There’s a lot of confusion about how many firearms South African citizens can own. I’ve seen people with collections that include dozens of firearms including semi-automatic rifles. At the same time, some people are adamant that South Africans are only allowed to own a few firearms. I decided to put this to rest, and here is what I found.
A person may own four firearms according to the Firearms Control Act. One firearm can be licensed for self-defense, and another 3 firearms may be licensed under occasional hunting or sport shooting. Dedicated sports shooters or hunters can own as many firearms as they need.
So ordinary firearm owners may license up to four firearms in total, but what type of firearms may they license? What kind of firearms may they license under each category? You should also know that even though theoretically a dedicated sport-shooter/hunter can license an unlimited amount of firearms, they are still limited in some ways. Let me explain in more detail.
How many firearms can I own in South Africa WITHOUT a dedicated sport/hunting status?
As mentioned above, you will be limited to one firearm for self-defense and an additional three firearms for occasional hunting and sport shooting, but let’s find out what type of firearms and how many are allowed for each category.
Section 13: Self-Defense
The firearm licensed under “Section 13: Self-Defense” can only be one handgun OR one manual shotgun. Semi-automatic rifles or shotguns are not permitted for self-defense under this section.
In RARE cases, one may be allowed to license a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun under “Section 14: Restricted Firearm for Self-defense”. You will need to motivate why you are in a position where you need this type of firearm for self-defense. Usually, this kind of license is only awarded to people who live on farms, far away from any towns or cities, and the area is known to be high risk with little to no police presence. It is also important to mention that this type of license needs to be renewed every two years.
As a person without a dedicated sport shooting status, a “Section 14: Restricted Firearm for Self-defense” license is really the only way a person may license a semi-automatic rifle.
Section 15: Occasional Sport Shooting or Hunting
‘occasional sports person’’ means any person who, from time to time, participates in sports-shooting but who is not a member of an accredited sports-shooting organisation…Firearms Control Act, Chapter 1, Definitions
According to Section 15 ;3 (a) of the Firearms Control Act, a person may not hold more than four Section: 15 licenses. According to Section 15; 3 (c), a person may only license one handgun in terms of this section.
In layman’s terms, out of the four firearms that you may license under “Section 15: occasional sport shooting or hunting “, only ONE of these may be a handgun. You may license any manually operated rifle or shotgun for this category. Bearing in mind that you will need to demonstrate the need for the specific firearm by way of a motivation letter to convince the registrar that you legitimately need the particular firearm.
Example of what you may own without dedicated sport or hunting status
If I was able to motivate successfully, the maximum amount of firearms I could own, without having a dedicated sport shooting or hunting status, would be something like the list below:
- Section 13: Self Defense
- 1 Handgun OR shotgun
- Section 14: Restricted Firearm for Self-defense *Rarely approved
- 1 Semi-automatic rifle
- Section 15: Occasional Sport shooting or Hunting
- 1 Handgun only OR shotgun or manual rifle
- 1 Shotgun OR manual rifle
- 1 Shotgun OR manual rifle
How many firearms can I own in South Africa WITH dedicated sport/hunting status?
Theoretically, as many as you
However, you need to prove to the Firearms Registrar that you legitimately need the specific firearm. This will include a motivation letter detailing what activities you will be engaging in with the firearm and which sport shooting organizations you are a member of. Your sport shooting organization will need to write an endorsement letter explaining why you need the firearm and describing the types of shooting activities the organization hosts for that type of firearm.
You COULD license many firearms, such as multiple semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, handguns, and bolt-action rifles. Still, you will need to convince the registrar that the need for the new firearm cannot be fulfilled by ANY one of your existing firearms, regardless of what section they are licensed under.
For example, if you already own a semi-automatic rifle in .223 Remington, and you try to license an additional semi-automatic rifle in the same caliber, you are going to have a hard time convincing the registrar that you truly need the new firearm. Here you will have to go into great detail explaining why your existing firearm cannot meet the requirements of a specific shooting match or activity.
Suppose you already own a short-barrelled .223 Remington in an AK format, and you would like to license a new AR-15 in the same caliber. In that case, you might want to point out that the new rifle is being licensed for the purpose of long-range shooting. The AR-15 is more capable at distances further than 100m because it has a longer barrel that is free-floated. The AR-15 also has the ability to mount a rifle scope, where the AK can barely group at 100m. It is impossible to mount a rifle scope, rendering the AK obsolete for precision rifle shooting beyond 100, or even 50m for that matter.
How to obtain a “Section 16: Dedicated Sport-Shooting” status in South Africa?
Basically, if you want to own more than five firearms, or if you would like to legally own and license a semi-automatic rifle, then you will need to obtain dedicated sport-shooting/hunting status.
“Dedicated Sport Shooting Status” requires that you are a member in good standing of an accredited sport shooting organization. Each organization has different requirements for new members but always involves some sort of briefing, a written and safety test, and a certain amount of activities attended per year.
To obtain a dedicated sport-shooting or hunting status, you will need to approach a sport-shooting or hunting organization and tell them that you would like to start sport-shooting or hunting. There are many different types of sport-shooting and hunting organizations that practice different forms of shooting discipline, so choose carefully so that you do not limit yourself to only a few disciplines and cannot license certain types of firearms.
For example, some organizations only practice pistol shooting and will qualify you for licensing pistols only. The same goes for shotguns etc…
Once you have approached them, you usually need to attend a safety brief and a shooting test along with some paperwork and payments. Once accepted, then you will be allowed to partake in shooting matches. Most shooting organizations will only award dedicated sport-shooting status after you have attended a certain amount of shooting matches.
Once you have been awarded a dedicated sport shooting status, you will be given a certificate and a registration number. This is required when applying for a license under the “Section 16: Dedicated Sport-Shooting or Hunting” category.
So, how many firearms can a person own in South Africa? As always, the answer is “It depends”.
If you do not have any “Dedicated Status” with an accredited sports shooting or hunting organization, then you are limited to 1 handgun or shotgun for self-defense and 4 additional firearms of which may consist of manually operated rifles or shotguns and one additional handgun. You cannot own any semi-automatic firearms without a “dedicated status.
If you do indeed have “Dedicated Status” with an accredited sports-shooting or hunting organization, then you aren’t limited to any specific number of firearms. However, you will need to convince the registrar that you really do need the firearm you are applying for. This is done in the form of a motivation demonstrating that none of your existing firearms are appropriate for the shooting activity that you need the new firearm for.