UPDATED DECEMBER 23 2021: Today, the ATF’s eForm system has been upgraded to accept electronic submissions of the Form 4, which is the form required to take possession of what are known as “NFA Items”. That term, NFA Items, encompasses all firearms that are regulated by the National Firearms Act, and includes suppressors (aka silencers). Prior to today, consumers would be required to complete the Form 4 on paper, mail it to the ATF, and wait 8-10 months (at least) to receive their Tax Stamp, and permission to take home their suppressor.
As of today, that process has changed in the following three ways:
- The consumer completes the Form 4 electronically at the ATF eForms website: https://eforms.atf.gov/
- The consumer must create an eForms account in order to complete the Form 4
- The ATF has publicly stated that they expect to “approve Form 4s within 90 days”
It seems like little has changed, but in fact, this upgrade is a huge step forward for consumer purchases of suppressors.
Original article: June 21, 2021
This past weekend was “Full Auto Father’s Day” here at SharpShooters. On one of the three days that we ran this fun promotion, we invited KGM, a suppressor manufacturer in Norcross, to the range to let Dads shoot full auto suppressed rifles. Let’s just say there were a LOT of very happy Dads on the northside of Atlanta this weekend. But the question came up time and time again: “How do I buy a suppressor?”
In this article, we’re answering this question, but also addressing other questions that come up time and time again in the conversation about suppressors. To put all this data together, we’re referencing several other authoritative sources on how to buy a suppressor:
- Gun Rights Attorneys
- The Gun Study
- NFA Lawyers
- Silencer Central
- American Suppressor Association
“Suppressor”, not “silencer”
Before we get into the purchasing process, let’s clear up something that Hollywood and the anti-gun lobby have done a brilliant job of confusing. We do not, never have, and never will call this device a “silencer.” It’s a suppressor. It does NOT – REPEAT NOT – silence a gun. Not even close. A suppressor can, depending on the firearm and the quality of the suppressor, lower the noise level by approximately 45 decibels. Not “down to” 45bd, but by about 45dB. A suppressor suppresses the sound of the gun, but it does not silence the gun.
Guns Are Loud. Buy a Suppressor!
That’s why we require ear protection on the shooting range and why nobody – nobody – should ever shoot a gun without ear protection. For reference, your average lawnmower is about 90dB, whereas one of the most popular hunting rifles, a Remington 700 chambered in .308, rings your bell at 167dB. I have tinnitus, caused by – you guessed it – shotguns, so I wear ear protection when I’m mowing, blowing, or trimming the lawn. It’s dead silent here in my office right now, but my ears are ringing like I attended an AC/DC concert last night. Guns are loud, even when they are suppressed. Always wear ear protection!
The ATF Regulates Suppressors
Suppressors are regulated items under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of June 26, 1934. Suppressors are designated as “Class 3 Firearms” by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In the store and in the industry, we refer to such regulated items as “NFA items”. That means that you can’t just walk into a store and buy a suppressor, and that’s why we’re laying all this out so it’s very clear to anyone who wants to buy a suppressor.
While we’re on this subject, I’d like to make it very clear that, while we abide by the NFA act of 1934, we completely disagree with the designation of suppressors as Class 3 Firearms. Here’s why. Suppressors:
- are not firearms
- do not make any gun “silent”
- help prevent ear and hearing damage
- increase accuracy by reducing recoil
- help reduce stress on wildlife
For these reasons, we support the effort to remove suppressors from the NFA Class 3 Firearm designation, so that any law-abiding gun owner can buy a suppressor to add it to a lawfully purchased firearm without going through the process outlined below.
How to Buy a Suppressor
There are several steps to purchasing and taking possession of a suppressor. All the different sources we referred to earlier in this article offer varying descriptions of this process, so here I’m organizing it so it’s simpler to understand.
