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How long is a firearm competency valid in South Africa?

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As most firearm owners are aware of by now, a firearm competency must be obtained before an application for a firearm license can be submitted to SAPS.

In South Africa, the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 (the FCA) regulates the possession of firearms by civilians. Since July 2004 such possession of a firearm is conditional on a successful competency test and a variety of other factors, which include background checking of an applicant, an inspection of a potential owner’s premises, and licensing of the weapon by the police.

It is further important for owners of firearm to ensure that both competencies and licenses are renewed before they expire. The Act requires that renewal applications for both must be submitted at least 90 days before the date of expiration.

Expired firearm licenses have recently been a hot topic of conversation within the firearms industry and amongst firearm owners with still no clear way forward, but firearm owners are in the meantime encouraged to not only remember to renew their firearm licenses, but also to ensure that their firearm competencies remain valid.

With the competency testing process being introduced in 2004 when the amendments to the Firearm Control Act 60 of 2000 were implemented by the state and depending on when the process was completed by the firearm owner, these competencies may now possibly have expired due to changes that were made to the process along the way.

It is important to remember that nobody can renew a firearm license without a valid and current firearm competency for the type of firearm the person will be re-licensing.

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Competency testing

Any person who wants to apply for a firearm licence, are first required to apply for a SAPS Competency Certificate before the person can apply for a firearm licence itself.

The SAPS Competency Certificate must be accompanied with a copy of the person’s Proficiency Training and the PFTC Statement of Results certificates with all applications. These can be obtained from the training centre where the person had completed his or her proficiency training.

A motivation is normally not required along with an application for competency, but should a specific police station request one, a training centre should be able to assist the applicant with such.

Upon approval of a SAPS Competency Certificate, an applicant should receive a SMS from the SAPS stating the competency certificate has been approved. The SMS will also indicate that the relevant designated firearms officer will contact the person as soon as the competency certificate or card is ready for collection.

In many instances the notification as mentioned does not happen, in case which the applicant will need to follow up with the designated firearms officer himself.

Competency certificate validity periods

Some competencies will be valid for 5 years from date of issue and some for 10 years. You will find the date of issuing on your competency certificate or card, but if you are not sure as to whether a competency is valid for five or ten years, your local designated firearms officer can be contacted, and he should be able to check that for you.

Firearms guide: What are the top 10 handguns? note that the SAPS Competency certificate validity may be interpreted different and in one of the following ways by a police station, so rather confirm with your designated firearms officer to be sure:

  • Your SAPS competency can be linked to your longest valid licence’s expiry date, even though there may be a different expiry date on the competency
  • Competency for handgun as valid for 5 years and for a rifle, shotgun or self-loading rifle as valid for 10 years.
  • Your SAPS Competency certificate seen as valid for 10 years from its date of issue.

It has become more and more clear that the SAPS manage the renewal of competencies to coincide with the expiry of the longest outstanding licence of a specific firearm type, for example a handgun, rifle, shotgun or semi-automatic rifle.

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Thus, it would be wise to choose, if possible, the section under which you license a firearm before licensing the firearm, so that you don’t have to renew the license more often than necessary.

The following are periods of validity for different sections of firearm licences:

Licenses that need to be renewed every 2 years: Restricted Firearm for Self-Defence – One semi-automatic rifle or shotgun only, subject to extensive motivation.

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Licenses that need to be renewed every 5 years: For Self Defence – One handgun or one shotgun only and For Business Purposes other than game rancher and hunting, for example, armed security or training.

Licenses that need to be renewed every 10 years: Occasional Hunting and Sport Shooting – One handgun only and a total of 3 manual rifles or shotguns; Dedicated Hunting and Sport Shooting – Manual or semi-automatic rifles, handguns or shotguns (requires membership to an accredited association); Professional Hunting – Manual or semi-automatic rifles, handguns or shotguns (requires membership to an accredited association); Firearm for private Collection – Manual or semi-automatic rifles, handguns or shotguns (requires membership to an accredited association) and a few more public or specific purposes.

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Competency renewal

Firearm owners must renew competencies at least 90 days before the expiry date of a specific competency.  It is important to note that each firearm type may have its own competency, albeit all your competencies might be printed on one document.

Competency for Section 13 firearms (self-defence) expires after 5 years.  If you have a second handgun under Section 15 or 16, the handgun competency expires on the date of the longest outstanding handgun licence.  The same applies if you have a shotgun for self-defence.

Competency for Section 15 & 16 firearms (for occasional hunting and/or sport shooting or dedicated hunting and/or sport shooting) expire on the date of the longest outstanding rifle or shotgun licence you have.

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It is important that owners should rather renew their white credit type competency certificates 90 days before expiry date of said certificate, irrespective of what a designated firearms officer (DFO) at any SAPS office may indicate.

The following is required for firearm competency renewal:

  • A completed SAPS 517(g) Form
  • Certified ID copy
  • Certified Proof of Residence
  • Certified copy of the existing/expired competency
  • 2 x Passport photos
  • 2 x Testimonials from a friend, family member or colleague

Other documents that may be required by some DFOs:

  • PFTC Statement of Results of which a copy can be attained from the Training Provider where you completed your training and legal test
  • Training Provider Certificate, of which a copy can be attained from the Training Provider

Additional documents and declarations needed for renewal of competency

For renewal of competency a person will need two declarations by friends or people they know, regarding their character, to be attached to an application.  Copies of training certificates and of the SAQA underwriter (POSLEC, SASSETA, SAPFTC for Knowledge of the Act, Rifles, Handguns, Semi-autos & Shotguns, or whatever a person’s training entailed, can also be attached.

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Character witnesses should make special reference characteristics like non-aggression, low or moderate alcohol use, exceptional firearm safety and responsibility, and to the general responsibility of person in every day and family life.

If your competency certificate has expired, it is advised to start the process to renew it as soon as possible, or submit your application for its renewal in time, if it is still going to expire.  For many reasons, it is absolutely to one’s own benefit to stay within the confines of the Firearm Control Act of 2000.

In the case of owners who have been issued with an A4 type of paper competency certificate which does not have an expiry date on it, action still is not clear due to the Act referring to an expiry date while there is no such date printed on the A4-type competency document. It is recommended that one should use the issuing date as the start date and count 5 years or 10 years from there for validity of the certificate.

Note though that the SAPS will not accept an application for a new licence and for a new competency at the same time.  Your application for a new competency must be handed in first.  Only when you receive that, you can apply for the new licence for that specific type of firearm.

One may however hand in an application for renewal of competency and renewal of a licence at the same time.



How long is a competency certificate valid in South Africa?

SAPS competency can be linked to your longest valid licence’s expiry date, even though there may be a different expiry date on the competency certificate. Generally competency for a handgun is valid for 5 years and for a rifle, shotgun or self-loading rifle it is valid for 10 years.

Can your competency expire?

Yes, your competency will expire with the expiry of the longest outstanding licence of a specific firearm type.

Can I get a copy of my firearm competency certificate?

If you have lost your competency certificate, you should immediately contact the accredited training provider with which you did your competency and request a re-print of your unit standard certification and statement of results.

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