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Firearms: How to legally obtain a firearm in South Africa


To legally obtain a gun in South Africa, a person first needs to hold a licence to possess a firearm – whether for self-defence, hunting or sports shooting.

South Africa’s current firearms regulatory framework consists of the Firearms Control Act of 2000 (FCA) and subsidiary legislation. A separate licence must be issued for every firearm and applicants must obtain a competency certificate first.

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What is a competency certificate and who can obtain one?

The FCA requires that an application to possess a firearm, trade in firearms, manufacture firearms, or be licensed as a gunsmith be submitted accompanied by a competency certificate.

To obtain a competency certificate, the candidate must:

  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of South Africa
  • Be at least twenty-one years old
  • Be a “fit and proper person” for the specific license
  • Be stable and does not have a tendency for violence
  • Not have a substance-abuse problem
  • Have no conviction within the five years preceding the application for crimes related to violence, dishonesty, recklessness or instability
  • Not “become or been declared unfit to possess a firearm” within the five years preceding the application
  • Have completed the required tests on understanding the FCA, the training and test for the safe and effective use of a firearm, and all applicable training and tests for the specific license.


The person must further be –

  • In stable mental condition and does not have a propensity for violence
  • Does not suffer from a substance-abuse problem
  • Has not been served with a protection order or accused of domestic violence
  • Has not been denied a license, permit, or authorization for a firearm
  • Has not attempted suicide, suffered major depression or emotional problems, or had a substance-abuse problem
  • Has not been diagnosed or treated for depression, substance abuse, or behavioural or emotional problems
  • Has not been reported to the police or social services for threatening or attempting violence or other conflict anywhere
  • That in the two years preceding the application the applicant did not go through a divorce or separation from a partner in which violence was alleged or
  • Was fired or laid off from his or her job.

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Applying for the competency certificate and firearm licence

When an applicant has completed the competence training and received the training certificate from an accredited training provider, he must apply for a Competency Certificate at the SAPS.

The application and supporting documentation must be submitted to the local designated firearms officer (DFO).

Once a person has obtained the competency certificate, he/she can complete a SAPS Application for a Licence to Possess a Firearm and submit it to the local DFO.Firearm licences guns

A person may only possess one firearm for the purpose of self-defence and the licence is valid for five years from the date of issue. A person may only possess one restricted firearm for the same purpose, with the relevant licence issued only valid for two years.

A person may possess four firearms for the purpose of occasional hunting or sports shooting but if a person is in possession of a firearm licence for self-defence, he/she may only apply for three firearm licences for this purpose since ownership may not exceed four firearms.

On successful application, you have to install a firearm safe according to SABS standards within 14 days. An inspection of your premises will ascertain whether you have met the requirements before you may take the firearm in possession.


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