"He was still budding (as a collector) at that stage. He had done his research on it and he was interested in American firearms," Beare said.
The association certified Pistorius as a beginner collector, Beare said. Pistorius bought two Smith & Wesson revolvers and three shotguns and sent photos of the firearms and their serial numbers to the association, as required, Beare said.
But Pistorius couldn't take actual physical possession of his firearms because he didn't have police-issued licenses for them. So the weapons were kept for safekeeping by a gun dealer, Beare said. At firing ranges, Pistorius used other people's guns, he added.
Pistorius eventually applied for the licenses in January, according to the National Firearms Center. It listed his weapons as:
—A Smith & Wesson model 500. With a caliber of .500 Magnum, it is called "the most powerful production revolver in the world" by its manufacturer in Springfield, Massachusetts. "A hunting handgun for any game animal walking," the company's website says. Pistorius was "quite fascinated" with that particular weapon, Beare said.
—A Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.
—Three shotguns: A Mossberg, a Maverick and a Winchester, all American makes.
—A Vektor .223-caliber rifle.
The current status of those applications is unclear. Firearms Center officials said after Pistorius killed Steenkamp that the six license applications were sent back to a Johannesburg police station to be refilled, but the reason for that wasn't given.
For civilian collectors, the Vektor is the closest they can get to the R-series assault rifles used by South Africa's military. For civilian use, the rifle is modified to make it only semi-automatic. Because it is classed as a restricted weapon in South Africa, Pistorius had to upgrade his status from a beginner to a more serious collector.
As part of that upgrading process, Pistorius was interviewed again by his collectors' club this January, Beare said. It accepted the runner's explanation that he wanted to collect weapons linked to South African military history, Beare said. He said that entitled Pistorius to start collecting not just South African firearms but also Russian-made guns that guerrilla groups have used over the years to fight South African forces.
Pistorius bought the Vektor around December, and sent the serial number and a photo to the association, Beare added.
Collecting firearms can be expensive. Vektors sell for US$1,100 to US$1,500 on South African gun-resale websites. Pistorius' athletic success and sponsorships have made him wealthy. Beare said he understood that Pistorius was planning to build on his collection over time.
"You start small and then you start growing," he said.
Some have questioned why Pistorius felt he needed such a variety of weapons and whether the association should have certified him.
Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, a regulatory body for South African firearms instructors, said he struggles to see how pistols, shotguns and a semi-automatic rifle could be regarded as a coherent collection.
"The makes differ, the models differ and generally a collection needs to have a theme," said Pretorius. "I don't see there's a theme here."
But Webb, of the collectors' confederation, disagreed.
"There was a logic," Webb told the AP. "He's got three approved areas of interest."
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.