Many think of the AK-47 as a symbol of gangs and terrorists, and the moment an AK-47 is spotted in public, it might not be unreasonable to think that it’s illegal. However, this infamous firearm is sought out by many sincere collectors and sport shooters for its incredible history, ease of use, affordability, and reliability. You might be surprised at the answer to the question, “is it legal to own an AK-47 in South Africa?”.
AK-47’s are legal in South Africa as long as they are limited to semi-automatic and the owner has a section 16 license for the rifle. Automatic AK-47’s are prohibited for civilian ownership unless they have a Category: A collectors status, usually only issued to museums, and serious collectors.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to exclude the process of obtaining a fully automatic AK-47 as these licenses are usually reserved only for museums with public displays, and other serious collectors. Getting to this category of collector takes many years and a lot of money. With that said, let’s see how someone can legally own the next best thing, a semi-automatic AK-47.
How to get an AK-47 in South Africa?
- Step 1: Obtain firearm proficiency training for a self-loading rifle (semi-automatic)
- Step 2: Submit an application to the South Africa Police Service for a competency certificate (semi-automatic)
- Step 3: Obtain “dedicated sport shooting status” with a shooting organization such as NHSA.
- Step 4: Purchase the semi-automatic AK-47 (The firearm will stay in storage with the dealer until the license has been approved.
- Step 5: Compile a detailed motivation letter and obtain an endorsement from your shooting organization.
- Step 5: Using the firearms serial number, your competency certificate number, and dedicated sport shooting status, you are not ready to submit an application to license the AK-47 on your name.
- Step 7: Once your license has been approved, you may collect the card from your local police station. Take this card to your dealer and they will let you take possession of your brand new AK-47.
Step 1: Obtain firearm proficiency training for a self-loading rifle.
Before you can do anything else, you need to attend a course to become proficient at handling the firearm you are applying for. You need a proficiency certificate for the category of firearm you wish to own. These are handgun, shotgun, manual rifle, and self-loading rifle. In order to proceed to the next step of owning a semi-automatic AK-47, you will need to complete the course for “Self-loading rifle”.
You will also need to complete the course “Knowledge of the Firearms Control Act”
The total cost of this course is usually around R1,500 and consists of two books, two theory tests (one for law, and one for the handling of the firearm), and a shooting test. This can take one full day or can be extended to a week if done part-time.
Step 2: Submit an application to the South Africa Police Service for a competency certificate
Once you have completed your proficiency training, you will need to apply for a competency certificate with the South African Police Service. This will require a background check, character references, fingerprints are taken, paperwork, and a payment of R70.
Once you have submitted your application for a firearms competency certificate, it should take around 90 days to be approved or declined, however, it has been known to take up to 6 months.
Step 3: Obtain “dedicated sport shooting status
But what exactly is “Dedicated Sport Shooting Status”?
According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 of South Africa, a person with “dedicated sports shooting status” (dedicated sportsperson), is a person who regularly participates in sport shooting activities and holds a valid membership with accredited sports shooting organization.
For civilians in South Africa, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are reserved only for those who have this status, or higher.
In order to obtain dedicated sport shooting status, you need to join an accredited sport shooting organization such as a shooting club or association that offers this status to its members. You will need to undergo a written and practical safety and shooting test. You will then be required to attend a certain amount of shooting matches before you are rewarded with this status.
I highly recommend the NHSA (National Hunting and Shooting Association) in South Africa for this. They offer a dedicated status course. The theory test is done online and the shooting test can be done at any accredited shooting range across South Africa, (You will need someone to witness the shooting test and sign a declaration that the target provided was shot by your at the appropriate distance under the prescribed time)
You can start this process during the waiting period for your competency certificate in Step: 2.
You need to maintain this status by attending the minimum amount of activities that are required by the organization. If you fail to meet these requirements, the organization will then have to revoke your membership and thereby removing your dedicated sports shooting status. If you become a dedicated sport shooter with NHSA, you will need to attend a minimum of 3 approved sport shooting activities per year to maintain your membership.
The cost for the course is R580, and thereafter you need to pay an annual membership fee of R380 to maintain your status.
Step 4: Purchase your semi-automatic AK-47 and appropriate safe.
You can do this at any step of the process, but I recommend that you do this at Step 4, because most firearm dealers will only allow 6 months to obtain the license, thereafter, they will start to charge storage fees.
The process here is quite simple. You walk into your favorite gun shop, choose an AK-47 (or any other semi-automatic firearm you like) and pay. AK-47’s are quite affordable compared to other semi-automatic rifles. Expect to pay around R8,000 for a Norinco T56 for example.
Once you have paid, you will get 3 documents from the firearm dealer. An invoice, keep with for your own records, and two other documents that you will need for the license application: The SAPS 350 form and the SAPS 271 form.
