How to Write a Successful Firearm License Motivation

Writing a good firearm license motivation letter is paramount to getting your application approved. The registrar, the “decision-maker”, will exploit any excuse to refuse your application, so you need to be sure you cover all your bases.

A motivation letter should be around two to three pages long. It should be brief, straight to the point, and easy to read. It should have as many details as possible and must be factual. Be sure to prove as many of your statements as you can with supporting documents and external sources.

The type of application will determine how your motivation letter is structured and worded, but for the most part, the motivation letter needs to accomplish the following:

  • INFORMATION. Give the registrar all the information relevant to the application in an easy-to-read format.
  • NEED. Prove to the registrar that there is a legitimate need to keep a firearm.
  • SUITABILITY. Prove the suitability of the specific firearm, based on your needs and the technical attributes of the firearm. Be sure to mention the caliber, action, size, barrel length, capacity, etc.
  • EXISTING FIREARMS. This is also a good time to mention why none of your existing firearms are able to fill the purpose of your new application. Many licenses are refused on the basis that the applicant “already has a firearm that can be used for the purpose applied”
  • STORAGE. Convince the registrar that you are able to store the firearm in a secure location, with the prescribed safe.
  • CHARACTER. Convince the registrar that you are a sober, responsible law abiding citezen. Assure them that you are fit enough to be in possession of a firearm.
  • SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS. Try to prove every statement you make in your motivation. Use news articles, published statistics, photos, written statements from third parties etc. You also need to prove your address and your identity.


Start this section with a brief introduction. Be friendly and respectful. Make sure you put the following information in this section:

  • Date
  • Full name
  • ID number
  • Full home address
  • Section that you are applying under. (For example: Section 13 – Self Defense)
  • Contact details (Email and Phone)
  • Description of firearm type, make, model and serial number
  • The police station where you applied

Need, Suitability and Existing Firearms

Here you need to prove that you have a legitimate need for the possession of the firearm. This section will depend largely on the category of license you are applying for


Self-defense is arguably the category with the highest refusal rates, so be sure to leave no stone unturned when motivating the need.

Do you live in a high-crime area? Have there been any cases of violent crime in your area? Use the internet and local newspapers to find such reports. Also, make sure you check the SAPS Crime Stats Website and other independent sites such as Crime Stats SA. Popular news sites such as News24 may also prove helpful in this. If you have been a victim of a violent crime, then definitely mention that, but be sure to cite the SAPS case number to support the claim.

Do a risk assessment of your home and point out any dangers that might help you justify your need for a firearm. Take note of bushes, dark areas, and other hiding spots that make you vulnerable when you arrive home or leave to work. Also, think about your driving route to work and back home. If you have to drive through high-risk areas, be sure to point that out using newspaper reports and stats as mentioned above.

Do a lifestyle risk assessment too. Do you get paid in cash? That would certainly be in your favor when applying for a self-defense firearm.

What makes you vulnerable? Do you arrive home late at night? That might make you vulnerable. If you are a small-framed woman or an elder person, you could certainly prove vulnerability and justify the need for a firearm.

Avoid using work-related tasks as reasons to justify the use of a firearm, this might confuse the registrar and they may refuse your license on the basis that you should apply for a license for business purposes.


Section 15 licenses are for persons who wish to apply for a firearm to be used for occasional hunting or sports shooting. A license in the category may only be issued for a handgun, manually operated shotgun, or manually operated rifle.

An application for a license under “Section 15” does not require membership of an accredited sport shooting or hunting organization, although, such memberships will certainly help with your motivation.

For a successful application in this category, you will need to cover the following:

Describe the need for the firearm. Describe in detail what type of shooting activities you will be taking part in using this firearm. It is also well worth mentioning all related activities you have participated in already. As always, be sure to use documents to support all of your statements.

  • Photographs of you competing in a shooting competition or on a hunting trip.
  • Published results, or certificates from shooting matches.
  • Log book of all shooting activites that is verifyable by a third party.
  • Invoices from hunting trips.
  • “Invitation to hunt” letters from anyone who own a farm where hunting is allowed.

Describe the suitability of the firearm for the activity. You would have a difficult time convincing the registrar that you are licensing an additional .38 snub-nose revolver for the purposes of hunting kudu, and so it is extremely important to explain to the registrar why you are applying for the specific firearm and how it relates to the claimed activity. For sport shooting, point out the technical requirements for the shooting activity, such as:

  • Weight of the firearm. A hunting rifle might be light and easy to carry around in the bush, compared to a bench rest precision rifle where heavier is better.
  • The bullet weight, energy, and trajectory will effect what kind of animals you can hunt. It will also determine the distance you can compete at in competition shooting and the types of targets you are shooting (paper vs. steel).
  • Availability and affordability of ammunition also plays a huge role in selecting a firearm, and is worth mentioning in your motivation letter
  • Accuracy is important in the suitability of a firearm and an activity. If the purpose of your new firearm demands accuracy, then be sure to point that out, and why the firearm qualifies.

If you own other firearms, the registrar is definitely going to look at that and ask, “Does the applicant already have a firearm that can be used for the claimed activity?”. You’d better have an answer. Make sure you are covered by looking at each of your existing firearms, and explain to the registrar why none of them are suitable.

Use the points above to help, the weight of the firearm, bullet, weight, type and trajectory, availability and affordability of ammunition, accuracy, etc.


Section 16 applications are for dedicated sports shooting or dedicated hunting. In order to license a firearm in this category, one needs to be a member of an accredited sport shooting or hunting organization.