- Meet the requirements. These requirements are the same as buying a firearm (except for the tax), but just to be clear, you must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Legally reside in the United States
- Be legally able to purchase a firearm
- pass the ATF background check
- pay a fee of $200 to the ATF for each suppressor you purchase
- Choose your suppressor. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Suppressors are a bit like holsters in that every single holster is completely different depending on your gun, your light, your optic, your carry location, etc. Every suppressor is different depending on your gun, muzzle device, caliber, barrel threading, etc. Start with the exact specs of your gun and the purpose of the suppressor, e.g., hunting vs. precision rifle shooting.
- Find a Class 3 Dealer. That’s us. SharpShooters USA is an NFA Class 3 Federal Firearms Licensed dealer, and you can buy a suppressor in our store any time. If you’re not in or near the northside of Atlanta, you can find a dealer here on the ATF website.
- Buy a suppressor. This is the really frustrating, depressing, sad part. You get to fork out the cash, but you cannot take your sweet new suppressor out of the store until the process is complete. Keep reading.
- Do the NFA paperwork. This is the mysterious part, which really isn’t so mysterious. There are several steps involved in this step, and we’ve provided PDF links so you can see exactly what the form looks like before you go to a gun store to do it.
- Fill out ATF Form 4, aka the “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm” (PDF here)
- Fill out ATF Form 23, aka the “Responsible Person Questionnaire” (PDF here)
- Get two 2″ x 2″ passport photos made
- Fill out two FD-258 fingerprint cards (PDF here)
- Create the Legal Gun Trust so the government doesn’t get your suppressor(s) when you die. More on this subject below.
- Submit the required paperwork to your Chief Law Enforcement Officer. In Fulton County, that individual is Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat. “Submit paperwork to” means mail it to that office, which is located at Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, 185 Central Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303.
- Submit the required paperwork, fingerprints, and photos to the ATF. See how to do this step below.
- Wait the 8 – 10 months (yup, you read that right) to receive your $200 NFA tax stamp.
OK, You Did All That. What’s Next?
First, let’s address the Gun Trust. When you go through all the above steps and legally purchase a suppressor (or any other Class 3 Firearms), when you die, those items are part of your estate. NFA items must be specifically designated to a trust or willed to a successor, otherwise either the estate’s executor or the government gets them. That’s the simplified version.
The good news about that, and about the entire process to buy a suppressor is that you can do it all in about 20 minutes in our store. SilencerShop saw this pain and decided to fix it with an in store kiosk that walks you through the entire process. It even captures your fingerprints and takes your passport photos. And, it can create the Gun Trust for you. What a country!
When you create the trust, choose “corporate trust”. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play a lawyer on TV, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I know that it’s better to make this choice than the other options based on the experiences we’ve had with people passing away and not knowing what to do with their NFA items. SilencerShop explains it well in this blog post. If you’re not sure, ask your lawyer.
Is it really 8 – 10 months?
Yes, it really does tak 8-10 months for the ATF to process this paperwork, and send you your tax stamp. That’s how long you’ll have to wait between shelling out the cash to buy a suppressor and taking it home.
However, in the meantime, we’ll store it securely for you at no charge, and then you can come in anytime for a “conjugal visit”. That’s right, you can come to the store, check out your suppressor, and shoot your suppressed firearm to your heart’s content here at the store. You just can’t leave with your suppressor. Another great benefit from SharpShooters: Unlimited Conjugal Visits.
Should The Government Regulate Suppressors?
No, we don’t think so. All that effort, paperwork, TAX, and time for something that is useless unless it’s attached to a gun. That’s just one reason we are firmly behind the American Suppressor Association in its effort to have suppressors removed from NFA regulated items.
Other reasons include the benefits of suppressed firearms, mainly the benefit of significantly reduced chance of hearing damage or loss. For people who shoot regularly, especially at indoor ranges like ours, the risk of hearing damage is real. If suppressors were not regulated and treated similarly to fully automatic weapons, more people could afford to purchase suppressors.
And, the fact remains that most people who might buy a suppressor choose not to when they consider the fact that they are literally signing up to be added to a “government list”, have to pay a tax on the 2nd Amendment right, and wait almost a year to take possession of their suppressor.