Hollow Points Are Illegal? What To Do When Stopped At A Roadblock

10 August 2017

It’s one of the features of my profession. If like me, you’re a policeman, you have to understand that at social occasions you will be introduced as such every bloody time.

Another attribute is that even when off-duty, with a cooler box in my hand and a Chesterfield in my mouth, I’ll also get the standard, “Watch out, here come the cops!” Like it was funny for the first 18 years I heard it. Usually at these sociable events, someone always comes up to me and asks some police-related question. Some are statements like “Hay craam us laak aat aff kontrol hay!” or similar enquiries of varying degrees of irritation due to misbeliefs, sheer ignorance, or sometimes because they have nothing better to say than repeating some random rumour. This blog post (or else you wouldn’t be reading it, I’m not that entertaining) will challenge some of these myths and mysteries. You must at some stage have come across the law that says a woman can’t be arrested after 6pm? You know, and if she is, has to be taken to an all-women police station? Surely you heard about the one that says putting your ATM PIN number in backwards if you are held up? No? Well one of the true, true ones is about the hijacker who hides inside a garbage bag outside your house and jumps out at you as you leave…. or was that asphyxiate and get dumped on the landfill….? Whatever. I can’t remember the outcome. If you ever ask me about burning hyena tails or CDs I will resort to Japanese insults of a magnitude unheard of since they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

So encountering these anecdotes at a rate comparable to a minigun hanging off the side of a Blackhawk over Somalia, I have developed over the years a skill called “critical thinking”. What that in practice means is the ability to take an account, break down the facts as they are presented, and apply a test of “reasonable man” and plausibility. Eliminate emotion, hysteria, bias, prejudice and superstition, and add some established facts and deductions, along with, often in our case, actual law. Exercised correctly, you will find, hearing something for the first time, will be able to deduce to a reasonable amount of accuracy whether the story is true, false, or maybe we need to look into this further.

Among the tricky questions that come my way, which I have to apply a certain amount of seriousness to, is when law and people’s rights come in to play. The unfortunate thing is that as many people who may insist they know their rights as enshrined in the Constitution fail to list more than three or four. Then comes the mystical, black magic world of Police Procedure. Wow. It’s quite amazing to the contrary how many people tell me how things are supposed to be done, with an alarming amount of confidence. What is more alarming is that in the high 90 percentile that information and procedure is gleaned from watching American television. Allow me to very gently announce that nothing you see on television has any shred of credence to real life, in South Africa. I hold a slightly higher level of contempt for what I call Castle Lager professors. These are the guys who lean back in their deck chair, scratch their gut, and tell you how things were done “in the old days”, and how they should be done now, and will be nowhere to be seen when you end up in trouble after taking their advice.

So with that out of the way let’s examine the question, as it is posed.

What happens if I’m at a roadblock and a policeman asks if I have anything to declare. Drugs, weapons and such. I admit I have a licenced firearm and he asks to inspect it (which he is well in his powers to do) and you SAFELY produce the firearm and licence. The policeman then swings out the cylinder of you revolver or pops out your magazine and sees your ammunition. “You’re in trouble,” he says. “You can’t have hollow point ammunition!” Then, the story goes, he either proceeds to confiscate the ammunition or a scenario of your choice.

I am going to settle this little problem once and for all. I’m going to settle it so well that the next time some law professor at a braai pops up with this you can literally chirp him “Hey don’t come with that shit here!” and then throw your half finished beer at him.

If you bought ANY ammunition lawfully, with a licence you hold, for the calibre stipulated on that licence, at a reputable firearm and ammunition dealer, that purchase was entered on line on a nationwide firearms system and accepted for you to walk out the door with that ammunition or bang away at the range. That ammunition is thus lawful for you to own, possess, carry in a magazine, shoot at a target. It is your lawful property. The same goes for the car you drive, the clothes on your back, the Chesterfields in your pocket.
Any police official who takes away (seizes) any property of yours (car, cell phone, pack of cigarettes, firearm, ammunition) without lawful cause, ie. that item is suspected to have been used in the commission of or linked as evidence in a criminal offence, is GUILTY OF THEFT. If you are not sure about this check point 1.
I don’t care two hoots that Black Talon ammunition was banned in the USA in 2002. If you have in your possession ammunition you bought lawfully in SOUTH AFRICA, of any make, brand, style or calibre, and you have a licence for that calibre, it is YOURS and LEGAL TO OWN.
If in the highly unlikely event (I’ve heard more stories than actual verified accounts) that a police official insists on seizing that ammunition, or even more unlikely, places you under arrest for possessing that ammunition, here follows your procedure. You do this, and only this:
Immediately note and commit to memory the name on the badge of the official. Police in S.A. DO NOT have badge numbers, so don’t ask for one. Note and commit to memory the unit or station names on the vehicles at that road block. Unless you are on your way to Cape Town on the N1, you should know the names of your local SAPS stations, Metro districts or RTI offices.
Ask same official, using his rank and name, under what Act he or she is seizing the ammunition or arresting you. Do not accept “the firearms control act”. Politely ask what section of the Act and exactly what you are suspected to be guilty of to warrant such seizure or arrest.
If you are asked to hand over your firearm immediately, request that handover be documented by you via cell phone camera and a photo be taken of the immediate entry in the official’s pocket book or diary. You have the right to know what offence you are suspected of and for what purpose any item is being seized.
If at any time your requests are denied, do not panic, we are far, far away from the conclusion of this process.

