By Lars Dalseide | June 3 2011 11:44

With roles ranging from the caring father to Mafia tough guy, Joe Mantegna's career on the stage and screen has spanned more than 40 years. Profiler David Rossi in “Criminal Minds,” father Fred Waitzkin in Searching for Bobby Fisher and Mafia Boss Fat Joe Mantegna with a Russian Smith & Wesson golden revolver at the National Firearms Museum filming Gun Stories on NRAblog Tony in “The Simpsons” are just a few of his credits. In less than a month, you can add host of the Outdoor Channel's “Gun Stories” to his IMDB resume.

This week, Joe was in DC to take part in the Honoring Our Fallen Warriors event, host The National Memorial Day Concert, and film a few segments of Gun Stories at the National Firearms Museum. To kick off the day, he shared a story about his morning.

“A lady in the hotel comes up to me with a big smile,” said Mantegna. “She told me that I'm her son's favorite football player.”

The crowd and crew broke out in laughter while Mantegna grinned. “What can you do?”

Setting up in the Robert E. Petersen Gallery, the camera man worked on the lights, the director reviewed the lines, and Joe handled the guns. So how'd they sell him on the show?

“They said there'd be a lot of guns.”

Joe Mantegna with Major Hessian's US Springfield 1903 bolt action rifle at the National Firearms Museum filming Gun Stories on NRAblog Mantegna's enthusiasm for firearms was sparked at a gun club on the shores of Lake Michigan. The facility now closed, he watched from the parking lot as members continued knocking skeet from the sky.

“One day I was hanging out on my bike, and this doctor in a great big Cadillac pulls a Perazzi from out of the trunk,” Mantegna recalled. “He asked me if I was going to shoot or just sit there. I told him I'd never fired a gun before. So he pulls another Perazzi from the trunk, takes me in the club and teaches me to shoot. It was a perfect day.”

The good doctor continued teaching Joe how to shoot, offered advice on what to purchase (a Remington 1100 he still owns today) and ensured his entry into the club.

It was that early mentoring that allowed him to stand out to one of Hollywood's early legends.

“I was at this event with Robert Stack,” said Mantegna. “I went up and asked him for an autograph. He probably had a lot of young actors using that as an excuse to met him so it wasn't that big a deal, but when he saw I had a copy of his shotgun book (Shooting Straight,) he lit right up.”

As an experienced and respected actor, he often puts his affection for firearms to use in the roles he plays. That's why his current character, Special Agent David Rossi of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, has a Springfield Armory TRP 1911 as his Joe Mantegna with Jim Supica and a Russian Dragunov sniper rifle at the National Firearms Museum lab on NRAblog sidearm.

“They brought out Glocks and Sigs and Berettas, but that wasn't right for the character,” Mantegna explained. “He's an old school FBI guy, he needed a real hogleg. A 1911, no question.”

After the shoot was complete and the day was done, Joe and the crew took a brisk tour of the museum before heading out to dinner. It was enough to make him want to come back for more.

“When I have more time, I'd love to come back with a few of my guys and Uncle Willy ... he'd love this.” So why didn't Uncle Willy come this time?

“That's the samething they asked on the Hill. I had Congressmen and Senators asking about Uncle Willy. They met him on some earlier trips and let's just say he made an impression. Unfortunately, Uncle Willy had plans for Monte Carlo so he's over in the French Riveria right now. But we'll bring him by next time.”

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