Traveling with Guns (Mainly into South Africa)

This is simply a compilation of my experiences carrying guns to many places on lots of airlines. I advise you to check with your airline at least three weeks before you fly.  Confirm the most current rules and take down the name of the person you speak with. Always arrive at the airport very early (I usually show up at least 3 hours ahead) and be courteous to the desk clerk. If a problem comes up very politely ask for the supervisor to help with the issue. Since they have a lot of latitude, so be quiet and polite.

If traveling to South Africa, you can check the Professional Hunters of South Africa web site as the rules are constantly changing.

From my experiences here is what to do and to expect:

(USA gun owners)

  • You must register your guns with the customs officials in the USA before you leave. Do not wait for the last moment. Customs registration is located at most international airports and the form you need is Form 4457.

  • Your gun should be packed in a lockable case and locked after it is inspected at the airport. Do NOT touch the case or gun once it has been inspected, even to help lock the case! Some agents are VERY particular about this.

  • You must declare the gun at the airport, as well as any ammunition. Do this as soon as you reach the ticketing agent so they know you will have special needs.

  • Ammunition must be less than 5kg. in total weight, in its original container and packed separately from the gun.

  • I personally prefer to take the stock off of my gun and have it locked in a take down shotgun case. This way I can put the smaller shotgun case inside of a duffel bag and it does not count as one of my bags, thus allowing me to take a bit more along. This also hides the fact it is a gun case. The shotgun case must still be locked inside the duffel bag.

  • You will sign a declaration that the gun is unloaded and this declaration goes inside the locked case.

  • The duffel can be locked with approved airline TSA locks that the security people can open if needed. Some inspectors want non-TSA locks after inspection so I take both.  Do not send your outer bags unlocked, even if they ask you to. Africa is very different from the USA.

  • With any change of planes it is prudent to have them run your bag tag through the machine to ensure your gun is coming along. Go to a desk of the airlines you are going to board next and tell them you need to make sure the gun is declared and on board.

  • If flying to RSA, pre fill out SAP 520 – Temporary Import Application before reaching RSA.

    Click here to download instructions and form

  • If flying to RSA, you will need a letter from us on our letterhead saying that you are coming to hunt with us and what types of game and ammunition you will need. Give us your gun makes, models and serial numbers.

  • When you get to Johannesburg the guns are usually be pulled aside by an agent of the police. You need to have the SAP 520 and your Form 4457 ready to hand in, as well as the letter of invitation.  Sometimes they also want a "motivation letter" from you as to why you wish to bring a gun into RSA.  If you have filled out the forms it will be helpful. A couple of issues: 1. You can bring only one gun of any caliber per person. 2. You can not bring more than 200 rounds per gun. 3. Do not bring any ammo that is not for your gun. Most of the form does not apply to you, just fill out IN BLACK INK the portions that do.

  • You will go to a special police office and have them check the serial number and they usually count the rounds of ammo. They will issue you a temporary import permit.

  • Once you have the temporary permit it is good until you leave or 6 months. In South Africa they (police) will hand carry the guns between planes (you do not touch them once you are checked in) and have a special office for gun control in each airport. Use their services, but we are asked not to tip them, as they are paid for this job already.

  • Go through the RED line and declare the gun and show your form. Follow the signs for gun registration. 

  • We will meet you in East London.  Your gun will most likely go directly to firearms control.

  • On leaving you may be required to pay a “gun handling fee” of about $75. The charge is very inconsistent

If you are flying on Air France call them AT LEAST 1 week ahead of time and register your guns with them. It is very simple. If you do not do this you risk missing the flight. 800-237-2747

Again, if you are polite they seem to do a nice job. South Africa does not have a problem with hunters. We provide a huge income for them and they treat us nicely.

In worst case if your guns or clothing do not make it we have both available for you.

Cam Greig


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