NFA FAQ - How to Buy a Suppressor, Machine Gun, AOW, or SBR

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    May 29, 2017
    Austin, TX
    How to Purchase a Suppressor, Transferable Machine Gun, AOW, or SBR

    Authored by Talon Arms and Texas1911


    - Must be Able to Legally Purchase a Firearm (Per 18 USC 922 Subsection D & Texas 46.xx)
    - 21 Years of Age

    If you pass a NICS background check or have a CHL you should be fine.


    BATFE - Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also known as ATF

    NFA - National Firearms Act, the 1934 law which restricted the types of firearms discussed in this document

    NFA Registry - List maintained by the ATF of all machineguns, suppressors, and other NFA items.

    SBR - Short Barreled Rifle

    SBS – Short Barreled Shotgun

    DD – Destructive Device, this would include a street sweeper or other devices with a bore over .5 inch, and, incendiary or explosive devices
    Form 4 -Document submitted in duplicate to ATF listing information regarding transferor and transferee information. This is the document where the original tax stamp is affixed when the transfer is approved.
    AOW - Any Other Weapon, pen guns, cane guns, Serbu Super Shorty, or similar usually fall into this category and only require a $5 tax stamp instead of the $200 required for other NFA items.

    CLEO - Chief Law Enforcement Officer, this is the person, usually a sheriff or chief of police who is in charge of the area where you have your primary residence. This person is the one allowable by ATF to sign section 17 of the form 4 regarding law enforcement certification.

    GOPA - Law enacted May 18th 1986 freezing the NFA registry preventing any additional civilian transferable machinegun from entering the market. Those weapons registered with the ATF before that date are still lawful to transfer and command a premium price. An example of the price increase is evident in the ability of a law enforcement agency to buy a fully automatic M16 type rifle for the same price ($900-$2200) as a civilian AR15. For a Civilian to purchase the same M16 style rifle it would have had to been listed in the registry prior to 5/18/1986 and those prices range from $9,000-$20,000 depending on conversion or collectability.

    Transferable - Refers to Machineguns on the NFA Registry before enactment on the 1986 Gun Owners Protection Act. These are the machineguns that can still be traded/owned by civilians.

    Pre-86 Dealer Sample - Machineguns which came into the US after the 1968 Gun Control Act and were restricted to Military, Law Enforcement, or Class III distributors. These weapons are less expensive than fully transferable machineguns but significantly more than Post 86 dealer samples. These premium charged for these is due to the ability of a Class III FFL to keep the weapon if the FFL license is no longer maintained and the person no longer is in the firearms business.

    Post-86 Dealer Sample - Machineguns only available to Law Enforcement or Military buyers. For a Class III dealer to receive this weapon a demo letter is required from an authorized purchaser requesting a demonstration. Should a Class III dealer drop their FFL these must be immediately transferred to an authorized entity such as the Military, Law Enforcement or another Class III dealer who has a demo letter.


    - $200 Tax Stamp Fee for anything except an AOW, $5 for an AOW.
    - Fingerprinting and Passport Photographs (if doing an individual purchase)
    - Dealer Transfer Fees (If Any)

    Types of Purchase


    The individual purchase is the well known way to buy an NFA item. This is where you are the one listed as Transferee on the form 4 and must visit your local Sheriff or other Chief Law Enforcement Officer for a signature on the back of the form 4. The protocol for this step varies from Department or Organization. Some do a preliminary background check, others want to talk with you and some simply sign knowing the ATF runs an FBI check before a transfer is completed regardless of local sign off. Your transfer dealer is the best source for information about going this route in your area.

    Items Needed: CLEO Sign-Off, Fingerprints, Passport Photographs, Form 1 or 4

    A corporate purchase is a common route for a business owner. This route removes the need for a law enforcement sign off, photo, or fingerprints. An FBI background check is still run on corporate officers and the ATF needs to be notified if there is a change of any responsible parties. More information on this route is beyond the scope of this document but this is an attractive option for those with a small or family business. Individuals have been known to create a corporate entity for the sole purpose of turning NFA items into investments. Those that did such before May 1986 when the Gun Owners Protection Act (GOPA) went into effect have realized healthy profits. Before the GOPA HK sears which were the registered conversion part allowing a semi auto HK or clone firearm to function full auto were only a couple hundred dollars. These sears now trade in the 11-14 thousand dollar range in 2009. A simple issue of supply and demand has greatly elevated prices.

    Items Needed: Articles of Incorporation, Form 1 or 4

    A trust is a legal entity that is created to hold assets that is separate from your person. Often used for wills as a way to hold assets and define trustees to manage those assets in the event of your death. Since a trust is an entity that can own assets it is treated the same as a corporation for the purpose of purchasing NFA items. This route also removes the need for a law enforcement sign off, photo, or fingerprints. An FBI background check is still run on trustees of the trust and the ATF needs to be notified if there is a change of any responsible parties.

    For more info on a NFA specific trust contact Sean Cody at

    Items Needed: Copy of Trust, Form 1 or 4

    Find a Dealer

    The first thing to do is to find your suppressor at a solid Class 3 / SOT dealer. A good dealer will help you through the process, and have local knowledge that is invaluable.

    Filling Out the Form and Obtaining the Necessary Items

    Filling out the NFA Form should be done with the supervision of an experienced dealer to ensure it will be processed smoothly. Otherwise you run the risk of excessive delays, denial, or other unforeseen complications. Most Class 3 dealers will do this as a service.

    Form 1 - Application to Manufacture an NFA Item. This form is most commonly used when you already have an existing gun, ie. an AR15 carbine with a 16" barrel, and you want to register it as an NFA item, ie. an AR15 carbine with a 10.5" barrel aka an SBR (Short Barrel Rifle).

    Form 4 - Application to Transfer an NFA Item. This is the most common form and is the form that you will fill out when you purchase an NFA item. Items include suppressors, factory SBR / SBSs, machine guns, and other items already found on the registry.

    Citizenship Statement - You will also have to fill out a citizenship form in compliance with 922. This is a simple one sided form.

    Mailing and Waiting

    This is the part that takes the time. Your dealer will be able to provide more information regarding current times. In the last 3 years times have ranged from 4 – 24 weeks.

    Once both of the Forms are completed you will place them in an envelope along with a $200 check/money order, citizenship statement and copy of your trust or articles of incorporation, if a corporate entity or trust purchase is chosen, addressed to the BATFE. Upon receipt of the forms and fee the ATF will assign the transfer to an agent and an FBI background check will be processed on the individual, corporate officers listed in a corporate transfer, or trustees listed in a trust. Once approved one copy of the Form 4 will then be mailed back to the person who sold you the NFA item, and you will be able to then obtain your toy. During this time you are able to call the ATF and once you provide the serial number and your name they are able to give you status updates. This is a privilege so try and be patient.

    Personal Note from Texas1911

    I've been through this process twice now, and I have to say, it's not nearly as hard as one would imagine. For those of you on the fence about the whole process, I would recommend that you just tackle it head-on. I did mine on a trust route (thanks Sean Cody!), and that is by far the best investment that you can make to avoid any hassle in the process. No dealing with local CLEOs that won't sign (APD), no dealing with pictures of fingerprints, and the fact that anyone in my family can possess the items simply because they are on my trust. So call your local Class III dealer and get started on your stamp collection.
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