SAPS Firearm Licence Forms
- Application for Licence to Possess a Firearm (SAPS 271)
- Application for a Competency Certificate (SAPS 517)
- Application for the Renewal of a Competency Certificate (SAPS 517(g))
- Application for the Renewal of a Firearm Licence, Permit, Certificate or Authorization (SAPS 518(a))
- Application for a Temporary Authorization to Possess a Firearm (SAPS 518)
- Permission to Store a Firearm (SAPS 539)
- Transfer of Firearm Ownership (SAPS 534)
- Application for Renewal of Licence(s) in Terms of the Previous Act (SAPS 517(e))
- Remittance Advice for Firearm Applications (SAPS 523(a))
- Acknowledgement of Receipt of Firearm Documentation (SAPS 523)
Firearm legislation in South Africa
Since 2004, firearm-control is regulated by the Firearms Control Act of 2000 (FCA) and its subsidiary legislation, the Firearms Control Regulations (FCA Regulations). Previously firearms were regulated through the Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969 (AAA).
The FCA generally bans the possession of firearms except in limited circumstances. Under the provisions of the FCA, firearms may only be possessed when issued with a licence, permit or authorization.
The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) is the designated regulatory authority and functions as the National Commissioner of Registrar of Firearms (the Registrar).
Firearm legislation in South Africa imposes stringent requirements for obtaining a firearm licence and for dealing in firearms. All applications for a firearm licence must be accompanied by a competency certificate which will prove, among other things, the applicant’s knowledge of the FCA.
Definition of firearm
The FCA adopts a broad definition of “firearm,” which includes
- any device that can “propel a bullet or projectile through a barrel or cylinder by means of burning propellant, at a muzzle energy exceeding 8 joules (6 ft-lbs)”;
- anything with the capacity to “to discharge rim-fire, centre-fire or pinfire ammunition”;
- any device that can be “readily altered” to be any of the above-listed firearms;
- any device designed to discharge any projectile of at least .22 calibre at a muzzle energy of more than 8 joules (6 ft-lbs), by means of compressed gas; or
- any barrel, frame, or receiver of a device mentioned above.
Certain firearms are categorised as prohibited firearms and cannot ordinarily be possessed or licensed under the FCA. These include any
- fully automatic firearm;
- gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar or launcher manufactured to fire a rocket, grenade, self-propelled grenade, bomb, or explosive device;
- frame, body, or barrel of such a fully automatic firearm, gun, cannon, recoilless gun, mortar, light mortar, or launcher;
- projectile or rocket manufactured to be discharged from a cannon, recoilless gun or mortar, or rocket launcher;
- imitation of any device listed above, excluding the frame, body, or barrel of a fully automatic firearm; or
- altered firearm.
The FCA requires accreditation before a licence for certain activities or businesses related to firearms can be issued. These include
- public collectors or museums;
- hunting associations or sport-shooting organisations;
- collectors’ associations;
- shooting ranges;
- those that provide training in the use of firearms;
- those that provide firearms for use in theatrical, film, or television productions;
- game ranchers;
- those that run hunting businesses;
- those that use firearms for business purposes; and
- government institutions.
Licences to possess firearms
Licence to possess a Firearm for self-defence
Any natural person is eligible to apply for a licence for any shotgun that is not fully or semi-automatic or for a handgun that is not fully automatic. According to the FCA, the applicant will need to prove that he/she “needs a firearm for self-defence” and cannot “reasonably satisfy the need by means other than the possession of a firearm.”
A person is only permitted to hold one firearm licence for self-defence. A licence in this category is issued for a five-year term and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Licence to possess a restricted firearm for self-defence
Any natural person is eligible to apply for a licence to possess a restricted firearm, which is any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun that cannot be readily converted into a fully automatic firearm, or any firearm declared as such by the Minister.
According to the FCA, the applicant will need to demonstrate that a licence to possess a firearm for self-defence “will not provide sufficient protection” and submit “reasonable information to motivate the need for a restricted firearm for self-defence purposes.”
A person is only permitted to hold one restricted firearm licence for self-defence. A licence in this category is issued for a two-year term and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Licence to possess a firearm for occasional hunting and sport shooting
Any natural person who is an occasional hunter or sports person is eligible to apply for a licence to possess a handgun (which is not fully automatic) or a rifle or shotgun (which is not semi- or fully automatic). The firearm under this licence may not be a restricted firearm or a barrel, frame or receiver of any of these firearms.
A person is permitted to hold a maximum of four licences for hunting and sport shooting firearms (provided he/she does not hold any other firearms licences). A licence in this category is issued for a ten-year term and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Licence to possess a firearm for dedicated hunting and dedicated sports shooting
To apply for a licence in this category, an applicant must be a member of an accredited hunting association or sport-shooting organisation. The application should be accompanied by a sworn statement or a solemn declaration from a chairperson of the association or organisation indicating that the applicant is a registered member.
Firearms which may be licensed under this section are
- a handgun, rifle or shotgun that is not fully automatic;
- a semi-automatic shotgun with the capacity to fire a maximum of five shots before it has to be reloaded; or
- a barrel, frame or receiver of any of these firearms.
A licence in this category is issued for a ten-year term and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Licence to possess a firearm in a private collection
A member of an accredited collectors association is eligible to apply for a licence for any firearm, including a prohibited firearm, provided that the firearm is approved for collection by an accredited collectors association. The firearm must also be at least fifty years old and have an attribute of collectability that is of historical, cultural, artistic, technological, heritage or scientific value.
The licence application must be accompanied by a sworn statement or solemn declaration from the chairperson of the association verifying the applicant’s membership. A licence in this category is issued for a ten-year term and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Licence to possess a firearm for business purposes
A licence for any firearm, excluding prohibited firearms, may be applied for
- by a security service provider who holds a firearms competency certificate;
- by anyone accredited to provide training for use of firearms;
- to provide firearms for use in theatrical-, film- or television productions;
- to conduct a hunting business; or
- by a game rancher.
A licence in this category is issued for a five- or ten-year term, depending on the specific type, and is renewable if it remains compliant with the FCA.
Termination of a firearms licence
Any firearm licence may be terminated if
- the period of time for which it is issued expires;
- the holder of the licence surrenders it; or
- the licence is cancelled under provisions of the FCA.
According to the FCA, a firearm licence will be terminated if the holder of the licence “becomes or is declared unfit to possess a firearm.” A person is declared unfit to possess a firearm when a final protection order has been issued against him/her under the Domestic Violence Act, or he/she is convicted of certain crimes.
Offences and penalties
Anyone who violates or fails to comply with the FCA and the FCA Regulations commits an offence. A person convicted of an offence under the provisions of the legislation may be subject to a fine or imprisonment.
A conviction is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Under the Regulations, a conviction can carry a prison term of up to one year. A conviction under the FCA can carry a prison term ranging from two- to twenty-five years.
It is an offence to
- fail to lock a firearm in a safe, strong room or device;
- loose a firearm by failing to ensure its safekeeping;
- fail to report the loss, theft, or destruction of a firearm to the police – whether by the person licensed to possess the firearm or anyone who was in possession of the firearm when it was lost, stolen or destroyed;
- fraudulently alter, use or possess any fraudulently altered document under the FCA;
- use any document issued to someone else or to allow the use of such document by another person; and
- supply false information in any document required for submission under the FCA or the Regulations, or while acquiring any of these documents or filling out registers.
For additional information and support with firearm related matters, visit GunSite South Africa – South Africa’s Firearm, Tactical and Hunting Discussion Forums.