Being a dealer in what is often referred to as “Class 3” firearms (they are actually title 2 firearms, the class refers to the type of SOT a dealer has.) we get a lot of customers that are curious about purchasing a suppressor, short barrel rifle, or even a machine gun. However the biggest thing is that they are terribly informed about the whole process, and believe it to be far more intense than it really is. In reality the biggest thing with purchasing a suppressor, or other title 2 firearm is the wait time for the process to complete.
Now a bit of a disclaimer here, some states don’t allow all devices, or might have some additional registration processes involved, so what we are giving you here is how the process works in most freedom loving states, such as ours here in Virginia. Check with your local NFA firearms dealer to see how the process might be different for you. Also note the process might change a bit from when this was written depending on laws that might get passed.
When you go to purchase your short barrel rifle, suppressor, short barrel shotgun, or Any Other Weapon (AOW) the process is going to be the same for them. You fill out what is called a form 4, this is a form that requests the transfer of such a device to an individual, trust or other legal entity. When you fill out the form 4 with your dealer your going to choose between filling it out as a trust or as an individual. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of those that we’ll get into in a bit, but know that either way you’ll have to provide 2 passport style photos and a set of ATF finger print cards. Along with the form 4, a payment directly to the ATF must be made, for most NFA weapons you are looking at a $200 fee, but for Any Other Weapons (AOW) they are $5. Once the paperwork is sent in, the fun begins; all you have to do is wait. Processing times vary depending on surges in the market, but they generally are going to take a couple of months. During this time the ATF will do a background check to see if you are eligible to get the NFA device. This is the other aspect people get overly worried about… but it’s really just the same background check as to when you purchase your firearm over the counter normally. It just takes longer because there are so many applications, and so few people who can process them. Laws were enacted under former presidents to keep the number of ATF employees who process such paperwork limited to a set number. Making it a bottleneck to get the paperwork done. So your not waiting for something crazy to be done, just for paperwork to be physically processed. When that paperwork is complete on the ATF’s end, they send out a tax stamp to the dealer you did your paperwork with, who will call you up to come by and pick up your suppressor or other device. At which time they will have you do another background check like you normally would for any other firearm to pick it up.
It’s really simple, so to recap:
- Choose your device
- Fill out the form 4 with your dealer
- Get passport photos taken and finger print cards made
- Send it in and wait
- Pick it up a few months later
It’s just that simple, and there really is no other catches to it all. There is sometimes a bit more work on the dealer’s end to process a machine gun, and in some states some paperwork that has to be done for the individual on them, but it’s not alot more.
Now a few things people get wrong on owning an NFA device:
- They can’t just come into your house to search, but they came come and ask for you to show them the device
- You don’t have to keep the original tax stamp on you at all times, a copy will suffice, as long as you still have the original in a safe location.
- If you move you must notify the ATF that the NFA device has changed locations.
- You can’t just sell a NFA device to someone outright without them completing a form 4 to transfer it from you.
- A tax stamp is not a license, just a tax that you pay on purchasing that specific category of firearm.
Owning a suppressor or short barrel rifle is fairly easy and straight forward to do, and doesn’t require a burden of any sort on your end besides safely storing your tax stamp.