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Any firearm owner on occasion may need to transport his or her firearms from one location to another. This is an action that involves both legal and safe practices and once you become a firearm owner, you need to avail yourself of any rules that regulate the transport of firearms as well as knowledge about how to do it safely.
The following is a discussion of a few factors you need to know when transferring a firearm from one location to another or from one person to another.
Safety checks to perform before travelling with a firearm
Before embarking on any journey with a firearm, or accepting a firearm from another person to travel with it, keep the following in mind:
- Always first check that the action of the firearm is opened before touching it at all. If it isn’t, open it or ask the person who is handling the firearm at the time to open it for you.
- Visually check that the chamber and magazine of a gun are empty of ammunition before touching the firearm.
- Grasp the firearm with both hands, all the while keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- If somebody is passing you the firearm, say thank or something similar to alert the passer to safely release the firearm.
- Once the firearm is under your control double check that it is unloaded and absolutely safe to handle.
- Always transport your firearm in a safe, unloaded condition and in accordance with all applicable laws.
- Alas, remember that no set of rules can cover all possible situations, so eventually the safe and rational use of a firearm depends on the common sense and proper training of the person who is handling it.
- Always unload and case firearms before transporting them.
- The action should be open, or the gun broken down, whichever makes the firearm safest if it would be mishandled.
- Firearms should not be visible in a vehicle.
- Only ever lean a firearm against a secure rest. A vehicle does not provide a secure resting place and a gun that falls over might accidentally discharge or be damaged.
Travelling with a firearm by air
You may have been invited by a friend to come and hunt on his remote game farm or expect overseas guests for a hunting safari. It is then necessary to know the rules of travelling with a firearm by air.
The first step would be to first check with an airline before you book a ticket to ensure that you may transport your firearm and that you are fully aware of their requirements for transporting firearms.
Some airlines offer an additional service that can be booked at an additional fee when you make a reservation with them, or on their website.
Such a service must usually be booked on the airline’s website about 72 hours prior to travel. There may also be restrictions regarding to airports or routes. For example, Safair’s service is only available when booking the Standard or Premium fare and not available at the George Airport or the Lanseria International Airport.
Customers transporting firearms and ammunition must usually present themselves to check-in counters at least two hours prior to departure and follow the prescribed procedure as stated by the airline. This usually include that customers who transport and check-in firearms and ammunition must be:
- 18 (eighteen) years or older;
- the legal owners of the firearm and ammunition being transported;
- in possession of valid approved documentation, for both firearms and ammunition in their own name, such as valid licences, or permits; or South African Police Services Approved Import documentation, where applicable.
Firearms accepted for transportation are:
- Rifles (used for hunting)
- Bolt action rifles;
- Single-shot hunting rifles;
- A double rifle, a rifle with two barrels mounted parallel to each other used for hunting large game.
- Shotguns (used for hunting)
- Single Barrel shotgun;
- Side-by-Side double-barrel shotgun;
- Over and under barrelled shotgun;
- Semi-automatic shotgun;
- Pump action shotgun.
A traveller with firearms should make copies of all pertinent documentation and store it in a safe place in the event that the original documentation is misplaced or lost, preferable a soft copy that can be downloaded if required.
The following types of ammunition are not accepted:
- Gun powder;
- Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles;
- Ammunition, including the case, may not exceed 5 kg gross weight per passenger.
Transporting the firearms and ammunition:
The firearms shall be rendered safe and unloaded before the flight by the appropriately trained and designated firearms handler.
Firearms and ammunition may not be packed inside personal checked baggage and no loose ammunition will be accepted in the luggage.
Items need to be transported in secured and approved firearm and ammunition cases. Cases can be made from hard plastic or metal and be manufactured specifically for the applicable firearms and ammunition.
Only ammunition that are for the same calibre as the firearm will be transported together.
A single firearms case may not contain more than three firearms and cases must be locked and secured as prescribed.
Travellers with firearms should also note that cases and containers that can easily be opened, even when they are locked, will not be permitted on the aircraft.
Firearms shall under no circumstance be transported inside the cabin or flight deck of an aircraft.
The firearms and ammunition must travel separately as checked baggage inside the cargo compartment of an aircraft, which is inaccessible to unauthorized persons on the ground and during the flight.
Checking in and arrival procedures
Customers transporting firearms and ammunition must present themselves to check-in counters at least two hours prior to departure and if all their documentation is in order, they will receive firearm and ammunition baggage tag or stickers to prove for example that the firearms are unloaded.
Once the check-in process is completed, travellers must go to the airport firearm declaration check-in counter with the items, where they will be checked and made safe for transport.
The Firearms Handler will check if all the items are packed correctly according to the above, which includes checking that all firearms are unloaded and safe.
Once all documentation has been verified, a Firearms Unloaded Declaration must be signed and placed inside the firearm case.
Once ammunition has been verified that they match the calibre of the firearms being transported, the Ammunition Declaration can be signed and be attached to the ammunition box.
