How to apply for a firearm licence

Thank you Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA) for permission to publish this article

How do I licence a firearm?

A very frequently asked question on firearm web forums and social media groups is how to licence your first firearm. It is a very intimidating concept for the uninitiated newbie, and there are plenty of misinformed opinions (and outright lies) circulating out there that serve to muddy the waters in no small way. I hope with this simplified little guide to clear a few things up, and so make the process a little less scary and a lot easier.

Who is allowed to legally own a gun in South Africa?

Any citizen or permanent resident 21 years old or older, with no criminal record or disqualifying mental illness, is allowed to own firearms. Provisions do exist for people under the age of 21 to own firearm under special circumstances.

Where do I start?

The first thing to get out of the way is to complete the required unit standards which form part of the competency training syllabus. This can be done through any PFTC accredited training institution. It will involve a unit standard pertaining to the law, and another focusing on firearm safety, handling, and technical aspects specific to the firearm type you wish to apply for. The assessment phase involves two written tests per unit standard: one open book and one closed book. This will be followed by a practical test in which you will need to demonstrate safe handling of the firearm, as well as accuracy by hitting a target at a prescribed distance.

How do I apply for my competency certificate?

Once you have successfully completed the unit standards the training institution will issue you with certificates. Copies of these certificates, as well as a completed SAPS 517 form, two passport photos, copy of your ID document, and character references make up the application for your competency certificate. Your local DFO deals with all firearm licencing applications, and you will need to hand the documentation in by them, as well as paying the required fee.

Once your competency certificate has been issued by the SAPS, you can then apply for your firearm licence.

What happens while my competency certificate is being processed?

Before you can apply for your firearm licence, and while you wait for your competency certificate to be approved, there are a few things that you will need to prepare. You can choose and purchase a firearm at any point during the process, but it will remain in the dealer’s (or owner’s) custody and you will only be able to take possession of it once your licence has been granted.

You will need an SABS certified safe, which must be mounted to the wall or floor (or both if you prefer) by use of rawl bolts. Do this properly, because your DFO will come do a safe inspection, and if it is not mounted securely it will not pass.

How do I apply for my firearm licence?

To apply for your firearm licence you will need to submit a SAPS 271 form in which you stipulate the purpose for which you intend to licence the firearm, for example Self Defence (S13) or Occasional Hunting (S15) and so forth. As part of the application you must also submit a written motivation as to why you need the firearm in question, and attach supporting documentation (like crime stats and newspaper articles for S13) to prove your claims.

This sounds more complicated than it actually is. There are companies who will write your motivations for you (for a fee), but it is much better to rather get knowledgeable people to help you write your own, and so-doing learn how to write a good quality motivation letter yourself. It is a skill that will pay off during all your future licence applications.

In addition to your SAPS 271 form, written motivation, and supporting annexures, you will need to include the following in your application:

  • 2 passport photos with your name and ID number written on the back
  • Certified copy of your ID document
  • Copy of your SAPS-issued Competency Certificate
  • If you are married, a spousal endorsement letter won’t hurt you

Bear in mind the above covers about the bare minimum of what is required for a licence application, and is really more applicable for first-time applicants who don’t know what to do.

Tips & Frequently Asked Questions

Make copies of EVERYTHING you include in your application.
According to law, your applications should be finalised within 90 days from submission.
Yes, this sometimes takes longer. Or shorter. It is a coin-toss.
Sometimes the CFR doesn’t answer their phones. Don’t panic.
Be prepared to learn a lot of patience during the process, but it will be worth it.
Join GOSA as a paying member. They fight for your right to own firearms after all.

I hope this makes life a little easier for you, and answers some of your questions.

Good luck!


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