Understanding your decision
Training is essential for anyone who wants to own a firearm and this is where you should start once you have made the decision to own a firearm. There are two Unit Standards that all first time applicants need to complete. One relates to the new Firearms Control Act and the other involves Basic Firearm Training which covers firearm safety, practical handling and section 49 of the Criminal Procedures Act which covers the law around firearm use for the purpose of self-defence. There are almost 400 accredited firearm training centers in South Africa. All training providers are required to follow the same basic process. This process includes an open book exam, a closed book exam, a practical assessment and a qualification shoot.
South Africa boasts a host of reputable training providers and unfortunately a few unscrupulous ones as well.
There are a number of things to look out for when selecting a provider – price is one of them. The average industry rate for the legal test is R450 and you should be paying in the region of R950 for the basic course. If the price that is being quoted is significantly lower than that then costs are being cut somewhere which could affect the quality of the training.
There are some common areas where training centers “cut costs”. The cheaper rate could mean that the trainer is less experienced or unskilled. The facilities, training aids, safety equipment and firearms used may be low quality. Trainers who are cutting costs are often putting learners through qualification shoots using only a .22 calibre. The ammunition costs less but the recoil of this smaller caliber firearm will leave you unprepared for a larger caliber firearm which would be better suited for your self-defence needs. The most common firearms for self-defence, particularly amongst women are 9 mm short, 9 mm parabellum or 38 special.
Make an educated decision
Reputable training providers should have a host of firearms for you to shoot. It is essential for you to shoot these different calibers so that you can make an educated decision when you select your firearm for self-defence. Different calibre firearms require different grip strength, different upper body strength and have a different recoil when shot – all of these things can affect speed and accuracy when shooting the gun. When you book your course, you will be asked to collect your training material in advance. The closed book test is in the training material and needs to be completed before the course takes place. This is also a good opportunity to see what the facilities are like. Training material should be professionally presented to the learner in a bound document. The most widely training material in South Africa is supplied by International Training Academy (ITA).
Choosing a firearm
There are certain things to consider before deciding on a firearm and these will be based on your lifestyle and reasons for wanting to own a firearm in the first place. Will the firearm be used for self-defence at home only or will you carry the firearm with you when you leave the house in which case a carry method needs to be considered. Women wear different clothing to men which often makes it more difficult to conceal a firearm on their bodies. The law does allow women to carry a firearm in their handbags as long as the handbag is under their direct control. Leaving a handbag which contains your firearm with a friend at a coffee shop while popping to the bathroom would not be lawful.
The design features of the firearm must be carefully considered. Director of Training for International Training Academy, Andre Pretorius explains; “When you purchase a firearm for self-defence you need to think about the mechanical functioning and design of the firearm - from the basic action of what it would take to make that gun fire when you need it to, the time it takes from your carry condition to the shot going off could be the difference between life and death”.
Is the gun safe to carry with a round in the chamber?
Does the gun have good internal safety features or a safety catch? Is it engaged?
Is the safety catch easy for you to reach on the gun you have decided to buy?
Can you comfortably operate all the buttons and controls like the slide lock, magazine release, safety catch etc.
Are you comfortable with the size, weight, recoil and fit of the gun when you shoot it?
Can you manage the recoil and successfully bring the gun back to the target once it has been fired?”
It’s incredibly important to take these things into consideration. In a self-defence scenario you want to be confident with the firearm you have chosen and be able to fire it with the same confidence with which you drive your car every day.
As with anything price has a role to play and like with most things, you get what you pay for. You should consider a reputable firearm brand and then shop around for the best price on that particular brand rather than downgrading to an inferior brand of firearm.
Applying for your Competency and Firearm licence
Once the course has been completed, you will receive a training certificate and a PFTC Statement of Results, which must be submitted to the police station when you apply for Competency. Only once you have purchased a firearm will you be able to apply for the firearm licence. Be sure to take the advice given by the gun shop when it comes to filling in the application forms as these forms play a crucial role in the state’s decision to grant your firearm licence.
While the applications are being processed it is a good idea to practice what you learnt on the course. A suggested 50-100 rounds per practice session is suggested. Try to have at least a thousand rounds under your belt before you collect your firearm from the gun shop. This will ensure a certain level of competency when you take possession of your firearm.