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How to legally obtain a firearm in South Africa

Owning a firearm is the right of most citizens of South Africa and comes with benefits, like being able to defend oneself and participate in sport shooting or hunting. It however also comes with responsibilities – legally and regarding the safekeeping of the firearm and ammunition.

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.


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.


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.

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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