Hollowpoint bullets are quite a controversial topic in society today. They have been referred to as inhumane “zombie stoppers” by the media. This stigma has led to many questions about the legality of this type of ammunition, especially in South Africa. But are hollow points really illegal?
According to the Firearms Control Act, it is not illegal for the public to use hollow-point bullets in South Africa, as long the holder has a valid firearm license for that caliber.
The Firearms Control Act makes no mention of the type of ammunition allowed in South Africa. As long as the holder has a license for a firearm for that specific type of ammunition, it is perfectly legal to use.
In South Africa, hollow points are not necessarily illegal for police, but there are internal policies in place that prevent police officers from using hollow-point ammunition in the line of duty. These internal policies are the source of a lot of confusion around the legality of hollow-point bullets. In some cases, police officers have confronted civilians carrying hollow-point bullets and even threatened them with confiscation and arrest.
What does the law say about hollow point bullets
CHAPTER 10 OF THE FIREARMS CONTROL ACT
It is very little in the law that describes the type of ammunition that is allowed in South Africa. There is also no mention of hollow-point ammunition in the Firearms Control Act or the Explosives Act.
Chapter 10 of the Firearms Control Act does make provision for the minister to restrict certain types of ammunition in the interest of “public safety” or the “maintenance of law and order”. But he cannot just do it on a whim. Before any restrictions can be placed on the public, a notice must be tabled in parliament at least 14 days before it is in effect. This notice must motivate the reasons for the restrictions and the length of the restrictions.
Does that mean that hollow points may become illegal in the future? It is possible but unlikely. Such provision would certainly not be permanent.
CONVENTION OF CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS
The Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, prohibits the use of weapons that have the primary effect of injuring people with fragments that are undetectable by X-rays. This mainly applies to the use of this type of ammunition in warfare and does not apply to the general public.
Hollow point bullets vs. full metal jacket
Hollowpoint bullets are great for self-defense because they expand upon impact, and create a larger wound cavity. This expansion is designed to limit penetration depth, preventing the bullet from passing through a target, with the risk of striking a bystander. The larger wound cavity also increases the effectiveness of the bullet on the target.
Hollowpoint bullets are extremely effective, but it comes at a price. They cost a pretty penny. In fact, a box of 50 high-quality hollow-point bullets can cost as much as R1,000. That is R20 a shot, way too expensive to practice with. For that reason, most people opt to carry hollow point bullets in their handgun, but practice using normal full metal jacket bullets.