People ask us the question quite a bit, almost every day: “Do you handle my firearm FFL transfer?” The answer is yes, for all firearms including “NFA Items” such as suppressors, short barreled rifles, and and automatic weapons. After that very short conversation, the next question we get is, “OK, well how does that process work?” That’s what we’re getting to in this article: how to do a firearms / FFL transfer.
Firearms Industry Lingo
First, a few definitions. Like most industries, we have our own lingo in the gun business. Too often, we assume that our customers understand that lingo, when most fo the time, they don’t. Sorry about that. Once you’re in any industry, it becomes difficult to speak as if you’ve never been in that industry before. Here are a few definitions and TLAs (three letter acronyms) that we throw around here without thinking about it.
- FFL – Federal Firearms License, but also what we call any licensed gun dealer, created by the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) to regulate the transfer of firearms across state lines
- NFA – The National Firearms Act of 1968
- Transfer – the federally required process for selling or changing ownership of a firearm
- SOT – Special Occupational Taxpayer – if you have one of these, you can deal in NFA items
- FFL Transfer – the process of moving a firearm from one licensed firearms dealer to another
There are dozens more definitions, but for this article, those are the pertinent ones.
The FFL Transfer Process
“FFL Transfer” is the term we use to describe the process that occurs when someone purchases a firearm from out of state or via the internet.
And let’s hit that last one right up front. Yes, anyone can purchase a gun on the internet. BUT, no gun dealer or manufacturer can or will ship a gun directly to a customer. That’s where the transfer process comes in. Every legal gun dealer is an FFL. Every manufacturer is an FFL. A gun dealer with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) cannot legally ship a firearm to a person’s home, unless that person also has an FFL. This point is where all the arguments for “you can buy an AR-15 over the internet!” go to die. You can’t do it, legally of course. End of story.
So let’s walk through the two primary examples of FFL transfers.
Gun Dealer to Gun Dealer
Let’s say you bought a Sig Sauer P320 AXG Scorpion from a gun dealer in South Carolina when you were there on vacation. It’s a common occurrence – especially in the covid gun economy – that someone goes shopping and finds THE gun they’ve been looking for that nobody else has had in stock since February 2020. You buy it there, but since you do not live in South Carolina, you cannot take possession of it. Instead, the dealer from whom you bought the sweet Scorpion must ship it to another FFL in your state, preferably one near your home. Once it arrives, you’ll have to go pick it up at that store. THAT is an FFL transfer.
What happens next is that the selling dealer will usually call the delivering dealer, and ask for a copy of that dealer’s license. The delivering dealer will email the selling dealer a copy of their FFL. To send an FFL to SharpShooters for a transfer, the FFL would email their license to email@example.com. Then the selling dealer will ship the firearm to the delivering dealer, with “ATTENTION” to the actual customer. Once the item has been shipped to and received by the delivering dealer, that dealer then calls the customer to tell them their firearm has been received and is now ready to be picked up.
The customer then goes to the gun store and picks up their firearm. That process looks almost exactly like a firearm purchase. The customer completes a Form 4473 and the ATF NICS background check ensues, unless the customer holds a Weapons Carry License (also erroneously referred to as a ‘concealed carry permit’). Once the paperwork is complete, and accurate, the customer can then take the firearm out of the dealer’s facility.
This FFL transfer process happens multiple times a day every day.
Gun Manufacturer to Gun Dealer.
This process is slightly less common, but still happens every day. The easy example is when someone purchases a Daniel Defense rifle from danieldefense.com. Daniel doesn’t ship the rifle to the consumer’s home. Instead, Daniel ships the rifle to one of their premier dealers. We are a proud Daniel Defense dealer, and the recipient of many Daniel Defense rifles awaiting pickup by their new owners.
But the process looks almost exactly the same. Daniel sells the gun to the consumer via the internet, where the money for the cost of the gun changes hands. Then Daniel ships it to us. They already have our FFL because we’re an established dealer. When we get the gun, we call the consumer, and they come and pickup the gun, utilizing the exact same process detailed above.
Documented Possession and Disposition
What happens in both of the above cases is that the firearm in question is transferred from the possession of one FFL (dealer or manufacturer) into the possession of another FFL, who delivers the gun to the end consumer. The consumer can pick up the rifle or pistol only in person, and only after they’ve completed the necessary paperwork and background check. This process is what the ATF or law enforcement look for when they do a trace on any serialized firearm: what is the item’s disposition and when did it occur? The entire process must be documented every single time it occurs.
How Much Does an FFL Transfer Cost?
Different dealers charge different prices for FFL transfers. At SharpShooters, we charge $50 for each FFL transfer, unless you’re a member, and then we charge $25 per transfer. These fees cover our time and effort to comply with ATF regulations regarding the interstate transfer of firearms.
With that in mind, it does pay to shop local. If you find your dream gun online on gunbroker.com or any other online firearms dealer, in order to take possession of it, you’ll have to pay someone a transfer fee. In non-covid economies, this issue would come up far less often, because gun stores like SharpShooters could just order any gun you want, and it would arrive within a week or two. But in these days, when only God knows what inventory we will receive on a daily basis, if you find your dream gun 2,000 miles away from home, you should buy it and just add the transfer fee to your price for the gun.
Maybe someday we’ll return to something akin to “normal” inventory status for guns and ammo. Maybe. I expect to return to that state of affairs in 2022 or perhaps 2023, unless someone does something stupid.
In the meantime, we are happy to process any and all FFL transfers.