Dedicated sport shooters and hunters may license as many firearms as they can prove a legitimate need for. There is also no limit to the number of ammunition people in this category can own. Furthermore, dedicated sport shooters can license semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in this category.

The motivation for a section 16 firearm license is almost identical to a section 15 license but should include some additional information, including:

  • Proof of membership of an accreddited sport shooting or hunting organization.
  • Letter of endorsement from the chairman of the organization, stating that the specific firearm is appropriate for the type of shooting that is conducted by the organization.
  • List of recent sport shooting or hunting related activities.


Safe storage is a huge concern for the registrar. Failure to convince them that you can prevent the firearm from being stolen will certainly result in the refusal of your license. This section should cover not only the actual gun safe but also the security of your dwelling.


I have previously explained the gun safe requirements for South Africa in detail, but here is a short summary.

For a handgun, a type B1 safe with a wall thickness of at least 2.8mm should be mounted to concrete or a solid brick wall by at least two M10x80 anchor bolts, according to the SANS 953-1 standard for storage of firearms.

The door of the type B1 handgun safe should be at least 5.75mm thick with three locking 20mm locking bolts spaced 500mm apart.

For a rifle, a type B2 safe with a wall thickness of at least 2.8mm should be mounted to solid concrete or brick walls using at least four M10x80 anchor bolts according to SANS 953-4 standard for storage of firearms.

Be sure to specify exactly what type of gun safe you have. Measure the safes wall thickness, door thickness, and locking bold dimensions as well as the mechanism. Specify what type of anchor bolts you used and how many of them. It won’t hurt to use more than the minimum recommended bolts in this case.

Where is the safe installed? A concealed safe is always a good idea. Be sure to convey this to the registrar. They will see it as a lower risk if it is out of sight in a secure part of the house. Perhaps in your bedroom cupboard.

It is also worth mentioning that you and only you have access to the safe and that the key is always in your possession.


The registrar gives no details or requirements given about the applicant’s dwelling situation, but using common sense here will lower the risk of your firearm being stolen. Going the extra mile, and pointing it out in your motivation will also reassure the registrar that you are serious about the safekeeping of the firearm.

With that in mind, it is highly recommended that you install burglar guards in the room where the gun safe will be installed, along with a security gate in the doorway to the rest of the house. Other security precautions you might want to take and mention in your motivation are:

  • Guard dogs.
  • House alarm with armed response.
  • Access controlled premesis.
  • Electric fencing.
  • CCTV.
  • Neighborhood watch or CPF in the area.
  • Motion activated lighting.

If you live in an estate with access control, be sure to mention that. It is also worth mentioning that you have a good relationship with your neighbors and keep watch on each other’s properties when away.

Of course, not everyone can afford extravagant security measures, and for that reason, these are not a legal requirement, so just do your best with what you have, and try to reassure the registrar that the firearm will be safe.


Here you need to convince the registrar that you are not a trigger-happy maniac who is about to shoot up a school.

If applicable, point out that you have no criminal record, and that you have never been accused of, or been found guilty of any offense. You can also say that you have no history of liquor or substance abuse – if that is true, of course…

Let the registrar know that you lead a healthy and responsible lifestyle and that you have sober habits. If you have owned firearms before, tell them that you have a proven track record as a responsible gun owner. It would also be good to reassure the registrar that you sincerely believe that a firearm should only ever be used in self-defense as an absolute last resort.

To support your statement, ask some friends, family, and colleagues to write a short “character reference”. The more, the better. Try to avoid giving your references a template so that it looks authentic. Tell your references that it is for a firearm license so that they can give context in their testimonial.

If you are married, I highly recommend that your spouse write a character reference too.


End your motivation with a sincere request that the application is approved. Also, make a request that if the decision is to refuse the application, that they first contact you with the reason for refusal, giving you an opportunity to address the problem before an official decision is made. This opportunity is rarely afforded but it’s well worth asking for.

Be sure to add your name and date at the end of the motivation, and initial each page.

Supporting Documents

As I mentioned at the outset of this article, supporting documents are paramount to proving your statement. As a rule of thumb, try to prove everything you say with some sort of document, source, or published statistic.

With regards to the formalities, the following supporting documents should be attached to your motivation:


  • All Applications
    • Proof of identity – Certified copy of ID or Passport.
    • Proof of residence – Certified copy of a municipal account, title deed, lease, etc.
    • Pictures of gun safe, inside showing bolts, and outside showing position.
  • Section 16: Dedicated Sport Shooting / Hunting
    • Proof of membership of an accreddited sport shooting or hunting organization.
    • Letter of endorsement from the chairman of the organization, stating that the specific firearm is appropriate for the type of shooting that is conducted by the organization.
    • List of recent sport shooting or hunting related activities.


The following documents are optional but highly recommended to help support statements in your motivation:

  • Security Related Supporting Documents (All Applications)
    • Invoice or statement from alarm company.
    • Pictures of your street, highlighting risky elements.
    • Proof of work address if you claim that you drive through a high risk area to and fro.
    • Written statement from employer if you work late.
    • Pictures of burglar guards, guard dogs, electric fencing etc.
  • Sport Shooting or Hunting Activity Supporting Documents (Section 15 & 16)
    • Photographs of you competing in a shooting competition or on a hunting trip.
    • Published results, or certificates from shooting matches.
    • Log book of all shooting activites that is verifyable by a third party.
    • Invoices from hunting trips.
    • “Invitation to hunt” letters from anyone who own a farm where hunting is allowed.

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