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Firearms Importing Guidelines for a South African Hunting Safari

Image via Genesis African Safaris

If you are coming to South Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime hunting Safari, what do you need to do to bring your own guns along on the hunt?

As has been the experience of hunting outfitters in South Africa, many clients are renting firearms instead of bringing their own along for hunting safaris. This is due to a general opinion that it’s a difficult process to import firearms for a South African hunting safari given airline regulations on transporting firearms, which are now more stringent than in the past.

In general, it has become more difficult to travel internationally with firearms. This difficulty, combined with the fact most hunting outfitters in South Africa are quite well equipped and own rifles in suitable calibers for their clients to use, has meant many are opting to leave their rifles at home.

In spite of these difficulties, there is nothing more satisfying than hunting with your own rifle or shotgun, especially overseas. The pleasure of buying a new rifle for your African hunting safari, developing loads at the bench, and practicing hours at the range until shooting feels like second nature are all parts of the total hunting experience.

All of us who hunt (and love guns) have our favorite rifles we cannot wait to test out in new and challenging hunting situations. It is always advisable to use a rifle you are accustomed to thatyou can shoot accurately and with confidence. A loaned or rented rifle may not suit your body type, the stock may be too short or long, and a host of other factors can cause you to lose confidence in your shooting ability.

Any and all of these factors can potentially ruin an expensive hunting safari for you.

How difficult is importing firearms into South Africa for a hunting safari?

If you are planning to hunt in South Africa and you want to bring along your rifles, you can do it using an easier process than you might think. If you follow the correct route, or better yet use the service provided by the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, you will be able to use your own firearms on your hunt in South Africa.

What To Do

To bring your firearms into South Africa you need to complete the temporary firearm import permit application (SAP520) in advance, if possible, and bring it with you. The form must be completed in black pen and must remain unsigned until the document is finalized in front of the police official issuing the actual permit at the airport.

The requirements for the issuing of a temporary firearm import permit are:

  • A valid passport and return airline ticket
  • A letter from your hunting outfitter(s) inviting you to hunt
  • A completed SAP 520 Form (unsigned, should be signed in front of the official)
  • A notarized/certified copy of Proof of Ownership of your firearm(s)

The proof of ownership form for the USA is the Custom Form 4457 (contact your nearest airport for this).

For the United Kingdom, you will need a copy of your firearm license or certificate.

European visitors will need:

  • A Firearms Possession Licence or a European Firearms Pass.
  • A letter from your local sheriff in the form of an affidavit confirming ownership, or an invoice from a gun shop where you have purchased the firearm(s)
  • Proof of export of specific firearms from your country of residence (CBP Form 4457- Certificate of Registration for personal effects take abroad)
  • A letter of motivation written by you to clarify your reason for wanting to import firearms into South Africa

Requirements and Restrictions

  • No automatic or semi-automatic firearms are allowed to be imported. Semi-Automatics are not legal to hunt with, so your AR or AK must stay at home.
  • Importing more than one firearm of the same caliber per person traveling is not allowed.
  • 200 rounds of ammunition per person, per firearm, is the legal limit of ammunition you will be allowed to bring into the country.
  • No handguns are allowed unless you can specify they will be used for hunting.
  • A maximum of four (4) firearms or shotguns per person are allowed but not more than one of the same caliber or gauge.
  • No ammunition for other firearms (not accompanying you) is permitted.
  • Firearms must bear the manufacturer’s serial number, or any other mark by which the firearm can be identified.
  • The identification number must be stamped and the mark affixed in the prescribed manner on the barrel, the frame or the receiver of the firearm.
  • You must be 21 years of age or older.

There are special applications and exceptions to the above laws. Handguns will be allowed into the country, but only for hunting or sport-shooting purposes. As proof, the police will require a letter of invitation from the outfitter stating the handgun will be used for hunting purposes only. If the visitor wants to bring a semi-automatic shotgun, they  will need to supply a letter of motivation stating the reason for wanting to bring it into the country.

Any person under the age of 21 that wishes to apply for a temporary import permit has to include a motivational letter with the application proving he or she is a capable hunter. Only the Central Firearm Registrar in Pretoria, South Africa can authorize special applications for the above restrictions, and applications have to be made in advance and must reach the Registrar no later than three weeks prior to arrival.

To make things easier, a visitor can use the services of PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of South Africa) to assist you with obtaining permits. The cost for this service for 2014 is $150 and will really help to make the process of bringing guns to South Africa a hassle free and enjoyable experience.

The PHASA website also has information regarding the firearms regulations for Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Netherland Transit, South African Airways, Emirates Airlines, SA Express and SA Air Link, to help you select the best airline to take responsibility of your firearms for flight to South Africa. For more information you can visit the PHASA website.

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Hunting with your own weapons in a South African hunt can be one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences of a lifetime. Just make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps to be allowed to do it, and there will be no doubt you’ll enjoy your safari!

What have your experiences been like in taking your own firearms on South African safaris? Let us know in the comments below.

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Firearms Importing Guidelines for a South African Hunting Safari