It was a late summer evening in 2014 when Rick called me and murmured something about transferring a gun for some golfer. It sort of went in one ear and out the other. After a 21 year law enforcement career, the last ten with the United States Pentagon Police, I have grown very tired of celebrities and their demands for special treatment. Besides, my theory on golf is that if I am going to spend all day chasing after some elusive thing I am going to shoot it at some point before that day ends. Golf is not my thing.
I wouldn’t say that when I read about Greg Norman’s chainsaw accident I was either happy or relieved, I can only guess how awful it would be to have a gas powered saw jump back at me and take a hunk of flesh out of my hand. I did, however, write off the likelihood of seeing this celebrity build coming to fruition. No hard feelings, best of luck mending Mr. Norman.
Surprisingly, the call from my gunsmith Rick came again about a year later with renewed interest and a sense of urgency not often found in the gun industry in mid-July, our slow season. Rick put me in touch with Pete, a retired Secret Service Agent. During his time with the Agency Pete had made friends with Greg Norman while working presidential details, the Great White Shark as he is called. The Shark needed a gun and he needed it yesterday.
Greg Norman was not just the best golfer in the world for 331 weeks; he was the winner of 85 tournaments and two majors. Just as impressive is his long list of entrepreneurial successes and philanthropic activities. Figure in a net worth in the multi-millions, a yacht so big that it qualifies as a ship, multiple aircraft, a 5,000 acre ranch in Colorado and a ridiculous beach house in Florida, this guy is the real deal. He cavorts with presidents and the rich and famous. He is going to be obnoxious and demanding, I can see it now. Do I really want to do this? Well, we need the business.
Terminal Performance is a small, family operated firearms business that is scraping by during this lull in the firearms business through gun shows and internet sales. A custom build would be easy money, so when Pete told me he was under the impression that Greg was waiting for me to email him I got on it a day later. Within an hour or two came a phone call that registered on my caller id as ‘restricted’. Often times I write these calls off as telemarketers (although I thought I was on the national do not call list, as if that matters) but I had a free moment and I answered. It was Greg Norman, and he wanted to talk guns. Specifically he wanted to talk about a gun he needed to hunt Ibex (whatever that is) in Khakistan (wherever that is). Initially he told me he wanted a Desert Tech but that he wouldn’t be able to get it through customs overseas because it looked too much like a military gun. Greg was refreshingly easy going yet matter of fact and during our short conversation I felt almost immediately that he would be much easier to deal with that your typical light colonel at the Pentagon who is convinced he is extremely important despite the fact that his primary job is to get coffee for the two-star he works for.
Greg followed up the email with a list of components that he had decided (with a little help I am sure) that he would like a custom precision rifle to be built for his Ibex hunt. Keep in mind it was July 14 and he needed this by July 31:
- Defiance Deviant action, Bartlein barrel, Accuracy International Chassis, Nightforce Optic and rings, Shillen Trigger and a Badger Thruster Muzzle Break. The best of the best.
So I have two weeks to build this custom rifle in 338 Lapua. Probably not going to happen, but I agreed to look into it. And look into it I did; the barrel was in stock at Southern Precision Rifles however, after some concern over the barrel Greg had specified, a Bartlein #7 concave with a 1.8.75 twist, we decided to go with the Bartlein 5R #429 1 in 10 twist. Unfortunately, they were out of stock on the remaining components to I turned to my old friends at Brownells for the Defiance Deviant action. They dug one up despite listing on their website that they were out of stock. It took a dozen phone calls but we have two of the components. I next ordered the Badger Thruster direct from Badger and the optics were easy enough, the Nightforce ATACR with 6-bolt extra high rings. I went directly to Shillon for the trigger assembly; Greg wanted it at one and a half pounds and the Shillen adjusts to just that. One last component and I’m home free, the AI chassis.
Accuracy International is in my backyard, Fredericksburg Virginia. How perfect to give them a call and slide up to their shop and bam, we are ready to roll. So I give AI a call and Lance answers. I would swear Lance is a laid back stoner just punching a clock. I would later find out, however, that he shoots competition precision rifle matches for team AI and he is pretty damn good at it. Lance tells me that AI distributes to only to two retailers, one east and the other west of the Mississippi. Well, ok, I will play along. I call both businesses and no pay dirt; both are plum out of any and all Accuracy International stocks. What now? In speaking with Greg he was a bit disheartened to learn that final revisions are being made on the new generation AI stock and that we had no chance to get our hands on the new, improved chassis, but to turn up empty altogether on AI stocks was going to be a deal breaker. I called everyone I knew and nothing.
Prior to embarking on this journey with Greg I assured him that the build and all of his information would be handled discreetly but with one last chance at pulling this together I called back to Accuracy International and laid all of my cards on the table. It was my stoner friend again, Lance. I explained to Lance what we were building, what our timeframe was, and finally, who the build was for. Lance calmly and coolly said “Let me see what I can do and I’ll call you back this afternoon.” So I have now about given up. My buzzed, cool hand Luke buddy Lance had said he will call me back. Right, famous last words. Like ‘the check is in the mail’ or ‘it’s just a cold sore’. I resigned that I will call Lance back tomorrow only to be told that no stock is available, sorry, better luck next time.
And then, three hours later on this Wednesday afternoon, the skies parted and the ground shook mildly as angels could be heard singing softly, a modern day miracle occurred; Lance called me back (he must have run out of weed, I theorized) to declare that he would get me one new generation stock delivered by Monday, which would be perfect as that was to be the first day of machining the barrel and receiver. My faith in humanity has been restored. All parts for the build have been secured and were on their way. We are going to build this gun and it is going to be ridiculous.
Stay tuned for part 2