On arrival, travellers can collect their firearms and ammunition from the Airport Firearm Declaration Office where the Firearm Officer will verify all documentation and firearm details before handing over the items to the owners, who have to acknowledge receipt of the items.
Travelling by road
Whenever it may become necessary to travel with a firearm by road, the owner would want his or her journey to be as smooth as possible, therefore a handful of tips to follow are discussed below on how to carry your gun on a road trip while avoiding breaking the law.
The right way to carry a gun on a road trip include the following:
- Always travel with the firearm in a certified car gun safe. There are some good car gun safes available that you can install for use while traveling.
- Never keep the gun in the centre console or glove box as it will be accessible to any person traveling with you or having access to your vehicle.
- You should install a gun safe into the trunk or in the car’s bed.
- Always store the ammunition away from the gun. I may even be better to make use of a separate ammo case to store it.
- Never forget that any gun should be unloaded all the time.
Travelling with a firearm in a vehicle safe
A problem all firearm owners have to deal with from time to time, is what to do with it when you need to keep your gun with you while travelling, participate in an outdoor activity like surfing, swimming, or any other sport in an area where you prefer to have your firearm nearby due to criminal activity in the area.
In such a case the solution would be to install a vehicle safe approved by the SAPS. According to SANS 953-1, a person is allowed to store a firearm in a concealed type B3 safe that is bolted to the body of a vehicle. It is also a prerequisite that an alarm and immobiliser must be installed in the vehicle.
Such a safe must be installed by an approved installer and a certificate containing the date of installation, the installer’s name, address, and the vehicle’s make and registration, engine, and chassis number, must be obtained from the installer. It must also confirm that the vehicle is equipped with an immobiliser.
According to the SANS 953-1 a firearm may also only be temporarily stored in a type B3 vehicle safe and not for an extended period, so it may only be used while travelling or you are participating in an outdoor activity, and not be used in place of a proper gun safe in your home.
Types of gun cases
Even approved gun cases can be made from different materials. The following types are available, regarding to the material it is manufactured from:
Padded, soft-sided cases
Materials such as canvas, nylon, neoprene, polyester, or leather can be used to make gun cases.
The advantages of these materials are that cases are light, easy to handle and store, with many designs that can accommodate scoped rifles. It can be offered in camouflage, is waterproof and makes floating cases available and is less costly than hard cases.
Disadvantages of soft-sided cases are that it provides less protection than hard-sided cases.
Lockable, Hard-Sided Case
Lockable, hard-sided cases can be made from aluminium or composite materials and are lightweight but sturdy, meet airline standards and can include deep foam padding that holds firearms in place and cushions impact.
Composite models can be moulded to fit any firearm and are available as waterproof models.
Disadvantages of lockable, hard-sided cases include the fact that they are usually much bulkier and costlier than soft-sided cases.
Overall, if you need to leave your home with your firearm, a golden rule would be to think about who you do or do not want to know that you have a firearm, and act accordingly.
If you travel with children, make sure that they do not have access to your firearm and if they are aware that you are travelling with a firearm, counsel them not to talk about it to other people. This could make you and your family a target because of what people hear as well as what they see.
Make sure all your travelling companions are on the same page as you, to ensure safe travel.
Traveling with firearms is complex but arming yourself with information when you need to take your gun on a road trip will help you when you hit the road.
Make sure to carry all licences, permits and documents with you and follow the law, then your trip should go smoothly.
For regular concealed-carry travel, use gun cases and bags without identifying stickers and logos. When necessary, put them on a luggage cart and throw your jacket, clothing bags, travel pillow, blanket, etc. over the top as you navigate check-ins and elevators in hotels, for example. A few small manoeuvres can make your transport into and out of hotels discrete – it just takes some beforehand planning and forethought.
Is it possible to travel with a firearm by road in South Africa?
Yes, a firearm owner may travel with a firearm by road, but it is preferred to travel with the firearm in a certified car gun safe. Never keep the gun in the centre console or glove box as it will be accessible to any person traveling with you or having access to your vehicle. Always store the ammunition away from the gun.
Is it possible to travel with a firearm by air in South Africa?
Yes, it is possible to travel with a firearm by air, but it is wise to contact the airline beforehand to check before you book a ticket to ensure that you may transport your firearm and that you are fully aware of their requirements for transporting firearms.
Is it possible to travel with ammunition by air or by road in South Africa?
Yes, you may travel with ammunition, but only with the ammunition for the relevant licence firearm that you own.
Is it possible to travel with a firearm in South Africa if you do not have a gun safe in your vehicle?
Yes, it is but it is not advisable. Never keep the gun in the centre console or glove box as it will be accessible to any person traveling with you or having access to your vehicle.
Is it allowed to travel with a firearm in the cabin of an aircraft in South Africa?
No, firearms shall under no circumstance be transported inside the cabin or flight deck of an aircraft.