Firearms Safety for private owners in Africa – changing times.

Hello all.

Just a few thoughts on safety and careful gun handling in the developing world…

In this, I am only talking about the emerging group of enlightened NON-MILITARY firearms owners in some parts of Africa. Military/ Police firearms safety, and occasional lack of, is another subject altogether…

The best firearm safety for non-military gun owners in most of Africa is the remembered welts from a whipping. Don’t get me wrong, I do not support abuse in any form, but most of us grew up in Africa getting a good hiding with belts, cables, flip-flops when we did something wrong or mischievous… This included going to touch one’s father’s gun in his wardrobe. This is so from the villages in the deepest Congo, to the cities in Nigeria or the towns in Kenya…

So when one learns to be terrified of going to touch one’s father’s gun, you end up almost NEVER picking up the gun to figure out (from all the war movies) how to load it and then possibly blast a hole through the TV, or ceiling, or through some unfortunate soul nearby. We NEVER touched our fathers’ shotguns or rifles if they had them. It was like Kryptonite: when your hand would reach surreptitiously towards the gun, your butt would start to tingle and smart in remembrance of the last flogging you received…

However, more recently, the spirit has changed, especially with education, enlightenment and the global access to information now changing parents’ orientations and lifestyles. In this generation in a lot of Africa, beatings and floggings are no longer the norm. Care for children is increasing, with more love and teaching and coaching…

Many firearm owners here (As few as we are…) are now more open to teach their children about firearms, in a proper manner, teaching them to learn how to care for these firearms, identify unsafe situations and finally, how to shoot them, safely and carefully. More and more children are being taught to respect the firearm, follow the safety rules and learn never to put themselves or others in unnecessary danger.

My example: I have taught my ten year old son from when he was seven that any firearm must be handled with care and respect: and he has really taken the lessons. He knows for example: that “Red is Dead” (When you can see a red dot on the tang safety of the Mossberg 500A, or the Red band around the push-button safety on (for example) the Remington 870, the gun is HOT, and “WILL FIRE…” He knows this deeply now. I have also taught him the rules of safe gun handling… He has fired a gun a few times, but doesn’t think of it as a toy. He respects the firearm, and does not fear it.

The other day, I caught him having a serious talk with his younger brothers (Aged four, and two… adorable rascals!). It was all about the safe gun handling he had spotted – trigger discipline, muzzle awareness, and tight coordination – while watching the movies, BlackHawk Down, Act of Valor, and  Zero Dark Thirty. I nonchalantly walked past, but my heart swelled with pride!

When he asks me questions, I remember myself as an eleven year old just entering the Air Force military school in my country, and being trained in how to handle the FN SLR 7.62X51 Rifle. The rifle was taller than I was then! At that time, I could barely cock the rifle, and when out on training with blank rounds (No firing adapter!) and having to cock each round to fire: it was painful! But I learnt! And by the time I left at about sixteen years old, after several thousand rounds of blank ammo fired on assault training, and several hundred rounds of live ammo on 165 and 330 feet ranges, I was reasonably proficient with the FN SLR, the Browning 9mm pistol, and the Sterling 9mm SMG. I also learnt how to strip, clean and assemble especially the FN SLR (I even learnt, by myself, to do this blindfolded…)

I also had learnt gun handling safety, sometimes the HARD way. I remember being kicked in the hand by an officer when I inadvertently put my finger on the trigger just before a training in flanking assault (That kick was captured on national TV that time! We had a news crew visit on one of our training days…My parents actually saw the kid being kicked in the hand but under my oversized helmet, did not know I was the one!) That kick taught me trigger discipline! To this day!

We also learnt the hard way about muzzle awareness, and not to point firearms loaded or not, whether on “SAFE” or not, carelessly. It was punishable by a few nights in the “Guard Room” with its trained commando mosquitoes, to “flag” a colleague…

Things have changed, and  are quite bad now, restrictions are worse, politics has damaged everything, crime is widespread, and nationwide corruption is sky-high. The military schools are a shadow of the good old days, and I would NOT EVER send my sons to them. (These schools now barely do well in academics, and military training is a shadow of the past…) But I can teach them what I know!

But before I forget:

I also use a Master Lock Trigger lock, and the keys and spares are ONLY within adult reach (Adults – the wife and I…) and I keep my ammo SEPARATE from the firearm, though I always have a full magazine and a full reload nearby: I have also trained and trained in reloading, reloading in the dark, reloading while lying behind or even UNDER the bed…

Y-man's Master Lock Trigger Lock

So, what is my message here? Gradually, the good things are catching up to us in the “Dark Continent”, and it is not all bad stories coming out of here. I and a few others with like minds have set up picnics to work on bonding, and to get the kids interested in tactics and firearms-related activities, even if we are extremely restricted in what is available. We are articulating a request to the government of my country to permit import of some paintball equipment, so we can set up a club for fun family days. We have support already from some senior officials, and we hear another group has already succeeded and has a club already set up.

Maybe when our club is up, we might have some constructively competitive weekend matches with those guys. You guys will ALL be invited! Welcome to AFRICA!


