The Right to Possess Firearms

In South Africa, the right to possess firearms is not guaranteed by law. The FCA imposes a general ban on the possession of firearms except in limited circumstances, and they may be possessed only with a license, permit, or authorization issued under the provisions of the FCA.

Certain firearms are categorized as prohibited firearms and cannot ordinarily be possessed or licensed under the FCA. These include any:

  • South African
  • 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 contemplated in paragraph, excluding the frame, body, or barrel of a fully automatic firearm 

Competency Certificates, Licenses, Permits, Authorizations, and Accreditations

An application for a firearm license, permit, or authorization may be made to the Registrar of Firearms by a natural or juridical person. When the applicant is a natural person, the FCA requires that the person comply with all the necessary requirements set forth under its provisions, including providing a full set of fingerprints.

Significantly, the person must possess the relevant competency certificate, which is issued, among other things, only after the successful completion of training and a test on the efficient and safe handling of a firearm by an accredited training provider or the Safety and Security Training Authority.

If the applicant is a juridical person, the FCA requires that the entity be represented by a natural person who is to be identified in the license, permit, or authorization as the responsible person and who would be considered the holder of the license under the FCA


The FCA requires accreditation before a license for certain activities or businesses related to firearms can be issued. These include:

  • public collectors or museums;
  • hunting associations or sport-shooting organizations;
  • 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.

The FCA provides a list of minimum mandatory criteria that the Registrar must impose when reviewing an application for accreditation. These are:

  • trustworthiness and integrity;
  • suitability to perform the relevant functions in terms of the Act;
  • capacity to serve the purpose of the accreditation; and
  • capacity to advance the purposes of the Act.


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 pin-fire 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.

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