Most South African gun owners with a licence to possess a firearm for self-defence opt for a semi-automatic pistol, South African Gun Owners’ Association (SAGA) president John Welch has told MyBroadband.
Welch said SAGA had seen a big increase in members following July’s violence and looting.
“The recent events in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been a wake-up call for those who believed that the police are there for their protection,” Welch said.
In addition, the resurfacing of the government’s controversial draft firearms amendment, which proposes removing self-defence as a valid reason to own a firearm, has caused an uproar.
“Many firearm owners who believed nothing might ever go wrong in South Africa have realised that the government may take stronger action against gun owners,” Welch stated.
The current Firearms Control Act determines that those who want to possess a firearm for self-defence have the option of a shotgun that is not fully automatic or a handgun that is not fully automatic.
In exceptional circumstances, civilians may also apply for a restricted firearm such as a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun, but this is mostly limited to farmers or security officers.
When it comes to the most popular weapons, Welch said many people previously bought small, snub-nosed revolvers.
Lately, semi-automatic pistols have generally become very reliable, and it was SAGA’s impression that most people bought them.
“Some popular self-defence pistols and revolvers are the Glock, CZ75, Heckler & Koch, Browning, Taurus, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Colt,” Welch said.
In considering a firearm for self-defence, Welch said to consider three important principles — reliability, ease of use, and accuracy.
He said some people chose a heavy calibre and large firearm, which was more often kept in the safe instead of being readily available.
“The best possible firearm is useless while safely resting in your safe,” Welch warned.
“Since no one can predict when unlawful and violent attacks may occur, your defensive firearm must at all times be within an arm’s reach away from you.”
In terms of calibres, the tendency was to use the 9mm Parabellum/Luger cartridge.
Most of the pistols of this calibre have large-capacity magazines, making them more uncomfortable to carry.
“Since seldom are more than 2 or 3 shots fired in self-defence, a large-capacity magazine is not necessarily a requirement,” he stated.
“I would rather recommend a single-column magazine containing 7 to 10 rounds of ammunition.”
He emphasised that most modern calibres, even smaller ones, can kill a person.
However, the purpose of a self-defence firearm was not to kill but to stop an assailant.
Welch recommend getting advice from an expert on the best firearm for your needs based on where you intend to carry the gun and if you wish to keep it on your person.
“If you intend leaving it in your safe and use it for home-defence only, then size and calibre are not considerations.”
The vitally important factor was that you become proficient with your firearm, Welch recommended.
“The more you practice, the easier it becomes to master the trigger, shoot accurately, and become used to the recoil,” he said.
“You will sometimes have to clear a stoppage; better to learn how to do so on the shooting range rather than when bullets may be coming your way.”
Welch highlighted the following five pistols as popular choices for self-defence.
CZ 75 B Omega — R16,000
Glock 42 Slimline — R10,400
Taurus G2C — R7,600
Ruger 9mms LCP Pistol — R9,500
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Core — R19,350