Actually, this is not Grissom's only gun. Since he gave up boyish things for real sporting goods--this was sometime around 1986, he says--he has invested a major portion of his savings (and his healthy trust fund) in rifles, shotguns and revolvers. He's got, among other things, a twelve-gauge Sigarms SA5 Upland Hunter, a small collection of Western-style six-shooters, a Glock, and assorted Marlins, Remingtons and Smith & Wessons. He's also got his P10-45.

None of this stuff has yet found its way into the dark oblivion of the basement closets (just a few feet from where he lost his toes), and if we can take him at his word, none of it will. "The only really safe country is a well-armed country," he says, echoing the sentiments expressed each month in the pages of Guns & Ammo and Gun World. "Crime rates drop when citizens exercise their right to own guns--and to carry them concealed."

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