If the official states that it is just the ammunition is being seized, inform him that you will follow him directly to the nearest SAPS (and only SAPS) station to witness the entry being made into the SAPS 13 register. (Exhibit register) and you will desire the serial number immediately for your own records. {If such an entry is made, it must describe the EXACT brand, make, calibre of EACH type of ammunition. Some of us have a mag with a range of PMP, Federal, Winchester etc. EACH must be described in detail. If the calibre is not “ninemillimeter” the correct calibre must be entered. .40 S&W, etc. If your firearm is entered for whatever reason, the same applies. Revolver, pistol, Make (not everything with a “star” on the grip is a “Star”.) Serial number, calibre again. I want to cry when I see entries such as “Silver Star nine millimetre 45.” When in fact the firearm was a chromed Astra .45 ACP.}

I suspect it will be likely that at this point the interview will come to a close, either with the return of your ammunition, or being told to leave the roadblock. At this juncture you have two options. First request to see the member in charge of the roadblock, a commissioned officer (Captain and above) may be there, and inform him of the UNLAWFUL seizing of your property and request immediate remedial action. You my be permitted or denied this. Again, stay calm. We ain’t over yet. Second you proceed immediately to the nearest SAPS station and report the UNLAWFUL theft or attempted theft of your property. In your statement you will write that the item was your lawful property, purchased at a reputable dealer by producing a valid firearm licence. You will state the date, time, venue, member’s name and rank who committed the offence. You will state that you desire investigation into the matter as nobody may steal any property belonging to you. If you, at any juncture feel that you will be intimidated or threatened by your action, delay the report by seeking the local SAPS Cluster Commander, and placing your report with him/her. You do this by looking up the details on line and making an appointment with the Commander them self, an appointed deputy or the Cluster Visible Policing Commander.

Following this incident, you contact GOSA or a similar reputable organisation, inform them of the details of the incident, names, place, time etc, and request legal support. This may be in the form of a complaint to the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) and/or assistance to approach the station and get your ammunition back. The fact of the matter is that an unlawful seizure or even attempted seizure of your property must not be accepted. You have the right to have the incident investigated, addressed and be informed of the outcome.
Piece of advice. Keep the incident off social media. You don’t want to look like a twat if you were for some reason actually at fault. Save your report for when the matter is concluded. The temporary satisfaction you have by telling the world your woes may work against you as the process unveils. I’ve been there. I’ve made mistakes. So have you. Follow the process above.

What we are dealing with here, friends, is part ignorance, and I do suspect part bad behaviour. You will get police officials who truly do not know a particular law pertaining to a particular thing and truly has a mistaken belief due to whatever reason. This official will, if he or she is certain of their belief, go the route of booking your ammunition in to the SAPS 13 register. The other type has eyes that lit up with your R12.99 a shot Silver Tips, and hoped you were ignorant and or stupid enough to just surrender them. I am yet to hear of anyone ever being arrested in these matters. Simply for the sake that when you are arrested, a docket must be opened and a relevant Act, obtained off the CAS system, must be matched with your “offence”. Since no such Act or offence exists, your arrest will be unlawful and you go the route of steps F and G above.

That’s all there really is. The difference between spreading unfounded rumours, unsubstantiated suspicions or unfair beliefs with sharing reliable facts, protocols and law, is that you come away from this both empowered and free from fear of something that is unlikely to occur in the first place. What you may hear or believe and what is lawful and practised on the ground are not always the same thing. The SAPS etc are not your enemy and not the enemy of lawful firearm owners. Myself and many, many colleagues own private firearms. It is however a fact that not every police official you come across has the same knowledge or passion we share as owners of firearms or as people who enjoy that ownership. The police learn a lot about a lot of law. Even myself I will admit that there are some sections of law I have a limited knowledge of or even none at all, since those aren’t my field of expertise.

As you will see, a lot of what I will do is attempt to rebuild bridges of trust and communication between community and Police, but this is going to come at the cost of poor performing police officials being corrected or removed and the community becoming empowered and also supportive of good police officials. This must start at your local Community Police Forum level. Never tell me that crime is a problem or is out if control if you don’t make the concerted effort of engaging with your local police in a forum that brings your needs to light and encourages feedback from the people mandated to help you.

By Harold F. Callahan*

*Harold F. Callahan is a police officer with many years of experience, and who will be gracing Gunservant (and its rebranded guise when the new site is launched) with hopefully regular and useful articles pertaining to SAPS-related information and issues.

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Gun Servant

Gunservant.com is a place where you can read about the latest developments at the sharp-edge of the South African gun ownership debate. I believe that all people have the right to defend themselves and their loved ones, and that the most effective way to do so is through the responsible use of firearms. Firearm ownership is seen as a privilege by some, and as an inalienable right by many others. I fall into the latter category.

Comment below:


  • Steve L Steve L Thursday, 10 August 2017

    The site has changed quite a bit since I last visited maybe over a year ago? Maybe 2? Hoping to spend some time here and learn about SA gun laws. They do seem rather complicated from the outside. Maybe not so much for those that are there, living with them? I would guess US Law makes no sense to y'all when you get right down to it.

    I am trying to reference the R series (SA Galil) rifles and carbines. Anybody know of a good publication written by a local expert? Any service members on here that used them?

    Appreciate ya.

  • Dennis Grose Dennis Grose Thursday, 10 August 2017

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