Y-man is based in a firearms restricted environment in West Africa, he is really interested in shotguns [Which is all he can legally get], and he makes the best of whatever he is able to lay his hands on.

Y-man had some training at an early age in the “Gentleman” forces of the Air Force in his country, including some weapon training…

He also appreciates your advice, comments and feedback almost as much as the air he breathes…


  • Vhyrus

    I’ll come play paintball with you any day Y man… if I can afford the plane ticket.

  • Weirdcloud

    Good post. It reminds me of the reinforcing I need to do with my son on muzzle safety and trigger discipline. Good luck on the paintball club.

  • SidVIscous

    Warms my heart whenever I read your posts.

  • Chris H

    that’s really great to hear. I’ve heard about shooting sports in South Africa from friends but never further North, we don’t have a lot of exposure to it stateside besides expat friends from overseas. Glad you’re teaching your boy well

  • Grege

    What type of arms legal and available for civilian use?

    • bucherm

      I imagine that varies wildly from country to country in Africa, at least from a legal ownership standpoint.

  • BillC

    Good for you, especially about teaching your kids about firearms and the respect for them. You know you’ve done well when he carries on your teachings to others, in this case his youngers.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Y-Man, this was a terrific article in every respect and I really enjoyed reading it. Your reminiscences concerning the “old school” discipline remind me exactly of what I experienced at the same age — yet another aspect of the old British Commonwealth and its inculcated value system that endured for so long, and survives in many forms and places even to this day.

    It is wonderful that you are teaching your children about firearms in the right way, and doubtless also about many other valuable life lessons. We are all responsible for what the generations after us hold as their core values, so it is ultimately important to know and understand what is right within the boundaries of reason and pass them on to our children and grand-children.

    Nice to hear about your experiences with the L1A1 SLR — to this day, the SLR, and the FN FAL which spawned it, are still two of my all-time favorite battle rifles. The Mossberg 500 also happens to be my favorite pump-action 12-gauge shotgun as well!

    On another note : Many people still do not realize that the real Africa is very different from the perceptions they might hold based on the media, Hollywood and hearsay. True, there are many places in Africa that are potentially dangerous, politically unstable and corrupt, but the same can be said to varying degrees of any continent, including several parts of North America and Western Europe. The real difference only seems to be how well disguised these things are in one place versus the next. I have been lucky enough to have had several friends from various parts of Africa ( and other parts of the world ) over the years who have proven to be among the most civilized, enlightened and principled people I know. When we all learn to stop stereotyping and understand that perceptions and opinions are like a**holes — because everybody has one — is when there might actually be a real collective future for all of us.

  • Gregory

    You got to train with a Sterling?? Jealous! That’s such a classic SMG!

  • Mark

    It’s always good to hear about parents taking steps to educate children about firearms safety with more than just ‘tell an adult’. One thing I would add (when you think the children are mature enough to really understand) is instruction in how to clear and safe the types of firearms they are likely to encounter in life.

    I, like many Americans I suspect, learned to shoot in summer camp. The safety practices and shooting technique I learned there was great, but we only learned about bolt action rifles. When I was twelve and a friend of mine found his father’s beretta pistol I knew enough to insist that the grip it without his finger inside the trigger guard and keep it pointed in a safe direction, but not enough to clear and safe it. My instructor had succeeded in instilling the respect and fear that firearms deserve, but not the knowledge needed to deal with the situation. I knew that my friend would continue to mess with the gun without me — with possibly tragic results, and felt at the time that ‘ratting’ him out was not a real option.

    If it were possible to teach wisdom rather than knowledge then my instructor would have shown me that this firearm needed to be secured even if I lost friends, but that’s not something that twelve-year-old me could really have understood enough to obey. The best lesser option would have been if I had the knowledge to safely unload the firearm which would have at least reduced the immediate danger.

    As it turned out nothing bad ever did happen to anyone as a result of this. We looked at and handled the pistol for a bit and put it away where he found it. But the memory of how close a call it really was still bothers me twenty years later. Anyway, sorry for the rambling post, but I always enjoy hearing about people approaching firearms education sensibly, rather than trying to fight danger with ignorance.

  • Another awesome Y man article. These are great to read! Its worth noting that your safety precautions (trigger lock, isolated ammo) are very similar to parts of Canadian firearms storage law.

  • allannon

    Heh, I always like y-man articles.

    One of the few guaranteed ways, when I was a kid, to get a whuppin’ was mishandling firearms (and a few other inordinately dangerous things, like power tools). All the other crap I pulled got groundings, stern talks, and the like; but immediate and physical safety issues got the belt.

  • Barry Hirsh

    You need to buy him his own gun. On every one of his birthdays until he reaches the age of majority.

    “Things have changed, and are quite bad now, restrictions are worse, politics has damaged everything, crime is widespread, and nationwide corruption is sky-high.”

    Mandela is dead. Long live Mandela.


  • jamezb

    Always enjoy hearing from you Y-Man! I envy your training with the FN SLR and the Sterling, …two guns I would desperately love to shoot… I hope you are successful in getting a paintball club started! Be well, and take good care of yourself!

  • It is always heart warming to see a parent teaching their children proper firearms useage and safety. Excellent read Y Man!