NFA Weapons & How to Purchase Them
Gregg F. Swift
NOTE: It is your responsibility to know the gun laws relating to NFA firearms in your state. There are some states where the sale and possession of these firearms is illegal. You must also be a resident of the state in which you intend to buy a Title II firearm.
The purpose of this article is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation of National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms but to help the average consumer to understand the types of NFA weapons that are generally sold today and how to go about purchasing one. The purchase of NFA firearms is much easier than you might think.
Let’s identify some key terms in order to ensure that we are using the same words when talking about NFA items. First of all, any dealer selling firearms must have some form of a Federal Firearms License (FFL). NFA refers to the National Firearms Act which was enacted on June 26, 1934 and imposed a tax and restrictions on the transfer and manufacturing of certain types of firearms. Title II NFA firearms include machine guns, short barrel rifles (SBR) short-barreled shotguns (SBS), any other weapons (AOW) and sound suppressors. Any rifle with a barrel length of less than 16″ is considered an SBR. Title I firearms fall under the Gun Control Act of 1968 which regulates firearms in interstate commerce (state to state), and Title II firearms refers to NFA firearms. A Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT) license is required by dealers in order to receive and transfer NFA firearms to customers or dealers. Many people mistakenly refer to NFA dealers as Class 3 dealers. Class 3 actually refers to a tax class. Class 1 is an importer of NFA firearms. Class 2 is a manufacturer and dealer of NFA firearms. And, Class 3 is a dealer of NFA firearms. However, it is not uncommon to use Class III in reference to NFA firearms.
Now that we have identified a few of the items that fall into the NFA Title II category lets talk about the process for purchasing an NFA firearm. The first thing that the consumer has to do is find the firearm that he wants to purchase. The firearm can be purchased but cannot be transferred until the completion of the NFA BATFE Form 4 paperwork. All FFL licensed dealers selling NFA weapons must have an SOT license as well as an FFL.
If the buyer buys an NFA weapon from out of state, the seller must ship the firearm to an FFL & SOT dealer in the state where the buyer resides. The buyer and the dealer then will complete a BATFE Form 4 to initiate the transfer process. If the buyer purchases an NFA weapon from an in-state seller who is not a dealer then the transfer process is between the two residents of the same state and while it requires the proper paperwork, it does not require a dealer. A BATFE Form 4 is required to be submitted without the involvement of a dealer. Again, only if the two parties involved are residents of the same state. State law restrictions may apply for NFA purchases and transfers. Check with the BATFE or an FFL, SOT dealer in your state before buying or transferring any NFA weapons. Once the BATFE Form 4 is approved the transfer of the firearm may take place. For the purposes of this article we will assume that transfers are from the dealer to the individual, which will be accomplished on a BATFE Form 4.
After the firearm is purchased the dealer and the customer will fill out the BATFE Form 4. The BATFE Form 4 can be filled out in one of three ways. It may be filled out with the customer being the purchaser, with the customer’s corporation or with a trust. It is important to note that when the purchase is made that the customer specify who is buying the NFA item. Is the customer buying the NFA item, or is it the corporation, or is it the trust? This is important because if the customer pays for a suppressor or machine gun and a receipt is given to the customer in his name and then the customer fills out a BATFE Form 4 listing the corporation or the trust as the owner, technically there is a problem because the NFA item in question wasn’t purchased by the corporation or the trust, it was purchased by the buyer. If you are using a corporation or a trust to purchase the NFA item then the receipt for purchase should list the corporation or trust as the buyer. Simply put when the NFA item is purchased the corporation or trust purchasing the item should already be in existence and the corporation or the trust should be listed on the receipt as the buyer.
If this method is used, a corporation or a trust, then the BATFE Form 4 does not require a signature from the Chief Law Enforcement officer in the jurisdiction in which you reside. That signature requirement is only for individuals purchasing an NFA item who are using their personal name. The BATFE Form 4 must be completed following the directions that are attached and a fee of $200 must be submitted to the NFA in Martinsburg, WV. To summarize:
1. Purchase the NFA item you are looking for. If you are going to put the item into a trust or corporation, the trust or corporation must be created first. If the trust or corporation is purchasing the item then the receipt should list the trust or corporation as the buyer.
2. Fill out the BATFE Form 4 with the dealer. Most dealers charge a fee for the transfer and paperwork. TWS charges a $50 fee for paperwork and transfers for suppressors, SBR’s, and SBS’s if you are using your own trust or corporation. There is no charge for the transfer paperwork for suppressors, SBR’s, and SBS’s if the trust is purchased through TWS (prepared by an attorney). The $200 fee still applies to the NFA as that is the NFA fee for the transfer. TWS charges $250 fee for transfers of machine guns. So that would be a $250 fee to TWS for doing the paperwork and making the transfer and a $200 fee to the BATFE for the NFA transfer.
3. Once the BATFE Form 4 is completed and sent to the NFA with a check for $200 the wait begins. In Florida, as of this writing, we have been advised by the BATFE that transfers are taking approximately 4-6 months.
Resources for Class III/NFA information