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Hunting in Africa - Hunting in South Africa - SA Firearm Regulations



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SA Firearm Regulations

Importing your firearms into South Africa is often perceived as a nightmare, especially by US hunters who are used to relative freedom when it comes to guns. Bear this in mind: there is a general tightening up on travel with guns worldwide and it is simply a necessary evil that you have to endure.

At all times and in all African countries the best policy is to simply smile and ask for help and advice, play the stupid tourist card, it works - DON'T LOSE YOUR TEMPER - whatever happens. You'll find most officials are ready to help you if you are not shouting at them and co operate with what they require.

Of late there are many facilitators who will be able to assist with firearm import documents as well as help and clearance at the airport. In fact the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa provide a help service to obtain your import permits and this is a recommended service.

Don't just arrive in the country with your firearms, follow the instructions given to you by your outfitter and those on the SAP520 application form, this is VERY important. In fact it is a sign of whether you are dealing with a good outfitter or not. If they don't assist or provide guidance and supporting documentation then it is a warning sign that they may not be legal!


Each outfitter and PH has a different opinion regarding the rifle you should bring. We say, there usually is no need to go out and buy a new rifle if your current caliber does not match that of the advice you have received. Most important is to be comfortable with your rifle.

All African game animals are tough, not just the Cape Buffalo, and no comparison should be made between the antelope here and the American and European species. In Africa you're better off with a heavier grain slower bullet than a high powered shock magnum.

Always keep this in mind: You are not hunting to save the meat, you are trophy hunting and the prime goal is to put the animal down as quickly as possible.

As South Africa is primarily a plains game destination, your choice of rifle is simplified and means you probably do not have to go out and buy or borrow a rifle. Most medium caliber magnums will serve the hunter well with the most popular ranging between 30.06, 300 and 7mm magnums up to 375 magnum. If you are hunting buffalo, elephant, rhino or hippo your minimum starting caliber is the 375 Magnum and if you can afford it why not indulge in the classic double.

The 375 Magnum (in all it's recent forms) is a very popular choice and is a good all round African rifle if you intend venturing further north. In fact many PHs will prefer their clients to use this caliber when hunting in areas where the bush is thick and heavy. It does count against you in the more open areas of South Africa like the Northern Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape and the Karoo while hunting alert species like gemsbok, springbok, mountain reedbuck, vaal rhebok and klipspringer.

Your ammunition should consist of medium to heavy grained soft nosed or ballistic tipped cartridges. Bring 20 to 50 rounds (depending on how you shoot!) in total, you can always take the surplus home with you. Ammunition for the popular standard calibers are available throughout the country for purchase but you may not always find the brand you prefer.

Most hunters make use of telescopic sights sighted in at between 100 - 200 yards. Sometimes your outfitter or PH may advise more depending on the hunting conditions and species. A quality set of optics is always recommended as your rifle is likely to take some knocks. For plains game calibers, 2 x 7 or 2.5 x 8 or 3 x 9 is a good choice. If you are hunting big game, a 1.5 x 5 scope with clip-off detachable mounts is a good idea.

White Backed Vultures


South Africa is perhaps the most advanced country when it comes to the growing bow hunting scene and without a doubt you'll find more technical expertise and know how here than any other African country. Below are the recommended bow sizes for South Africa although you should rely on the advice of your outfitter or PH.

Category 1: Small game including blesbok and nyala ewe but excluding a Nyala bull. 40lb bow with minimum arrow weight of 400gr.

Category 2: Medium game including eland, giraffe, carnivores, bushpig, warthog, crocodile and baboon. 70lb bow with minimum arrow weight of 550gr

Category 3: Large game including buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus. 80lb bow with minimum arrow weight of 700gr.

Crossbows may only be used to hunt Category 1 game. 

Only broadheads may be used.

Zebra butt

South Africa is by far the best bow hunting destination on the continent and often these safari are far more reasonable than rifle hunts.

There are also many properties which are bow exclusive which means you get less nervous game as well as a better chance at big trophies.

Often photographic properties where no rifle hunting is allowed will let bow hunters take some of their prime trophy bulls.


Useful Links: Hunting Destinations - African Species guide - Hunting Gear Guide - African Advice and News - Recommended Suppliers

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