The SAPS 271 is your application form. Do you best to complete this fully before moving to the next step. Ask your firearm dealer to help you complete this application.
You also need to purchase an appropriate safe for the firearm, which will be inspected in person by a police officer before your license is given to you.
Step 5: Compile a detailed motivation letter and obtain endorsement from your shooting organization.
Before you can apply for the license, you need to write a detailed motivation letter stating exactly why you need this specific firearm for sport shooting. Ask your shooting organization for help here, this letter is the difference between having your license approved or declined, so don’t rush this!
Once you have drawn up your motivation, submit it to your shooting organization so that they can read it and write up an endorsement letter confirming that the firearm is appropriate for the types of shooting activities conducted by the organization. Most organizations will even provide feedback on your motivation letter if they feel it needs improvement to better the chances of your license application being approved.
Step 6: Submit an application to license the AK-47 in your name
Make an appointment with the DFO at your local Police Station. Before you pitch up, make sure you have the required documents with you.
- Motivation Letter
- Endorsement letter from your shooting organization
- SAPS 271 form fully completed
- SAPS 350 form
- Two copies of your competency certificate.
- Two certified copies of your ID
- Two passport size color photos (write your full name and ID number on the back of each one in block letters)
- Proof of good standing with your shooting organization
- Proof of dedicated sport shooting status (usually in the form of a certificate)
- R140 submission fee
When you arrive, the DFO (Designated Firearms Officers) will process your application on their system and take your fingerprints. You will then be directed to the cashier to pay the R140 submission fee where you will be given two receipts. You will keep one as proof of payment and give the other one to the DFO to attach to your application.
The application is then sent HARDCOPY via road to Pretoria where the CFR is located. This is where the application will be reviewed and a decision is made.
Hot Tip! Make sure you get your reference number so that you can check the progress of the application online.
Step 7: Wait for approval and collect the firearm
OK, now you are in the waiting game. While the South African Police Service claims that they will either approve or decline your application within 90 days, the reality is that it can take as long as 6 months!
You should get SMS updates through the process of the application, however, this only works sometimes. You can use your reference number and ID to check the progress on the SAPS website here: saps.gov.za/services/firearm_status_enquiry.php
Once you get an SMS that the license card is ready for collection, then you can go and collect the license card from your DFO. You can then take this card to your firearm dealer and collect your brand spanking new AK-47.
What guns are legal in South Africa? and how can I get an automatic AK47?
The only type of civilian person who is allowed to own an automatic firearm is a Category-A collector. This is not practical for the average person. It involves stringent background and storage facility checks, years worth of active membership with a recognized collectors association, a very convincing motivation for the need to add the firearm to your collection, and even once obtained, you will be regularly inspected to ensure that you are complying with the law. For the purposes of this article, I will exclude this category of firearm owner, because it is incredibly difficult for the average person and takes years to obtain.
As a civilian, it is legal to own any semi-automatic handgun, bolt action rifle, pump-action shotgun, or any firearm that is manually operated as long as they have a license for that firearm. No person may own a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun unless they are a dedicated sports shooter and holds a valid license for that firearm.
|Normal Person||Dedicated Sports||Category-A Collector|
|Manual Rifle / Shotgun||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Semi-Auto Rifle / Shotgun||NO||Yes||Yes|
What is the difference between semi and fully-automatic firearms?
An automatic firearm is what most people would consider a “machine gun” or “assault rifle”. These types of firearms are usually only used by military and police in offensive operations such as in wartime or when coming up against criminals with serious firepower. But what is the technical difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic firearm?
According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000, fully-automatic is when a firearm is able to discharge more than one round with a single press of the trigger, while semi-automatic means a self-loading firearm which only fires one round with each press of the trigger.
As you can imagine, in sport shooting or hunting, this function is not required, in fact, even in a police role, the automatic function is barely ever used as it is difficult to shoot accurately and effectively.
As you can see, ownership of a fully automatic AK-47 would be incredibly difficult to obtain and would be an impossible task for most people. However, obtaining a semi-automatic firearm is quite possible for many. Let’s look at the difference between automatic and semi-automatic firearms, according to the South African Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000.
AK-47’s are an internation icon, and many would love to own one. While it is possible to own a fully automatic AK-47 in South Africa, this would require many steps that are difficult to pass and can take many years. These individuals are known as Category-A Collectors, and they are rare. In fact, most of them are owners of museums and other types of public collections.
Other than that, automatic firearms are reserved for military and police only.
It is far easier to opt for a semi-automatic version of the AK-47 by obtaining what is called “dedicated sport shooting” status. This means that you must be a member in good standing of a sport shooting organization. This organization will then endorse the firearm as appropriate for the shooting activities that it hosts. Obtaining this takes some effort, but is not impossible for most regular shooters.