Rev 6 March 2005

The Philosophy of Collecting

From the earliest days of recorded history, Arms and Armour ( i.e. weapons and defensive means against them ), have formed a vital part of any Nation’s history and Heritage .

Weapons may be contextualised by their History (who used them and for what),  their design (indicative of the state of technological development of the people at the time), and the offensive or defensive demands of the times (what threats against the people or state existed)

This has been well recognised in South Africa , where the Heritage Resources Act makes specific provision for the preservation of this part of our Heritage viz:
* coins, utensils, pottery, jewellery, seals, weapons, tools and inscriptions ……
* artefacts that reflect the history of science, technology, military, social and lives of important people(s)

What has become equally apparent internationally is that Institutional Collectors (e.g. Museums) have neither the space, facilities, resources, or funding (and, in many cases, the inclination), to adequately acquire and preserve the full spectrum of weapons pertinent to any society.

For this reason the role of Private Collectors has been recognised worldwide, even in those countries with extremely conservative firearms legislation . For example  in Europe , where private gun ownership is very regulated, the Collector’s role is well recognised and promoted through the likes of FESAC (Federation of European Societies of Arms Collectors).

Private Collectors have officially been active in South Africa for over 50 years, first through the Historical Firearms Society of South Africa which was established after the 2nd World War, which was incorporated into, and followed by the likes of the Southern African Arms and Ammunition Collector’s Association in 1994, together with other similar organisations .

In South Africa this role of Collectors has been officially recognised, with provision for Private Collectors of Arms and Ammunition being incorporated in both previous, as well as current legislation i.e.  the Firearms Control Act 2000.

In terms of this Act, no restrictions are placed on the bona fide collecting of Arms and Ammunition, either in terms of the number or type of Artefacts that may be collected, provided this is managed by the Collector’s Associations  in a responsible and controlled fashion consistent with the purpose of the Act.

South Africa is privileged to have some very substantial world class collections of certain examples of firearms, and the collections, and the Collectors who have built them up, are internationally recognised.

(It should be realised that the number of items in a collection are largely irrelevant, provided they are properly stored and secured. For example the number of variants of Lee Enfield rifles of Boer War, and two World Wars fame, would run into a couple of hundred pieces for a complete collection, while a collecting theme of German and British Military rifles and handguns of historical interest in the previous century would approach over 900 better known variants .)

Similarly the “sensitive weapons” of yesteryear hardly pose a threat in today’s terms, if properly controlled , even if ammunition for such devices could be obtained ( e.g. a Lewis machine gun of WW1 fame which today is extremely scarce ) . Perhaps because of their sensitivity at the time these devices are generally scarce as many were destroyed (often for understandable but misguided reasons) , and it has been up to Collectors to rescue , restore, and preserve the few specimens that are left, and are often sought by Museums and the like. It is also vital that specimens of current artefacts are preserved as history will certainly condemn a generation which made no apparent effort to preserve aspects of  their life and times for posterity.  

Philosophically, it is generally accepted by collectors themselves that they are merely custodians of their collections for a single generation and that it is their responsibility to ensure that they pass on those artefacts to the next generation in a fit state – preferably in a better preserved, maintained or restored condition than they acquired them. Only in this way will future generations have access to this extremely important aspect of their National Heritage.

South Africa has about 2,4 million licenced firearm owners , of which only about 2000 i.e. 0,12% , are approved and registered Collectors .

Recent assessments have again confirmed  that Collectors, by their very nature, are by and large, responsible, mature, and well behaved citizens , who perform and invaluable historical , educational, and preservation role , and are not a threat to Society in any way .

The National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa (NAACCSA) was formed in 2003 to represent and protect the interests of all Stakeholders concerned with the bona fide collecting of Arms and Ammunition , and can be contacted as at

Tel:  (011) 679-1151      Fax (011) 675-2094         E-mail: