The holiday season is upon us, and many of you have already made plans and packed your bags to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unfortunately, crime doesn’t take breaks and legally armed South Africans may opt to take their firearms with them on holiday. However, travelling with a firearm in South Africa requires strict adherence to the country’s firearm regulations.
Download the FREE Firearms Guardian travel guide for 2023 below. How to travel safely (and legally) with firearms.
Safety checks to perform before travelling with a firearm:
Before embarking on any journey with a firearm, keep the following in mind:
(These rules are applicable when the owner is transporting the firearm rather than having it on them at the time)
- Always unload firearms before transporting them.
- The action should be open, or the gun broken down, whichever makes the firearm safest if it would be mishandled.
- Visually check that the chamber and magazine of the gun is empty and has no ammunition inside before touching the firearm.
- Grasp the firearm with both hands, all the while keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- 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 and in accordance with all applicable laws.
- Firearms should not be visible in a vehicle.
- Remember to always 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.
- Also, 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.
Travelling by road:
Many of you will be travelling by road, and the owner would like for his or her journey to be smooth and without any incidents. Below we have compiled a set of tips for you to follow on how to carry your firearms in the car while remaining within the confines of the law.
The right way to carry a gun on a road trip includes the following:
- Carry your hand gun on your person, concealed.
- Never keep the gun in the centre console or glove box as it will be accessible to people (potentially children) travelling with you or anyone who has access to your vehicle.
- You should consider installing a gun safe in the car’s trunk. Always travel with the firearm in a certified car gun safe. There are many good car gun safes available that you can install for use while travelling.
- Always store the ammunition away from the gun. It may be even better to make use of a separate ammo case to store it.
- Never forget that all guns should remain unloaded for the duration of your journey. However should you choose to keep your gun loaded for purposes of self defence, make sure that you have complete control over it throughout your journey.
Vehicle gun safes:
One problem all firearm owners have to deal with is what to do with the firearm when they need to keep it with them while travelling. 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 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 and address. The certificate should also include the vehicle’s make and registration, engine, and chassis number. These must be obtained from the installer. The documents must also confirm that the vehicle is equipped with an immobiliser.
What should I do if I am stopped by the police?
If you are stopped by the police in South Africa and you have a firearm in your car, it’s crucial to follow the law and the officer’s instructions carefully to ensure everyone’s safety. Here are some general guidelines:
Stay Calm and inform: When stopped by the police, remain calm and keep your hands visible. Inform the police officers that you have a firearm in the vehicle if they ask.
Follow Instructions: Comply with the police officer’s instructions. Don’t make any sudden movements or reach for the firearm without their permission. You must produce your licence or your firearm if a police officer, or another designated officer, requests you to.
Provide Documentation: If requested, provide your firearm licence, your own identification, and any other documentation related to the firearm.
Be Honest and Cooperative: Answer any questions truthfully and cooperate fully with the officer. Being honest and respectful can go a long way in diffusing the situation.
Follow Legal Requirements: Understand and follow all legal requirements regarding the transportation and possession of firearms in South Africa.
Travelling with a firearm by plane:
Holidays are short and distances are long, so many are opting to travel by air to make most of their time. The rules when travelling with a firearm by air are extremely strict, but we have you covered on that end as well.
The first step would be to check with an airline before you book a ticket to ensure that you are allowed to transport your firearm. You should also familiarise yourself with their requirements for transporting firearms.
Some airlines offer an additional service that can be booked with an additional fee when you make a reservation with them. These services are usually booked on the airline’s website about 72 hours prior to travel. There may also be restrictions regarding airports and/or routes.
Customers transporting firearms and ammunition must 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 includes the following
- The legal owner must be 18 years or older;
- They must be in possession of valid and approved documentation, for both firearms and ammunition in their own name, such as licences, permits; or South African Police Services Approved Import documentation, where applicable.
Firearms accepted for transportation generally include:
- 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.
If you are travelling with firearms, it is vital that you make copies of all pertinent documentation and store it in a safe place in the event that the original documentation is misplaced or lost. The most convenient is a soft, downloadable copy.
Remember, regulations can change, so it’s crucial to check with the South African Police Service or the nearest South African embassy or consulate well in advance of your travel for the most up-to-date information and procedures regarding travelling with firearms. Failure to comply with regulations can result in serious legal consequences.
The following types of ammunition are usually not to be transported:
- Gun powder;
- Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles;
- Ammunition, including the case, may not exceed 5 kg gross weight per passenger.
Transporting firearms and ammunition by plane:
All firearms must be 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.
All firearms and ammunition must be packed and secured in approved firearm and ammunition cases. Only ammunition of the same calibre as the firearm will be transported together.
A single firearm case may not contain more than three firearms and cases must be locked and secured as prescribed.
Firearms should under no circumstance be transported inside the cabin or flight deck of an aircraft.
All firearms and ammunition must travel separately as checked baggage inside the cargo compartment of an aircraft, which is inaccessible to unauthorised persons on the ground and during the flight.
Check-in and arrival procedures:
Customers transporting firearms and ammunition must present themselves to check-in counters at least two hours prior to departure, and ensure they have all of their documentation prepared and ready. They will receive firearm and ammunition baggage tags 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. Here, the firearms will be checked that they are ready for transportation.
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 it matches the calibre of the firearms being transported, the Ammunition Declaration can be signed and be attached to the ammunition box.
The overall golden rule of travelling with a firearm is to decide who you want to know about the presence of your firearms and act accordingly.
If you plan on travelling 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, remind them to not go near it, nor tell others where they are being kept unless they are instructed to do so. Make sure all your travelling companions are on the same page as you regarding the firearm to ensure safe travel.
Travelling with firearms is complex but arming yourself with information will provide you with peace of mind that you and your family are now safer. Don’t forget to carry all licences, permits and documents with you and follow the law, then your trip should go smoothly.
In regards to concealed-carry travel, use gun cases and bags without identifying stickers and logos.
Despite doing everything right, the reality of living in SA sooner or later you could be forced to use your firearm. This is why legal and liability insurance is vital. Learn more about Firearms Guardian for the best legal coverage regarding firearm incidents money can buy.
Firearms.co.za is a Firearms network, established to provide support for law-abiding citizens looking to be armed, or that are already armed in South Africa and even elsewhere. Firearms.co.za provides a network platform for gun-owners and/or enthusiasts who like to catch up on firearm related news and training opportunities.